Spend 16 days riding on two wheels as you explore Guatemala's lively towns and unrivaled natural splendor; you'll traverse from Antigua to the sparkling waters of Lake Atitlan, then ascend the country's highest mountains in Huehuetenango. You'll return from this action-packed escape inspired by both the rugged beauty of the land as well as the warmth and loveliness of the Guatemalan people, not to mention the new friends you'll make on the trails.

Highlights

  • Ride Guatemala's best trails with the help of local guides
  • Discover the charm of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Visit beautiful Lake Atitlan, surrounded by three dormant volcanoes
  • Cycle the Cuchumatanes Mountains to the stunning waters of Semuc Champey

Overview

This itinerary is ideal for experienced riders who are comfortable on all types of terrain and trail. You will be building your bike in Antigua, with plenty of assistance available from experts on hand, and you'll have the opportunity to replenish gear along the way. Support staff and vehicles will transport you and your bike to and from trails where noted. 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival and Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour and Bike Building Antigua
Day 3 Local Antigua Ride - "Golden Arches" Antigua
Day 4 El Zur Mountain Bike Day Antigua
Day 5 Cielo Grande Mountain Bike Ride Antigua
Day 6 Tecpan to Lake Atitlan Backcountry MTB Ride Panajachel
Day 7 Lake Atitlan Slickrock MTB Ride Lake Atitlan
Day 8 Lake Atitlan & Huehuetenango Huehuetenango
Day 9 Climb the Cuchumatanes and Descend into Todos Santos - MTB Ride Todos Santos Cuchumatan
Day 10 Cross Country ride from Todos Santos to Laguna Magdalena Laguna Magdalena
Day 11 Cross Country ride from Laguna Magdalena to Acul Acul
Day 12 Cross Country ride from Acul to Uspantan Uspantan
Day 13 Cross Country ride from Uspantan to Coban Cobán
Day 14 Backroads ride from Coban to Semuc Champey Lanquin
Day 15 Lanquin (Semuc Champey) to Antigua Antigua
Day 16 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and Transfer to Antigua

Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch
Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch

Welcome to Guatemala! You'll arrive at Guatemala City International Airport, where you'll be greeted by a private driver who will then take you to Antigua. The journey will take about an hour, depending on traffic.  Spend the evening resting up so you can hit the ground running in the morning. 

Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour and Bike Building

View of Antigua and Volcan de Agua from Cerro de la Cruz

 

In the morning, you'll meet your expert local guide to explore the beautiful city of Antigua. This former capital boasts colonial relics and pastel streetscapes unfold beneath three volcanoes. You'll visit landmarks like the City Hall Palace, Palace of the Captain’s General, and the Cathedral with its majestic ruins. Discover Maya archaeology through the spiritual stone of jade, and after, spend some time popping into the town's best museums at Paseo de Los Museos. 

After the tour, you'll have time to grab some lunch; Chicken Pepian, Guatemala's national dish, featuring spicy pumpkin and an irresistible sesame-based sauce. After fueling up, head on over to build your bike at a local bike shop, where you'll be greeted with lots of gear, tools, and knowledgable folks ready to help you get your bikes ready for the next two weeks of riding! 

Day 3: Local Antigua Ride - "Golden Arches"

Golden Arches trails
Golden Arches trails

It's time to hop on your bike and tear up some turf on this morning's ride, a perfect warm-up for the Guatemalan terrain. You'll ride directly from the shop in Antigua, across the city's cobblestone, then up dirt roads towards Volcan Agua and San Juan del Obispo. You'll hit local trails, that double and single track through varied terrains and agricultural areas that feature fields of corn, peas, the citrus nísperos, and coffee and avocado trees.

As you traverse your way across the lower sections of Volcan de Agua, you'll be rewarded with amazing views of the city, the valley, and the area's three crowning volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. You'll make your way to the downhill section that brings up back to civilization, popping back out in San Pedro las Huertas. From there, you'll cruise back to Antigua.

  • Distance: 1.8 miles (19 km)
  • Ascent: 1,745.41 feet (532 m)
  • Decent: 1,745.41 feet (532 m)
  • Ride Duration: about 4 hours, depending on the group

Day 4: El Zur Mountain Bike Day

El Zur trails
El Zur trails

Get ready to tackle over 13 miles of flowing, rolling, exhilarating single-track bliss. Today's ride hits the only trail of its kind here in Guatemala: a purpose-built track that winds through a beautiful nature reserve on the southern side of Volcan de Agua.

You'll take a 4x4 shuttle to the trail network's apex, which rests at a towering 8,500 feet above sea level. Glide back down the mountain on a flowy, hand-made trail that features plenty of switchbacks, lush forest, and awesome views!

Once you hit the bottom, you'll enjoy a snack and refreshments before jumping back in the shuttle to return to Antigua, where you can unwind for the night.

Day 5: Cielo Grande Mountain Bike Ride

A ridgetop view of Panchoy Valley at sunset

The name says it all: Big Sky ridge. You'll carve your way through an old-growth forest trail playground, swerving high on the ridges above Antigua. True cross-country junkie will thrill on this long, hard, and technical ride, but the endless single track downhill back to the city might just end up being your favorite ride. 

  • Distance: 22 miles ( about 35 km)
  • Ascent: 2,378.61 feet (725 m)
  • Descent: 2,378.61 feet (725 m)

Day 6: Tecpan to Lake Atitlan Backcountry Mountain Bike Ride

"Sendero de las vacas"

You'll shuttle from Antigua to the Mayan ruins of Iximche near Tecpan to start today's ride. After a short tour of the ruins, you'll hop on your bikes for an epic backcountry adventure that features a little bit of everything.

Get your ride started with a nice, gradual dirt road climb out of Tecpan; the terrain quickly turns to trail and winds its way through the pine-clad mountains. You'll navigate various technical trail drops as well as a couple of tough steep climbs. You'll then pedal through a backcountry Mayan settlement before dropping the famous “sendero de las vacas” or the "trail of the cows," a steep chute-like descent.

Finish your morning with a gorgeous 2.5 mile (4 km) climb up to the viewpoint above Lake Atitlan, where you'll enjoy lunch while you take in the views. After, you'll hit the famous Santa Cat trail that drops on an amazing contouring trail to the Santa Catarina village staircase run. You'll finish your day in Panajachel, and will have the night free to enjoy the town.  

  • Distance: about 25 miles (40 km)
  • Ascent: 3,235 feet (986 m)
  • Descent: 5,092 feet (1,552 m)

Day 7: Lake Atitlan Slickrock Mountain Bike Ride

A triple volcanic view from Lake Atitlan

 

After breakfast at the hotel, you can either choose to relax by the pool and explore the town or, if you're still hungry for adventure, you'll shuttle back up the mountain to Las Trampas for a wicked point-to-point, technical ride.  

You're starting point today is the trailhead of Slickrock, at an altitude of 9,268 feet (2,825 m). You'll start with a few miles of climbing on a mix of singletrack, jeep track and dirt road to mountain's apex. From there the trail starts to drop fast and steep to the Upper Madre Vieja River Valley. You'll work your way along the lush river valley's floor before another long climb: this one is a rough jeep track ascent out of the river valley to your awaiting support vehicle and delicious picnic lunch.

In the afternoon, you'll hop back on your bike to complete the descent into town on a stretch of tight, steep trail that switchbacks its way to the road just above Panajachel. You're sure to be happy with this unique ride with lots of variation!

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

Day 8: Free Morning at Lake Atitlan - Transfer to Huehuetenango

Casa del Mundo - Lake Atitlan
Casa del Mundo overlooking Lake Atitlan

Take the morning to soak up the special ambiance of the Casa del Mundo. You can swim around the hotel boat landings in the warm, clear waters, or explore the lake on an hour-long kayak ride. Alternatively, you may wish to simply swing in a hammock or enjoy the hot tub above the sparkling blue Lake Atitlan.

At midday, you'll take the boat back to Panajachel and have lunch at a local cafe before setting off on the drive to the Cuchumatanes, a rugged mountain group that boasts the highest non-volcanic peaks in Central America. Your ultimate destination today is Huehuetenango, the departmental capital of the Cordillera de los Cuchumatanes. Sitting at an altitude of 6,234 feet (1,900 meters), this remote, wild area is ripe for your exploration. 

The ride to Huehuetenango will take you around 4 hours; once you reach the town, you'll unwind at a basic hotel close to the main square. In the late afternoon, you can restock on supplies at the well-appointed bike shop close to the hotel. 

Day 9: Climb the Cuchumatanes and Descend into Todos Santos - MTB Ride

Cuchumatanes descents
Descending Cuchumatanes

In the early morning, you'll ride out of Huehuetenango until you'll very quickly find yourself at the bottom of a major ascent, where the tarmac road switch-backs upwards for about 6 miles (10 kilometers), and an altitude gain of about 3,281 feet (1,000 meters). Along the way, you'll enjoy breathtaking views of the backbone of the Cuchumatanes Mountains. You'll also pass through many small indigenous villages, which will give provide excellent insight into the way of life of rural Guatemalan people.

Near the top of the climb is a belvedere where, on a clear day, views stretch as far as the volcanoes around Quetzaltengo and back to Antigua. A bit further above the viewpoint, you'll begin a rolling section of trail on a mixture of old jeep tracks and singletrack as you ride across the plateau.

From there, you'll be treated to an excellent singletrack descent that will drop you right down into Todos Santos, where clouds may roll in, shrouding your descent in mist.

When you finish your ride, take some time to explore the spectacular pueblo, which is inhabited by indigenous people who still observe ancient, traditional customs. Here, the men still wear traje, the traditional dress, and perform many of the ancient rituals of the highland Maya. You'll truly immerse yourself in local culture with an overnight stay is at a family-run guesthouse in the center of the town.

Day 10: Cross Country ride from Todos Santos to Laguna Magdalena

Laguna Magdalena
Laguna Magdalena

 

Today you'll enjoy Guatemala at its most magical and colorful; you'll ride through a landscape that is a vibrant mix of rocky peaks, coniferous forests, stretches of arid soil and isolated fertile valleys where the pastures are home to flocks of sheep.

You'll begin today's ride with a challenging, rocky ascent on dirt tracks back to the plateau and the singletrack you tackled yesterday. You'll then cross the plateau on sheep tracks and dirt roads, passing through pueblos to the edge of the main ridge of the Cuchumatanes. You're sure to enjoy a great technical descent to a designated meet-up with your support vehicle for lunch.

You'll spend the night in a cabin at a community development project at Laguna Magdalena, near Chancol. You'll live like a local tonight, sleeping in a unique, rustic setting after enjoying a delicious dinner prepared by villagers. 

Day 11: Cross Country ride from Laguna Magdalena to Acul

Approaching the cheese farms of Acul
Approaching the cheese farms of Acul

Today you'll enjoy a long, cross country ride to the gorgeous Ixil triangle; you'll be effectively tracing a big loop around to the north of a deep ravine that separates the departments of Huehuetenango and Quiche.

As you ride across the mixed terrain of the high plateau of the Cuchumatanes, you'll be treated to fantastic, undulating singletrack and dirt road trail: this is a real cross-country ride and arguably one of the best of the trip, with a breathtaking backdrop of pine and wooded mountains.  

When you reach the northern extent of your ride, you'll conquer a technical — and often muddy — descent to the remote village of Palop. From there to Salquil Grande, you'll follow dirt roads to a river valley. Ascend a long climb to Tzabal, then down to another river, and up again to tonight's destination: Acul. You'll spend the night in a small, rustic family-run hotel, which comes complete with its own ‘Old World’ style cheese factory. Be sure to sample the delicious local cheese before you tuck into a warming, traditional dinner. 

Day 12: Cross Country ride from Acul to Uspantan

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

Fuel up at breakfast for another exciting day! You will start your ride this morning on an old highway that climbs steadily out of the Nebaj Valley. From Acul, you'll drop down to the road and follow an undulating track to Nebaj, the main town of the Ixil Triangle. You'll then pick up an old highway built by Mayans (and possibly improved upon by the Spanish) known as the boqueron. You'll ride this picturesque route up into the mountains, with great views out across the Western Highlands.

You'll then contour around the highest peak, with views of Tajumulco, before dropping down to a village where you will meet up with your support vehicle. After you regroup with your fellow cyclists, you'll drop down on super fun singletrack to your lunch stop in Cunen.

Here, the second major set of climbs starts, taking you back up onto high ridges — traversing you through pine forest and small Quiche Mayan villages — to Uspantan, the home of Nobel Peace Prize Winner and political figure Rigoberta Menchu.

Day 13: Cross Country ride from Uspantan to Coban

Traversing Guatemala on MTB
Traversing Guatemala on MTB

Your day begins with a rolling ride on a paved surface, as you pass the town of Chicaman. A six-mile (10 km) gradual uphill on a dirt road will lead you to the crest of the hills above the Chixoy River. From there, you'll have a fast descent on a trail with some technical sections, and at the village of Ojo de Agua, you'll start a rougher piece of dirt track/single track that will usher you down to the river.

After you cross the bridge, you'll start a long climb for the rest of the day; you'll tackle roughly 17 miles (27 km), broken up into a couple of major climbs, the first of which is the most challenging, but completely worth the conquest.  

You'll reunite with the support vehicle in the town of Santa Cruz, where you'll be transferred to Coban, a region in the middle of some of Guatemala's densest cloud forest. It is an area famous for its coffee production and one of the only remaining places where it is possible to see the quetzal, Guatemala's national bird, icon and source of civic pride. You'll spend the night in retro style, thanks to groovy accommodations in a big, 1970’s-style hotel in San Pedro Carcha.

Day 14: Backroads ride from Coban to Semuc Champey

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

Today you'll be treated to an amazing final ride in Guatemala, as you journey to the pristine, clear blue waters of Semuc Champey. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with numerous pools of cool river water that begs you to jump in for a mid-day dip. 

The first, fast 31-mile (50 km) section of today’s ride follows a straightforward and undulating road, with great scenery. You'll then descend on a rough limestone road to the riverside town of Lanquin, where your exciting challenge beings: you'll climb for about 2 miles (3 km) on sometimes steep terrain before you reach an easier if bumpy jeep track descent to Semuc Champey. You'll have the afternoon to enjoy the incredible pools, regarded as many as the most scenic spot in the country. 

After your swim, you'll transfer back to Languin and your posada accommodation for your final night on the road.

Day 15: Transfer from Lanquin (Semuc Champey) to Antigua

San José cathedral in Antigua

 

You'll begin your transfer back to Antigua with an early start, arriving back in the city in the afternoon. Take in the picturesque drive across central Guatemala, stopping off for breakfast en route. 

Make the most of your final afternoon and evening back in Antigua, where you can do last-minute shopping and celebrate the successful completion of a unique trip in one of the many delicious, local restaurants. You'll bid goodbye to your riding crew in a memorable farewell dinner; after, you can choose to hit the town for another drink or enjoy the comfort of your cozy hotel bed after your adventures out on the road.

Day 16: Departure

Metropolitan Cathedral in Guatemala City

After you enjoy for final breakfast in Antigua (depending on your departure schedule), you'll be transported back to Guatemala City for your departure flight — to be on the safe side, you'll leave Antigua five hours before your flight. From Guatemala City, you'll head back home or onto your next adventure.