This 13-day adventure starts in historic Antigua, where you'll take a cooking class, tour local villages and farms, and visit ancient Maya ruins. Then transfer to El Paredon, where you can surf, relax on the beach, go whitewater rafting, or spot sea turtles. In scenic Lake Atitlán, learn about goat cheese production and traditional carpet-making. Finally, head to Guatemala City to visit a chocolate museum, learn about colorful "chicken buses," and hike Pacaya volcano.


  • Tour the ancient Maya ruins of Iximché
  • Lie out on the wild, unspoiled volcanic beach of El Paredon
  • See how goat cheese is made at a local farm near Lake Atitlán
  • Learn about Guatemala's colorful "chicken buses" at a workshop in Guatemala City

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua, Guatemalan Cooking Class Antigua
Day 2 Coffee Tour & Village Tour by Car Antigua
Day 3 Cacao (Chocolate) Farm Tour, Visit Cerro Santo Domingo Antigua
Day 4 Village Tour of Iximché Maya Ruins, Visit Comalapa and San Andrés Itzapa Antigua
Day 5 Transfer to El Paredon, Optional Visit to Sea Turtle Conservation Center El Paredon
Day 6 Free Day in El Paredon, Optional White Water Rafting Trip El Paredon
Day 7 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Visit a Goat Cheese Farm Lake Atitlán
Day 8 Lake Atitlán Village Tour, Sawdust Carpet Workshop Lake Atitlán
Day 9 Transfer to Guatemala City, Visit Chichicastenango Market Guatemala City
Day 10 Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano Guatemala City
Day 11 Free Day in Guatemala City, Chicken Bus Workshop Guatemala City
Day 12 Guatemala City Tour, Chocolate Museum Experience Guatemala City
Day 13 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua, Guatemalan Cooking Class

Central Park in Antigua, Guatemala
Central Park in Antigua, Guatemala

Welcome to Guatemala! Upon arriving at Guatemala City International Airport, you'll be transferred to your hotel in the colonial city of Antigua. Settle into your accommodation, then enjoy some free time exploring the city on a self-guided walking tour. Walk along the cobbled streets, and treat yourself to local street food like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). Be sure to stop by historic landmarks like the Santa Catalina Arch, the ruins of the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral, and the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.

Later, participate in a local cooking class where you'll learn to prepare traditional Guatemalan cuisine. This food is a mix of conventional colonial Spanish and Maya cooking that is delicious and fun to make. The four-hour workshop is taught by native chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez Indigenous community. Besides the main dishes, you'll also prepare handmade tortillas and a dessert. At the end of the class, sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy your delicious creations.

Day 2: Coffee Tour & Village Tour by Car

Local coffee fields
Learn about coffee production

Today, your driver-guide will pick you up to take you to the most important villages around Antigua. The tour will stop at the markets, plazas, and churches that make up the history of every destination. First, head to Santiago Zamora to visit the local women's cooperative. Here, you'll have the chance to meet Filomena, one of the leaders of this community, who uses the funds raised from the co-op's cultural tours to help children in a small school. Afterward, move on to San Antonio Aguas Calientes, one of the most colorful villages in this area.

At the end of the tour, you'll have the chance to visit a macadamia farm and try a facial treatment. When the day's activities are finished, return to Antigua for the evening. 

Day 3: Cacao Farm Tour, Visit Cerro Santo Domingo

Choco Museo
Learn how chocolate is made

You're in for a tasty treat today, as you'll get to visit an organic cacao farm. Grown in tropical environments, the cacao tree produces fruit containing cocoa beans, the fundamental ingredient in chocolate. Besides coffee, sugar, and bananas, cacao is one of Guatemala's chief exports. On a personal tour of the farm led by a local expert, you'll learn about the complete chocolate-making process, from bean to bar. The tour covers everything about organic cacao farming, as well as the other fruit and vegetable crops grown on this land. Of course, it concludes with a delicious tasting.

Afterward, take the shuttle to Cerro Santo Domingo to visit the local sculpture gardens. This is a great spot for a happy hour cocktail with beautiful sunset views.

Day 4: Village Tour of Iximché Maya Ruins, Visit Comalapa & San Andrés Itzapa

Iximché Maya Ruins
The Iximché Maya ruins

Meet your driver at your hotel and begin the hour-long journey to Tecpán, where the Iximché Maya ruins are located. Explore the ruins and then head to San Juan Comalapa, a town known for its many Kaqchikel painters and sometimes referred to as the "Florence of the Americas." It is also the birthplace of Rafael Álvarez Ovalle, who composed the national anthem of Guatemala. At the end of the tour, stop for lunch at one of the restaurants on Tecpán's main road.

Afterward, make a stop in the town of San Andrés Itzapa, which is a place of pilgrimage and home to a famous shrine of Maximón, a Maya folk saint. Then, return to Antigua to enjoy your final evening in the town. 

Day 5: Transfer to El Paredon, Optional Visit to Sea Turtle Conservation Center

El Paredon
Aerial view of El Paredon Beach

Pack up your things and say goodbye to Antigua, then take a shuttle to your next destination: El Paredon Beach. Settle into your accommodation, and spend the rest of the day getting to know your surroundings. El Paredon is a quiet Pacific coastal town well-known for surfing and features a long, wild, unspoiled volcanic beach. Enjoy some water sports, or simply sit on the beach and watch the sunset.

If you'd like, you can also opt for a visit to the sleepy beach community of Monterrico for a special wildlife experience. Here, you'll visit a conservation center dedicated to protecting Pacific Coast sea turtles. The center also rescues sick or injured turtles and rehabilitates them. They also ensure that turtle eggs remain safe and hatchlings make it to sea. If you visit between September and February, you might even be able to release a hatchling into the ocean!

Day 6: Free Day in El Paredon, Optional Whitewater Rafting Trip

El Paredón Beach
Take to the beach for a surf lesson, swim, or sunbathing

Take some free time today to soak in the peaceful atmosphere of El Paredon Beach. Whether you decide to take surf lessons, lay in a hammock, go for a swim, or simply relax at the hotel, this will surely be a rewarding day.

Alternatively, you could embark on a whitewater rafting trip down the Río Coyolate, where you'll brave Class II and III+ rapids. First, meet your group at 7 am for the ride to the river staging area, then have breakfast and receive a safety briefing before embarking down the river. This 13-mile (22 km) trip lasts about 5.5 hours, depending on the water levels. There will also be breaks to enjoy drinks and snacks on the banks. The adventure ends later in the day back at basecamp, where you'll have an early dinner (around 4 pm).

Day 7: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Visit a Goat Cheese Farm

Lake Atitlan
View of Lake Atitlán

You'll have the morning free to have breakfast and take in the views of El Paredon. Then, take a private transfer to Lake Atitlán, a drive of approximately 3.5 hours. Start your journey with a ferry ride through the mangrove-lined rivers of Sipacate before hitting the highway to the lake. Once you arrive in Panajachel, transfer overland or take a local boat to your hotel.

In the afternoon, visit a farm for an interactive workshop to learn how goat cheese is made. Discover many fascinating facts about the production process, including the goats' lifestyle, how permaculture is applied, and its impact on our bodies and the environment. You'll also participate in every step of the cheese-making process. After 1.5 hours, enjoy a delicious cheese tasting. 

Day 8: Lake Atitlán Village Tour, Sawdust Carpet Workshop

Sawdust carpet
See how Antigua's beautiful Easter carpets are made
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Climb aboard a boat for a tour of the towns surrounding Lake Atitlán. In the company of a local guide, you'll stop at villages far off the tourist trail and experience their authentic culture. Afterward, enjoy a sawdust carpet workshop. One of the most impressive aspects of the Easter Festival in Antigua are the alfombras (carpets). During Semana Santa (Holy Week), Guatemalans adorn their streets with these long, decorative rugs made from flowers, colored sawdust, pine needles, and fruits and vegetables.

During this two-hour experience, you'll have the chance to learn about the history of these alfombras (which date back hundreds of years) while also learning to make one with the help of local families. When the day is done, return to your hotel to relax and enjoy your last evening by the lake. 

Day 9: Transfer to Guatemala City, Visit Chichicastenango Market

chichicastenango market
Take in the sights and smells of the Chichicastenango market

Spend today traveling back to Guatemala City. Part of the morning will be spent on the Pan American Highway, a network of roads stretching from Alaska to Argentina.

On the way, visit Chichicastenango, which locals call "Chichi." This Indigenous town in the Guatemalan highlands is home to Central America's largest and most famous public market. Held every Thursday and Sunday, it draws locals from surrounding villages who come to sell handicrafts, textiles, regional clothing, and fresh produce. Also here is the Iglesia de Santo Tomás, a 16th-century Catholic Church built on the site of a former Maya temple. During the trip, you'll sample typical foods such as the sweet snack pan de muerto (bread of the dead). 

Day 10: Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano

Panoramic views from Pacaya Volcano
Panoramic views from Pacaya volcano

Get an early start for a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552-m) Pacaya volcano. These volcanic slopes are some of the most impressive in Central America. Set in its own national park, Pacaya cuts an imposing figure with a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and the massive dried lava field at the base of its caldera.

The trip up and back takes about six hours and covers a distance of 4 miles (6 km). You'll eat a picnic lunch at the summit as you enjoy the panoramic views and maybe even roast marshmallows over the volcano's natural heat. The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forests and farmland on your way back to Guatemala City. 

Day 11: Free Day in Guatemala City, Chicken Bus Workshop

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala in Guatemala City
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala in Guatemala City

Take the morning to explore Guatemala City on your own or with the help of a guide, who can take you on a tour on foot or by bike. The city is home to a bustling Historic District and offers many excellent restaurants, bars, shopping, and people-watching spots.

In the afternoon, participate in a 2.5-hour workshop on the history of "chicken buses" in Guatemala. During the experience, you'll learn about the process these vehicles go through to become road-ready. They're repurposed US school buses that arrive in the country painted the standard yellow. Then locals deck them out, painting them in bright colors and personalizing them according to their culture. They're even souped up to travel at high speeds on mountain roads with steep slopes and curves. After an exciting test drive, head back to your hotel.

Day 12: Guatemala City Tour, Chocolate Museum Experience

Guatemala City
Tour Guatemala City's historic center

Embark on a tour of Guatemala City's historic center led by a local expert. Head to the Plaza de la Constitución and visit the National Palace, a historic Spanish Renaissance building that was once the president's headquarters but is a museum today. Nearby are famous religious landmarks, like the 18th-century Iglesia San Francisco, St. Augustine Rectory, and the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built in 1871.

Later, visit a chocolate museum for a "Bean to Bar" chocolate workshop. At the workshop, you'll learn about the chocolate-making process from start to finish, starting with the cacao tree. You'll also have the chance to prepare and taste traditional Maya cacao drinks and make your own custom chocolates to take home. 

Day 13: Depart Guatemala City

Guatemala City
Guatemala City
It's your last day in Guatemala! Take the hotel shuttle to the Guatemala City Airport in time for your departure. We recommend arriving three hours prior to your flight. ¡Buen viaje! (Have a good trip!)

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Map of Best of Guatemala: Antigua, El Paredón & Lake Atitlán - 13 Days
Map of Best of Guatemala: Antigua, El Paredón & Lake Atitlán - 13 Days