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

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

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