Combining adventure and nature with leisure and culture, this one-week trip covers Guatemala's highlights, from the western highlands to the Pacific Coast. Discover historic Antigua on a walking tour and head high into the mountains to visit an authentic Maya craft market. Explore the indigenous communities and hike the mountains around Lake Atitlán before ending your adventure with a relaxing two days on the black-sand beach of Monterrico.

Highlights

  • Admire Baroque architecture and Spanish colonial buildings in Antigua
  • Experience the lively Maya ancestral market at Chichicastenango
  • Hike to the summit of Rupalaj K’istalin and see the sunrise over Lake Atitlán
  • Release turtle hatchlings into the Pacific Ocean in Monterrico

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Village Bike Ride & Antigua Walking Tour Antigua
Day 3 Transfer to Panajachel, Chichicastenango Tour Panajachel
Day 4 Hike Rupalaj K'istalin Panajachel
Day 5 Transfer to Monterrico Monterrico
Day 6 Monterrico Free day Monterrico
Day 7 Transfer to Guatemala City, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua

Santa Catalina Arch, La Antigua Guatemala.
The cobbled streets of Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala! A representative will meet you at the airport in Guatemala City and give you your detailed itinerary for the next two weeks. Then transfer an hour west to the Spanish colonial city of Antigua, where you'll check into your hotel. Afterward, head out and stretch your legs with a stroll around one of Central America's most well-preserved Spanish-colonial towns.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for the historic Old Town situated around its main plaza, Central Park. Walk the cobbled streets here and you'll be amazed by the pastel-colored facades of the colonial mansions, churches, and convents. You certainly won't miss the several volcanoes surrounding Antigua. The contrast between these imposing mountains and the colorful architecture of the city makes it one of the prettiest places in the country.

Fun fact: Antigua was once the capital of Guatemala; however, it was abandoned in 1773 after a devastating earthquake. Some historic buildings survived and even many that were damaged were rebuilt. That's why today the historic center of Antigua retains its Spanish colonial architecture and charm. Highlight buildings you'll want to visit include the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and the remains of the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.

Day 2: Village Bike Ride & Antigua Walking Tour

Guatemala - Antigua - Church of San Francisco el Grande
The Baroque Iglesia de San Francisco, in Antigua

Begin the day with a bicycle ride to explore the nearby villages, ruins, and stunning scenery around Antigua. It's a packed excursion in which you'll visit a macadamia nut farm, coffee plantations, and a textiles and handicrafts market in the mountain town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes. The best part is that throughout the entire ride, you'll enjoy panoramic views of Guatemala's verdant western highlands.

Then pedal back to Antigua in the early afternoon for a guided walking tour. As you stroll Antigua's cobbled lanes, you'll immerse yourself in the local culture and discover magnificent Baroque architecture, a rich food scene, and exquisitely preserved colonial buildings and historic plazas. You'll also see the religious buildings that were restored after the 1773 earthquake. These include the canary yellow La Merced Church, the Iglesia de San Francisco, and La Recoleccion, a former convent.

Day 3: Transfer to Panajachel, Chichicastenango Tour

Guatemala - Chichicastenango Market
Work your way through the lively Maya ancestral market in Chichicastenango

This morning, you'll venture deeper into the western highlands of the El Quiché department. Your destination is the mountain town of Chichicastenango, a K'iche' Maya (Indigenous Maya peoples) cultural center. Upon arrival in mid-morning, you'll visit the town's famous open-air craft market, which is as lively as it is colorful. Commerce has existed here for thousands of years, and today it's reportedly the largest open-air market in Central America. Enjoy walking amid the many vendor stalls, where you can choose between a wide variety of artisanal items and hand-woven textiles.

Next, you'll visit a factory that produces masks worn by indigenous Guatemalans during their ceremonial dances. Then it's off to the whitewashed Iglesia de Santo Tomás, a 16th-century Roman Catholic church built on the site of a former Maya temple. Here you'll get an introduction to Guatemala syncretism (a mix of ancient Maya religious beliefs and traditional Catholicism) and see firsthand how many Guatemalans simultaneously adhere to two different religions and cultures. 

At the end of the tour, you'll hop back in the vehicle and transfer south to Panajachel, where you'll spend the night. This town is located on the north shore of Lago de Atitlán, one of the most beautiful lakes in a country famous for its abundance of beautiful lakes. 

Day 4: Hike Rupalaj K'istalin

Lake Atitlán, Panajachel.
Hike up Rupalaj K'istalin and enjoy the views

Wake up before dawn and transfer by boat to the small lakefront community of San Juan La Laguna, on Atilán's western shore. Here you'll catch a local "chicken bus" a short way north to the village of Santa Clara La Laguna. Then embark on a popular hike up Rupalaj K’istalin, commonly referred to as 'Mayan Face Hill.' You'll arrive in time to enjoy the sunrise atop "Indian Nose" and marvel at the stunning vistas over Atitlán and the surrounding volcanoes. Afterward, you'll return to San Juan La Laguna.

In the afternoon enjoy a traditional meal with a group of Tz'utujil natives and K'iche Mayas. You'll be dining al fresco, amid the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding hills: Cerro de Las Cristalinas, Cerro Kyaq Aaba'aj, and Cerro Kajnom.

Day 5: Transfer to Monterrico 

The incredible black volcanic sands at Monterrico

After breakfast, you'll transfer about four hours south to Guatemala's Pacific Coast and the town of Monterrico. This seaside village is famous for its black volcanic sands and is a popular weekend trip for residents of Guatemala City. The beach here is also a popular nesting site for sea turtles. 

After settling into your accommodation, you'll have the remainder of the day free. You'll certainly want to head out and explore the town and probably spend a few hours lazing on the volcanic beach. 

Day 6: Monterrico Free day

Release sea turtle hatchlings at Monterrico

Today is yours to spend however you like. Consider sunbathing on the black-sand beach and/or spending a few hours fishing. Guatemala's Pacific Coast is a sport-fishing paradise, as the waters here abound with dorado, tuna, grouper, and even bigger catches like marlin and sailfish.

Depending on the time of year, you can also take part in a turtle experience. Monterrico is a popular nesting site for olive ridley, leatherback, and green sea turtles, whose nesting season peaks around August. Beginning in September and lasting through January, it's possible to release hatchlings into the ocean with the help of a local conservatory. It's an unforgettable experience sure to delight animal lovers.

Afterward, celebrate your last night in Guatemala by dining on fresh-caught seafood by an ocean fire as you listen to the sounds of waves crashing on the shore.

Day 7: Transfer to Guatemala City, Depart

Guatemala - Guatemala City - Palacio Nacional de la Cultura and Cathedral of Guatemala City
Return to Guatemala City 

Unfortunately, it's time to say adiós to Guatemala. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up at your hotel in Monterrico for the 3-hour drive to Guatemala City, where you'll catch your flight home.

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 Guatemala: Summit to Shoreline - 7 Days
Map of Guatemala: Summit to Shoreline - 7 Days