Smoldering volcanoes, lava fields, crater lakes, and wildlife-rich rainforest—Guatemala often feels like a land before time. On this week-long itinerary, you'll experience the Central American country's highlights on guided tours, from Lake Atitlán to Volcán Pacaya. Every step of the way, you'll be immersed in Maya culture, both from the past (like at the spectacular Tikal ruins) and present (by learning to cook, Maya-style, and joining a shamanic ritual).


  • Experience the culture of the Almolonga Valley by mountain bike
  • Hike over dried lava fields and through rainforest around Volcán Pacaya
  • Explore sacred Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful lakes on Earth
  • Discover ancient Maya ruins in the jungle-shrouded Tikal National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Antigua Walking Tour Antigua
Day 2 Bike Tour of Antigua's Villages, Visit Cerro Santo Domingo Antigua
Day 3 Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano, Transfer to Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán
Day 4 Indian Nose Hike, Maya Sacred Ceremony Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Fly to Tikal, Explore Tikal Maya Ruins Tikal National Park
Day 6 Fly to Guatemala City, Gastronomy Experience Guatemala City
Day 7 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Antigua Walking Tour

Arch Street in Antigua, Guatemala
Arch Street in Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala, "The Land of Eternal Spring," where the climate stays pleasant year-round and flowers never stop blooming. Few countries in Central America boast such a diversity of unspoiled ecosystems, as well as ancient Indigenous and Spanish-colonial cultures.

Upon arriving at Guatemala City Airport, your driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the colorful 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 imposing volcanoes back the streetscapes of pastel facades and restored colonial buildings. The contrast between these imposing mountains and the city's colorful architecture is part of the reason Antigua has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

Get orientated with a guided walking tour of the city. You'll be led by an expert local historian, who'll take you to Antigua's top landmarks, such as the City Hall Palace, the Palace of the Captain's General, and the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral. Along the way, you'll learn about the Spanish conquest and the region's far-reaching history, including the Indigenous Maya way of life.

Day 2: Bike Tour of Antigua's Villages, Visit Cerro Santo Domingo

Cultural Antigua area bike ride
Almolonga Valley bike ride

Escape Antigua for the morning to explore local life around the Almolonga Valley, peddling through suburban towns and villages. Your guide will make plenty of stops to show off the magnificent churches and Spanish colonial ruins. Riding to the south, you'll head to the base of Volcán Agua. From there, pop into an experimental macadamia farm in Valhalla, and explore San Antonio Aguas Calientes, famous for its textiles and weaving.

The Almolonga Valley, to the west of Antigua, was the site of the country's second colonial capital, Ciudad Vieja. However, the old city met a fateful doom in 1541 when the eruption of Volcán Agua triggered a terrible mudslide. The city disappeared into the valley between the volcanoes of Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango—the site of the old city is still the source of much debate. 
Return to Antigua at around midday for lunch. This afternoon you can relax at the hotel or take the shuttle up to Cerro Santo Domingo to visit the local sculpture gardens and take in the views. This is an excellent spot for happy hour cocktails at sunset—well-earned after your physical exertion on the bike.
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Day 3: Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano, Transfer to Lake Atitlán

Panoramic views from Pacaya Volcano
Views from Pacaya 

Get an early start for a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552-m) Volcán Pacaya. These volcanic slopes are some of the most impressive 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. At the summit, you'll eat a picnic lunch as you enjoy the panoramic views, and maybe even roast marshmallows over the volcano's natural heat. The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forests and farmland on your way back to Antigua. Your driver will then take you to Lake Atitlán for the night, a journey of around 2.5 hours. 

Day 4: Indian Nose Hike, Maya Sacred Ceremony

San Juan Laguna with Indian Nose in the background

Welcome to Lake Atitlan, a vast volcanic crater lake widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. After breakfast in your hotel, you'll take a boat to the lakeside town of San Juan la Laguna. From here, hike up the zig-zag trail to one of the country's most spectacular viewpoints, known as Indian Nose thanks to the hill's resemblance to a horizontal face in profile. Your efforts to get up the hill will be rewarded with an unforgettable panorama of the lake and Toliman, San Pedro, and Atitlán volcanoes.

It's easy to see why this magnificent lake is considered sacred to the Maya people. This afternoon, you'll experience Guatemala's spiritual side, in a "fire cleansing" ritual with a local shaman. You'll each hold a candle, into which you'll put your thoughts, prayers, and intentions. When you place the candles into the fire, the energy is released to the heavens to be received by the gods. The shaman will also teach you about Maya mysticism and how ancient rituals permeate the Indigenous culture today.

Day 5: Fly to Tikal, Explore Tikal National Park

The Great Jaguar Temple in Tikal
The Great Jaguar Temple in Tikal

You'll transfer to Guatemala City in the morning to catch a flight to Flores, the gateway to Tikal. A driver will be waiting at the airport to transfer you to your accommodation within Tikal National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the former capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya world, dating back to around 400 BCE. 

Over the centuries, Tikal's powerhouse days gradually succumbed to a ruinous state amid the jungle, until it was unearthed and excavated in the 20th century. Rising out of the dense vegetation, the looming temples demonstrate the might of this ancient civilization. The jewel in the park's crown is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas: Temple IV (The Great Jaguar), which stands 270 feet (70 m) tall.

Your tour guide is with you the whole way to fill you in on the area's history and answer questions. They'll also cover the biodiversity of Tikal. You'll hear the howler monkeys' calls echoing off the temples, and see spider monkeys swinging from tree to tree. Look out for toucans and other flamboyant jungle birds flying overhead. Later, watch the sunset over the Tikal towers and listen to the jungle sounds as you relax after your day of exploration.

Day 6: Fly to Guatemala City, Gastronomy Experience

Traditional snacks in Guatemala City

Today, a private driver will transfer you from Tikal to Flores airport. From there, you'll take the 45-minute flight to Guatemala City, the country's energetic high-altitude capital. Swing by its impressive religious landmarks, such as the city's oldest church, Cerrito del Carmen, built by an Italian hermit in 1620. You could also visit the National Palace of Culture, to browse a museum showcasing Guatemala's history, art, and culture.

For your final activity, it's time to feast! A chef will introduce you to the culinary heritage of Maya culture, sharing their ancestral knowledge of ingredients' benefits for the mind, body, and soul. For the Maya, food was not only a source of nourishment, but a way to prevent illness and treat psychological problems. During the class, you'll prepare your own Maya fusion-style meal. Even better, the class will take place either in a 17th-century mansion, or in an outdoor kitchen in the middle of the forest. 

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. Seasonal menus will be provided a week in advance, so you can get excited to try authentic Guatemalan flavors. 

Day 7: Depart Guatemala City

Cathedral of Guatemala City

It's time to say goodbye to Guatemala. In the morning, your driver will pick you up and take you to the airport for your flight home. See you soon, adiós!

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Map of Guatemala's Maya Culture & Volcanoes  - 7 Days
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