- Take a dip in Semuc Champey's famous turquoise pools
- Explore the ancient Maya ruins at Tikal
- Enjoy a boat ride along the jade waters of the Río Dulce
- Spend two days on remote Lime Caye, in Belize
- Roam the historic streets of colonial Antigua
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 2||Transfer to Cobán, Explore Ram Tzul||Cobán|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Semuc Champey||Cobán|
|Day 4||Candelaría Cave Tour, Transfer to Tikal National Park||Tikal National Park|
|Day 5||Explore Tikal||Tikal National Park|
|Day 6||Transfer to Río Dulce, Boat Tour to Livingston||Livingston|
|Day 7-8||Boat Transfer to Belize & Lime Caye||Cayo District|
|Day 9||Boat to Puerto Barrios & Flight to Guatemala City||Guatemala City|
|Day 10||Transfer to Chichicastenango & Lake Atitlán||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 11||Boat Tour of Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 12||Antigua Walking Tour||Antigua|
|Day 13||Hike Pacaya Volcano & Hot Springs||Antigua|
|Day 14||Depart Guatemala|
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua
Welcome to Guatemala! A representative will meet you at the airport in Guatemala City and give you your detailed itinerary for the next two weeks. Then transfer one hour west to the Spanish colonial city of Antigua, where you'll check into your hotel. You can then head out and stretch your legs with a stroll around one of Central America's most well-preserved Spanish-colonial cities.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for the historic Old Town situated around its main plaza, Parque Central. Walk the cobbled streets here and you'll be amazed by the pastel-colored facades of the colonial mansions, churches, and convents that abound in the area. You also won't miss the several volcanoes surrounding Antigua. The contrast between these imposing mountains and the colorful architecture of the city makes it one of the prettiest places in the country.
Fun fact: Antigua was once the capital of Guatemala; however, it was abandoned in 1773 after a devastating earthquake. Some historic buildings survived, and even many that were damaged were rebuilt. That's why today the historic center of Antigua retains its Spanish colonial architecture and charm. Highlight buildings you'll want to visit include the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and the remains of the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.
Day 2: Transfer to Cobán, Explore Ram Tzul
A driver will pick you up early to embark on a drive a few hours north to the highland city of Cobán, located deep in Guatemalan coffee country. On the way, you'll stop at Ram Tzul, a private nature reserve that covers more than 247 acres (100 ha). Explore Ram Tzul's lush cloud forests, stop and smell the orchids, and hike to a beautiful waterfall that plunges 260 feet (80 m) into a lagoon. You might even spot Guatemala's national (and colorful) bird, the resplendent quetzal.
After Ram Tzul, you'll continue north to Cobán the capital of Guatemala's Alta Verapaz Department. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and will have the evening free.
Day 3: Day Trip to Semuc Champey
After breakfast, you'll head out on a day trip to nearby 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 4WD.
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 Río Cahabón 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: Candelaría Cave Tour, Transfer to Tikal National Park
In the morning you'll transfer a couple of hours north to the town of Candelaría. The area is known for its towering limestone mountains, at the base of which are river caves that 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 cave tour, you'll continue driving farther into northern Guatemala and the Petén Department, eventually reaching Tikal National Park, where you'll overnight.
Day 5: Explore Tikal
Your day is devoted to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal National Park. Tikal was once the capital of one of the ancient Mayas' most powerful kingdoms, and the ruins around this archeological site date to around the first century CE. They include sprawling citadels and towering pyramids, including the most impressive of all, Temple IV. At 230 feet (70 m), it is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in Central America. Hike up the staircase at the side of the temple for incredible views.
Throughout the tour, you'll follow your expert guide through the temples and pyramids, stopping at all the major points of interest. This includes Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. After a break for lunch, you'll have more time to explore the site on your own. Keep an eye out for exotic wildlife like toucans and howler monkeys.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Transfer to Río Dulce, Boat Tour to Livingston
In the morning you'll transfer south to the Río Dulce ("sweet water" in English) where you'll meet your guide and embark on a boat tour. 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.
The ride will take you to Livingston. This small town on the Caribbean coast is more laid back than other parts of Guatemala and is a great place to kick back for a day. On the way there, the boat will stop periodically so you can visit natural hot springs and hidden caves. Once in town, you'll check in to your accommodations and can then enjoy lunch on one of the white-sand beaches.
Day 7-8: Boat Transfer to Belize & Lime Caye
It's another early start this morning as you board a boat to transfer from Livingston into neighboring Belize and Lime Caye. This island is part of Sapodilla Cayes Marine Park and is located at the southern tip of Belize's Barrier Reef. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's the second-largest reef in the world and is home to over 100 species of coral and 500 species of tropical fish, making it a paradise for snorkelers and divers alike.
You'll spend the next two days here and can choose to spend your time however you like. Relax on the powdery white-sand beaches, take a dip in the water, go fishing for snapper and tarpon, and do as much snorkeling and diving as you like. Then, at the end of each day, watch as the sun sets over the Caribbean before enjoying dinner.
Day 9: Boat to Puerto Barrios & Flight to Guatemala City
After enjoying a couple of days relaxing in paradise, it's time to return to the mainland. In the morning you'll take a boat from Lime Caye back to Guatemala and Puerto Barrios. Then, in the afternoon, you'll catch a flight to Guatemala City. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will meet you for the transfer to your hotel. If you aren't too tired, you can head out and explore Guatemala's lively capital.
Day 10: Transfer to Chichicastenango & Lake Atitlán
This morning, you'll travel into the western highlands of Guatemala's El Quiché Department and Chichicastenango. This town has been a hotbed of Indigenous Kʼicheʼ Maya culture for over 4,000 years and is most famous for its bi-weekly market. Here vendors sell everything from flowers and fresh produce to handicrafts and handwoven textiles. It's reportedly the biggest open-air market in Central America, and you'll love browsing the many vendor stalls for handmade souvenirs.
Also, you 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). At this church, you can see firsthand how many Guatemalans simultaneously adhere to two different religions and cultures.
When it's time, you'll make your way south to stunning Lake Atitlán and the waterfront town of Panajachel. Here you'll check in to your hotel for the evening.
Day 11: Boat Tour of Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Antigua
Widely considered to be among the most beautiful lakes in the world, Atitlán's sparkling blue waters are surrounded by dramatic volcanoes. Moreover, its shores are home to several Indigenous Maya villages abounding with rich culture evinced in the local traditions, markets, arts, crafts, and even the stories of the people. Today you'll get to visit a few of these villages on a private boat tour.
Your first stop is the town of Santiago, which is known for its quality artisanal crafts as well as being home to the infamous Maya saint of Maximon. Nearby is San Juan, a village famous for its textiles and weaving co-ops run by Indigenous women. You'll get to visit one of these co-ops to learn about the natural dying process and other time-honored techniques that go into producing beautiful handmade clothing, handbags, shawls, and other products. By mid-afternoon, you'll transfer from Lake Atitlán back to the colonial city of Antigua.
Day 12: Antigua Walking Tour
After breakfast, set out on a three-hour walking tour of Antigua. As you stroll the charming cobbled lanes, 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. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening tasting delicious street food, souvenir shopping at the crafts markets, and enjoying the nightlife.
Day 13: Hike Pacaya Volcano & Hot Springs
You'll leave early for a guided hike up the 8,370-ft (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.
This moderate hike takes about two hours to reach the top, and upon arrival at the summit, you'll enjoy a picnic lunch amid incredible panoramic views of the highlands. The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forests and farmland. After you reach the trailhead, visit a nearby thermal spa whose natural springs are heated by the very volcano you just climbed.
Your treatment includes a thermal circuit in which you'll immerse your body for short periods of time in natural pools ranging from 75° F (24°C) to 106°F (41°C). Then move on to a combined steam/hydrotherapy bath followed by a cold-water shower and top it off with a relaxing massage. You'll have plenty of time afterward to take a dip in the spa's natural swimming pools and enjoy a snack and fruit smoothie before you return to Antigua in the evening.
Day 14: Depart Guatemala
It's time to say adiós to Guatemala. At the appropriate time, your driver will transfer you from your hotel in Antigua to the airport in Guatemala City where you'll catch your flight home. Until next time!
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