Guatemala is filled with rich culture and unspoiled nature—and eight days is more than enough time to hit the highlights. You'll arrive in the miraculously well-preserved colonial city of Antigua and, from there, do everything from taking cooking classes to hiking up volcanoes. The adventure continues with a kayak ride along Lake Atitlán, surfing on the Pacific coast, whitewater rafting, Maya spiritual ceremonies, and more.


  • Tour the historic streets of Antigua and take a cooking class
  • Hike the lava fields of volcanic Pacaya
  • Paddle along the glassy waters of Lake Atitlán
  • Visit the surf mecca of El Paredon and a sea turtle project

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Visit Chichicastenango Market, Guatemalan Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Hike Pacaya Volcano Antigua
Day 4 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Spiritual Maya Ceremony Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Kayak & Hike at Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Transfer to El Paredon, Turtle Conservation Project El Paredon
Day 7 Río Coyolate Whitewater Rafting El Paredon
Day 8 Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua

The Santa Catalina Arch, in Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala! This small Central American nation boasts outsized history, culture, and natural beauty. The Maya heritage here dates back thousands of years and is visible in its ancient ruins, while many Spanish colonial landmarks remain. That's to say, nothing of all the volcanoes, jungles, beaches, and other natural wonders in the country.

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: Visit Chichicastenango Market, Guatemalan Cooking Class

Chichicastenango Market
Chichicastenango Market

In the morning, you'll travel about 2.5 hours north of Antigua and farther into the highlands to reach the traditional Maya town of Chichicastenango. The public market here is one of the largest and most famous in Central America. Held every Thursday and Sunday, it draws locals from surrounding villages who come to sell handicrafts, textiles, regional clothing, and fresh produce. Upon arrival, you and your guide will spend time browsing the market and chatting with locals. 

Afterward, return to Antigua on a scenic route that affords stunning views of the famous Lake Atitlán. Later, you'll participate in a traditional cooking class hosted by local chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez Indigenous community. During this four-hour workshop, you'll discover that Guatemalan cuisine is a tantalizing mix of colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya gastronomy. It's a fun and eye-opening experience in which you'll prepare a regional meal that includes homemade tortillas and a delicious dessert. When the cooking is done, sit down with your hosts to feast on your creations.

Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano

Panoramic views from Pacaya Volcano
Views from the top of Volcán Pacaya 

One of the hallmarks of Antigua's dramatic skyline is the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Volcán Pacaya, whose slopes are home to some of the most impressive volcanic landscapes in Central America. Set in its own national park, Pacaya is a fascinating active volcano that cuts an imposing figure with its continuous plume of smoke drifting from the summit. And today, you'll get to hike it.

Leave in the morning on the 1.5-hour drive to the town of San Vicente de Pacaya. There, you and your group will hit the trail, ascending the slopes as you enjoy the stunning vistas. Upon reaching the base of the caldera, your guide will lead the group across rugged lava fields until you reach the peak. After conquering the summit, celebrate with a picnic as you enjoy panoramic views that include three nearby volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. Afterward, you'll return to Antigua. 

Day 4: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Spiritual Maya Ceremony

Santa Cruz la Laguna, Lake Atitlán
A traditional village on Lake Atitlán
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

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. You'll arrive in one of these villages and check in to the accommodation where you'll overnight. Lake Atitlán 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.

You'll witness this spirituality firsthand during a 2.5-hour traditional Maya fire ceremony. A local guide will explain the significance of this experience as well as prepare you for the event, which is led by a local spiritual guide known as El Ajq'ij. You'll participate with candles, which is all part of this ceremony/meditation that serves as a way to align your energy with the cosmos. The Maya have been practicing such ceremonies for over 5,000 years. 

Day 5: Kayak & Hike at Lake Atitlán

Kayaking on Lake Atitlán

Wake up to views of the lake and its towering volcanoes before meeting your guide for today's expedition. You'll start out 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, 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 arrive in the town of Jaibalito. Enjoy a hearty and well-earned lunch, then you'll return to your village at Lake Atitlán and have the remainder of the afternoon free. 

Day 6: Transfer to El Paredon, Turtle Conservation Project

Surf lessons
Take a surf lesson at El Paredon

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the three-hour ride south to the Pacific coast and the beach town of El Paredon, one of the premier surf destinations in the country. Here, you'll check in to your hotel and will then have the rest of the morning and early afternoon to enjoy some beach time. Perhaps grab a board and ride the 3-12-foot (1-4 m) barrels that break on the sand. Or, if you don't have much experience, you can always take a surfing lesson. And if you aren't much of a water person, feel free to spend the day lazing in a hammock or sunbathing on the beach.

Later, you'll visit the sleepy beach community of Monterrico for a special wildlife experience. Here, you'll visit a conservation center dedicated to protecting Pacific coast sea turtles. Among other things, the center rescues sick or injured turtles and rehabilitates them. They also ensure turtle eggs remain safe and that hatchlings make it to sea. If you visit during Sep-Feb, you might even be able to release your own hatchling into the ocean.

Day 7: Río Coyolate Whitewater Rafting 

Rafting on the Rio Coyolate
Rafting on the Río Coyolate

There's more action in store today as you embark on a whitewater rafting trip down the Río Coyolate. This full-day experience, during which you'll brave Class II and III+ rapids, includes all the requisite gear plus breakfast, a light lunch, and dinner. First, meet your group at 7 am for the ride to the river staging area, then you'll have breakfast and receive a safety briefing before embarking down the river.   

This is a 13-mile (22 km) trip that lasts about 5.5 hours, depending on the water levels in the river. Between the rapids, there will be breaks to enjoy drinks and snacks on the banks. The adventure ends later in the day back at basecamp, at which time you'll enjoy an early dinner (around 4 pm) to wrap up the river experience. Afterward, you'll return to El Paredon.

Day 8: Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart

Farewell, Guatemala
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the beach, followed by one last stroll in the sand. Then, you'll meet your driver for the 2.5-hour ride north to the airport in Guatemala City, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Guatemala Culture, Nature & Coast - 8 Days
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