- Test-drive one of Guatemala's famous "chicken buses"
- Go horseback riding by scenic Lake Atitlán
- Shop at Chichicastenango's traditional Maya market
- Hike the Pacaya volcano and enjoy a picnic of local foods at the top
|Arrive in Guatemala City, Chicken Bus Workshop & Maya Culinary Class
|Fly to Flores, Visit Tikal Maya Ruins & Uaxactún
|Fly to Guatemala City & Transfer to Lake Atitlán
|Tour the Villages Around Lake Atitlán by Boat
|Horseback Riding at Lake Atitlán
|Transfer to Antigua & Visit Chichicastenango Maya Market
|Antigua Walking Tour & Street Food Tour
|Pacaya Volcano Hike & Picnic, Visit Santa Teresita Hot Springs & Spa
|Depart Guatemala City
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Chicken Bus Workshop & Maya Culinary Class
Welcome to Guatemala! Upon arrival at Guatemala City's airport, meet your driver and transfer to your hotel. Take some time to settle in, then head out for some fun activities. First, participate in a 2.5-hour workshop where you'll learn about the history of traditional "chicken buses" in Guatemala, and enjoy an exciting test drive. These repurposed US school buses arrive in the country painted the standard yellow. Then locals deck them out, painting them in bright colors and personalizing them according to their culture. They're even souped up to travel at high speeds on mountain roads.
In the evening, prepare dinner with a renowned chef specializing in Maya culinary fusion. During the class, the cooking expert will reveal Guatemala's ancient Maya roots, sharing ancestral knowledge about the ingredients' benefits for the mind, body, and soul. For the Maya, food was a source of nourishment and a way to prevent illnesses and treat psychological problems. Menus vary according to the season, but they will always include pepián (a traditional spiced stew made with meat, vegetables, and fruit), jocón de pollo (chicken cooked in a tomatillo and cilantro sauce), and a vegetarian dish.
Day 2: Fly to Flores, Visit Tikal Maya Ruins & Uaxactún
Take a short domestic flight to Flores in northern Guatemala this morning. When you arrive, transfer to UNESCO-listed Tikal National Park, a protected area of about 222 square miles (576 sq km). Dating back to around 400 BCE, Tikal was a powerhouse during the Maya Classic Period, then gradually succumbed to a ruined state until it was unearthed and excavated in the 20th century. Rising out of the dense jungle, the looming temples demonstrate the might of the ancient Maya civilization. Many animal species can be found here, including howler monkeys, spider monkeys, toucans, and parakeets.
Your tour guide will accompany you as you explore the park, filling you in on the area's history and biodiversity, and answering any questions you may have. Afterward, prepare to visit the archaeological site of Uaxactún, located 14 miles (23 km) north of Tikal. Beyond the archaeological site, you'll find a fascinating traditional community where you can learn about a special local craft: dolls made from cornhusks decorated with beads and dried flowers. The primary source of income here is the sale of Xaté palm leaves, which are used in flower arrangements, decorating, and Easter celebrations.
Day 3: Fly to Guatemala City & Transfer to Lake Atitlán
Pack your things and transfer to Flores' airport, then catch your flight back to Guatemala City. Once you arrive, prepare for a 4.5-hour overland journey to Lake Atitlán. This stunning lake is located in a large volcanic crater, and is known for its scenic views of the surrounding volcanoes. The region is also home to many interesting traditional villages, where handicrafts and textiles are produced. Spend the rest of your afternoon enjoying some peace at your hotel or head down to the water's edge to catch a brilliant sunset.
Day 4: Tour the Villages Around Lake Atitlán by Boat
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
A boat will pick you up from your hotel's dock today as you kick off your guided tour of the villages around Lake Atitlán. Start in San Juan La Laguna, a tiny village (pueblito) which is home to cooperatives that produce traditional textiles, paintings, and weavings. San Juan La Laguna also produces cotton, and artisans here use the artisanal Maya process of yarn dyeing with natural ingredients. In addition, you'll visit an apiary and a painting workshop, and will hike to the viewpoint of El Mirador de San Juan, a place decorated with colorful paintings made by local artists.
Next, visit the town of Santiago Atitlán, which is known for its association with the syncretic deity Maximón, and is also home to the Cojolya Weaving Center and Museum. This museum shows the history, tradition, and process of backstrap-loom weaving and the evolution of the traditional costume of the Tz'utujil, the town's Indigenous people. When the tour is finished, return to your hotel and relax.
Day 5: Horseback Riding at Lake Atitlán
Today, you'll head off on an exciting hour-long horseback riding excursion on the shores of Lake Atitlán. You'll have the chance to ride along the nature trails near San Pedro La Laguna, experience the native Tz'utujil community, and see the surrounding coffee fields and vegetable farms while enjoying an amazing view overlooking the lake. After a pleasant morning out, spend the rest of the day relaxing and exploring on your own.
Day 6: Transfer to Antigua & Visit Chichicastenango Maya Market
Make your way to Antigua today, a journey of about three hours, stopping on the way to visit Chichicastenango. Chichicastenango (local refers to it as "Chichi") is an Indigenous town in the Guatemalan highlands and is home to one of the largest markets in Central America, which was established before the Spanish arrival. Its primary purpose is to serve locals who come from far and wide to buy and sell products. Browse through the market, where vendors sell everything from handicrafts and textiles to fresh produce and street food, and visit an artisanal mask factory.
You also won't want to miss the nearby Iglesia de Santo Tomás. This 16th-century Roman Catholic church is built on the site of a former Maya temple, and is a striking example of Guatemalan syncretism (a mix of ancient Maya religious beliefs and traditional Catholicism). Besides sightseeing and sampling typical foods, like Guatemalan bananas and pan de muerto (bread of the dead), you'll also visit a local textile factory to see the process of making the traditional outfits of the region. Following this, you'll attend a traditional dance performance, and then continue to your hotel in Antigua.
Day 7: Antigua Walking Tour & Street Food TourStart your day with a four-hour walking tour of the historic city of Antigua. Your expert guide will take you on a journey through time as you enjoy magnificent views of this nearly 500-year-old town. Antigua is cradled by three volcanoes, and its streets are lined with colorful 16th-century mansions. Wander along the cobblestones as you visit the churches of San Francisco, Santo Domingo, and La Merced, the famous Santa Catalina Arch, and notable buildings around the main square (including the City Hall, Royal Palace of the Captains General, and Antigua Guatemala Cathedral).
Later on, meet a local expert guide who will introduce you to Guatemala's rich culture through its gastronomy. On an afternoon food tour, 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. At the end of the tour, you'll receive a list of some of the best restaurants and bars to visit during your stay.
Day 8: Pacaya Volcano Hike & Picnic, Visit Santa Teresita Hot Springs & SpaGuatemala is home to more than 37 volcanoes, three of which are currently active. Pacaya is one of the most popular active volcanoes and is an ideal spot for hikers who want an easy ascent and epic views (you'll get to see three other volcanoes from the top). Once you reach the summit, enjoy sipping on beer, traditional quetzalteca (a common rum drink), and natural juice, and savor some snacks like chicken and vegetable sticks, guacamole, tortilla chips, and elote loco (grilled corn with condiments and spices). You will also roast marshmallows on the hot pockets of petrified lava.
After your descent, unwind with a trip to an exclusive hot springs spa, which offers a therapeutic thermal circuit and steam sauna from natural thermal pools. You can enjoy the thermal circuit along with massages, or head to the family pool and slide for some fun. With 13 thermal pools that are maintained at varying temperatures, you are sure to find the perfect relaxation experience here.