Guatemala is Central America's most diverse country, with rainforests, volcanoes, mountains, coffee fields, and beaches. This 13-day guided tour lays out some of its most captivating natural and cultural highlights, with plenty of time to absorb the big-hitter destinations before you move on. Take a boat ride and kayak on Lake Atitlán, relax at waterfalls and hot springs around the Río Dulce, and venture among Maya ruins in Tikal National Park.


  • Get to know the history of Antigua and Guatemala City on guided tours
  • Cycle and sip your way around a coffee plantation on the slopes of Agua volcano
  • Kayak on Lake Atitlán, docking to explore villages on its shores
  • Bathe in hot springs and waterfalls near the Río Dulce

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua, Chocolate Workshop Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Day Trip to Earth Lodge & Nature Hike, Free Time in Antigua  Antigua
Day 4 Bike Tour to Coffee Plantation Antigua
Day 5 Boat Tour of Lake Atitlán, Arrive at Jaibalito Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Visit Chichicastenango Market Lake Atitlán
Day 7 Kayak & Hike at Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 8 Fly to Flores, Guided Tour of Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 9 Explore Las Conchas Waterfalls Las Conchas
Day 10 Arrive at the Río Dulce, Finca Paraíso Hot Springs Río Dulce
Day 11 Río Dulce Guided Boat Tour Río Dulce
Day 12 Transfer to Guatemala City, History Walking Tour Guatemala City
Day 13 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua, Chocolate Workshop

Santa Maria de Jesus Church, Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala, "The Land of Eternal Spring," where the climate stays pleasant year-round and flowers never stop blooming. Few countries in Central America boast such a diversity of unspoiled ecosystems, as well as ancient Indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures.

Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will pick you up and transfer you about an hour west to the colonial city of Antigua. The former capital of Guatemala, Antigua, is known for its historic Old Town around its main plaza, Parque Central. Three volcanoes also border it, and the dazzling visual impact of these mountains contrasted with colorful architecture is part of why Antigua has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

Later in the day, you'll participate in a "bean to bar" chocolate workshop. Besides crops like coffee and bananas, Guatemala also produces cacao (cocoa), the main ingredient in chocolate. Cacao has been cultivated here for thousands of years and was even enjoyed by the ancient Maya civilizations. During the workshop, you'll learn about this history and the process of growing the cacao, harvesting it, and roasting the beans. Naturally, the tour concludes with a delicious tasting. 

Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class

Antigua's famous Arch Street
Antigua's famous Arch Street

Meet a local historian and guide to head off on a history-themed walking tour of Antigua. See its colonial streetscapes of pastel facades, and take in the grandeur of some of the restored churches and civic buildings, contrasted with the tumbledown charm of others. You'll visit the City Hall Palace, the Palace of the Captain's General, the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral, and the complex of Paseo de Los Museos (which features six museums and three art galleries).

After, tie your aprons and take part in a cooking class. During this three-hour experience, you'll discover that Guatemalan food is an exotic mixture of traditional colonial Spanish and Indigenous cooking that's both delicious and fun to make. The workshop is taught by chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez community. Besides the main dishes, you'll also prepare handmade tortillas and a dessert. At the end of the class, you'll sit down with your fellow chefs and tuck into your creations.

Day 3: Day Trip to Earth Lodge & Nature Hike, Free Time in Antigua 

Hike through the forests around Antigua
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

The activities continue today as you leave Antigua's cobblestone streets and hit the nature trails. Your guide will meet you at 9 am and drive you out of the city, winding your way up from the Panchoy Valley toward the mountain village of El Hato. The drive itself is part of the joy of the tour, revealing increasingly epic views of the valley and volcanoes.

Just outside El Hato, you'll stop at Earth Lodge, a quaint hotel and working avocado orchard. After a freshly prepared lunch, you'll have time to relax and enjoy the inspiring verdant setting. The lodge hosts regular yoga classes and workshops, so ask your local guide what's on. Afterward, you'll return to Antigua for a free afternoon to do whatever you please. In the evening, you could graze on the city's delicious street food, such as empanadas, rellenos (stuffed chile pepper), and arepas (cornmeal cakes).

Day 4: Bike Tour to Coffee Plantation

Take a ride up to a coffee farm

Your guide will pick you up for today's combined mountain bike excursion/coffee tour. You'll pick your bikes up in Antigua and 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 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. 

Upon arrival, your guide will lead you on a short hike around the fields, where you can meet some of the farmers. Then, you'll 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 farming families, sample their coffee, and learn a bit about life on a working coffee farm. After the meal, you'll ride back to Antigua.

Day 5: Boat Tour of Lake Atitlán, Arrive at Jaibalito

Volcano Views from Panajachel
Volcano views from Panajachel

After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the 2.5-hour journey west from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, the most famous lake in the country, which is sacred to the Maya people. The drive to get there is a treat in itself, on a section of the Pan-American Highway, which stretched from one end of the Americas to the other (Alaska to Argentina). The road delivers stunning views of the mountains and lake. 

You'll then board a boat for a tour of the towns around Atitlán. In the company of a local guide, you'll stop at villages far off 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 a shrine to Maximón, an infamous Maya saint known for his depraved behavior.

The boat will drop you off at the village of Jaibalito, the smallest and most remote of the settlements on the shores of Lake Atitlán, only accessible by boat or footpaths. You'll check into your guesthouse, where you'll spend the next two nights and have the rest of the day free. This tranquil spot is a great place to unwind in a hammock, go swimming, and watch the sunset over the water.

Day 6: Visit Chichicastenango Market

Flower sellers at Chichicastenango Market

Today, you'll visit Chichicastenango, which locals call "Chichi." This Indigenous town in the Guatemalan highlands is home to one of the largest markets in Central America, which was established long before the Spanish arrived. Its primary purpose is to service locals who come far and wide to buy and sell products. On a visit, you'll browse vendors who sell everything from handicrafts and textiles to fresh produce and street food. You'll even get to visit an artisanal mask factory.

Also here is the Iglesia de Santo Tomás. This 16th-century Roman Catholic church is built on the site of a former Maya temple and is a striking example of Guatemalan syncretism (a mix of ancient Maya religious beliefs and traditional Catholicism). During the day, you'll also have plenty of opportunities to sample typical foods, such as the doughnut-like sweet snack pan de muerto (bread of the dead).

Day 7: Kayak & Hike at Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Antigua

Kayaking on Lake Atitlán

Meet your guide bright and early for today's five-hour expedition. You'll start in a kayak, paddling westward along the north shore of Lake Atitlán for roughly two hours. Pass by villages perched on lakeside cliffs, hop in the water for a swim, or even go cliff jumping. Your destination is a spot between the villages of Tzununá and San Marcos La Laguna, where you'll leave your kayak behind and lace up your hiking boots.

Follow the lake trail between the villages, taking in views of the San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán volcanoes. Hike along the shoreline and through small villages for about 1.5 hours; eventually, the route will take you back to Jaibalito. From there, you'll transfer back to Antigua and have a well-earned relaxing evening at the hotel.

Day 8: Fly to Flores, Guided Tour of Tikal National Park

Tikal's Temple of the Great Jaguar
Tikal's Temple of the Great Jaguar

In the morning, you'll transfer to Guatemala City to catch a flight to Flores, the gateway to Tikal. A driver will be waiting at the airport to transfer you to your accommodation within Tikal National Park. After check-in, you'll set off on a guided tour of the park's famous ancient ruins. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the former capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya world. Spend the day with your expert guide exploring this vast complex of temples and pyramids until late in the afternoon. 

During your visit, you'll see all the major sites of interest, including Temples I, II, II, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. Keep your camera at the ready for Temple IV in particular, as this Maya icon is the tallest pre-Colombian structure in the Americas, at 270 feet (70 m). Keep an eye out for wildlife during the tour, as the site is shrouded by jungle. You'll also have time to explore on your own. 

Day 9: Explore Las Conchas Waterfalls

Las Conchas waterfalls
Las Conchas waterfalls

After an early breakfast, meet your driver and venture south to Las Conchas, a nature park with multi-layered waterfalls, caves, and natural pools ideal for swimming. Tropical forests surround the limestone landscape here, so you might just spot colorful critters such as red-eyed tree frogs and butterflies. For the adventurous, there's a chance to leap off a 33-foot (10 m) waterfall.

You'll be spending the night at the Oasis Chiyú ecolodge at the edge of the Río Chiyú. Feel free to explore more of the park or have a resident take you on a guided walk. The owners are great hosts and ambassadors of the local area. They specialize in homemade, healthy food—but they're also mean cocktail-makers, so relax with a Cuba libre or margarita (fresh lime, of course) in the peaceful forest setting.

Day 10: Arrive at the Río Dulce, Finca Paraíso Hot Springs

Finca Paraiso Hot Springs Waterfall
The hot springs waterfalls at Finca Paraíso 

Enjoy a leisurely morning before transferring farther south to your accommodation along the waterfront of Río Dulce, near the Caribbean coast. The 27-mile (43 km) long "sweet river" is located near the eastern border with Belize and connects to Lago Izabal. It's located within an officially protected ecosystem, the Río Dulce National Park, which means a great diversity of wildlife, from manatees to crocodiles.

After settling in, you'll visit Cascadas Finca el Paraíso, a nearby hot spring waterfall, for an afternoon of relaxation. Having the hot water beat down on you is said to be like getting a massage or being in Mother Nature's jacuzzi. The mud here is said to be good for your skin, too. If you're daring enough, climb up the sides of the waterfall to plunge into the warm pool below.

Day 11: Río Dulce Guided Boat Tour

Livingston beach
Livingston beach

Wake up early for an 8 am boat tour of the Río Dulce. As you travel north along the jade waters, watch the ever-changing scenery of rainforest dotted with charming villages. Waterbirds such as herons are constantly flitting overhead or resting on the blooming lilies. Stop-offs include the Castle of San Felipe, an island of birds, hot springs, and a deep ravine canyon. Eventually, the boat will arrive in the town of Livingston, where you'll disembark and check into your hotel.

In Livingston, you'll have the chance to experience a different side of the country, as the predominant ethnicity in this community is Afro-Guatemalan. With its distinct local culture, Garufina, the area has its own traditions, cuisine, and music. As you can only get here by boat, it's part of Guatemala that many tourists often miss. Enjoy the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, do some bird-watching, and try tapado (seafood and coconut cream soup), the community's most popular dish.

Day 12: Transfer to Guatemala City, History Walking Tour

Guatemala City
Guatemala City

Transfer back to Guatemala City, where you'll meet a local guide to learn about the history and culture of the city on a half-day tour. Visit the Centro Histórico ("Historic Center"), near the Plaza de la Constitución. Here you can tour the National Palace of Culture, which houses a museum showcasing Guatemala's history, art, and culture. You'll also visit some of the city's most famous religious landmarks, such as the 18th-century Iglesia San Francisco, St. Augustine Rectory, and the whitewashed Iglesia del Cerrito del Carmen.

For lunch, consider heading to Mercado Central to taste a variety of traditional Guatemalan dishes and browse vendors selling clothing, crafts, and souvenirs. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure. You can continue exploring the city's neighborhoods, relax at the hotel, or want more local cuisine at cafés, restaurants, and wine bars.

Day 13: Depart Guatemala City

Guatemala City
Plaza de la Constitucion, Guatemala City

It's time to say a bittersweet goodbye to Guatemala. In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the drive back to Guatemala City and the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Adiós!

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Map of Best of Guatemala: Volcanoes, Maya Ruins, Hot Springs & Waterfalls - 13 Days
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