This action-packed two-week adventure takes you mountain biking through the breathtaking highlands of Guatemala. Your journey starts in the former colonial capital of Antigua, where you'll set off exploring local routes and making your way west to Lake Atitlán. Each day's ride offers a unique challenge as you discover the country's towering volcanoes, mountain pine forests, and rich local culture.

Highlights

  • Tackle Guatemala's best cycling trails led by expert local guides
  • Spend time in the charming town of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Ride around beautiful Lake Atitlán and visit indigenous villages

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Antigua, Explore the City Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour Antigua
Day 3 Double Down Ride Antigua
Day 4 Tecpán to Lake Atitlán Backcountry Ride Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Lake Atitlán to Slickrock Ride Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Lake Atitlán Free Day Lake Atitlán
Day 7 Lake Atitlán Kayaking & Hiking Lake Atitlán
Day 8 Lake Atitlán Village Tour Antigua
Day 9 Antigua Mountain Bike Ride, Transfer to Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 10 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Antigua, Explore the City

San José Cathedral
San José Cathedral in Antigua's Central Park

Welcome to Guatemala! Upon arriving at Guatemala City International Airport, you'll transfer to the colonial city of Antigua. After settling into your hotel, enjoy free time to explore the city at your leisure. 

Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for its colorful Old Town surrounding the main plaza, Central Park. You'll also see several volcanoes looming over the city. The contrast between these imposing mountains and the colonial architecture makes this one of the prettiest locales in the country.

Spend the day walking the cobbled streets, treating yourself to local cuisine at cafés, or head to the food markets for quick eats like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). Tomorrow you'll explore the city on a more in-depth guided tour, so for now, hit a few of the main attractions like the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and the remains of the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.

Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour

Volcán de Agua overlooking the town of Antigua
Volcán de Agua overlooking the town of Antigua

In the afternoon, your guide will meet you at the hotel, and the two of you will head out to explore this beautiful city that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guatemala's former capital boasts an impressive array of historic Baroque buildings and colonial homes painted in bright pastels. Many old religious and civic structures have been beautifully renovated after major earthquakes, while others retain a tumbledown charm.

You'll see many 18th-century architectural gems on this 3-hour walking tour. These include the Palacio del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Palace), which houses the town offices and a museum of ancient books; the Palace of the Captain's General, the headquarters of the Guatemala Institute of Tourism and National Police; the Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum; and La Merced Church, whose canary-yellow Baroque facade is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.

After the tour, you'll have time to grab lunch before heading to the local cycling shop to prep your bike. The workshop is fully stocked with everything you'll need for the upcoming rides. 

Day 3: Double Down Ride

Double Down Ridge
Double Down Ridge

The adventure begins! in the morning, you'll transfer to the trailhead in the mountains outside Antigua for the first cycling excursion on the itinerary. This maiden voyage is a dream for downhill enthusiasts. The Double Down route includes more than 6,200 feet (1,895 m) of descent through lush evergreen forest and high-elevation farms.

There are many highlights of this four-hour ride. You'll follow single-track descents with amazing views of the surrounding volcanoes and even pass the ruins of a church dating to the 16th century. The last leg offers a bit of a challenge with its drops and switchbacks, plus there's a final stretch along an aqueduct trail that resembles a half-pipe.             

Distance: 14 miles (23 km)
Ascent: 3,185 feet (971 m), descent: 6,217 feet (1,895 m)

Day 4: Tecpán to Lake Atitlán Backcountry Ride

The exhilarating
The exhilarating Sendero de Las Vacas trail

Transfer from Antigua to the mountain town of Tecpán to start today's ride. This epic backcountry adventure celebrates a little bit of everything. A gradual dirt road climbs out of Tecpán, quickly turns to a mountain trail, and winds its way through pine-forested mountains. Know that there are various trail drops and a couple of tough, steep climbs.

The ride takes you through a rural Maya settlement before dropping on a steep descent along the famous Sendero de las Vacas (Trail of the Cows). A 2.5-mile (4-km) climb brings you to a stunning viewpoint above Lake Atitlán, where you'll have lunch and admire the views. Afterward, follow the contouring Santa Cat trail to the colorful Santa Catarina Palopó staircase run. Finish the ride in Panajachel, on Atitlán's north shore. Here you'll have the evening free to enjoy the town's nightlife.

Distance: 23 miles (37 km)
Ascent: 3,235 feet (986 m), descent: 5,092 feet (1,552 m)

Day 5: Lake Atitlán to Slickrock Ride

Biking past the beautiful Lake Atitlán
Pedaling along the beautiful Lake Atitlán

Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the hotel and then hop in a shuttle for a transfer back up the mountain to the town of Las Trampas. Upon arrival at the trailhead of Slickrock, you'll embark on a point-to-point ride that will take you to a rest stop. Then it's a few miles of climbing on a mix of single-track, jeep track, and dirt road to the highest point on the route at 9,842 feet (3,000 m).

From there, the trail drops fast and stays steep to the upper Madre Vieja river valley. Work your way along the lush valley floor to your next long climb, a rough jeep-track ascent to a waiting support vehicle. After lunch, finish the descent into town on a stretch of tight, steep trail with switchbacks leading to the road just above Panajachel and the lake. 

Distance: 13 miles (21 km)
Ascent: 1,673 feet (510 m), descent: 4,823 feet (1,470 m)

Day 6: Lake Atitlán Free Day

View of Lake Atitlán
Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan Highlands

The day is yours to enjoy Atitlán however you like. Get an early start and watch the sunrise over the lake followed by a leisurely breakfast at your hotel. Maybe enjoy a morning yoga session on the lakeshore. Then you can chill out in a waterfront café with a good book and a cup of premium Guatemalan Joe.

If you'd like to head out on the water, you can rent kayaks, take a swim, or go stand-up paddleboarding. There are also plenty of water taxis that will take you around the lake to visit other nearby towns. You can browse street art in these villages, shop for handicrafts and textiles, and even take an indigenous cooking class. Hiking around the volcanoes is another option, as is walking to the many miradors (viewpoints) in the hills on the lakeshore. 

Day 7: Lake Atitlán Kayaking & Hiking

Kayaking on Lake Atitlán
Spend time on Lake Atitlán in a kayak

Today you'll take a break from the bike to enjoy aquatic activities. After waking up to pretty views of the lake and its towering volcanoes, you'll meet your guide to begin today's adventure. 

On this exciting kayak tour, you'll paddle west along the north shore of Atitlán for about two hours. Along the way, you'll pass tiny villages perched on the sides of sheer ridges that rise from the azure waters. If time allows, it may be possible to take a dip in the lake and do some cliff-jumping.

Eventually, you'll arrive on the shore between the villages of Tzununá and San Marcos La Laguna. Here you'll trade your kayak for hiking shoes. The lake trail you'll follow connects the two villages and offers spectacular views of volcanoes San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán—collectively known as the Three Giants. You'll follow the shoreline for approximately 1.5 hours, passing through picturesque villages as you make your way to the town of Jaibalito, where you'll overnight.

After a hearty and well-earned lunch at the hotel, you'll have free the remainder of the afternoon.

Day 8: Lake Atitlán Village Tour

Tour the indigenous Guatemalan villages around Lake Atitlán

Today you'll get to experience indigenous Guatemalan culture firsthand. All around Lake Atitlán are small Mayan villages, and you'll visit some of the most vibrant on a boat tour. It's a great way to experience the local markets, arts, traditions, and stories of its residents.

Santiago, for example, is known for local artisan crafts as well as being home to the infamous Mayan saint Maximon. Then there's San Juan, which is famous for its hand-woven textiles. Here you'll have an opportunity to visit a women's weaving co-op and learn about the natural dying process, weaving techniques, and more.

After the village tours, you'll have lunch at a lakeside restaurant then transfer back to Antigua by shuttle.

Day 9: Antigua Mountain Bike Ride, Transfer to Guatemala City

Enjoy one last ride around Antigua

Spend your penultimate day in Guatemala, enjoying one last cycling adventure. In the morning, you'll consult with your guide and can choose between various options for local rides.

You can always go big with a ride along Big Sky Ridge. The name says it all: this is a prodigious climb to the top of the mountains surrounding the Antigua Valley. It's no easy feat, but it rewards you with incredible views of the valley below. As for the route, it follows an old-growth forest trail high on the ridges above Antigua. This is a true cross-country lovers ride: long, hard, and technical. And the endless single-track downhill back to Antigua is an experience unto itself. 

In the late afternoon, you'll transfer to Guatemala City and have the remainder of the day free. 

Day 10: Depart Guatemala City

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

Sadly, your great adventure in Guatemala has come to an end. A driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight home at the appropriate time. ¡Buen viaje! 

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Map

Map of Best of Guatemala by Mountain Bike - 10 Days
Map of Best of Guatemala by Mountain Bike - 10 Days