Even with just five days, you can visit some of the highlight destinations in Guatemala. Explore ancient Maya ruins at Tikal, hike up sheer volcano slopes in the highlands, and discover the rich history of colonial Antigua on a walking tour. Or, if you're looking to go off the beaten path, head deep into coffee country and visit nature reserves home to the country's most exotic wildlife.

Itinerary #1: Highlights of Guatemala

If you can only spare five days in Guatemala, do it right on this active highlights tour. It includes visiting colonial Antigua, hiking Pacaya Volcano, and exploring Maya ruins in Tecpán.

Stroll Antigua's cobbled streets
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Antigua, Explore Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour & Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Hike Pacaya Volcano Antigua
Day 4 Day Trip to Lake Atitlán & Maya Ruins in Tecpán Antigua
Day 5 Depart Guatemala  

Your brief sojourn in Guatemala begins with a walking history tour of Antigua, a city in the western highlands that was, up until the 18th century, the capital of the country. Not only will you visit historic buildings like the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral, but you'll also take a cooking class to learn how to prepare traditional Guatemalan cuisine (desserts included). Then stretch your legs with a 3.8-mile (6-km) hike up the nearby Pacaya Volcano, one of the country's most dramatic peaks.

On day four, give your legs a break as you enjoy a boat tour around the azure blue waters of Lake Atitlán and a trip to indigenous lakeshore villages, such as Santiago and San Juan. After lunch on the lake, you'll return to Antigua but not before stopping at the ancient Iximché ruins. This archaeological site was once a great capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom in the 15th century. On day five, you'll return to Guatemala City for your flight home. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Maya Journey in Guatemala

If you'd like to dive deep into Guatemala's ancient indigenous culture but are short on time, this Maya journey packs the best highlights into just five days.

Take a day trip to Tikal
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Travel to Tikal National Park Tikal 
Day 2 Tour Tikal National Park, Transfer to Río Dulce Río Dulce
Day 3 Boat Tour Along the Río Dulce Livingston
Day 4 Tour Quirigua Ruins, Transfer to Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 5 Depart Guatemala City  

You'll arrive in Guatemala City and immediately hop on a flight north to the Petén region, the gateway to Tikal National Park. Yet, first, you'll visit the ancient archeological site of Yaxha. Walk around the ruins of this former Maya city, which date to 800 BCE, then head into Tikal, where you'll overnight. The next day explore some of the park's 8,340 sq miles (21,602 sq km), home to ruins dating from 200 to 900 CE. Visit pyramids like the Temple of the Great Jaguar, and hike up the 125-foot (38-m) Temple II.

The next day, enjoy a trip down one of Guatemala's most stunning natural landmarks: the Río Dulce. It's a leisurely boat tour, and as you float over jade waters flanked by rainforests, you can snap photos of the many water birds, lily pads, and orchids. You'll overnight in the coastal town of Livingston and then, on day four, travel back down the river by boat. This time you'll stop at the Quiriguá Ruins, an archeological site that thrived around 800 CE and boasts 17 ornate sandstone monuments. After the ruins, you'll return to Guatemala City, then fly home the next day. Learn more

Plan your trip to Guatemala
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Itinerary #3: Antigua & Acatenango Adventure

Another active adventure that over five days will test your endurance on both mountain bike excursions and volcano hikes. 

Camp overnight at Acatenango Volcano
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Mountain Bike Nature Ride Antigua
Day 3 Acatenango Volcano Hike & Camping Acatenango Volcano
Day 4 Sunrise Acatenango Hike & Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 5 Antigua to Guatemala City, Depart  

Upon arrival in Guatemala City, you'll transfer to Antigua. Then you can explore the cobbled streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site on your own. Visit the historic buildings and church ruins, and treat yourself to local street food. On day two, you'll hop on a mountain bike and pedal out on a 12-mile (19-km) downhill ride through a beautiful nature reserve on the south side of the Agua Volcano

The following day, embark on a 2-day/1-night journey up the 13,041-foot (3,976-m) Acatenango Volcano. The scenic route ascends through farming villages and high-alpine cloud forest until you reach the tree line of the volcano and your campsite. Here you'll enjoy sweeping views of surrounding volcanoes and eat dinner at 2,300 feet (3,750 m). On day four, you'll wake at sunrise to 360° views of the Guatemalan highlands as you head down the volcano and return to Antigua, returning home the next day. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Guatemala Adventure

This off-the-beaten-path adventure in coffee country is perfect for nature lovers who want to avoid the tourist crowds yet still visit some of Guatemala's most beautiful natural landmarks.

The terraced pools at Semuc Champey
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Tour Ram Tzul Cobán
Day 2 Day Trip to Semuc Champey Cobán
Day 3 Explore the Cuevas de Candelaría Candelaría
Day 4 Tour Laguna Lachúa Candelaría
Day 5 Candelaria to Guatemala City, Tour & Depart  

Right after arriving in Guatemala City, you'll hop in a private vehicle for a 4-hour, scenic drive north to the highland city of Cobán, located in Guatemala's main coffee region. Once here, you'll travel to nearby Ram Tzul, a 247-acre private nature reserve. Then hike through the park and visit its most famous attraction: a cascading waterfall that plunges 260 feet (80 m) into a lagoon. Afterward, you'll go birding and orchid-spotting in the Biotopo del Quetzal. This 2,580-acre protected area is home to 87 species of bird, including the resplendent quetzal—Guatemala's national bird.

You'll visit Semuc Champey on day two, another of Guatemala's natural wonders. It's located near the Q'eqchi' Maya town of Lanquín and is famous for its terraced turquoise pools. Here you can hike to viewpoints and embark on a tube ride down the water. The next day you'll drive to the town of Candelaría and can explore the river caves in the area's limestone mountains. On day four, take a day trip to Laguna Lachúa National Park, home to a small lake (a mile in diameter) and surrounded by tropical jungle great for hiking. The next day you'll return to the capital and depart. Learn more

More Great Guatemala Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Guatemala? Check out these other Guatemala itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.