Experience the best of Guatemala with this 12-day adventure from the southern volcanoes to the northern jungles. Start on the colorful streets of Spanish colonial Antigua, followed by a hike up Pacaya volcano, excursions on Lake Atitlán, and visits to Indigenous markets. Then fly north to tour the Maya ruins at Tikal before finishing the trip with riverboat rides and soaks in natural hot springs.


  • Visit Antigua and hike up Volcán Pacaya
  • Tour the villages and markets around Lake Atitlán
  • Hike around the Maya ruins at Tikal and Yaxha
  • Travel the Río Dulce and soak in hot springs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour, Local Foodie Tour Antigua
Day 3 Hike Pacaya Volcano Antigua
Day 4 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Village Tour Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Free Day at Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Visit Chichicastenango Market, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 7 Fly to Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 8 Tour Tikal National Park & Uaxactún Tikal National Park
Day 9 Yaxhá Ruins Tour, Transfer to Río Dulce Río Dulce
Day 10 Río Dulce Boat Tour Río Dulce
Day 11 Finca Paraíso Hot Springs, Fly to Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 12 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua

Antigua's main plaza

Welcome to Guatemala! This country is a hotbed of Indigenous culture dating back thousands of years to the time of the ancient Maya. Even today, Guatemala is filled with incredible archeological sites from that time period, as well as later architectural landmarks dating from the era of Spanish colonialism. You'll see all this and more on this 12-day highlights trip.

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 centered around its main plaza. 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 rest of the day walking Antigua's cobbled streets. 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: Antigua Walking Tour, Local Foodie Tour

The Santa Catalina Arch, in Antigua

In the morning, you'll head out and meet a local historian/guide for a history-themed walking tour of Antigua. During this excursion, you'll visit landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento ("City Hall Palace"); Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum; the Palace of the Captain's General; and La Merced Church, whose canary-yellow Baroque facade is a hallmark of the city. You'll also stroll around the Paseo de Los Museos complex, which features six museums and three art galleries. When the tour is over, you'll return to your hotel.

After a break to relax, you'll meet up with another guide and hit the streets once again on a foodie tour. This is a walking culinary experience focusing on the traditional and contemporary mestizo food that defines Antigua. It's an adventure full of flavors as your expert local guide leads you through the city to sample a wide variety of local dishes. Examples of foods you'll try include tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). On this tour, you definitely won't go hungry.

Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano

Volcanic rocks at Pacaya
Dried lava fields on the slopes of Pacaya 

At 8,370 feet (2,551 m) high, Pacaya is one of the most impressive volcanoes in all of Central America. Today, meet your guide at a local shop in Antigua and fill up your water bottle before heading off to climb the volcano. You'll travel to the park office and trailhead via private transfer, which takes approximately 1.5 hours. As your group hikes along the volcano's winding trails, impressive views of the Guatemalan countryside will open up. When you reach the caldera's base, follow your guide across dried lava fields as you begin the ascent to the top of Pacaya.

Once at the top, enjoy a relaxing picnic as you take in views of three nearby volcanoes (Fuego, Agua, and Acatenango). In this area, you'll explore geothermal hotspots as you traverse dried lava fields—you can even roast marshmallows using the volcano's natural heat. Later, hike back down across the lava fields through lush forests and farmland. After arriving back at the trailhead, you'll transfer back to Antigua.

Day 4: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Village Tour

Volcano Views from Panajachel
The view from Panajachel

After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the 2.5-hour ride west from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, the most famous lake in the country. The drive to get there is a treat in itself, as it follows a section of the Pan-American Highway, which stretches from one end of the Americas to the other (Alaska to Argentina). Along this road are stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. 

Upon arrival at the lake, you'll hop on a boat for a tour of the towns around Atitlán. In the company of a local guide, you'll stop at villages far off the tourist trail and experience their authentic culture. For example, you'll visit a local women's weaving co-op and see how they turn cotton into beautiful textiles by hand. You'll also visit a shrine to Maximón, an infamous Maya saint known for his depraved behavior. 

Afterward, the boat will drop you off at the village of Jaibalito. This is the smallest and most remote of the settlements on Lake Atitlán, only accessible by boat or footpaths. Here, you'll check into the guesthouse, where you'll spend the next two nights. After settling in, you'll have the rest of the day free. Spend it relaxing in a hammock, going for a swim, and watching the sunset over the water. 

Day 5: Free Day at Lake Atitlán

Spend the day relaxing at your hotel
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Today is yours to enjoy Lake Atitlán however you like. Whether you choose to relax on the grounds of the hotel or head out and explore the other villages around the lake, it's your decision. There are many fun activities you can choose from as well, like kayaking on the lake, boat rides, water sports, ziplining, and more. At the end of the day, you'll enjoy dinner back at the hotel.

Day 6: Visit Chichicastenango Market, Transfer to Antigua

The market at Chichicastenango

Take a boat to the village of Panajachel, on the northeastern side of the lake. Then you'll hop in a vehicle for the ride north to Chichicastenango, which locals call "Chichi." This Indigenous town in the Guatemalan highlands is home to the largest and most famous public market in all of 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.

Also here is the 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). During the trip, you'll also sample typical foods such as the sweet snack pan de muerto (bread of the dead). Afterward, you'll get in the car for the ride back to Antigua. 

Day 7: Fly to Tikal National Park

Welcome to Tikal National Park
Wake up and enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Antigua at a restaurant on the plaza. Then perhaps browse the markets to pick up souvenirs like handicrafts and hand-woven textiles. At the appropriate time, your driver will take you back to Guatemala City, where you'll catch the one-hour flight north to the Petén region and the lakeside town of Flores. A representative will be waiting at the airport to transfer you by car another hour north to Tikal National Park, home to the famous ancient Maya ruins. You'll check in to your hotel here in the park and will have the evening free. 

Day 8: Tour Tikal National Park & Uaxactún

Visit the pyramids at Tikal

Join your guide this morning for a tour of Tikal, an archaeological site that covers 222 square miles (576 sq km). Here sit the ruins of an ancient city that was a powerhouse during the Classic Maya period (250-900 CE) but fell into disrepair after it was abandoned around the 10th century. It was engulfed by the rainforest and remained hidden until it was discovered and excavated in the 20th century. Tikal boasts the tallest pre-Colombian structure in the Americas, Temple IV, which stands 270 feet (82 m). 

The ruins aren't the only highlights, either, because the rainforest surrounding it is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. It's home to exotic animals like monkeys, toucans, parakeets, and other tropical birds, so keep your eyes peeled, and your camera close as you explore the ruins. Throughout the tour, you'll visit major points of interest, including Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more.

After Tikal, you'll head a few miles north to the neighboring Maya archeological site of Uaxactún, an ancient village that's been inhabited by the Maya for centuries. It's home to partially restored temples and a small forest community made up mostly of chicleros (harvesters of natural gum). During the tour, you'll meet members of this community as well as visit the site's "E-Groups," which are astronomical structures the ancient Maya built in order to observe events like equinoxes and solstices. 

Day 9: Yaxha Ruins Tour, Transfer to Río Dulce

Visit the ancient pyramids at Yaxhá

In the morning, a driver will transfer you 1.5 hours to Yaxhá National Park. Here, you'll meet a guide for a half-day tour. This archaeological site comprises the ruins of an ancient Maya city and ceremonial center that reached its height of power during the Classic Period (200-900 CE) when it was the third-largest city in the region. There are over 500 structures here, and your guide will lead you to various pyramids, altars, plazas, ball courts, and a network of sacbeob (ancient roads). One major highlight is a hike up Temple 216, the site's tallest temple at 98 feet (30 m).

After the tour, you'll transfer about two hours south to Río Dulce National Park, home to the river of the same name. The "sweet river" is located near the country's eastern border with Belize and connects to Lago Izabal. Upon arrival here, you'll check in to your hotel.

Day 10: Río Dulce Boat Tour

Castle of San Felipe, on the Río Dulce

After a leisurely breakfast, meet your guide for a boat tour on 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 quaint 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, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. Along the way, you'll stop at the famous 17th-century Castle of San Felipe. You'll also visit a protected island home to exotic birds and a natural hot spring. Once in Livingston, you'll experience 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. Or learn to dance punta, a traditional Garifuna dance. Afterward, you'll return to the Río Dulce and your hotel.

Day 11: Finca Paraíso Hot Springs, Fly to Guatemala City

Finca Paraíso hot springs

In the morning, you'll transfer to nearby Finca Paraíso. This beautiful river and waterfall are fed by natural hot springs, and you'll get to spend a few hours enjoying them. One of the most pleasant things to do here is to take a dip in the cool river and then stand under the thermally heated waterfall to warm up. After lunch on the banks, you'll hike up to a river cave and go for a swim in the cavern.

At the end of the outing, you'll transfer back toward the coast by car to the airport in Puerto Barrios. Here, you'll catch the one-hour flight south to Guatemala City. Upon arrival, a driver will transfer you to your hotel, and you'll have the rest of the day free.

Day 12: Depart Guatemala City

Sunset over Yaxha
All good things must end. After breakfast, you'll catch the hotel shuttle to the airport for your departing flight home. Until next time!

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Map of Guatemala's Volcanoes, Lakes & Jungles - 12 Days
Map of Guatemala's Volcanoes, Lakes & Jungles - 12 Days