December 5-6-7, 2013

"Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology"
... a private helicopter trip to "Site Q", now called "La Corona"
La Corona

Updated October 25, 2013

We are going December 5-6-7, 2013.  "Site Q", "La Corona", which, in it's heyday was called Sak Nikte' ("White Flower"), with 36 people.  An exclusive trip.  All 36 have been filled.  You may still be be part of it by joining the waitlist in case someone cancels.

We are at it again.  At El Mirador in 2011, we were just 20 people interested in exploring faraway Maya sites.  At Tak'alik Ab'aj, in 2012, we were now 43 of "Mr Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology", as Christa Schieber, the director of that site called us after she and Marion Popenoe Hatch were able to determine, with our donation for radio carbon dating tests, that indeed they discovered the oldest Maya burial in Mesoamerica found to date. 

After all, we have all been to Tikal, Copan, Uaxactun, Yaxha, Palenque, Chichen Itza and all the accessible sites.  But now we want to go deeper, further away from the routine trips and not like tourists.  We want to do it with friends, in luxury, and guided by archeaologists who actually work on the site. We want to learn and we want to contribute a little bit.  At El Mirador, the director, Richard Hansen, sent with us one of his seasoned archaeologists, Enrique Hernandez, to guide us around.  See:  On our Tak'alik Ab'aj tour, we had a detailed presentation about the site by the expert, Marion Popenoe, see:

La Corona has been excavated since 2008 by Tomas Barrientos, of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (Marion Popenoe's student and the Director of the Archaeology Department that she founded) and Marcelo Canuto, of Tulane University.  See: for many details of the site.  They, and the project Director, Analy Montenegro, will be our guides at la Corona.  Scroll down the page for more.
People going:
Tomas Barrientos, UVG Head of Archaeology Department
Tom Blakely
Gene Budinger
Cynthia Burski
Don Buzzingham
Linda Buzzingham

Tomas Cernikovsky
Barbara Chastain
Sarah Cohen
Martha Dugan
Lorraine Duncan
Joan Fuetsch
  John Fuetsch
  Denis Turuy
  Diego Cordova

Norma Gifford
Sylvia Jauregui
Marianne Lee
Nathan Liskey
Letty Manne
Analy Montenegro, La Corona project director, UVG

Cindy Montenegro
Raul Montenegro

Maricela Olson
Steve Olson

Burt Pasternak
Frank Peterson
Linda Peterson

Jocelyn Ponce, UVG archaeologist
Kathy Rose

Judy Sadlier
Derek Steele
Rosa Maria Passarelli de Steele
Wyllys Terry
Gail Terzuola
Hal Vogel

This page will give you information about the trip and it will be updated as the plans firm up, with details and the list of people going.

This trip will be over three days, with TACA (now AVIANCA) and three helicopters.  It costs a bit more than El Mirador, but is a longer trip. A visit to the lab in Guatemala City where some of the best pieces from the dig are kept, and a presentation in an UVG auditorium by the leading archaeologists.  Two days in a hotel in Flores with all meals included, and , for everyone, 6 hours at the La Corona site.  The thrill of a first class helicopter flight from Helicopters do Guatemala, the best local heli company.  It costs $995 per person.  The maximum is 36 people, but in that includes the two main archaeologists and the site's director.  All 36 seats have already been booked for "Mr Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology" third trip.   I quite like the name, so let's stick with it for now. 

The price of the trip again includes a donation to the site and the dig.  In this case, they already have a wishlist: a couple of Radio Carbon tests in a Miami lab!  They are in the middle of nowhere, about 85 kilometers northwest of Flores, as the crow flies, in the jungle, toward Mexico.  A totally unique experience.  When we go, there will not be excavations going on ... they bring 85 people to work in April and May, but the jefes y expertos will guide us through the site.  It will be done in total luxury, with a nice hotel and meals included ... there is a list below of details.


What is Site Q ?  Why go there ?


What is the plan for the trip ?


Links of interest for you to study before you decide to join us


What does the cost of the trip include ?


When do I have to pay ?


How to find out more ?


Site Q
Travel Agency

If you need helicopter service for another day, please call Brayant Pellecer of Alejandra Chamale, at 2384-2340
HASA is arranging our flights and you can use them, too, for your travel needs!  Click to visit them to learn of their services.
  Click for more info about Hotel Maya Internacional and on their website, select the right hotel
Click to go to the main TACA website
Thursday December 5

- Meet at our house, for a briefing in the VIP Departure Area

- Two buses leave for Guatemala City

- Presentation in a UVG auditorium.  "Brown bag lunch".  Introduction of the site directors, Tomas Barrientos & Jocelyne Ponce.  Tomas is the Director of the UVG Deapartment of Archaeology which marion Hatch Popenoe founded.  Jocelyn is an UVG archaeologist who discoverd, in 2012, the decorated stairway at la Corona with the longest Maya text ever found in Mesoamerica.  They will be going with us to the site.

13:30  - Visit the UVG La Corona Project Lab, near the UVG campus, where some of the more valuable pieces found at La Corona are being held.

14:30 - one bus leaves for the heliport, with 15 people, the other, with 20, for the Museo de Arqueologia, near the airport.

15:00   - three helicopters leave from Helicopteros de Guatemala, for Flores, E.T.A. 16:45 at the Hotel Maya International heliport.  The heliopters stay at the heliport overnight.

15:00  - 20 people visit the Museo de Arqueologia, where the team of La Corona recently donated one of the most valuable pieces found at the site.

16:00   - bus leaves the Museum for the airport, 21 people check it at TACA

18:20  - TACA 7978 arrives Flores 19:30, transfer to the nearby Hotel Maya Internacional

20:15 - Dinner at the hotel
Friday December 6

- Sunrise

06:30-- 7:30 Breakfast

08:00  - three helicopters leave Hotel Maya heliport for La Corona, 85 km northwest, with 18 people and drinks for lunch.  The site is at N 17° 31' 42.2" and W 90° 22' 46.1"  E.T.A.  08:30  The helicopters return empty to Flores.

The first group, if they like, can make a hike to a watchtower some 30 minutes away, which rises above the canopy and return to meet the second group.  The second group can make the same hike in the afternoon, while the first group has left for Flores.  The archaeologists will have a 4WD vehicle available if someone does not want to walk.

09:00 - helicopters return to Maya International heliport

09:15 -
helicopters leave with the other 18 people plus sandwiches

09:45 -
we now have 36 people at La Corona.  The helicopters stay all day at La Corona heliport.  The heliport is about 1,500 meters from the site and 1,000 from the site camp.

10:30 - 13:00 tour of Sak Nikte' ... La Corona, with Tomas Barrrientos, Marcelo canuto and Analy Montenegro

13:00  - 14:00
lunch, at the La Corona Camp
Grilled Chicken or pork chops, rice or potatoes, fresh salad, hand made hot tortillas, portion of fresh fruit, cold beverages (soda, juice or beer), pure water 

14:00 -  15:00
free time on your own, sightsee, ask questions, relax, have a beer, whatever.  People in the second group will now have plenty of time to walk, if they want, to the lookout tower nearby.

15:00  -
first group of 18 makes it to the heliport

15:15  -
three helicopters leave la Corona heliport for Maya International with 18 people, E.T.A. 15:45.  The helicopters return empty to La Corona. 

16:30   - 
helicopters return with the second group of 18, for Hotel Maya International, E.T.A. 17:00The helicopters stay at the heliport overnight.

Free time, have a swim in the pool, relax, have a drink, go for a short trip to the island of Flores

- sunset

19:00  -
dinner at the hotel                      go back to the top ^

Click to see a much larger image 

Flight from Flores to Sak Nikte' - La Corona, 85 km.  Click to see a much larger image
Saturday December 7

transfer to the Mundo Maya airport, near the hotel, for 20 people travelling on TACA 7979 to Guatemala City.  Grab a breakfast at the airport.

06:30 - 7:30

08:05 -
TACA 7979 leaves for Guatemala City with 20 people, three helicopters leave for Guatemala with 15

09:10 -
TACA arrives in Guatemala.  One bus will meet 20 people and take them home to Antigua

09:45 -
helicopters return to the Helicopteros de Guatemala hangar, where a second bus will wait for the 15 people and take them home to Antigua

When you get home, you can go on Facebook and post your photos of the trip.
Click to see a larger image 

La Corona panel, click to see a larger image.

What is Site Q ?  Why should you join the tour ?

First of all, the La Corona site is so remote and inaccessible, that if you don't come with us, you will never again have the opportunity to see it unless someone repeats the recipe on this page and assembles another group to make it an economical proposition.

Second, La Corona is rapidly being excavated and more and more fascinating pieces are being discovered.  Below are some links to articles of interest. 

Why is called "Site Q" ?  In the 1960's, a number of valuable items, several of them depicting ball players, were sold by a dealer into collections in Paris, Zurich, New York and a beautiful piece was acquired by the Chicago Art Institute.  See details here.  A Yale graduate student, Peter Matthews, spotted that they were all so similar, they must have been robbed from the same site.  But which one ?  "Site Que ?"  Read more here.  (It is now known that some of the pieces came from another site, not far away, called Peru - Waá, which may well be the subject of Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology trip in 2014.)

For years, the Site Q was known only from looted archaeological material on sale on the art market, but its location was unknown.  In 2005, a team of archaeologists led by Marcelo Canuto, then at Yale, found confirmation of Site Q, during a mission to the norhwest Peten.  He was just mapping the site for 5 days.  On their last full day, he was setting up a GPS device, but it takes 10-15 minutes to lock onto satellites, so he left it for a walk.  He found a trench, dug by robbers, the trench narrowed into a tunnel.  At the end of the tunnel, the evidence included an in-situ panel carved with over 140 hieroglyphs that fill in a key 30 year chapter in classic Maya history.  Read more on that here.  Marcello Canuto, now with Tulane University, divides his life between New Orleans and Antigua. 

Since 2008, Canuto and Tomas Barrientos, head of the Archaeology Department at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, have led excavations at la Corona. 

In 2012, they found a 1,300-year-old-year Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called end date of the Maya calendar, December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic finds in decades, was announced last June

This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy, says Canuto.  What Canuto and Barrientos found was the longest text ever discovered in Guatemala. Carved on staircase steps, it records 200 years of La Corona history ... we are going to see this before our trip to the site and their workshop at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. 

La Corona history

Please read the history in a good Prensa Libre article from August 2012, which quotes Tomas Barrientos throughout.  The site rivalled Calakmul and Tikal in its day.  Between 300-600 A.D., Period "Ek", the whole main plaza was constructed.  In 520 arrived Ix Naah Ek, the first lady of the Ek kingdom, the wife of the king Tuun K'aa' Hix and her daughter married a prince.  600-700 A.D., Period Yuknoom, the golden age of Sak Nikte' ("White flower") as the site was called in its day.  The kings of Calakmul wove a network of alliances through much of the Peten and because the rulers on Sak Nikte' were related to them, in this period, there was much construction, especially the group "Las Coronitas", explains Barrientos. The last period, 700-800 A.D., the city grown slows down and it begins to disintegrate. However, even then another important queen arrived from Calakmul.  The last date on any construction at the site is 805 A.D. 

The site consists of 67 structures so far identified, 7 panels, 2 stelas, five altars and seven monuments. 

Links of interest:

The main website of the La Corona Archaeological Project with lots of news and links to additional information

Site Q ... how was it found a fascinating story ...

BBC report 2012

REVUE March 2013 ... interview with Dra. Marion Popenoe and Tomas Barientos

Prensa Libre history of La Corona                                                                                                                     go back to the top ^

La Corona team ... Tomas Barrientos on the left, Marcello Canuto on the right, in the San Nikte' camp.  Analy Montenegro, project director, in white shirt, fifth from right in the front row. 
They will all be travelling with us and will be our guides on December 6, 2013.

December 5 - 6 - 7, 2013  ... What does the trip cost and what does it include ?

he cost is $995 per person
and it includes the following:

bulletbus from Antigua to Universidad del Valle de Guatemala for a visit to La Corona lab and a presentation about the site, its history, and the excavations, with a sandwich lunch
bulletbus to the airport
bulletentry to the Museo de Arqueologia for people travelling on TACA to see one of La Corona's best pieces
bullethelicopter transportation for 15 people Guatemala - Flores - Guatemala
bulletTACA/Avianca flights Guatemala for 21 - Flores - Guatemala, with airport taxes
bulletairport transfer from Mundo Maya for TACA passengers to hotel
bulletdinner at Hotel Maya International on arrival, with two drinks, water, soda, beer or wine included
bullet2 nights in Hotel Maya International in single or double or triple rooms
bulletbreakfast in Flores
bullethelicopter trasportation Flores - La Corona - Flores
bullettour of La Corona site with the experts who manage and operate the site and direct the project
bulleta superb lunch with drinks on site
bulletdinner in Hotel Maya International second night, with two drinks, water, soda, beer or wine included
bulletairport transfer to Mundo Maya airport for TACA passengers
bulletbuses from the airport and heliport back to Guatemala
bullet$50 per person donation to the PRALC, Proyecto Regional Arqueologico La Corona.  This will pay for IRIDIUM Satellite telephones to be used at the site.  If any money is left over after final accounting, that, too will go to the project as an additional donation
bulletaccess to a private web page (this one), protected by password until after the trip
bulletupdates about the trip and news about La Corona throughout 2013
bulletmembership in the exclusive elite of "Mr.Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology"     
bulleta fun, interesting trip, totally unique in the company of Guatemala's top archaeologists and lots of friends                    go back to the top ^
When do I have to pay ?

The "Site Q Travel Agency" is not in this for a profit.  This is a service for friends.

50% deposit was paid in May. In May, I already paid for all the TACA tickets (they booked us 21 seats on planes that usually sell out) and a $5,000 deposit to the helicopter company. 

Please note that I must know your weight, even if you gave it to me a couple of years ago for El Mirador.  I must finely balance the loads on the helicopters, same as last time.  I will not tell anyone, but the helicopter company how much weight each flight is carrying.

50% is due now, late October 2013.

I know this is a committment ... but it is similar with your other travel plans.  Once you pay an airline for your Christmas travel, it is not easy to cancel.  In our case, I think that if you need to cancel between the time you pay your 50% deposit and the time the final payment is due in October, I won't be able to give you your money back, because I will have paid it out, however, it is probable that we could find another person to go and they will pay and I will be able to give you a refund that way.  Maybe it will be so wildly popular that we will have a waitlist.  In the case of the Tak'alik Ab'aj, the trip just grew and grew and we accommodated everyone on the waitlist.  This time, the three helicopters can lift only 36 people to La Corona and as of June 17, all are booked.  I will accept more on a waitlist only. We have do this before!  Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology previous trips:

January 2011 - El Mirador with 20

December 2012 - Tak'alik Ab'aj with 43                   

To find out more: 
                                 Tel:   7832-8466
                                 Cel:   5916-5331

go back to the top ^

June 2013 ... just spotted among Boston Fine Arts Museum's Maya collection, a ballgame at La Corona.  It struck me that many of the fabulous pieces in that collection may be looted, because they do not show sites of origin, just "Guatemala or Belize or Honduras" etc.

La Corona staircase riser.  Click to see a larger image.

To main page. 

This page was last updated on 02/21/19.