This action-packed two-week adventure takes you mountain biking through the breathtaking landscape of Guatemala's Highlands. 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 and onward to the Cuchumatanes Mountains. Each day's ride offers a unique challenge as you discover the country's soaring volcanoes, lush cloud forests, and rich local culture.

Highlights

  • Ride Guatemala's best trails, guided by local mountain bike guides
  • Spend time in the charming town of Antigua - a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Visit the beautiful Lake Atitlán, surrounded by three dormant volcanoes
  • Cycle across the Cuchumatanes Mountains to magical Semuc Champey

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour & Bike Building Antigua
Day 3 El Zur Mountain Bike Park Antigua
Day 4 Tecpán to Lake Atitlán Backcountry Mountain Bike Ride Panajachel
Day 5 Lake Atitlán to Slickrock Mountain Bike Ride Lake Atitlan
Day 6 Free Morning at Lake Atitlán & Transfer to Huehuetenango Huehuetenango
Day 7 Climb the Cuchumatanes & Descend into Todos Santos Todos Santos Cuchumatan
Day 8 Cross-Country Ride from Todos Santos to Laguna Magdalena Laguna Magdalena
Day 9 Cross-Country Ride from Laguna Magdalena to Acul Acul
Day 10 Cross-Country Ride from Acul to Uspantan Uspantan
Day 11 Cross-Country Ride from Uspantan to Cobán Cobán
Day 12 Backroads Ride from Cobán to Semuc Champey Lanquin
Day 13 Transfer from Lanquín to Antigua Antigua
Day 14 Transfer from Antigua to Guatemala City for Your Departure Flight  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Antigua

Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch.
Antigua's famous Santa Catalina Arch

Welcome to Guatemala! A representative will be waiting to pick you up at Guatemala City International Airport

From here, you'll head straight to the colonial city of Antigua, which is about an hour away. After checking in and resting, you'll be free to roam about the city at your leisure. 

Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is surrounded by volcanoes. The contrast between these imposing mountains and the colorful architecture of the city makes it one of the prettiest places in the country. Walk around the cobblestone streets, treat yourself to local snacks, and see why UNESCO lists the city as a World Heritage Site.

Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour & Bike Building

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

In the morning, meet your expert local historian guide to explore the beautiful city of Antigua. This former capital boasts an impressive catalog of colonial relics in a magnificent setting. Streets of pastel facades unfold beneath three volcanoes. Many old religious and civic structures are beautifully renovated, while others retain a tumbledown charm, with fragments strewn about park-like grounds. On this tour, you'll visit the City Hall Palace, Palace of the Captain's General, and Paseo de los Museos

After the tour, you will have time to grab some lunch and then meet at the local cycling shop to build bikes. There's a full shop with tools and folks ready to help you get your bikes ready for the next two weeks of riding.

Day 3: El Zur Mountain Bike Park

Bike through lush forests on the El Zur trails.
Bike through lush forests on the El Zur trails

Over 12 miles (19 km) of flowing, rolling, purpose-built, single-track bliss, this trail is the only of its kind in Guatemala and runs through a beautiful nature reserve on the southern side of Volcán de Agua.

The top of the trail network is at 8,500 feet (2,590 m), which you will reach by 4x4 shuttle. Once you hit the trailhead, you're sure to have fun coming back down the mountain on this flowy trail. There are plenty of switchbacks, lush forests, and impressive views.

Once you hit the bottom, enjoy a snack and refreshments before catching the shuttle to return to Antigua.

Day 4: Tecpán to Lake Atitlán Backcountry Mountain Bike Ride

The exhilarating
The exhilarating "Sendero de Las Vacas" trail

Shuttle from Antigua to the Mayan ruins of Iximche near Tecpán to start today's ride. After a short tour of the ruins, hop on the bikes and start your adventure. This epic back-country ride celebrates a little bit of everything. A gradual dirt road climb out of Tecpán quickly turns to trail and winds its way through the pine-clad mountains.

There are plenty of technical trail drops, as well as a couple of tough, steep climbs. The ride takes you through a rural Mayan settlement before dropping to the famous Sendero de las Vacas or "the trail of the cows" (a steep, chute-like descent). A two-and-a-half-mile climb brings you to the viewpoint above Lake Atitlán for lunch and to take in the views. After lunch, start the famous Santa Cat trail, a contouring route that takes you to the colorful Santa Catarina Palopó staircase run. Finish off the day in Panajachel with a free evening to enjoy the town's nightlife.

Day 5: Lake Atitlán to Slickrock Mountain Bike Ride

Biking past the beautiful Lake Atitlán.
Biking past the beautiful Lake Atitlán

Today you'll enjoy breakfast at the hotel and then meet a shuttle to take you back up the mountain to Las Trampas

Arrive at the trailhead of Slickrock, a point-to-point ride that will take you to a picnic lunch rest stop. Start with a few miles of climbing on a mix of single-track, Jeep-track, and dirt road to the highest point in the ride, at about 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 bottom to your next long climb, a rough Jeep-track climb out of the river valley to the waiting support vehicle. After lunch, finish the descent into town on a stretch of tight, steep trail with switchbacks to the road just above Panajachel

Plan your trip to Guatemala
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.

Day 6: Free Morning at Lake Atitlán & Transfer to Huehuetenango

Casa del Mundo on Lake Atitlán.
Casa del Mundo on Lake Atitlán

Start your free morning relaxing at your hotel, where you can swim from boat landings in the warm, clear waters, or take a kayak out for an hour. Alternatively, you may wish to simply swing in a hammock or enjoy the hot tub above the sparkling blue Lake Atitlán.

At midday, take the boat back to Panajachel for lunch before setting off for the Cuchumatanes, a rugged mountain range that boasts the highest non-volcanic peaks in Central America. Your destination today is Huehuetenango, the departmental capital of the Cordillera de los Cuchumatanes, at an altitude of 6,234 feet (1,900 m). The relief map in the main square is a good indicator of what lies ahead. The Cuchumatanes, while vast and beautiful, are incredibly steep. The area sees very few Western visitors, and even fewer mountain bikers have explored its trails.

Reach Huehuetenango in about four hours, and check-in at a hotel near the town's main square. In the late afternoon, you'll have time to look around and buy any items you might need—there's even a good local bike shop.

Day 7: Climb the Cuchumatanes & Descend into Todos Santos

Steep descents down the Cuchumatanes Mountains.
Steep descents down the Cuchumatanes Mountains

Ride out of Huehuetenango early to find your first major ascent, where the tarmac road switchbacks upwards for six miles with a gain of elevation of 3,281 feet (1,000 m). Take in breathtaking views of the backbone of the Cuchumatanes Mountains as you pass through many small indigenous villages that highlight the way of life of the rural Guatemalan people. Near the top of the climb is a scenic lookout, where views can stretch as far as the volcanoes around Quetzaltenango and back to Antigua. Further along, start a rolling section of trail on old Jeep tracks and single-track trail as you make your way across the plateau.

From here, enjoy an excellent single-track descent that drops right down into Todos Santos Cuchumatán. Indigenous people inhabit the pueblo of Todos Santos and still practice their traditional customs. Get settled in at your base for the night—a family-run guesthouse in the center of the town.

Day 8: Cross-Country Ride from Todos Santos to Laguna Magdalena

The emerald green waters of Laguna Magdalena,
The emerald green waters of Laguna Magdalena

The landscape on this part of the ride includes rocky peaks, coniferous forests, stretches of arid soil, and isolated fertile valleys where the pastures are home to flocks of sheep.

Tackle a tough, rocky ascent on dirt tracks back to the plateau, then follow sheep tracks and dirt roads passing through pueblos to the edge of the main ridge of the Cuchumatanes. Here you'll enjoy an exhilarating, technical descent before lunch.  

Rest tonight at the cabins of a community development project at Laguna Magdalena near Chancol and experience how the locals in the area live. Dinner is prepared by the villagers and carried down to the cabins.

Day 9: Cross-Country Ride from Laguna Magdalena to Acul

Approaching the traditional cheese farms of Acul.
Approaching the traditional cheese farms of Acul

Today you'll head cross-country to the Ixil Community, a triangle of three neighboring towns in the western highlands of Guatemala. The ride will trace a loop around to the north of a deep ravine that separates the departments of Huehuetenango and Quiché.

As you ride across the mixed terrain of the high plateau of the Cuchumatanes, enjoy undulating single-track and dirt road trail riding. This is a real cross-country ride, surrounded by pinewoods, mountains, and breathtaking scenery.

At the northern part of the ride, there is a technical, often muddy descent to a remote village. From there to Salquil Grande follow dirt roads to a river valley. Continue onward for a fairly long climb to Tzabal, then down to another river, and up again to Acul, where you can spend the night in a rustic, family-run hotel with its own Old World-style cheese factory.

Day 10: Cross-Country Ride from Acul to Uspantan

Having fun on the local routes!
Having fun on the local routes

Start today's long ride on an old highway that climbs steadily out of the Nebaj Valley. From Acul, drop down to the road and follow an undulating track to Nebaj, the main town of the Ixil Community. Pick up an old Mayan highway, known as the Boqueron, for a picturesque route up into the mountains that boasts sweeping views out across the Western Highlands.

Continue around the highest peak for views of Volcán Tajumulco before dropping down to a village to a support vehicle and to regroup, then enjoy a lunch stop in Cunén.

Venture on to the second major set of climbs (including the "Gringo Killer"), which takes you up high ridges and past pine forests and Quiché Mayan villages to reach Uspantan, the home of 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú.

Day 11: Cross-Country Ride from Uspantan to Cobán

The lakeside town of Santa Cruz la Laguna.
The lakeside town of Santa Cruz la Laguna

Begin this morning with a rolling ride on a paved surface past the town of Chicamán. Follow this to a long, gradual, six-mile uphill trek on a dirt road that leads to the top of the hills above the Chixoy River.

Enjoy a fast descent on a trail with some technical sections to the village of Ojo de Agua, where you begin a rougher bit of dirt and single-track that takes you down to the river. Cross the bridge to start a series of long climbs that will take you through the rest of the day at 17 miles (27  km).

Reunite with the support vehicle in the town of Santa Cruz la Laguna, where you'll transfer to Cobán. The Cobán region rests in the middle of some of Guatemala's densest cloud forest. The area is famous for coffee production, as well as being one of the few remaining places where it is possible to spot the quetzal—Guatemala's rare national bird. You'll overnight at a hotel in nearby San Pedro Carchá.

Day 12: Backroads Ride from Cobán to Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey's cascading clear pools.
Semuc Champey's cascading clear pools

Your final day of riding takes you to the pristine blue waters of Semuc Champey, an area of outstanding natural beauty with perfect pools of refreshing river water for swimming.

The first 31-mile section of today's ride follows a straightforward and undulating road with excellent views. Then you'll descend on a rough limestone road to the riverside town of Lanquín to tackle the main challenge of the day: a steep, almost two-mile climb to a ridge, followed by a bumpy, Jeep-track descent to Semuc Champey. Spend the afternoon relaxing and swimming, then transfer back to Lanquín and your posada-style accommodation for the evening.

Day 13: Transfer from Lanquín to Antigua

Antigua's volcanic views.
Antigua's volcanic views

With a very early start, you can make it back to Antigua by mid-afternoon, enjoying a picturesque drive across central Guatemala and stopping off for breakfast en route.

Back in Antigua, indulge in some shopping and celebrate the successful completion of your challenging adventure in one of the city's many fine restaurants.

Day 14: Transfer from Antigua to Guatemala City for Your Departure Flight

Depart Antigua and the Guatemalan highlands.
Depart Antigua and the Guatemalan Highlands

Depending on your departure schedule, enjoy breakfast in Antigua, and then transfer back to Guatemala City for your flight home.

Map

Map of Best of Guatemala by Mountain Bike - 14 Days
Map of Best of Guatemala by Mountain Bike - 14 Days