- Hike to the top of the active Pacaya volcano
- Kayak on sparkling Lake Atitlán
- Go ziplining in Tikal National Park
- Explore the Maya ruins of Copán
- Cruise the tranquil Río Dulce
|Arrive in Guatemala City & Transfer to Antigua
|Chicken Bus Village Tour, Chocolate Workshop & Cooking Class
|Pacaya Volcano Day Hike
|Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Boat Tour
|Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán
|Visit Chichicastenango, Transfer to Quetzaltenango
|Sawdust Carpet Workshop, Hot Springs & Maya Sauna
|Fly to Tikal National Park, Canopy Tour & Sunset
|Tikal National Park
|Explore Tikal National Park, Transfer to Río Dulce
|Río Dulce Boat Tour, Transfer to Copán Ruins
|Explore the Copán Ruins, Hot Springs & Maya Ritual
|Visit Macaw Mountain, Transfer to Guatemala City
|Depart Guatemala City
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City & Transfer to Antigua
Welcome to Guatemala! Touchdown in Guatemala City, where a driver will be waiting to take you west to Antigua. This small city is surrounded by cloud-kissed volcanoes and filled with colorful Spanish colonial architecture. Settle into your hotel and then head out on a walking tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A local historian will take you to the city's top landmarks, such as the City Hall Palace, the Palace of the Captain's General, and the Iglesia San Francisco Cathedral. Along the way, you'll learn about life before the Spanish conquest and the city's rich history on the Paseo de los Museos ("Museum Path"). Here, you can delve into the roots of Maya archaeology and culture.
Day 2: Chicken Bus Village Tour, Chocolate Workshop & Cooking Class
This morning you'll experience authentic Guatemala, visiting several traditional villages around Antigua using the locals' transport of choice: the chicken bus. These brightly painted buses are the most cost-effective mode of public transportation and earned their nickname from locals, who used to travel on them with livestock in tow.
Visit villages and markets where you can buy locally-made textiles and handicrafts, sampling delicious street food as you go. Highlights include the Spanish colonial town of San Pedro las Huerta, touring a macadamia nut farm, and stopping at Ciudad Vieja, Guatemala's original capital until 1541. You'll also participate in a family-run artisanal chocolate workshop and try some creamy hot chocolate.
In the afternoon, enjoy a traditional cooking class. Guatemalan cuisine is a wonderful mix of colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya gastronomy. Local Guatemalan chefs, who belong to the Sacatepequez Indigenous community, will guide you through cooking a regional meal that includes homemade tortillas and a delicious dessert. Sit down with your hosts afterward to feast on your creations.
Day 3: Pacaya Volcano Day Hike
This morning you'll take a guided climb up 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 that drifts from the 8,370-foot (2,551 m) summit and a 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 have a picnic lunch while soaking up views of three nearby volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. As you hike back down, you'll traverse rocky lava fields and hike through tropical forests and farmland. Return to Antigua afterward for a well-earned rest.
Day 4: Transfer to Lake Atitlán & Boat Tour
Set off this morning for the three-hour drive to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala's most famous attraction. The lake sits in a volcanic crater in the southwestern highlands and is surrounded by jagged peaks. Check into your hotel and take some time to rest before this afternoon's private boat tour.
Sail across the lake, pausing to visit various villages where you'll meet the residents and learn about daily lake life. Featured stops are Santiago Atitlán and San Juan la Laguna, which are far off the tourist trail and offer a truly authentic cultural experience. Highlights include touring a women's weaving co-op and a shrine to the "Maximon" Maya saint.
Day 5: Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Visit Chichicastenango, Transfer to Quetzaltenango
Take the boat to Panajachel and continue overland to Chichicastenango this morning, famed for having one of the biggest markets in Central America. The market is held every Thursday and Sunday and draws locals from surrounding villages who come to sell handicrafts, textiles, regional clothing, and produce. Take a guided walk through this historic Maya market.
Enjoy a lunch break before continuing to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala's second-largest city. Known as Xela to locals, the city is shadowed by hulking volcanoes that characterize the western highlands. Explore with a local historian guide, wandering streets lined with Spanish and German architecture. The Baroque Espiritu Santo Cathedral, neoclassical Municipal Theatre, and House of Culture are top sights.
Day 7: Sawdust Carpet Workshop, Hot Springs & Maya Sauna
Today begins with a two-hour workshop, where you'll make and learn about the history of Guatemala's famous alfombras (carpets), which date back hundreds of years. During Semana Santa (Holy Week), Guatemalans adorn their streets with these long, decorative rugs made from flowers, colored sawdust, pine needles, and even fruits and vegetables.
Next, head just outside of Quetzaltenango to the Fuente Georginas. This area is known for its idyllic hot springs heated by geothermal activity from Volcán Zunil. Water cascades down a rock wall, filling a series of tiered pools, each a little cooler than the last. Soak in the healing waters, which promote muscle relaxation and reduce insomnia and stress.
Complete your Guatemalan spa session with a Maya temazcal (steam house). These structures are usually built with blocks of adobe (a mix of organic materials) and heated with wood. The temazcal has numerous health benefits, including stress relief and increased blood circulation. You'll enjoy the temazcal at Eco Hotel Uxlabil Atitlán, which offers a lemon and eucalyptus tea-infused variety for added health benefits.
Day 8: Fly to Tikal National Park, Canopy Tour & Sunset
Return to Guatemala City this morning in time to catch a domestic flight to Flores in the north. You'll take a private transfer straight from the airport to Tikal National Park, known worldwide for its Maya pyramids and sprawling ruins. Check into your hotel and then head out to explore.
Start with a canopy tour where you'll soar over the treetops on a zipline course. Strap into a harness and feel the adrenaline rush as you zip over the jungle canopy on a 656-foot (200 m) cable perched 131 feet (40 m) above ground. This tour comprises 10 platforms and nine ziplines, each offering safe and exciting jungle fun.
After all that adrenaline, relax while watching the sunset from Tikal's 270-foot-tall (70 m) Temple IV, the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas. Take in panoramic views of the forested landscape from the top of the temple. As you watch the sky change color, your guide will share stories of Maya mythology.
Day 9: Explore Tikal National Park, Transfer to Río Dulce
Get up early, in time to watch the sunrise majestically from the top of Temple IV while the birds start singing. Afterward, return to your hotel for breakfast to fuel up for your tour of the park's ruins. You'll spend the day with an expert guide exploring Tikal's vast complex of temples and pyramids. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal was the former capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya civilization.
Take the opportunity to see all the major sites of interest, including Temples I, II, II, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, The Great Plaza, and The Window Palace. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way and soak in the sights and sounds of the jungle. After lunch and some time to explore independently, your driver will take you south to the town of Río Dulce.
Day 10: Río Dulce Boat Tour, Transfer to Copán Ruins
This morning, meet your guide for a boat tour on the Río Dulce, which means "Sweet River" in Spanish. As you travel north on the peaceful jade waters, keep your camera ready, as the banks are lined with stunning rainforest scenery and quaint villages. Water birds 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 journey will take you to Livingston, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. Along the way, you'll stop at the 17th-century Castle of San Felipe and visit a protected island home to exotic birds and a natural hot spring. Once in Livingston, you'll see a different side of Guatemala.
This Afro-Guatemalan community is defined by its distinctive Garifuna culture, which has its own language, cuisine, and customs. You can take a dip in the warm waters of the Caribbean, do some bird-watching, and try tapado, a seafood stew that's the community's most popular dish. There's even a chance to learn the punta, a Garifuna dance. From Livingston, your driver will take you five hours south to the Maya ruins of Copán.
Day 11: Explore the Copán Ruins, Hot Springs & Maya Ritual
Today you'll take a trip to the ruins of Copán, located just over the border in Honduras. Copán is one of the most important Maya sites, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its collection of 4,500 structures. These include intricate temples, hieroglyphs, and sculptures of the city's top rulers, known as stelae.
Discover the ruins of this once-powerful Maya capital, built between 400 and 800 CE. Learn about life in this ancient civilization as you tour highlights such as the acropolis and its underground tunnels, hieroglyphic stairway, and the Great Plaza, where you'll find spectacular stelae. Climb to the top of Temple 16, which soars 100 feet (30 m) above the ruins, for views of Copán.
Next, take some time to decompress at the Luna Jaguar Spa. This eco-spa features Maya architecture and offers soothing hot and cold springs thanks to the area's geothermal activity. Soak among the jungle in this protected reserve and enjoy free time to wander the grounds. Massage services are also available at the spa.
End the day by participating in a sacred Maya ceremony with a local shaman. Learn about the cultural significance of the ritual, which has been practiced for over 5,000 years by the Mayans and several pre-hispanic cultural groups in the region known as Mesoamerica. During the two-hour ceremony, you'll get a taste of the traditions that have defined these ancient cultures.
Day 12: Visit Macaw Mountain, Transfer to Guatemala City
Experience Copán's wildlife today on a trip to Macaw Mountain. Located on the edge of the Maya ruins, the sanctuary is home to over 330 varieties of wild native birds, as well as an eco-friendly coffee plantation. Walk among lush trails lined with exotic flowers and coffee plants heavily laden with red coffee berries. Rising above and between the foliage of this green oasis are birds of every color and size.
Afterward, your driver will take you back to Guatemala City, where you can spend the rest of the day relaxing or taking an optional city tour. Explore the city's museums, archeological sites, and lively markets, where you'll learn about Guatemala's diverse background and taste its Maya roots. You can also visit the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology or the Ixchel Museum and Archaeology Museum.
Day 13: Depart Guatemala City
Today your Guatemala adventure comes to an end. Take the hotel shuttle to the Guatemala City Airport in time for your onward flight. Safe travels!
More Great Guatemala Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Guatemala? Check out these other Guatemala itineraries, explore different ways to spend 13 days in Guatemala, or discover the best time to visit Guatemala.