Immerse yourself in ancient Mayan culture while traveling in style on this 8-day trip to Guatemala. Pamper yourself in luxury hotels and see the sights from above as you fly by helicopter to some of Guatemala's best attractions. You'll bask in the beauty of magical Lake Atitlan, discover the charming colonial city of Antigua, and participate in a Mayan ceremonial ritual.

Highlights

  • Roam the picturesque streets of colonial Antigua
  • Climb Volcan Pacaya and kayak on Lake Atitlan
  • Enjoy spectacular aerial views from your helicopter
  • Discover ancient Mayan ruins and participate in a ceremonial ritual

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala
Day 2 Hike to the summit of Volcan Pacaya
Day 3 Explore colonial Antigua
Day 4 Discover lost Mayan ruins at El Mirador
Day 5 Tour the Mayan ruins at Tikal
Day 6 See Mayan art at Uaxactun, fly to Lake Atitlan
Day 7 Kayak on Lake Atitlan
Day 8 Mayan cosmology ritual, depart Guatemala

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala

View of Antigua and Volcan Agua from Cerra de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)

Arrive in Guatemala City, where you'll be met by a driver who will bring you to the nearby colonial city of Antigua. After settling into your hotel, you'll hit the colorful, cobblestoned streets of this enchanting city. A local historian will guide you around the well-preserved Spanish baroque churches and government buildings that sit beneath a backdrop of three volcanoes.  You'll spend the next three nights at Antigua's first luxury boutique hotel, Meson Panza Verde. Located in the center of Antigua's old town, the hotel's 12 rooms are built around a lush courtyard garden and fountain. Breathe in the heady scent of roses and jasmine as you enjoy spectacular 360º views of the city and volcanoes from the veranda.

Day 2: Hike to the Top of Volcan Pacaya

Volcan Pacaya
The path up to Volcan Pacaya

Today you and your guide will drive to the base of Volcan Pacaya, about an hour and a half from Antigua. While the 8,300-foot-tall (2,530 m) volcano has been continuously active since 1965, there is only minor activity on most days. After a short two-hour hike to the summit with your guide, you'll have a chance to look directly into the crater and feel the hot gases emanating from inside (safety permitting, of course). Enjoy a picnic lunch and stunning views at the top before your descent and return to Antigua. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening tasting delicious street food, souvenir shopping in the crafts markets, and exploring the nightlife.

Day 3: Enjoy Colonial Antigua

The streets of Antigua, Guatemala
Gorgeous pastel facades along the streetscapes of Antigua

Today you'll have the entire day to explore Antigua on your own. Between church ruins, markets, cafes and boutiques, there is much to see in this incredibly walkable city. Indulge your sweet tooth with a visit to the ChocoMuseo, where you'll learn about the delicious Mayan chocolate you see everywhere around town, and even make your own! Climb to the top of Cerro de la Cruz for panoramic views of the city and Volcan de Agua. Get lost in El Mercado, where the scent of fresh fruit and vegetables permeates the narrow, maze-like alleyways. Or shop for souvenirs at Nim Po't and Colibri for exquisitely crafted textiles and handicrafts.

If you'd like to go further afield, take a trip to a nearby coffee plantation to sample some of the world's finest coffee and see how it's made. For a bit more adventure, talk to your guide about arranging a mountain bike excursion, either to one of the coffee plantations, or a more challenging route. Dinner is up to you - have an elegant meal at the hotel or venture out to some of the local hotspots like Hector’s Bistro or Restaurante Casa Santo Domingo.

Day 4: Discover Lost Mayan Ruins at El Mirador

Mayan ruins at El Mirador

Today you'll delve into the Mayan ruins at El Mirador in northern Guatemala. Enjoy aerial views of the mountains as you fly by helicopter from Guatemala City to this ancient site, which pre-dates other famous Mayan cities like Tikal. El Mirador features the largest cluster of buildings of any Mayan site, as well as tallest building in the Mayan world at 230 feet (70 m). Many structures have yet to be fully excavated, giving the place a haunting aura of ancient secrets hidden just below the surface.

Return by helicopter to the nearby town of Flores, where you'll be spending the next two nights at the La Lancha hotel. This idyllic hideaway on the shores of Lake Peten Itza offers both rainforest and lake views. Each of the 10 glamorous casitas comes with its own hammock deck, antique Balinese and Guatemalan furnishings, and large, marble-tiled bathrooms.

Day 5: Mayan Ruins at Tikal

Mayan ruins at Tikal
Mayan ruins at Tikal

After breakfast, you'll drive to Tikal, the most well-known of the Mayan sites in Guatemala. Unlike other Mayan ruins, Tikal's location deep in the jungle sets it apart. Take in the scent of the rich aromas of earth and vegetation and you pass beneath the dense rainforest canopy in between strikingly steep temples. Your guide will help you navigate the highlights of this fascinating complex of pyramids and temples.

Watch the sunset over the Tikal towers and listen to the jungle sounds as you relax after your day of exploration. If you're up to it, continue on to the Mayan astronomical observatory at Uaxactun, about a 20-minute drive away. Otherwise, return to the hotel for dinner and spend a tranquil evening by the lake.

Day 6: Discover Uaxactun, Fly to Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan
Volcanoes rise above the crystal blue waters of Lake Atitlan

If you couldn't fit it in yesterday, travel to the nearby Uaxactun ruins with a local expert after breakfast. Here you'll discover some of the finest artwork in Mayan civilization and an important astronomical site that marks the summer and winter solstices, among other treasures. Otherwise, take it easy at the hotel. In the afternoon, you'll take a 90-minute helicopter ride to the stunning Lake Atitlan. The lake is magnificent from every angle, but few get to see its azure waters and surrounding mountains from the sky.

For the last two nights of your trip, you'll stay at the charming lakeside Casa Palopo. This private villa-turned-boutique hotel is nestled into the hillside amid indigenous villages. Take in the view from one of the many terraces, or from your personal sundeck. The rooms are lovingly decorated with rich colors and fabrics, and décor that evokes Guatemala's Mayan heritage.

Day 7: Explore Lake Atitlan

Panajachel, Guatemala
Boats docked at the indigenous town of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan

Writer Aldous Huxley described Lake Atitlan as “too much of a good thing, it touches the limit of the permissibly picturesque" - today you'll get a better idea of why. Kayak on the lake's pristine waters in the morning, and take a break to splash around in a lovely swimming hole before continuing on to the indigenous lakeside town of Panajachel. From here you'll go on a two-hour hike to a remote clifftop hotel for lunch, where you'll be treated to panoramic views of the lake and volcanoes. 

After lunch return by boat to Panajachel, where you can browse the indigenous textile stalls the town is known for. If you'd like, stop by Casa Cakchiquel, a hotel once frequented by Che Guevara, Ingrid Bergman, and a host of other intellectuals and artists in its 1950's heyday. Today the hotel features exhibits, a fair trade store, and a vintage photo gallery. From there, continue on to the Atitlan Nature Reserve for a relaxing shaded walk around the jungle trails, butterfly park, and orchid gardens.

Day 8: Participate in Mayan Ritual, Departure

Mayan ritual
A Mayan ritual

After a leisurely breakfast on the deck overlooking the lake, you'll meet a Mayan cosmologist. Together you'll hike to a nearby cave used for Mayan rituals to get an in-depth look at the area's history and indigenous people and participate in a Mayan ceremony. You'll have lunch at Casa Palopo, and then board the helicopter for one final joy ride back to the airport in Guatemala City. From there you'll transfer to your homebound or onward flight. 

Map

Map of Luxury and Mayan Culture in Guatemala -  8 Days
Map of Luxury and Mayan Culture in Guatemala - 8 Days