Explore the culture and ancient history of Belize and Guatemala in this week-long trip, starting in the picturesque Caribbean island of Caye Caulker, where you'll enjoy a snorkeling excursion and swim with sharks. Head inland to explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Xunantunich on horseback, then cross into Guatemala to visit the temples and palaces in Tikal National Par. End the trip in the historic colonial city of Antigua and with a boat tour of the Mayan craft villages surrounding Lake Atitlán.

Highlights

  • Snorkel and swim with sharks on Caye Caulker Island
  • Discover the rich history of the Mayan temples and palaces in Tikal National Park
  • Explore the historic colonial core of Antigua, Guatemala's former capital
  • Ride a horse through the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich
  • Enjoy a boat tour of the Mayan craft villages surrounding Lake Atitlán

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Belize - Transfer to Caye Caulker Island by boat Caye Caulker
Day 2 Explore the beaches, architecture, and culture of Caye Caulker Caye Caulker
Day 3 Discover sea life on a snorkeling excursion Caye Caulker
Day 4 Tour Xunantunich on horseback - Transfer to Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 5 Explore the Mayan Ruins in Tikal National Park - Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 6 Discover Mayan crafts in the villages of Lake Atitlán Antigua
Day 7 Transfer to Guatemala City for your departure flight  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Belize - Transfer to Caye Caulker Island by boat

The Beaches of Caye Caulker
The Beaches of Caye Caulker

Welcome to Belize! Upon arrival at the airport in Belize City, your driver will transfer you to the port where you'll catch the water taxi to the island of Caye Caulker. After settling into your accommodation, enjoy the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel and on the beach.

You can also wander the streets of Caye Caulker Village, stopping to enjoy dinner at one of its restaurants or grabbing a seat at a waterfront bistro with prime sunset views.

Day 2: Explore the beaches, architecture, and culture of Caye Caulker

Stilted Villas of Caye Caulker
Stilted Villas of Caye Caulker

Enjoy a leisurely morning at your hotel with a relaxed breakfast a stroll along the beach. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy the island and Caye Caulker Village as you wish. There's plenty to see and do, but the mantra of the locals is to "go slow", so enjoy your day at the island's pace. 

Some suggested activities include:

  • Relax at the Split. Caye Caulker is an island divided in two thanks to a narrow canal rumored to have been the result of a hurricane in the 60s. Today it's the perfect place to enjoy island life, by swimming, fishing, sunbathing, or tasting local cuisine at the many restaurants that saturate the area.

  • Walk the island. Due to its small size, Caye Caulker is extremely walkable. The southern part of the island is where the main village is located, filled with shops and old, stilted villas lining the beach. You can admire the architecture by simply strolling through the town. Or take your walk a bit farther through the swampy areas of the island, following wooden boardwalks and enjoying wildlife viewings, including birds, lizards, and even crocodiles.

  • Swim with sharks. Just off the coast of the island is an area called "Shark Alley", where you can swim with gentle nurse sharks. This species is a suction feeder, meaning although they have teeth, they suck seawater into their mouths and push it out through gills, eating all the small fish and plankton that remain. Although you'll take precautions as you would with any wildlife, you don't have to worry about these docile sharks.

  • Visit the Seahorse Sanctuary. Free to visit, you can view these tiny sea creatures up close as they live just off the island's wooden boardwalks in a protected area. 

  • Eat lots of food. The island is particularly known for its lobster, which you can enjoy at lunch or dinner. But don't miss tasting some of the local favorites, especially fried street food. One of the most popular dishes is a fry jack, which is a deep-fried dough stuffed with many different combinations, including chicken, eggs, vegetables, and bacon.

  • Hang out at Koko King. You'll notice that the northern side of the island is more rustic and rural than its southern counterpart. In recent years, there has been more development throughout the island, and the holiday complex of Koko King is a result of this effort. Only accessible by boat, you can hire a water taxi, kayak, or private boat to reach its bars, pools, and beaches. 

Day 3: Discover sea life on a snorkeling excursion

Sunset on Caye Caulker
Sunset on Caye Caulker

After breakfast, you'll meet your snorkeling guides at their offices on the island, where you'll learn more about the schedule of the day and receive your gear. You'll start with an orientation on the dock, and watch the local nursing sharks feed on fish. You'll then head to the beach and make your way into the water.

The first hour of your snorkeling excursion will be at the beach in fairly shallow water, helping you to acclimate to the sport and practice breathing exercises. You'll still enjoy plenty of wildlife here, as there are many species of brightly-colored fish that gather close to the shore. Afterward, a boat will take you to deeper water where you'll explore the coral reef. Belize is known for its clear, turquoise water, colorful coral, and an array of sealife brimming beneath the water's surface. You may even see larger creatures, such as sea turtles, eels, docile sharks, and manta rays. 

Onboard your boat, your guides will provide plenty of snacks and drinks, as well as lunch. As the afternoon nears, you can swim, relax on the boat, or continue snorkeling. You'll return to Caye Caulker around 4:00 pm, where you'll have the rest of the day to enjoy the island. Grab an aperitif at one of the bars lining the waterfront, as you can't miss the island's amazing sunsets.

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

Day 4: Tour Xunantunich on horseback - Transfer to Tikal National Park

The Ancient Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich City
The Ancient Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich City

In the morning, you'll return to Belize City by water taxi and meet your private driver at the port. You'll start today's tour in the ancient archeological site of Xunantunich, which is filled with Mayan ruins. Most of the structures are tall, pyramid-shaped constructions with panoramic views and interesting stone carvings. 

The best way to discover the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich is on horseback. Your tour will begin at a local stable where you'll meet your guides and your horse. The ride to Xunantunich takes you along a well-maintained trail through a large private farm, along the banks of the Mopan River, and through the village of San Jose Succotz. Keep an eye out for wildlife, such as monkeys, lizards, and birds. 

At the town of San Jose Succotz, you'll cross the river on a traditional hand-operated ferry and then ride your horse up to Xunantunich. As your horse rests, you'll have ample time to explore the temples and plazas on foot. Afterward, you have two options for lunch. You can enjoy traditional Belizean dishes at a nearby restaurant called Benny's Kitchen or dine at the farm on your way back to the stables.

After the tour, your driver will take you to the border with Guatemala. After a quick crossing, you'll meet your new driver on the Guatemalan side and make your way to Tikal National Park, where you'll stay the night. Please note that it's best to arrive in the park no later than 6:00 pm. This assures easy access and longer use of electricity in the evening. The park limits electricity to 9:30 pm, which protects the tranquility of the environment. You'll certainly enjoy the quiet sounds, bright stars, and fresh air after an active day.

Day 5: Explore the Mayan Ruins in Tikal National Park - Transfer to Antigua

Mayan Temples in Tikal National Park
Mayan Temples in Tikal National Park

Today's excursion takes you on an archeological tour through the forest to the Tikal Mayan Ruins within the park. An expert guide will lead you through the vast complex of temples and pyramids, where you'll visit its major sites, including the five main temples, plus the Lost World, Complex Q, and The Great Plaza. You'll end the tour at the beautiful Window Palace and with a picnic lunch in the park. Keep an eye out for wildlife while you enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle. 

In the afternoon, your driver will take you to the airport in Flores, where you'll board a flight to Guatemala City. Upon arriving in the city, you'll transfer to your local hotel in the colonial city of Antigua.

After settling into your accommodation, enjoy the city's historic center. Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is filled with a colorful Old Town surrounding its central plaza, Central Park. The city is also surrounded by several volcanoes. The contrast between these imposing mountains and the colorful architecture of the city makes it one of the prettiest settlements in the country.

Enjoy the rest of your day walking around the cobbled streets, stopping to admire the architecture of the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and the remains of the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara. In the evening, treat yourself to local snacks at cafes and food vendors.

Day 6: Discover Mayan crafts in the villages of Lake Atitlán

Volcano Views from Panajachel
Volcano Views from Panajachel

A day trip to the waterfront villages of Lake Atitlán requires an early start. Your first stop of the day is the lake's primary settlement of Panajachel. Here you'll enjoy views of distant volcanoes as you explore the traditional textiles and handicrafts sold along its main street, Calle Santander.

From Panajachel, you'll explore many of the smaller Mayan villages that line the lake. A boat tour will take you to some of the local markets to discover the arts, traditions, and stories of Lake Atitlán. In particular, the town of Santiago hosts an array of local artisan crafts, as well as the infamous Mayan Saint of Maximon.

Further down the lake is San Juan, famous for its textiles made by a women's weaving co-op. Here you can learn about the natural dying process, weaving techniques, and more.  

With the help of recommendations from your guide, you'll enjoy lunch in one of the villages. In the early afternoon, you'll head back to Panajachel to meet our driver and return to Antigua.

Enjoy your final evening in Guatemala perusing the cobbled streets of Antigua, stopping to admire some of the city's sites, such as the City Hall PalacePalace of the Captain’s General, and the Paseo de los Museos.

Day 7: Transfer to Guatemala City for your departure flight

Central Park in Antigua
Central Park in Antigua

It's time to say goodbye to Guatemala. Enjoy your final breakfast in Antigua before transferring back to Guatemala City for your departure flight.