This one-week trip packs in all the highlights of beautiful Guatemala, from touring Mayan ruins and climbing an active volcano to exploring the stunning landscape. Hike, bike, and kayak around the country as you discover the picturesque colonial city of Antigua, the magic of Lake Atitlan, and the history of Mayan civilization at Tikal.

Highlights

  • Explore the vibrant, charming city of Antigua
  • Hike to the top of an active volcano
  • Kayak and hike around gorgeous Lake Atitlan
  • Learn about Mayan history at the Tikal ruins

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights
Day 1 Arrival and transfer to Antigua
Day 2 Bike tour of surrounding villages, farms, and ruins
Day 3 Hike Pacaya Volcano
Day 4 Explore Lake Atitlan
Day 5 Kayaking and hiking at Lake Atitlan
Day 6 Fly to Tikal
Day 7 Tour of Mayan ruins at Tikal
Day 8 Departure

Day 1: Arrival and Transfer to Antigua

Antigua Guatemala
A streetscape in colonial Antigua

After landing at Guatemala City airport, you'll be driven to your hotel in the colorful city of Antigua, about 45 minutes away. The one-time capital of Spanish colonial Guatemala, Antigua was abandoned in the 1700's after a devastating earthquake. Three volcanoes dominate the landscape of this unique city, where you'll discover ornate baroque architecture, a bustling food scene, and fascinating church ruins.

Day 2: Bike Tour of Surrounding Villages, Farms, and Ruins

Church ruins Guatemala
The ruins of La Recoleccion, a former convent

Hop on your bike and pedal down to the base of Agua Volcano, just south of the city. From there you'll ride around the towns and villages of the lush Almolonga Valley and the rolling Guatemalan highlands, making plenty of stops along the way. You'll visit magnificent churches and haunting ruins. You'll also go on a tour of an experimental macadamia farm and browse the local textile markets for souvenirs.

Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano

Pacaya Volcano
On the way up to the top of Pacaya Volcano

This morning you'll embark on another exciting adventure. Climb two hours to the top of the active Pacaya Volcano just outside Antigua, where you'll be able to gaze directly into the crater if conditions allow. Then enjoy a picnic lunch at 8,300 feet (2,530 m) with panoramic views of the valley and city below. Make your way back to Antigua in the late afternoon, and spend the rest of the day exploring all it has to offer.

Snack on delicious street food like tostadas, grilled corn, and stuffed plantains, and sample locally-grown coffee while you people-watch in the main plaza, Parque Central. If you're not too tired, check out the nightlife, or take a salsa lesson and dance the night away.

Day 4: Explore Lake Atitlan and Visit Indigenous Villages

Traditional Mayan women Atitlan
Traditional Mayan women buying groceries in the Atitlan village of San Marcos

Switching gears today, you'll be driven to the stunning Lake Atitlan, about two to three hours west of Antigua. There you'll meet your local guide, who will take you on a private boat tour of the lake. You'll stop at a few of the small Mayan villages that dot the shores, and delve into the local arts, history, and customs of Guatemala's indigenous people.

In the afternoon, you'll have leisure time at your beautiful lakeside hotel in the village of Jaibalito. Gaze out onto Atitlan's serene blue waters and watch the incredible sunset behind the volcanic mountains from the comfort of your hammock.

Day 5: Kayaking and Hiking at Lake Atitlan

A boat on the azure waters of Lake Atitlan
A boat on the azure waters of Lake Atitlan

This morning you'll get right on the water with a kayaking excursion around the lake. Lake Atitlan is the deepest in Central America - it's actually a crater formed by a massive volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Paddle along the northern shore in the shadow of the volcanoes before making landfall and hiking up the cliffside trails. You'll wind through local towns and villages, enjoying spectacular views of the lake and mountains along the way.

Day 6: Travel to Tikal

Mayan ruins tower above the Guatemalan jungle at Tikal
Mayan ruins tower above the Guatemalan jungle at Tikal

Return to Guatemala City in the morning to catch a quick domestic flight to the town of Flores, in northern Guatemala. A driver will bring you to your hotel inside Tikal National Park, where you can spend the rest of the day relaxing. You'll be perfectly poised to go on an optional early-bird sunrise tour of the ruins the next morning.

Day 7: Explore the Mayan Ruins at Tikal

Mayan ruins Tikal
Mayan ruins at Tikal National Park

You'll spend most of today exploring the ancient Mayan temples, palaces, and public squares set deep in the jungle at Tikal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once a major center of Mayan power and influence, featuring evidence of sophisticated urban planning and artistic achievements. There's even a ball court!

Enjoy lunch in the park amid the tropical rainforest, and keep an eye out for some of the fascinating wildlife that calls the national park home. You'll see monkeys, brightly colored birds, and maybe even big cats like jaguars. In the late afternoon, you'll return to Flores and catch a flight back to Guatemala City, where you'll stay for your last night.

Day 8: Departure

View of Antigua from the top of Cerra de la Cruz
View of Antigua from the top of Cerra de la Cruz

It's time to say goodbye to Guatemala! After breakfast, pack your things and head to the airport for your flight home.

This article is based on an itinerary created by kimkim local travel specialist Chris Gwinner

Map

Map of Best of Guatemala - 8 Days
Map of Best of Guatemala - 8 Days

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

Best of guatemala - 8 days, Guatemala - Apr 25 - May 5, 2019

Traveler: Jack G. - Local specialist: Chris Gwinner

My wife and I found Chris from Old Towne through KimKim. he responded before any other companies I contacted. We put a wish list of places to go/things to do, and Chris put it together. And when we had to make some choices, we followed his advice. We ended up stretching the 8 day package into 11 days. It was well worth it!

We visited Antigua, and stayed at Hotel Meson de Maria. The hotel was really beautiful, and the service was outstanding. Very clean. It had a great rooftop sitting area,... read more

My wife and I found Chris from Old Towne through KimKim. he responded before any other companies I contacted. We put a wish list of places to go/things to do, and Chris put it together. And when we had to make some choices, we followed his advice. We ended up stretching the 8 day package into 11 days. It was well worth it!

We visited Antigua, and stayed at Hotel Meson de Maria. The hotel was really beautiful, and the service was outstanding. Very clean. It had a great rooftop sitting area, and it was only a block or so from the main plaza. Lots of great food, wonderful old architecture, and many churches (including ruins) to see. I actually got a great photo of Fuego erupting, from the roof!

Our guide during this part of the trip was Pepian, and he was amazing. We hiked the volcano Pacaya, which was a blast. The coffee plantation bike ride and tour was more than we expected. Tomateo and his wife were was a gracious hosts. We took a boat ride across Lake Attitlan, with Isaisus (sp?) as our local, and proud, guide. We saw local art and textiles being produced. What wonderful hosts the locals were. Casa del Mundo was gorgeous, though it was a good hike to our room...but it gave us such great views! Pepian guided us on our kayak trip, and the hike back around the lake. Thanks Pepian, you were wonderful to us, and such a great diplomat for Guatemala. Danelo and Alejandro were our drivers...and we had fun being around both of them!

Next was a 3am wake up call to make a 6:30 flight to Tikal. Alejandro had our plane and park tickets ready to go, and by 9am, we were with Andres touring the amazing ruins. There is so much to see, it is almost overwhelming. We saw toucans, parrots, howler monkeys, and spider monkeys.
The facilities at Tikal are nice, but the restricted electricity (2 hours in the morning, 2 hours at night) made fans and hot water scarce. But it was fine. The howler monkey yelling at his friends right outside our window all night let us know we were in a jungle!

Fernando took us next to Las Conchas. This was a recommendation from Chris, and it was a great stop on the way to Rio Dulce. This was a bit out of our comfort zone, but Felipe, Miho, and their darling daughter, Hannah, made us right at home! Felipe's enthusiasm for the area, and his place, is catchy, and we swam in the falls. Miho cooked some of the best meals we had during visit, with a rather romantic setting. And Hannah is a special young lady, who never meets a stranger.

Fernando then took us to Rio Dulce. We stayed at Tortugal Hotel & Marina, which requires a short boat ride there. Our room was beautiful. We visited Finca el Paraiso, which was nice, but the fun we had with some extremely friendly locals was a blast. Daniel was our guide here, and Anna was our translator. The second day there we took a boat trip on Rio Dulce from Lake Izabel to Livinston. The river was calm, and the scenery was fantastic, with gorges, mangroves, and wildlife (manatees!). This was one of our favorite days of the trip.

After a long , yet scenic, drive back to Guatemala City, Carla took us on a perfect tour of Guatemala City. We visited a stunning small church named Iglesai Yurrito, which happened to be open for another event...Carla said it is only the 3rd or 4th time she has ever been in it. We loved it!
So, it is easy to see we had a great time. What a special, wonderful and beautiful country that Guatemala is. At no time did we feel unsafe, and the coordination of the trip, the quality of the guides, and the accommodations, were perfect for us. Thanks, Chris, Pepian, and the entire Old Towne team!

Best of guatemala - 8 days, Guatemala - Mar 10 - Mar 17, 2018

Traveler: Siyu W. - Local specialist: Chris Gwinner

The whole trip was so great and beyond my expectation. Our leader Alex, was the most professional outdoor adventure leader I've met. He speaks English so well and took good care of everyone. He encouraged me a lot before our hiking to Volcano Acatenango. He made great meals for us during hiking. And he is a really nice guy with kindness and humanism. I appreciate a lot that Old Town Outfitters provided me a so comfortable and enjoyable trip. Other guides and drivers I met during the trip were also great. Luv them all.