On this 10-day tour, experience Guatemala's rich culture and great outdoors. It begins in the north, where you'll visit turquoise pools, explore Maya ruins at Tikal, and take a ride down the jade waters of the Rió Dulce. A trip to Lake Atitlán will introduce you to indigenous culture, and it concludes with a visit to the ancient highland market at Chichicastenango, plus some sightseeing in the colonial town of Antigua.

Highlights

  • Take a dip in the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey
  • Explore ancient Maya ruins at Tikal National Park
  • Visit Chichicastenango Market, the largest in Central America
  • Enjoy a walking tour of Antigua's colonial buildings

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 2 Transfer to Cobán & Visit Ram Tzul Cobán
Day 3 Tour Semuc Champey Cobán
Day 4 Transfer to Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 5 Tour Tikal, Transfer to the Río Dulce Rio Dulce
Day 6 Río Dulce Boat Tour, Transfer to Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 7 Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán
Day 8 Visit Chichicastenango Market, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 9 Antigua Sightseeing Tour Antigua
Day 10 Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City

Guatemala City
Explore Guatemala City

Welcome to Guatemala City! Upon arrival, a travel representative will be waiting at the airport to present you with a welcome packet that includes all relevant information regarding your itinerary. The driver will then transfer you to your hotel, and after checking in you'll have the remainder of the day free.

If you'd like to stretch your legs after your long journey, head to the Centro Histórico (Historic Center). It's a sightseer's dream, as the area is filled with museums, archeological sites, and even a large market. There are also many historic buildings and landmarks, like the Plaza de la Constitución, Palacio Nacional de la Cultura (National Palace of Culture), and the iconic 19th-century Cathedral of Guatemala City

Day 2: Transfer to Cobán & Visit Ram Tzul

Ram Tzul, Alta Verapaz
Ram Tzul

This morning, wake up early for the 4 am trip north by car to the city of Cobán, located deep in Guatemala's coffee country, and check in to your hotel. Then, around 11 am, embark on an adventure through Ram Tzul, a 247-acre nature reserve just down the road from the town of Purulhá. Here you'll marvel at the native flora and fauna and even hike up to a beautiful waterfall that cascades 260 feet (80 m) into a lagoon.

After touring Ram Tzul, enjoy lunch at the onsite restaurant followed by a visit to a nearby cloud forest reserve. You'll also visit the Biotopo del Quetzal, a 2,580-acre region home to orchids and the resplendent quetzal, one of the most impressive avian species in the tropics. It's a great opportunity to see this unique bird in its natural habitat. Following this, you'll return to Cobán and will have the evening free. 

Day 3: Tour Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey, Alta Verapaz
Semuc Champey

Depart Cobán at 8 am and drive east for a day trip to Semuc Champey. This otherworldly natural landmark is located near the Q'eqchi' Maya town of Lanquín and is famous for its terraced turquoise pools. The best place to snap photos is atop a natural limestone bridge that rises 100 feet (30 m) above the water. Know that on the way to Semuc Champey, you'll stop in Lanquín and switch to a 4x4.

Once at Semuc Champey, you'll have the day free to enjoy a number of activities, like swimming and diving in the refreshing pools. You can also embark on a 45-minute uphill hike to El Mirador. This stunning viewpoint overlooks the terraced pools 2,300 feet (700 m) below. Perhaps take a tube ride down the Cahabón River, and/or Explore the K’an Ba river caves, located about 1 km from Semuc Champey. At the end of the day, you'll return to Cobán and your hotel.

Day 4: Transfer to Tikal National Park

The caves of Candelaria
The caves of Candelaría

At 7 am, you'll transfer from Cobán to Tikal National Park via the town of Candelaría, located in the Alta Verapaz department of Guatemala. The area is known for its towering limestone mountains, at the base of which are river caves you can explore. Besides hiking around on foot and swimming in the water, you can go on a tubing excursion through this unique cavern system.

Following the tour, you'll hop back in the car and continue north to Tikal National Park, located in the rainforests of Petén Province. Check in to your hotel and take the remainder of the day to relax and rest up—tomorrow you'll explore the incredible ruins.

Day 5: Tour Tikal, Transfer to the Río Dulce

Tikal National Park, Petén.
Tikal National Park

At 9 am you'll embark on a tour of the ruins at Tikal. This famous archeological site is part of the Reserva de la Biósfera Maya (Maya Biosphere Reserve), an area that covers 8,340 sq miles (21,602 sq km). It's home not only to the ruins of ancient Maya cities but exotic flora and fauna too. Keep an eye out for howler and spider monkeys as well as toucans and the psychedelic plumage of the ocellated turkey. 

The half-day tour allows you to explore all the highlights around this ancient Maya citadel, which thrived from 200 to 900 ACE. Must-visit landmarks include the Temple of the Great Jaguar, Temple II (which you can ascend via a wooden staircase), and the Gran Plaza, which is flanked by two massive temples. Following the tour, enjoy lunch back at the hotel.

Then, around 2 pm, transfer to your next stop on the trip: the Río Dulce. The "sweet river" is located near the eastern border with Belize and connects to Lago Izabal. This lake and river system does not lack for incredible scenery, which you'll enjoy on a boat trip tomorrow. Upon arrival at the Río Dulce, check into your hotel, and then you'll have the rest of the evening free.

Day 6: Río Dulce Boat Tour, Transfer to Guatemala City

Rio Dulce
Take a ride on the Rió Dulce

Wake up early for an 8 am boat tour of the Río Dulce. As you travel north along the tranquil jade waters, keep your camera at the ready, as the banks are lined with stunning rainforest scenery and charming villages. Waterbirds like herons are constantly flitting overhead or resting on the lily pads, and you're sure to see blooming flowers like orchids and white water lilies. You can even stop for a dip in natural hot springs and to explore secret caves along the banks.

In the afternoon, around 2 pm, transfer to Guatemala City. After checking in to your hotel you'll have the evening free.

Day 7: Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlan
 Lake Atitlán

At 7 am you'll transfer by car about 3 hours west to Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the country. This is a special trip, as you'll embark on a tour of the mainly indigenous villages around the lake. Get exclusive access to hidden gems known only to local guides, and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the local cultures. 

One highlight is a visit to San Juan La Laguna, an indigenous community located on the western shore of the lake. This colorful town is home to weaving co-ops run by women who sell traditional textiles and artwork that makes great souvenirs. It's one of the least-visited communities on the lake and thus offers a more authentic Guatemalan experience. Also here is a unique cotton museum that gives an overview of the Maya tradition of processing this material, from the creation of yarn to the dyeing of garments.

Next, you'll visit Santiago Atitlán, which is famous for its artisanal crafts as well as being the purported home of the rascally deity Maximón. Santiago is also home to the Weaving Center and Museum of Cojolya, which was founded by the Mayan Women Weavers Association of Cojolya.

Following the village tour, you'll check into your lakeside accommodations for the night.

Day 8: Visit Chichicastenango Market, Transfer to Antigua

Chichicastenango Market
Chichicastenango Market

At 8 am, you'll transfer to the historic city of Antigua and check in to your hotel. Around 10 am, you'll go on another drive north about 3 hours to the highland town of Chichicastenango.

This village has been a hotbed of Maya culture and commerce for more than 4,000 years. Chichicastenango is most famous for its bi-weekly market where vendors sell everything from flowers and fresh produce to handicrafts and handwoven textiles. It's not only the biggest open-air market in Guatemala, it's reportedly the biggest in all of Central America. Enjoy walking amid the many vendor stalls and feel free to shop 'til you drop.

Next, visit a factory in town that produces masks worn by indigenous Guatemalans during their ceremonial dances. Then it's off to the whitewashed Iglesia de Santo Tomás, a 16th-century Roman Catholic church built on the site of a former Maya temple. Here you'll get an introduction to Guatemala syncretism (a mix of ancient Maya religious beliefs and traditional Catholicism) and see firsthand how many Guatemalans simultaneously adhere to two different religions and cultures. 

Following the market tour, you'll return to Antigua and will have the evening free.

Day 9: Antigua Sightseeing Tour

Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch
Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch

In the morning, meet your local guide to explore Antigua. Guatemala's former capital boasts an impressive array of Baroque buildings and colonial homes painted in bright pastels. Many old religious and civic structures have been beautifully renovated after major earthquakes, while others retain a tumbledown charm.

On this 3-hour tour, you'll visit 18th-century landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Palace), which houses the town offices and a museum of ancient books. There's also the Palace of the Captain's General, home to the headquarters of the Guatemala Institute of Tourism, and the Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum.

You'll also see church ruins like the 16th century Iglesia de San Francisco and Monasterio de Santo Domingo, a former Dominican monastery. Another highlight is the Iglesia de La Merced, a Baroque church that was destroyed by earthquakes but rebuilt in the late 1700s and whose canary yellow facade is a hallmark of the city. Of course, you'll also pass through the iconic Arch of Santa Catalina, which dates to the 17th century.

Following the city tour, indulge in a nice farewell dinner and toast to your last night in Guatemala.

Day 10: Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart

Adiós, Guatemala!
Adiós, Guatemala!

This concludes your grand adventure in Guatemala. In the morning a personal driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport in Guatemala City, where you'll catch your flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

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Map

Map of Guatemalan Culture & Outdoors: Tikal, Antigua & More - 10 Days
Map of Guatemalan Culture & Outdoors: Tikal, Antigua & More - 10 Days