Embark on a five-day, Mayan-themed expedition through Guatemala. Begin in the northern jungles where you'll spend time with monkeys and tropical birds before visiting the ruins at Tikal National Park. Then take boat tour down the Río Dulce and enjoy more birding. Cap the adventure with an exploration of the Quirigua Ruins and its famous sandstone monuments before traveling back to Guatemala City.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a sunset from atop a Mayan temple in Yaxha
  • Visit Tikal National Park and its toucans and howler monkeys
  • Travel down the Río Dulce for spectacular birding opportunities
  • See stone monuments and hieroglyphic texts at the Quirigua Ruins

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Travel to Tikal National Park Tikal 
Day 2 Tour Tikal National Park, Transfer to Río Dulce Río Dulce
Day 3 Boat Tour Along the Río Dulce Livingston
Day 4 Tour Quirigua Ruins, Transfer to Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 5 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Tikal National Park

Structure 216, the main pyramid temple in Yaxha

Welcome to Guatemala City! Upon arrival, a travel representative will meet you outside the airport and present you with a welcome packet. It includes general information about your stay and the destinations slated for your itinerary.

At 11 am, catch a flight to the lakeside town of Flores, in the northern Petén region of the country. Then transfer a short ways east to Yaxha, the ruins of an ancient Maya city and ceremonial center dating all the way back to 800 BCE. You'll arrive just in time for sunset, which you can enjoy from the steps of the main pyramid-temple in this archeological site.  Fun fact: Yaxha was once the third-largest Mayan city in the region, and it reached the height of its power during the Early Classic Period (250-600 CE). 

After watching the sun set over the ruins, you'll leave Yaxha and head a little ways north to Tikal National Park. Here you'll check into the jungle lodge where you'll spend the night. 

Day 2: Tour Tikal National Park, Transfer to Río Dulce

Tikal National Park, Petén.
Tikal National Park

At 9 am you'll embark on a tour of the ruins at Tikal. This famous archeological site is part of the Reserva de la Biósfera Maya (Maya Biosphere Reserve), an area that covers 8,340 sq miles (21,602 sq km). It's home not only to the ruins of ancient Maya cities but exotic flora and fauna too. Keep an eye out for howler and spider monkeys as well as toucans and the psychedelic plumage of the ocellated turkey. 

The half-day tour allows you to explore all the highlights around this Maya citadel, which thrived from 200 to 900 CE. Must-visit landmarks include the Temple of the Great Jaguar, Temple II (which you can ascend via a wooden staircase), and the Gran Plaza, which is flanked by two massive temples. Following the tour, enjoy lunch back at the hotel.

Then, around 2 pm, transfer to your next stop on the trip: the Río Dulce. The "sweet river" is located near the eastern border with Belize and connects to Lago Izabal. This lake and river system does not lack for incredible scenery, which you'll enjoy on a boat trip tomorrow. Upon arrival at the Río Dulce, check into your accommodations and then you'll have the rest of the evening free.

Day 3: Boat Tour Along the Río Dulce

Rió Dulce
The jade waters of the Río Dulce

Wake up early for an 8 am boat tour of the Río Dulce. 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. You can even stop for a dip in natural hot springs and to explore secret caves along the banks.

Eventually the boat will arrive in the Caribbean coastal town Livingston, where you'll disembark and check into your hotel. 

Day 4: Tour Quirigua Ruins, Transfer to Guatemala City

Quirigua, Izabal.
Sandstone monuments at the Quirigua Ruins

In the morning, board the boat from Livingston back down the Río Dulce. At 9:30 am, you'll arrive at the Quiriguá Ruins, an ancient Maya archeological site in the department of Izabal in southeastern Guatemala. The site is nestled along the lower Motagua River and in its heyday (around 800 CE) it thrived as a royal Mayan residence and administrative center. This was due to its prime location at the junction of several important trade routes.

The site is most famous for its 17 ornate sandstone monuments. Most impressive is that they were carved by hand without the use of metal tools. Interestingly, Quiriguá shares its architectural and sculptural styles with the nearby ancient Mayan city of Copán and is closely entwined with the city’s history.

Following the tour of the ruins, you'll transfer to Guatemala City. Enjoy your last night in Guatemala at your leisure.

Day 5: Depart Guatemala City

Adiós, Guatemala!
Farewell, Guatemala!

Unfortunately, its now time to say goodbye to Guatemala. A private car will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the airport in Guatemala City where you'll catch your flight home. Adiós!

More Guatemala Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Guatemala? Check out these other Guatemala itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Maya Journey in Guatemala: Tikal, Río Dulce, & Quirigua Ruins - 5 Days
Map of Maya Journey in Guatemala: Tikal, Río Dulce, & Quirigua Ruins - 5 Days