This 15-day adventure will take you to the most impressive, historic, and awe-inspiring sites in Guatemala and Belize. Start by exploring the historic centers of Guatemala City and Antigua before heading north to hike up the famous Maya pyramids at Tikal. Then hop the border for cultural tours in Belize and continue to Ambergris Caye, where you'll have time to relax, snorkel, and dive to your heart's content.


  • See the sights of Guatemala City and Antigua
  • Hike up an active volcano and enjoy a picnic at its peak
  • Explore the traditional villages around Lake Atitlán
  • Tour the spectacular Maya ruins at Tikal National Park
  • Relax on the laid-back, palm-fringed islands of Belize

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Chicken Bus Tour Guatemala City
Day 2 Transfer to Antigua, City & Street Food Tour Antigua
Day 3 Pacaya Volcano Hike & Picnic Antigua
Day 4 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Hiking & Ziplining Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Lake Atitlán Boat Tour Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Day Trip to Chichicastenango Market Lake Atitlán
Day 7 Transfer to Tikal National Park & Sunset Tour Tikal National Park
Day 8 Explore Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 9 Transfer to San Ignacio (Belize), Visit Xunantunich San Ignacio
Day 10 Day Trip to Barton Creek San Ignacio
Day 11 San Ignacio Tour, Transfer to Ambergris Caye Ambergris Caye
Day 12 Blue Hole Snorkeling Tour Ambergris Caye
Day 13 Barrier Reef Snorkeling Ambergris Caye
Day 14 Hol Chan & Shark Ray Alley Ambergris Caye
Day 15 Transfer to Belize City & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Chicken Bus Tour

Take a ride around Guatemala in a chicken bus
Welcome to Guatemala! Only slightly larger than the US state of Kentucky, this Central American nation is filled with outsized wonders. It boasts rich Indigenous history, ancient Maya ruins, tropical jungles, beaches, rivers, and more. You'll arrive in the capital of Guatemala City, a modern metropolis anchored by a well-preserved Spanish colonial historic center.
At the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. After settling in, you'll head out for a 2.5-hour ride around the city's outskirts. During this memorable excursion, you'll travel like a local: on a "chicken bus." Within Guatemala, these brightly painted buses are the most cost-effective mode of public transportation. They earned their nickname because locals would often ride them with pets and livestock (like chickens) in tow, though it's not so common nowadays.
During the experience, you'll learn how these vehicles become road-ready. They're actually repurposed US schoolbuses that arrive in the country painted the standard yellow. Then locals deck them out, painting them 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 ride, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 2: Transfer to Antigua, City & Street Food Tour

Welcome to Antigua, once the capital of Guatemala
In the morning, your driver will pick you up at the hotel for the 1.5-hour drive west to Antigua. The cobbled streets and cathedrals of this former national capital sit in the shadow of three active volcanoes. Many of the city's 16th, 17th, and 18th-century structures have been beautifully renovated, while others have fallen to ruins yet retain a tumbledown charm.
After checking in to your hotel, you'll meet a local expert guide and head out for a half-day city tour. During this excursion, you'll visit 16th, 17th, and 18th-century landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Palace); Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum; the Palace of the Captain's General; and La Merced Church, whose canary-yellow Baroque facade is a hallmark of the city. When the tour is over, you'll return to your hotel.

After all that sightseeing, you'll undoubtedly have an appetite. That's why next on the agenda is a meeting with another local guide who will introduce you to Guatemala's culture through its gastronomy. On this walking tour along Antigua's cobbled streets, you'll taste culinary creations with influences dating back thousands of years. In total, you'll stop at eight traditional restaurants and vendors, each serving up a variety of savory and sweet local treats. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 3: Pacaya Volcano Hike & Picnic

Hike up dried lava fields to the summit of Pacaya

Lace up your hiking boots because in the morning you'll embark on a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Pacaya volcano, whose slopes are home to some of the most impressive volcanic landscapes 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 lava field at the base of its caldera.

The trip up and back takes about six hours, but horses are an option for those who'd prefer a more relaxed ascent. Upon arrival at the summit, you'll enjoy a picnic lunch amid panoramic views (you can even roast marshmallows over volcanic vents). Feel free to reward yourself with a beer, quetzalteca (a local rum drink), or fresh juice (if you don't imbibe). The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forests and farmland. At the end of the hike, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 4: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Hiking & Ziplining

See the highlights of Lake Atitlán on a nature hike
After breakfast, you'll hop in the car for the three-hour ride west to Lago Atitlán. Guatemala's most famous lake is part of a volcanic crater and, like Antigua, is surrounded by volcanoes. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your waterfront hotel in the village of Panajachel, located on Atitlán's northeastern shore.
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Once you've settled into your hotel, you'll meet a guide and head out for a brisk two-hour hike in the mountains around the lake. This excursion will take you to a nature reserve where you'll hike amid coffee fields, waterfalls, and along cliffs offering great views over the lake. Other activities to enjoy at the nature reserve include ziplining over the forest canopy, hiking across hanging bridges, and visiting a butterfly reserve.

Day 5: Lake Atitlán Boat Tour

Take a scenic boat ride around Atitlán and visit local villages
In the morning, a boat will pick you up at the dock in front of your hotel. On board, you'll meet your guide and embark on a half-day tour of the charming villages around Atitlán. You'll first visit San Juan La Laguna, famous for its textiles and weaving co-ops run by Indigenous women. You'll tour one of these co-ops and learn about the natural dying process and other time-honored techniques that go into producing beautiful handmade clothing, handbags, shawls, and other products. Also, you'll visit an apiary and an artists' workshop to see traditional paintings by local artists.
Next, stop at Santiago Atitlán. This town is famous for its shrine to Maximón, a Maya deity known for his depraved behavior. You'll also visit the Cojolya Weaving Center and Museum, founded by the Cojolya Association of Maya Women Weavers. This museum showcases the history, tradition, and methodology of backstrap-loom weaving, which the Indigenous people of Santiago have utilized to craft their traditional garments for centuries. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 6: Day Trip to Chichicastenango Market

Visit Chichicastenango Maya Market
See what's for sale at Chichicastenango, one of the oldest markets in Latin America

After breakfast, meet your driver and head north from Atitlán to Chichicastenango. Known as "Chichi" by locals, this Indigenous town in the Guatemalan highlands is home to one of the largest markets in Central America, which was established before the Spanish arrival. Its primary purpose is to service locals who come far and wide to buy and sell products. During a visit, you'll browse the market, whose vendors sell everything from handicrafts and textiles to fresh produce and street food. You'll even get to visit an artisanal mask factory.

You also won't want to miss the nearby Iglesia de Santo Tomás. This 16th-century Roman Catholic church is built on the site of a former Maya temple and is a striking example of Guatemalan syncretism (a mix of ancient Maya religious beliefs and traditional Catholicism). Besides sightseeing and sampling typical foods like Guatemalan bananas and pan de muerto (bread of the dead), you'll also browse a local textile factory to see the process of making the traditional outfits of the region. Following this is a traditional dance performance. Afterward, you'll return to Atitlán.

Day 7: Transfer to Tikal National Park & Sunset Tour

See the sunset over the Maya ruins at Tikal
In the morning, you'll make the three-hour drive back to the airport in Guatemala City. There, you'll catch a one-hour flight north to the Petén region and the lakeside town of Flores. At the airport, another driver will meet you for the 1.5-hour drive farther north to the legendary Tikal National Park.
Once here, you'll head over to your accommodation located within the park. Before night falls, however, you'll meet a local guide and head to the Tikal ruins for a hike up Temple IV, which rises 213 feet (65 m). From the top of this ancient pyramid, you'll watch the sunset over the jungle canopy as you listen to the sounds of exotic birds and howler monkeys in the trees.

Day 8: Explore Tikal National Park

Hike up the ancient pyramid temples at Tikal

Wake up early and meet your guide for a half-day tour of the 222-square-mile (576 sq km) archaeological site at Tikal National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the capital of one of the ancient Mayas' most powerful kingdoms until its decline around 900 CE. The ruins here include sprawling citadels and towering pyramids like Temple IV, which is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in Central America. 

Throughout the tour, you'll follow your expert guide through the temples and pyramids, stopping at all the major points of interest. This includes Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. Be sure to keep an eye out for the local wildlife in the surrounding jungle. Resident animals here include howler and spider monkeys, toucans, and parakeets. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 9: Transfer to San Ignacio (Belize), Visit Xunantunich

See Belize's famous ruins at Xunantunich
In the morning, you'll transfer from Tikal about three hours east through the Petén region. Eventually, you'll cross the border into Belize and arrive in San Ignacio. This town sits on the Río Macal and is surrounded by jungle, which allows for some great nature tours and visits to archaeological sites. Once here, you'll check in to your hotel.
Later, you'll tour one of Belize's star Maya ruins: Xunantunich. This archaeological site was once a city that reached its height of power during the seventh century CE but was abandoned around 750 CE. It covers 1 square mile (2.6 sq km) and you'll explore the main area's six plazas and 26 temples and palaces. After the tour, you'll return to your hotel and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 10: Day Trip to Barton Creek

Enjoy Barton Creek
Spend some time on the water at Barton Creek
Head about 30 minutes outside of town this morning to Barton Creek. This cavern is not only the largest river cave in Belize, but it's also a font of Indigenous history. Hundreds of years ago, the ancient Maya used this network of caverns for everything from agriculture and fertility rituals to bloodletting and even human sacrifice. Macabre history aside, there are lovely river caverns here that you'll explore on a half-day tour. When it's over, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 11: San Ignacio Tour, Transfer to Ambergris Caye

Discover the palm-fringed beaches and white sands of Ambergris Caye
Start the day with a fun walking tour around San Ignacio. During this half-day excursion, you'll visit some of the popular landmarks in town. This includes stops at local markets as well as a walk across Belize's only suspension bridge. In the early afternoon, you'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and finish the tour with a decadent DIY chocolate workshop at a local confectionery.
Later, you'll make the two-hour drive to Belize City, where you'll board a ferry for the 1.5-hour ride north to the adjacent island of Ambergris Caye. This idyllic coral isle has been inhabited over the centuries by the Indigenous Maya, Mexicans fleeing the Caste War of Yucatán, and even European pirates. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel in San Pedro Town, the only town on the island. The rest of the day is yours to relax on the beach or explore the town. 

Day 12: Blue Hole Snorkeling Tour

Snorkel the Blue Hole, one of the most unique dive sites in the world

Wake up early and head to the marina, where you'll leave for a full-day tour to one of the western hemisphere's most famous dive sites: the Blue Hole. This giant marine sinkhole formed as a limestone cavern during the last Ice Age and is remarkable for its almost perfectly circular shape, which measures 1,043 feet (318 m) across and 407 feet (124 m) deep. 

When you arrive here, you'll get to snorkel around all parts of this site, from the shallows to the deep caverns, which boast unique rock formations and underwater stalactites. The area is incredibly biodiverse, and as you swim, you're likely to spot tropical fish, sea turtles, and reef sharks. Before returning to San Pedro Town, you'll stop at the lovely Half Moon Caye to enjoy the island, plus visit a bird sanctuary for red-footed boobies—the only place you can see them outside of the Galápagos.

Day 13: Barrier Reef Snorkeling

Spend the day exploring Belize's barrier reef

Off the coast of Belize lies the southern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef system in the world after Australia's. That makes this country one of the premier dive destinations in the western hemisphere.

Today you'll see more of this underwater beauty on a boat trip to some dive destinations around Ambergris Caye. This five-hour excursion includes boat rides to two snorkeling spots along the reef. During the adventure, you'll swim with sea turtles, rays, grouper, barracuda, parrotfish, butterfly fish, angel fish, and more.

Day 14: Hol Chan & Shark Ray Alley

Go snorkeling with harmless nurse sharks

In the morning, you'll head out on a boat to two of Belize's most popular snorkeling destinations: Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. The former is a marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site just south of San Pedro. It protects 7 square miles (18 sq km) of coral reefs and mangrove lagoons home to a rich marine ecosystem, which you'll see when you dive in.

Next, you'll stop at the famous Shark Ray Alley. This 30-foot (9 m) deep channel is filled with stingrays and nurse sharks. Just like at Hol Chan, you'll have the option to go swimming with these animals. No need to worry, as nurse sharks are perfectly harmless (but no touching). After the tour, you'll return to San Pedro.

Day 15: Transfer to Belize City & Depart

Sunset over the islands in Belize
Time flies when you're enjoying island life. If you like, wake up for a sunrise walk along the beach before enjoying one last leisurely breakfast on Ambergris Caye. At the appropriate time, you'll return to Belize City by boat and transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. Until next time!

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Map of Best of Guatemala & Belize - 15 Days
Map of Best of Guatemala & Belize - 15 Days