- Craft and taste artisan chocolates in Antigua
- Roast marshmallows atop the Pacaya volcano
- Take a family kayaking excursion across Lake Atitlán
- Zipline through the clouds at the Atitlán Nature Reserve
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua, Chocolate Workshop||Antigua|
|Day 2||Tour the Almolonga Valley||Antigua|
|Day 3||Hike the Pacaya Volcano||Antigua|
|Day 4||Finca El Pilar Nature Hike & Natural Swimming Pools||Antigua|
|Day 5||Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Village Tour||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 6||Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 7||Atitlán Nature Reserve, Ziplining Adventure & Spiritual Maya Ceremony||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 8||Visit Chichicastenango Market||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 9||Transfer to Antigua, Visit the Iximché Maya Ruins||Antigua|
|Day 10||Transfer to Guatemala City, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua, Chocolate Workshop
Welcome to Guatemala! This country's rich history dates back long before Spanish colonial conquest to the days of the ancient Maya kingdoms, and its renowned natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and fascinating ruins make it the perfect family destination. At the airport, meet your driver and transfer one hour west to Antigua. One of the most well-preserved colonial cities in the Americas, full of beautifully restored architecture and bordered by volcanoes, it's easy to see why the town has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.
Settle into your hotel and then rally the kids to head out and explore. If they need persuading, this afternoon's two-hour "bean to bar" workshop at Antigua's Chocolate Museum should do just the trick! You and the kids will learn the complete chocolate-making process, starting from the cacao tree. If you can see through the experience without eating all the ingredients, you'll get to make and take home your own artisan chocolates and prepare (and taste) traditional Maya cacao drinks.
Day 2: Tour the Almolonga Valley
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast with the kids before easing into your Guatemalan adventure with a guided tour of the local countryside. Your driver will take you just west of the city to the Almolonga Valley and Ciudad Vieja, a historic city and the country's capital until 1541. Stroll the scenic plaza, and visit the restored colonial church before a fun tour of a local macadamia nut farm. Continue south and explore the towns and villages dotted through the valley before visiting several textile and weaving cooperatives, where you can pick up some local handicrafts.
Return to Antigua just in time for lunch and either choose one of the restaurants around Parque Central or head straight for the plentiful street food stalls. Let the kids lead the way as you sample empanadas and tostadas, and leave room for some rellenitos (deep-fried mashed plantains stuffed with chocolate, refried beans, and cinnamon). Spend the rest of the afternoon with a cool drink, amble the cobbled streets, and relax before you and the kids turn up the adventure and adrenaline dial several notches tomorrow.
Day 3: Hike the Pacaya Volcano
If the kids are chomping at the bit to get out and explore after yesterday's easy day, pack a picnic, lace up your hiking boots, and get an early start ready for a guided hike up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Pacaya volcano. Set in its own national park, Pacaya cuts an imposing figure with a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and the massive lava field at the base of its caldera.
Reach the top and congratulate the kids on their achievements before taking plenty of photos as you enjoy a picnic lunch and admire the panoramic views. Then, watch the kids' expressions when you tell them they can roast marshmallows over the volcano's natural heat! When you're ready, hike down over dried lava fields before descending through tropical forests and farmland on your way back to Antigua.
Day 4: Finca El Pilar Nature Hike & Natural Swimming Pools
Hot on the heels of yesterday's volcano hike, today's excursion is just as scenic, although slightly easier on the legs. After breakfast, a guide will collect you and the kids for a short drive to the Finca El Pilar, a beautiful private nature reserve teaming with wildlife. Spend the day hiking the park's 950 acres (384 ha) of forest trails with stunning views across the surrounding highlands and volcanoes, including the one you climbed yesterday.
Task the kids with spotting the native emerald toucanets and see how many of the park's 200 bird species you can recognize as you make your way to the Hummingbird Sanctuary, passing white pines, oak, and cypress trees as you go. With over 900 bird feeders in the sanctuary, watch as vast numbers of the little birds descend to feast on the sugary nectar. Continue through the dense, lush forest before finishing the hike at one of the park's natural spring-fed pools. Take a dip with the kids while your guide prepares a delicious picnic lunch.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Village Tour
It's time for the next leg of your family adventure as you and the kids transfer 2.5 hours west to Guatemala's famous Lake Atitlán, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Keep your camera close as you drive the Pan-American Highway that stretches from Alaska to Argentina and passes breathtaking views of the glittering lake and surrounding volcanoes. Drop your bags off at your hotel and then head out for lunch.
In the afternoon, take a private boat tour and explore the Maya villages surrounding the lake. Your first stop is San Juan La Laguna, a tiny town home to several women's cooperatives producing a range of textiles, paintings, and weavings using traditional craft techniques. Take the kids to see the painters in action at a nearby workshop and hike to the wonderful El Mirador de San Juan, a lookout above the lake filled with colorful paintings by local artists.
Next up is the town of Santiago Atitlán, famous for its shrine to the rapscallion deity Maximón who, while often depicted as a man in a suit and a hat, resides here adorned with colorful garlands and scarves, very much in keeping with the area's artistic feel. Visit the Cojolya Weaving Center and Museum women's cooperative and discover the tradition of backstrap-loom weaving, which has crafted the traditional costume of the Tz'utujil people for centuries.
Day 6: Kayak & Hike Lake Atitlán
If yesterday's tour around Lake Atitlán has left you and the kids desperate to get out on the waters, then waste no time heading out for today's adventure. Enjoy a leisurely couple of hours paddling along the north shore of the lake, passing villages, and gazing across to the towering volcanoes. Don't worry if the water is too tempting to resist; there are plenty of places to dock your kayak and hop in the lake for a swim. After a splash with the kids, paddle to San Marcos La Laguna, where you'll swap your kayak for hiking boots.
Follow the lake trail along the shoreline and pass through several villages, taking in the views of the San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán volcanoes as you go. Eventually, the route will return you to your accommodation, where the rest of the day is yours to relax and explore as you wish.
Day 7: Atitlán Nature Reserve, Ziplining Adventure & Spiritual Maya Ceremony
Earn some major parental brownie points today and spend the day at the Atitlán Nature Reserve, located on the shores of Lake Atitlán outside Panajachel. Spend an hour or two soaring above the park's waterfalls, coffee groves, and cliffs as you and the kids zipline across the forest canopy. Kids of all ages will adore the Butterfly Geodome, where you can explore the colorful flowers and plants surrounded by hundreds of butterflies. Take a breather and grab a bite to eat, then continue with a gentle hike as you explore the hanging bridges and trails amid the river's soft murmur and the hummingbird sounds.
Afterward, embrace traditional Maya culture as you and the kids experience an unforgettable fire ceremony. Meet your guide, who will explain the significance of this 5,000-year-old tradition and the customs as you light candles and participate in this extraordinary ritual. Return to your hotel, where the rest of the evening is yours to do as you wish.
Day 8: Visit Chichicastenango Market
It's an adventure of a different kind today as you take a private transfer 2.5 hours north to Chichicastenango (or simply "Chichi" to the locals) in the Guatemalan highlands. Home to Central America's largest and most vibrant public market, visitors travel far and wide to browse textiles, handicrafts, jewelry, and pottery. Look out for the wooden carvings and ceremonial masks used in traditional Maya dances as you and the kids explore the stalls and pick up some souvenirs. In the afternoon, you'll return to Atitlán and have free time to relax on the lake's shores or set out on an adventure of your own.
Day 9: Transfer to Antigua, Visit the Iximché Maya Ruins
After breakfast and one last walk along the lake, transfer to Antigua, drop your bags at your hotel, and take a private shuttle through the beautiful highlands to the ruins at Iximché. With an array of ancient pyramid temples, palaces, and ball courts, kids will have a blast as they take on the role of lead explorer and discover the Maya archaeological site, recreating adventures as they go. Older kids interested in ancient history will love hearing stories from your guide about the past, symbolism, and legends preserved among the fascinating ruins.
Head back to Antigua and choose from one of the many family-friendly restaurants to dine in and spend your last night recounting the favorite moments from your trip.
Day 10: Depart Guatemala
It's the final day of your family adventure. You'll return to Guatemala City's airport at the appropriate time to catch your departing flight with full hearts and memories to last a lifetime. Buen viaje!
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