Get to the heart of Guatemala's culture by touring ancient ruins, exploring the great outdoors, and indulging in street food. The experience kicks off with a traditional cooking class in Spanish-colonial Antigua, followed by a ride in the famous "chicken buses." From there, you'll tour lakes and villages, visit cloud forest reserves, bathe in waterfalls, and explore the grandest Maya archeological site in the nation: Tikal.


  • See Antigua and take a cooking class
  • Travel like a local on a "chicken bus"
  • Visit local villages and kayak on Lake Atitlán
  • Tour biosphere reserves and the Maya ruins at Tikal

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Cooking Class Antigua
Day 2 Chicken Bus Village Tour & Workshop Antigua
Day 3 Trip to Earth Lodge & Nature Hike, Street Food Tour Antigua
Day 4 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Kayaking & Hiking Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Lake Atitlán Village Tour, Chocolate Workshop Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Iximché Ruins, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 7 Transfer to Lanquín, Biotopo del Quetzal Lanquín
Day 8 Explore Semuc Champey's Waterfalls & Caves Lanquín
Day 9 Transfer to Tikal National Park, Zipline Tour Tikal National Park
Day 10 Explore Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 11 Transfer to Guatemala City, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Cooking Class

Stroll the cobbled streets of Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala! Waiting for you in this gem of a Central American nation is rich Indigenous culture, Spanish-colonial history, unspoiled nature, ancient ruins, and of course, delicious food. Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will be waiting to whisk you off into the southern highlands and the historic city of Antigua

Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for the Spanish colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Parque Central. Three volcanoes also surround it, and the contrast between these imposing mountains and the city's colorful architecture is part of the reason Antigua has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

After checking in to your hotel, you'll head over to a local cooking class and learn to prepare traditional Guatemalan cuisine. This food is an exotic mixture of traditional colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya influences that is both delicious and fun to make. Even better, the three-hour workshop is taught by local chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez Indigenous 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 enjoy your delicious creations.

Day 2: Chicken Bus Village Tour & Workshop

All aboard the chicken bus

Today you'll experience Guatemala like a local as you visit several traditional and picturesque villages around Antigua. You'll be traveling on the locals' transport of choice: the chicken bus. Within Guatemala, these brightly painted buses are the most cost-effective mode of public transportation. They earned their nickname from the fact that locals would often ride them with pets and livestock (like chickens) in tow, though it's not so common these days.

In the morning, you'll board one of these buses and embark on a half-day tour. During the outing, you'll visit historic villages as well as markets where you can purchase textiles and other Guatemalan crafts. There will also be plenty of delicious street food to sample. Highlights of the trip include visiting the colonial town of San Pedro Las Huerta, touring a macadamia nut farm, and stopping at Ciudad Vieja, the original capital of Guatemala until 1541. You'll also participate in a family-run artisanal chocolate workshop to learn the production process and sample creamy hot chocolate. 

After the tour, you'll participate in a 2.5-hour workshop on the history of chicken buses in Guatemala. During the experience, you'll learn about the process these vehicles go through to become road-ready. They're actually repurposed US schoolbuses that arrive in the country painted the standard yellow. Then locals deck them out, painting them bright colors and personalizing them according to their culture. They're even souped up in order to travel at high speeds on mountain roads with steep slopes and curves. After an exciting test drive, you'll return to your hotel in Antigua.

Day 3: Trip to Earth Lodge & Nature Hike, Street Food Tour

Meet local vendors on a walking culinary tour of Antigua

The activities continue today as you leave Antigua's cobblestone streets and hit the nature trails on a half-day tour. Your guide will meet you at 9 am, and the two of you will drive out of the city, winding your way out of the Panchoy Valley toward El Hato, a mountainside village. During the drive, enjoy the views looking over the valley and the surrounding three volcanoes.

Outside El Hato, you'll stop at Earth Lodge, a quaint mountain hotel and working avocado orchard. Upon arrival, you'll enjoy a freshly prepared lunch and then can spend a while relaxing in one of the hotel's hammocks. Afterward, you'll return to Antigua.

Later, you'll meet a local expert guide who will introduce you to Guatemala's rich culture through its gastronomy. On this three-hour walking tour along Antigua's cobbled streets, you'll taste culinary creations with influences dating back thousands of years. You'll stop at eight traditional restaurants and vendors, each serving up a variety of savory and sweet local treats. Besides the delicious food, you'll also learn about Antigua's history, visit 16th-century ruins, and enjoy views of the nearby volcanoes. (Certain food restrictions will be accommodated.)

Day 4: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Kayaking & Hiking

Kayaking on Lake Atitlán

Your driver will pick you up today for the approximately 2.5-hour drive west to Lake Atitlán. Three towering volcanoes surround this enormous crater lake, and local villages dot its shores. You'll arrive in one such village and check in to the hotel where you'll overnight. Lake Atitlán and its surrounding region have been considered sacred to the Maya people since antiquity, and as such many of its villages are populated by Maya residents.

After settling in, you'll enjoy an active tour on and around the lake. First, hop in a kayak and paddle along the north shore of Atitlán for roughly two hours. During the ride, you'll pass by villages perched on lakeside cliffs, you can hop in the water for a swim, or even do some 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.

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Follow the lake trail between the villages, taking in views of the San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán volcanoes. You'll hike along the shoreline and through small villages for about 1.5 hours, at which point you'll arrive in the town of Jaibalito. Enjoy a hearty and well-earned lunch, then you'll return to your village and have the remainder of the afternoon free. 

Day 5: Lake Atitlán Village Tour, Chocolate Workshop

Learn the chocolate production process

Board a boat this morning 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 offer a truly authentic cultural experience. 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. After the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Later, you'll participate in a one-hour "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. During the workshop, you'll learn all about its history as well as the process of growing the cacao, harvesting it, and roasting the beans. Of course, the tour concludes with a delicious tasting. 

Day 6: Iximché Ruins, Transfer to Antigua

The Maya ruins at Iximché 
In the morning, you'll board another boat for a ride to the eastern shore of Lake Atitlán. Then, take a private shuttle through the beautiful highlands to the ruins of Iximché. In the 15th century, this archeological site was a great capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom. Its ruins sit in the western highlands of Guatemala and include pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ball courts. Take a personal guided tour through the site, which was declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. After the ruins, you'll hit the road to Antigua and check in to your hotel.

Day 7: Transfer to Lanquín, Biotopo del Quetzal

See if you can spot the resplendent quetzal

Wake up early and hop in a car for the over six-hour drive from Antigua to the Q'eqchi' Maya town of Lanquín. Located in the heart of Guatemalan coffee country, the ride here is filled with beautiful central highland scenery. During the trip, you'll make stops for breakfast and to take plenty of pictures.

You'll also stop to stretch your legs at the Biotopo del Quetzal, a 2,580-acre (1,044 ha) nature reserve. Once here, embark on a one-hour nature hike to a 45-foot (13 m) waterfall plunging into a lagoon (feel free to take a dip). Other than the scenery, this cloud forest reserve is famous for being home to the resplendent quetzal. This bird is Guatemala's national symbol and has been revered since the time of the ancient Maya. Keep an eye out for this rare specimen, which is most commonly spotted during Jan-Jun. After the hike, you'll continue to Lanquín and check in to your hotel. 

Day 8: Explore Semuc Champey's Waterfalls & Caves

Semuc Champey cascading pools
Terraced pools at Semuc Champey

After breakfast, hop in a 4WD vehicle and head to nearby Semuc Champey. This otherworldly natural landmark is located near Lanquín and is famous for its terraced turquoise pools. Just before entering the area, you'll stop to tour the Kam'ba Caves. Your guide will lead you by candlelight into underground caverns filled with rivers, waterfalls, and extraordinary rock formations. Afterward, you can take an innertube ride down the Río Cahabón before entering Semuc Champey.

Once here, embark on a 45-minute uphill hike to El Mirador. This stunning viewpoint overlooks the terraced pools 2,300 feet (700 m) below. Then you can spend some time swimming at the falls. The best place to snap photos near the terraces is atop a natural limestone bridge that rises 100 feet (30 m) above the water. At about 4 pm, you'll hop back in the 4WD vehicle and return to Lanquín and your hotel.

Day 9: Transfer to Tikal National Park, Zipline Tour

Ride a zipline over the treetops

In the morning, continue driving north into the Petén region of Guatemala to Tikal National Park. Tikal was once the capital of one of the ancient Mayas' most powerful kingdoms, and the ruins around this archeological site date to at least the sixth century BCE. They feature sprawling citadels and towering pyramids, including the most impressive of all, Temple IV. At 230 feet (70 m), it is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in Central America. You'll visit this temple and more tomorrow on a guided tour.

In the meantime, spend your first day in the jungles of Tikal soaring over the treetops on a fun zipline. Strap into a harness and feel the adrenaline rush as you zip over the jungle canopy on a 656-foot (200 m) cable perched 131 feet (40 m) above ground. This canopy tour consists of 10 platforms and nine different ziplines, each offering safe and exciting jungle fun. After the ride, you'll transfer to your hotel in the park. 

Day 10: Explore Tikal National Park

Tikal's Temple of the Great Jaguar
Tikal's Temple I, also known as The Temple of the Great Jaguar

After breakfast, join your guide for a four-hour tour of Tikal, an archaeological site that covers 222 square miles (576 sq km). The city was a powerhouse during the Classic Maya period (200-900 CE) but fell into disrepair after it was abandoned around the 10th century. It was engulfed by the rainforest and remained hidden until it was discovered and excavated in the 20th century. 

The ruins of this ancient Maya city aren't the only highlights, either, because the rainforest surrounding it is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. It's home to exotic animals like monkeys, toucans, parakeets, and other tropical birds, so keep your eyes peeled, and your camera close as you explore the ruins. Throughout the tour, you'll visit the major points of interest, including Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 11: Transfer to Guatemala City, Depart

Farewell, Guatemala

This morning a driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport in Flores. After a flight to Guatemala City, you'll catch your connecting flight home, thus concluding your unforgettable adventure in Guatemala. Until next time!

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Map of Culture, Adventure & Cuisine in Guatemala - 11 Days
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