This action-packed 13-day tour explores the scenic highlights and distinct culture of Guatemala's southern highlands. Walk the UNESCO-listed streets of colonial Antigua, learn to cook Guatemalan cuisine (and chocolate), and shop for textiles at the largest public market in Central America. There are plenty of outdoor adventures, too, from camping overnight on a volcano to partaking in ziplining, paragliding, and horseback riding around Guatemala's favorite lake: Atitlán.


  • Learn how to make chocolate, candles, and textiles (and take them home)
  • Ascend a stunning volcano on a two-hour hike and stay the night
  • Take your pick between a wide range of outdoor activities around Lake Atitlán
  • Spend the last afternoon of the trip relaxing at a luxury spa at a boutique hotel

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Antigua, Walking Tour Antigua
Day 2 Hobbitenango Hike, Guatemalan Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Bike Ride & Coffee Tour, Weaving Workshop Antigua
Day 4 Hike Pacaya Volcano & Camp Overnight Antigua
Day 5 Descend Pacaya Volcano, Chocolate Workshop Antigua
Day 6 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Boat Tour Lake Atitlán
Day 7 Hiking & Adventure Sports Lake Atitlán
Day 8 Visit Chichicastenango Market, Candle Workshop Lake Atitlán
Day 9 Flyboarding on Lake Atitlán, Horseback Riding Lake Atitlán
Day 10 Visit the Iximché Ruins, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 11 Visit the Mixco Viejo Ruins Antigua
Day 12 Finca El Pilar Nature Hike & Spa Afternoon Antigua
Day 13 Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Antigua, Walking Tour

Start your adventure in the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala's former capital
Welcome to Guatemala! With equal parts history, culture, and rugged natural beauty, this is the place to come to enjoy some of the most exciting activities in Central America. Your adventure focuses on the southern highlands, a region known for its lakes, volcanoes, Indigenous villages, and Spanish colonial cities. That's exactly where you're headed the moment you arrive.
Once you touch down at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will pick you up and transfer you one hour west to Antigua. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most well-preserved Spanish colonial cities in the Americas. Antigua was the first capital of the country when it was founded in 1542 but a devastating earthquake in the late 18th century forced its relocation. What remains are grand plazas, cobbled streets, colonial cathedrals, and the facades of historic buildings painted in bright pastels. 
After checking in to your hotel, you'll meet a local historian for a walking tour of the city. Visit 18th-century landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento ("City Hall Palace"), the Palace of the Captain's General, and a canary-yellow Baroque church called La Merced. You'll also stroll the Paseo de Los Museos ("Museum Path"), and delve into the roots of Maya archaeology and culture. 

Day 2: Hobbitenango Hike, Guatemalan Cooking Class

Explore this fantasy world and then head into the woods for a hike

This morning you'll embark on a uniquely beautiful hike around the eco-village of Hobbitenango. Located 20 minutes outside of Antigua, this nature park was inspired by the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Here you'll find attractions like a giant swing, a stone hand, and several lookout points offering stunning views of the Panchoy Valley and surrounding volcanoes. There are also restaurants and a couple of hobbit-style guesthouses. Once here, you'll have about three hours to enjoy the highlights.

Then, you'll head into the nearby woods and embark on a moderate 6-7-mile (10-12 km) nature hike. These farm trails will take you through lovely old-growth forests and local villages to a waiting shuttle that will transfer you down to the foot of Cerro de la Cruz. Here you can continue another 15 minutes on foot right into downtown Antigua.

Upon returning to the city, you'll participate in a local cooking class where you'll learn to prepare traditional Guatemalan food—a unique mixture of traditional colonial Spanish and Indigenous cooking. The four-hour workshop is taught by local chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez Indigenous community. At the end of the class, sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy your delicious creations.

Day 3: Bike Ride & Coffee Tour, Weaving Workshop

Spend the morning biking to a coffee farm and hiking around the fields

Your guide will pick you up early for today's combined mountain bike excursion and coffee tour. First, pick up your bikes in Antigua and then ride to the De la Gente coffee cooperative. On this half-day tour, you'll visit DLG's large-scale production farm. The site is part of a community on the flank of the Agua volcano, where farmers work together to grow, pick, and process coffee. DLG works with these farmers to help brand their coffee and export it to global markets.

At the farm, your guide will lead you on a short hike around the fields where you'll meet some of the farmers. Then, visit the roasting house to see how they toast the beans one small batch at a time. A real treat is when you sit down to lunch with one of the local families, sample their coffee, and learn a bit about life on a working coffee farm. 

The adventure isn't over, as in the afternoon, you'll transfer from Antigua to the nearby San Antonio Aguas Calientes, a mountain town famous as a center for weaving. Over 50% of the population here are women, most of whom have been practicing traditional weaving methods just as their Maya ancestors have done for thousands of years. During a three-hour workshop at a women's co-op, you'll learn their looming process, and get to make your own item, which you can take home as a souvenir.

Day 4: Hike Pacaya Volcano & Camp Overnight

Take a two-hour hike up this volcano and set up camp for the night

Enjoy some free time in Antigua today before you meet your guide for a climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552-m) Pacaya volcano. Set in its own national park, Pacaya cuts an imposing figure with a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and the base of its caldera. The hike up to the area where you'll make camp takes about two hours depending on your group's level of physical fitness. That said, horses are an option for those who'd prefer a more relaxed ascent.

Once near the summit, your guide will select an area to camp that takes full advantage of the summit's incredible vistas of nearby volcano peaks like Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. Then enjoy a freshly prepared dinner as your group marvels at the sunset views complimented by (perhaps) the orange glow of Pacaya's lava flows. Keep warm after sundown with some hot coffee and tea before retiring to your tent and sleeping bag for the night.

Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Descend Pacaya Volcano, Chocolate Workshop

Descend Volcan de Pacaya
Take in the morning views from camp before you descend 

Today you'll wake at dawn to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise over the surrounding volcano peaks. Breakfast will be served before your guide leads the way back down the mountain. 

After returning to Antigua, you'll participate in a "bean to bar" chocolate workshop. Guatemala is a major producer of cacao (cocoa), which is the main ingredient in chocolate. It has been cultivated here for thousands of years and was even enjoyed by the ancient Maya people. In addition to learning about the production process, you'll also prepare your own delicious Maya chocolate drink, plus make custom chocolates to take home with you. 

Day 6: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Boat Tour

Volcano Views from Panajachel
Surrounded by volcanoes, Lake Atitlán has no shortage of scenery
After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the 2.5-hour ride west from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, the most famous lake in the country. The drive to get there is a treat in itself, as it follows a section of the Pan-American Highway, which stretches from one end of the Americas to the other (Alaska to Argentina). Along this road are stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Upon arrival at a lakeside town, you'll check in to your hotel.

Later, you'll climb aboard a boat for a tour of the towns around Atitlán. In the company of a local guide, you'll stop at villages far removed from the tourist trail and experience their authentic culture. For example, you'll visit a local women's weaving co-op and see how they turn cotton into beautiful textiles by hand. You'll also visit the Maximón Shrine, an infamous Maya saint known for his depraved behavior. 

Day 7: Hiking & Adventure Sports

Choose between hiking and mountain biking trails in the afternoon
Start the morning with a jolt of adrenaline as you meet professional guides on the mountains over the lake for a fun paragliding experience. When you arrive at the site, you'll receive a safety briefing and strap into the tandem harness. Then it will be time to leave terra firma as you soar high over the glassy waters of Atitlán, traveling at eye level with gliding birds and the surrounding peaks of three lakeside volcanoes, San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán
After the sky-high fun, you'll transfer to a nearby nature reserve for even more outdoor adventures. The scenic area offers wonderful views of coffee fields, waterfalls, and the lake. Plus, there are trails and hanging bridges here, so you can enjoy a hike, a mountain bike ride, and other activities. There's even a butterfly habitat you can visit. After spending time at the reserve, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 8: Visit Chichicastenango Market, Candle Workshop

This colorful market known as "Chichi" is held on Thursdays and Sundays
Today you'll transfer to Chichicastenango, which locals call "Chichi." This Indigenous town in the Guatemalan highlands is home to the largest and most famous public market in Central America. Held every Thursday and Sunday, it draws locals from surrounding villages who come to sell handicrafts, textiles, regional clothing, and fresh produce. Upon arrival, you and your guide will spend time browsing the market and chatting with locals.
Also worth visiting is the Iglesia de Santo Tomás. This 16th-century Roman Catholic church is built on the site of a former Maya temple and offers a striking example of Guatemalan syncretism (a mix of ancient Maya religious beliefs and traditional Catholicism). During the outing, you'll also sample typical foods such as the sweet snack called pan de muerto (bread of the dead). Afterward, you'll get in the car for the ride back to Antigua.
A while later, you'll meet up with some local experts to learn the intricacies of another cultural art form: candle making. During the 2.5-hour workshop, you'll learn how to color the wax, prepare the molds and decorate these artisanal items by hand, although you'll also see the machines that produce candles in bulk. And while it's true that making handmade candles is not as easy as it seems, don't worry—the experts will be with you every step of the way to ensure your finished product is top quality. 

Day 9: Flyboarding on Lake Atitlán, Horseback Riding

Learn how to use a flyboard after an easy tutorial

After breakfast, you'll participate in the exciting aquatic adventure known as flyboarding. This experience involves strapping your feet to a hydro-flighting device connected to a jetski that uses water pressure to propel the board into the air. It may sound complex, but anyone can learn it. A mere 10 minutes after meeting your guides and receiving the equipment and instructions, you'll be soaring up to 29 feet (9 m) above Lake Atitlán. It's a safe and fun activity for anyone between the ages of 10 and 70.

Later, you'll enjoy some land-based fun on a one-hour horseback ride along the shores of Lake Atitlán. This excursion will take you along nature paths to the western-shore village of San Pedro, where you'll meet members of the local Tzutuhil Indigenous community. You'll also pass by coffee fields and vegetable farms offering amazing views over the lake. 

Day 10: Visit the Iximché Ruins, Transfer to Antigua

Take a guided tour of these Maya ruins in the highlands
It's time to depart Lake Atitlán! In the morning you'll hop in a private shuttle for a ride through the beautiful highlands to the ruins of Iximché. Back in the 15th century, this archeological site was the capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom, and it was declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. On a guided tour, you'll visit impressive ruins that include pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ball courts. Afterward, you'll hit the road again and return to Antigua.

Day 11: Visit the Mixco Viejo Ruins

Return to Antigua in time for sunset
After breakfast, you'll transfer a couple of hours north of Antigua to the archeological site of Mixco Viejo. Dating to around the 13th century, this was once a capital and ceremonial center of the Poqomam Maya people, yet the structures also show Aztec and Toltec influences. The ruins here are spread out over a ridge near the Río Motagua and include pyramids, platforms, plazas, ball courts, and stone sculptures. You'll visit these ruins on a guided tour followed by a picnic lunch. Afterward, you'll return to Antigua where you'll have the rest of the day free.

Day 12: Finca El Pilar Nature Hike, Spa Afternoon

Spend the morning hiking around this private nature reserve

A local guide will pick you up at your hotel this morning for the quick 10-minute drive out of Antigua to the Finca El Pilar. This private nature reserve is a great place to escape the city and enjoy nature walks as well as soak in natural springs. On this half-day excursion, you can hike around the park's 950 acres (384 ha) on forest trails leading to viewpoints of the surrounding highlands and volcanoes. The park is also home to 200 bird species, and there's even a hummingbird sanctuary.

After lunch, you'll head over to Hotel Casa Domingo, a boutique hotel in Antigua that once served as a convent. Visit their world-class wellness center and spa and begin an afternoon of relaxation. Take a rest in one of the indoor/outdoor salons, relax by the pool, soak in the jacuzzi, and indulge in both wet and dry saunas. You'll even receive your own personal spa treatment designed to help rebalance the mind, body, and spirit.

Day 13: Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart 

If time permits, take one more stroll in Antigua before departure
The day has come to say goodbye to Guatemala. In the morning, your driver will pick you up in Antigua for the one-hour transfer to Guatemala City airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Until next time!

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Map of Best of Guatemala's Southern Highlands: Antigua & Lake Atitlán - 13 Days
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