- Walk the streets of historic Antigua and hike the volcanic slopes of Pacaya
- Go on a zipline tour in the highlands and visit a working coffee farm
- Kayak Lake Atitlán and hike to waterfront villages
- Visit the ancient temples and pyramids at Tikal National Park
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 2||Pacaya Volcano Day Hike||Antigua|
|Day 3||Zipline Tour at Coffee Plantation||Antigua|
|Day 4||Day Trip to Lake Atitlán, Kayaking & Hiking||Antigua|
|Day 5||Hike Acatenango Volcano & Camp Overnight||Acatenango Volcano|
|Day 6||Sunrise on Acatenango, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 7||Transfer to Tikal National Park||Tikal National Park|
|Day 8||Explore Tikal National Park, Transfer to Guatemala City||Guatemala City|
|Day 9||Depart Guatemala City|
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua
Welcome to 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. This historical metropolis in the southern highlands is the perfect introduction to Guatemala, as it encompasses everything the country is deservedly famous for, not least of which is its well-preserved Spanish-colonial landmarks.
Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for the 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. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel.
You can then 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 Day Hike
Get an early start and embark on a guided group hike 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: Zipline Tour at Coffee Plantation
Get ready for a day of fun and adventure on an exciting zipline tour. Not only will you experience the thrill of soaring over the treetops, but you'll also do so over Guatemala's famous coffee fields. In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the ride out of Antigua to nearby Finca Filadelfia, one of the region's oldest and most prestigious coffee plantations, which was established in 1870.
The full zipline tour consists of nine sections of different lengths that range from 164 feet (50 m) to 1,706 feet (520 m). They'll carry you at different heights over oak and cypress forests as well as above the coffee fields themselves. This adrenaline-pumping activity is perfectly safe, as professional guides will be on hand to lead you through initial safety briefings and outfit you with the requisite safety equipment. At the end of the ride, feel free to relax in the plantation's café and enjoy a coffee made from beans grown right on the grounds.
Day 4: Day Trip to Lake Atitlán, Kayaking & Hiking
Your driver will pick you up today for the approximately 2.5-hour drive west to Lake Atitlán. Three towering volcanoes surround this enormous crater lake, and local villages dot its shores. The lake and its surrounding region have been considered sacred to the Maya people since antiquity, and as such many of its villages are populated by Maya residents.
Eventually, you'll reach the town of Panajachel, where you'll board a water taxi for a quick trip along the shore to the village of Jaibalito. Here you'll hop in a kayak and paddle along the north shore of Atitlán for roughly two hours. During the ride, you'll pass by villages perched on lakeside cliffs, you can hop in the water for a swim or 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, taking in views of the San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán volcanoes. You'll hike along the shoreline and through small villages for about 1.5 hours, at which point you'll return to the town of Jaibalito. Here, you'll enjoy a hearty and well-earned lunch. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Antigua and your hotel.
Day 5: Hike Acatenango Volcano & Camp Overnight
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
At 8 am, meet your hiking group at Old Town Outfitters in Antigua. Here, you'll fill up water bottles and stock up on gear. Then take a one-hour drive to the slope of Acatenango volcano and the village of La Soledad, where the trailhead is located. The route up the volcano has four microclimates, each of which will take you about an hour to hike. You'll start by walking up a steep path through farmland, which is the same trail used by villagers to reach their crops. The first hour of hiking is a nice warm-up for your leg muscles in preparation for the rest of the journey.
The second phase of the hike passes through an old-growth, high-alpine cloud forest. This cloud forest is found on the higher slopes of many of Guatemala's tallest volcanoes and is home to many exotic birds, including the famous resplendent quetzal. After emerging from the cloud forest around mid-day, you'll be treated to fantastic views of the other highland volcanoes: Atitlán, Tolimán, San Pedro, Santa María, Santo Tomás, and Tajamulco. You'll have plenty of time to admire the scenery as you take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Temperate and tropical forests characterize the third part of your ascent, which leads to the storm-beaten tree line of the volcano. Your campsite is just below this tree line and offers sweeping views of the Antigua Valley and the adjacent Fuego volcano. After setting up camp, take some time to stretch out and relax while your guide prepares dinner at 12,300 feet (3,750 m). Enjoy your meal while marveling at the awe-inspiring display of Fuego volcano's eruptions.
Day 6: Sunrise on Acatenango, Transfer to Antigua
Depending on weather conditions, your group will rise early, enjoy the sunrise over volcano peaks, and embark on a 45-minute/1-hour trek up a gravel trail through a pine forest. This is the steepest trail yet, and it leads to the rocky, windy summit of Acatenango's peak.
At the summit, rest and enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the Guatemalan highlands stretching all the way to Mexico. After breakfast and breaking camp, you'll begin the three-hour descent back to La Soledad. This route follows a different trail, so you can enjoy even more beautiful scenery as you descend through different microclimates. From La Soledad, you'll transfer back to Antigua and proceed to your hotel.
Day 7: Transfer to Tikal National ParkWake up and enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Antigua at a restaurant on the plaza. Then perhaps browse the markets to pick up souvenirs like handicrafts and hand-woven textiles. At the appropriate time, your driver will take you back to Guatemala City, where you'll catch the one-hour flight north to the Petén region and the lakeside town of Flores. A representative will be waiting at the airport to transfer you by car another hour north to Tikal National Park, home to the famous ancient Maya ruins. You'll check in to your hotel here in the park and will have the evening free.
Day 8: Explore Tikal National Park, Transfer to Guatemala City
After breakfast, join your guide for a four-hour tour of Tikal, an archaeological site that covers 222 square miles (576 sq km). The city was a powerhouse during the Classic Maya period (250-900 CE) but fell into disrepair after it was abandoned around the 10th century. It was engulfed by the rainforest and remained hidden until it was discovered and excavated in the 20th century.
The ruins of this ancient Maya city aren't the only highlights, either, because the rainforest surrounding it is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. It's home to exotic animals like monkeys, toucans, parakeets, and other tropical birds, so keep your eyes peeled, and your camera close as you explore the ruins. Throughout the tour, you'll visit major points of interest, including Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more.After Tikal, you'll transfer back to Flores, where you'll catch a flight to Guatemala City. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to the hotel, where you'll overnight. Later, perhaps head out to dinner in the upscale neighborhood of Zone 10, where you'll find several trendy restaurants.
Day 9: Depart Guatemala City
Alas, your grand adventure in Guatemala has reached its conclusion. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport for your flight home. ¡Buen viaje!