This unforgettable adventure introduces you to the wonders of Guatemala in 11 days. Start with a whirlwind tour of the southern highlands as you walk the cobbled streets of Spanish colonial Antigua, hike Pacaya volcano, and kayak on Lake Atitlán. Then you'll head north for a visit to the legendary Maya ruins at Tikal before winding down with day trips to hot spring waterfalls and a leisurely ride down the Río Dulce.


  • Visit historic Antigua and hike the active volcano of Pacaya
  • Go cycling in the country and ride a kayak across Lake Atitlán
  • Tour the ancient temple ruins at Tikal National Park
  • Travel to waterfalls and hot springs, and boat down the Río Dulce

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua  Antigua
Day 2 Pacaya Volcano Hike Antigua
Day 3 Bike Ride & Coffee Tour Antigua
Day 4 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Boat Tour Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 6 Fly to Tikal National Park, Guided Tour Tikal National Park
Day 7 Transfer to Las Conchas Waterfalls, Explore Las Conchas
Day 8 Transfer to Río Dulce, Visit Hot Springs Río Dulce
Day 9 Río Dulce Boat Tour Río Dulce
Day 10 Transfer to Guatemala City, Walking Tour Guatemala City
Day 11 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua 

Welcome to Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala! This relatively small Central American country wows visitors with its abundance of historic sites. These include not only well-reserved Spanish colonial cities but some of the most awe-inspiring ancient Maya ruins in the world. This packed itinerary includes visits to such places as well as excursions to some of the most naturally beautiful sites in Guatemala.

Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will pick you up and transfer you 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, 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, spend the remainder of the day walking Antigua's cobbled streets and treating yourself to local street food like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). Be sure to stop by historic landmarks like the Santa Catalina Arch and the ruins of the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.

Day 2: Pacaya Volcano Hike

Volcan de Pacaya
Take a group hike up Pacaya volcano

Get an early start for a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Pacaya volcano. These 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 dried 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 and even roast marshmallows over the volcano's natural heat. The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forest and farmland on your way back to Antigua. 

Day 3: Bike Ride & Coffee Tour

Ride bicycles around highland coffee fields

Your guide will pick you up for today's combined mountain bike excursion/coffee tour. You'll pick your bikes up in Antigua and ride to the De la Gente (DLG) coffee cooperative. On this half-day tour, you'll visit DLG's large-scale production farm. The site is a community on the flank of Agua volcano, where farmers work together to grow, pick, and process coffee. DLG works with these farmers to help brand their coffee and export it to global markets.

Upon arrival, your guide will lead you on a short hike around the fields, where you can meet some of the farmers. Then, you'll visit the roasting house to see how they toast the beans, one small batch at a time. A real treat is when you sit down to lunch with one of the farming families, sample their coffee, and learn a bit about life on a working coffee farm. After the meal, you'll ride back to Antigua.

Day 4: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Boat Tour

Take a boat tour of Lake Atitlán

Set off this morning for the three-hour drive to Lago Atitlán, Guatemala's most famous lake. This body of water is part of a volcanic crater in the southwestern highlands and is surrounded by volcanoes, creating incredible scenery. Once here, you'll check in to your lakeside hotel.

Later, 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 Maximon, an infamous Maya saint known for his depraved behavior.

Day 5: Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Antigua

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

Meet your guide for today's five-hour expedition. You'll start in a kayak, paddling westward along the north shore of Lake Atitlán for roughly two hours. Pass by villages perched on lakeside cliffs, hop in the water for a swim, and you can 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. Follow the lake trail between the villages, enjoying the views of the San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán volcanoes.

Hike along the shoreline and through small villages for about 1.5 hours, and eventually, the route will take you to the town of Jaibalito. From there, you'll transfer to the northeast side of the lake and the village of Panajachel, where a vehicle will be waiting. Then make the three-hour transfer back to Antigua. 

Day 6: Fly to Tikal National Park, Guided Tour

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

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the ride back to Guatemala City, where you'll catch a one-hour flight north to the lakeside town of Flores, the gateway to Tikal National Park. A representative will be waiting at the airport for the one-hour drive farther north into the park, where your hotel is located. 

There's no time to waste because right when you arrive, you'll meet your guide for a day tour of the famous ancient Maya ruins of Tikal. Covering 222 sq miles (576 sq km), this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the former capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya world. It's a star of the Maya Classic Period (250-900 CE) and boasts the tallest pre-Colombian structure in the Americas: Temple IV, which stands 270 feet (70 m).

Spend the day with your expert guide exploring this vast complex of temples and pyramids until late in the afternoon. During your visit, you'll see all the major sites of interest, including Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. Keep an eye out for lots of wildlife along the tour, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle. You'll also have time to explore on your own. 

Day 7: Transfer to Las Conchas Waterfalls, Explore

Las Conchas waterfalls
Visit Las Conchas waterfalls

After breakfast, you'll leave Tikal and transfer south for about 4.5 hours to Oasis Chiyu, an ecolodge on the edge of Parque Natural Las Conchas. This 93-acre (38 ha) is famous for its tiered waterfalls, caves, and natural river pools ideal for swimming. After you check in to the lodge, you can explore the park on your own or embark on a guided walk.

Tropical forests surround the entire area here, so expect to see colorful critters like red-eyed tree frogs and butterflies as you hike. If you're feeling adventurous, take a leap off a 33-foot (10 m) waterfall. After the excursion to the falls, you'll return to the lodge, where you can enjoy a swim in the river before dinner. 

Day 8: Transfer to Río Dulce, Visit Hot Springs

The hot-spring waterfalls at Finca el Paraíso

In the morning, you'll transfer about two hours south to Río Dulce National Park, home to the river of the same name. The "sweet river" is located near the country's eastern border with Belize and connects to Lago Izabal. Near the lake, you'll stop off at Finca el Paraíso to enjoy its famous hot springs.

This beautiful river and waterfall are fed by natural hot springs, and you'll get to spend a few hours enjoying them. One of the most pleasant ways to spend your time here is to take a dip in the cool river and then stand under the thermally heated waterfall to warm up. After lunch on the banks, you'll hike up to a river cave and go for a swim in the cavern. At the end of the adventure, you'll head to your hotel on Lago Izabal at the head of the Río Dulce.

Day 9: Río Dulce Boat Tour

Take a ride on the Río Dulce

After a leisurely morning, meet your guide for a boat tour on 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 quaint 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.

The ride will take you to Livingston, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. Along the way, you'll stop at the famous 17th-century Castle of San Felipe. You'll also visit a protected island home to exotic birds and a natural hot spring. Once in Livingston, you'll experience a different side of Guatemala.

This Afro-Guatemalan community is defined by its distinctive Garifuna culture, which has its own language, cuisine, and customs. You can take a dip in the warm waters of the Caribbean, do some bird-watching, and try tapado, a seafood stew that's the community's most popular dish. Or learn to dance punta, a traditional Garifuna dance.

Day 10: Transfer to Guatemala City, Walking Tour

Tour the colonial landmarks in Guatemala City
Transfer back to Guatemala City, where you'll meet a local guide to learn about the history and culture of the capital on a half-day tour. Visit the Centro Histórico ("Historic Center"), near the Plaza de la Constitución. Here you can tour the National Palace of Culture, which houses a museum showcasing Guatemala's history, art, and culture. You'll also visit some of the city's most famous religious landmarks, such as the 18th-century Iglesia San Francisco, St. Augustine Rectory, and the whitewashed Iglesia del Cerrito del Carmen

Day 11: Depart Guatemala City

Sunset over Lake Atitlán
Alas, your grand 11-day adventure in Guatemala has come to an end. At the appropriate time, you will transfer to the airport for your flight home. ¡Buen Viaje!

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Map of Essential Guatemala: Volcanoes, Ruins & Waterfalls - 11 Days
Map of Essential Guatemala: Volcanoes, Ruins & Waterfalls - 11 Days