- Stroll Antigua's cobbled streets and take a cooking class
- Hike the dried lava fields of Pacaya
- Participate in cultural experiences at Lake Atitlán
- Tour the ruins at Tikal and visit nature reserves
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Cooking Class||Antigua|
|Day 2||Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano||Antigua|
|Day 3||Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Visit Chichicastenango & Easter Carpet Workshop||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 4||Boat Tour of Lake Atitlán, Zipline Adventure, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 5||Transfer to Tikal National Park & Guided Tour||Tikal National Park|
|Day 6||Transfer to Lanquín||Lanquín|
|Day 7||Day Trip to Semuc Champey, Transfer to Cobán||Cobán|
|Day 8||Visit Biotopo del Quetzal, Transfer to Guatemala City||Guatemala City|
|Day 9||Depart Guatemala|
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Cooking Class
Welcome to Guatemala! This Central American nation is something of an undiscovered gem, one that features just as much (if not more) natural beauty, Spanish-colonial landmarks, and Indigenous heritage as any other country in the region.
Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will pick you up for the transfer about an hour west to the colonial city of Antigua. Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for the Spanish colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Central Park. 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.
Day 2: Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano
Get an early start and embark on a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Pacaya volcano, whose slopes are home to some of the most impressive volcanic landscapes in Central America. Set in its own national park, Pacaya cuts an imposing figure with a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and the massive lava field at the base of its caldera.
The trip up and back takes about six hours, but horses are an option for those who'd prefer a more relaxed ascent. Upon arrival at the summit, you'll enjoy a picnic lunch amid panoramic views (you can even roast marshmallows over volcanic vents). The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forests and farmland on your way back to Antigua.
Day 3: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Visit Chichicastenango & Easter Carpet Workshop
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, which is sacred to the Maya people. A section of this drive is on the Pan-American Highway, part of a network of roads stretching from one end of the Americas to the other, from Alaska to Argentina. As you get closer to Atitlán and around the mountain bends, keep an eye out for stunning views above the lake.
When you arrive in Atitlán, you'll check in to your hotel in a waterfront village. Then you'll continue on to the mountain town of Chichicastenango, a K'iche' Maya (Indigenous peoples) cultural center. Here, you'll visit the town's famous open-air craft market, which is as lively as it is colorful. Commerce has existed here for thousands of years, and today it's reportedly the largest open-air market in Central America. Enjoy walking amid the many vendor stalls, where you can choose between a wide variety of artisanal items and hand-woven textiles.
Afterward, you'll participate in a very special two-hour workshop to learn the intricacies of Guatemala's famous Easter alfombras (carpets). During Semana Santa (Holy Week), Guatemalans adorn their streets with these long, decorative rugs that are actually made from flowers, colored sawdust, pine needles, and even fruits and vegetables. During the experience, you'll learn about the history of these alfombras (which date back hundreds of years) while also learning to make one. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel on the lake.
Day 4: Boat Tour of Lake Atitlán, Zipline Adventure, Transfer to Antigua
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the morning, you'll board a boat for a tour around the villages dotting the lakeshore. Along with a local guide, you'll stop at villages like Santiago Atitlán and San Juan Laguna, far off the tourist trail, and thus offer a truly authentic cultural experience. For example, you'll get to 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 the infamous Maya saint of Maximon, known for his depraved behavior.
Day 5: Transfer to Tikal National Park & Guided Tour
Today you'll transfer to the airport in Guatemala City and fly north to the lakeside town of Flores. Continue driving north for an hour until you reach 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 on a guided tour.
Throughout the tour, you'll follow your expert guide through the temples and pyramids, stopping at all the major points of interest. These include Temples I, II, II, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. After a break for lunch, you'll have more time to explore the site on your own. Keep an eye out for exotic wildlife like toucans and howler monkeys. At the end of the day, you'll head over to a lodge in the park, where you'll overnight.
Day 6: Transfer to LanquínIn the morning, you'll transfer south back to Flores and then continue on for another six hours or so to the Q'eqchi' Maya town of Lanquín. Located in the heart of Guatemalan coffee country, the ride down here is filled with beautiful central highland scenery, and you'll also make stops on the way for food and to take pictures. Upon arrival in Lanquín, you'll check in to your hotel. This will be your base for excursions to some of the most incredible natural wonders in Guatemala.
Day 7: Day Trip to Semuc Champey, Transfer to Cobán
Hop in a 4WD vehicle and head east to 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, you can 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 continue to the highland city of Cobán, where you'll check in to a hotel. Rest up because tomorrow, you'll explore the coffee fields, cloud forests, and nature reserves around Cobán.
Day 8: Visit Biotopo del Quetzal, Transfer to Guatemala City
Transfer about an hour south today to the Biotopo del Quetzal, a 2,580-acre (1,044 ha) nature reserve. Once here, you'll embark on a one-hour nature hike to a 45-foot (13 m) waterfall plunging into a lagoon. Other than the scenery, this cloud forest reserve is most 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. During the hike, keep an eye out for this rare specimen, which is most commonly spotted from January through June.
Afterward, continue another three hours south to Guatemala City. Here you'll check in to your hotel and will have the remainder of the day free. If you like, head to the trendy and colorful Zone 4 neighborhood for dinner at one of its many restaurants.
Day 9: Depart Guatemala
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and coffee at a local café before transferring to the airport in Guatemala City. At the appropriate time, you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!
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