Summit five of Guatemala's volcanic peaks on this 12-day hiking adventure, starting in the colorful, UNESCO-listed city of Antigua before embarking on epic hikes ascending: Pacaya, Acatenango, Zunil, Santa María, and San Pedro. Along the way, you'll camp atop mountains, relax on the shores of Lake Atitlán, and explore ancient Maya ruins at Tikal National Park.


  • Discover the UNESCO-listed city of Antigua and its Spanish colonial architecture
  • Hike five of Guatemala's volcanoes, two of which are still active
  • Overnight under the stars atop mountains
  • Relax on the shores of Lake Atitlán
  • Explore ancient Maya ruins at Tikal National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Pacaya Volcano Day Hike Antigua
Day 3 Hike Acatenango Volcano, Camp Overnight Acatenango Volcano
Day 4 Sunrise on Acatenango, Transfer to Quetzaltenango Quetzaltenango
Day 5 Day Hike on Zunil Volcano Quetzaltenango
Day 6 Santa María Ascent & Camping Quetzaltenango
Day 7 Descend Santa María, Transfer to Jaibalito Lake Atitlán
Day 8 Hike San Pedro Volcano Lake Atitlán
Day 9 Free Day at Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán
Day 10 Transfer to Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 11 Sunrise Tour & Return to Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 12 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua

Take some time to get to know Antigua's cobbled streets

Welcome to Guatemala! Your driver will be waiting to transfer you to your Antigua hotel, which is around 45 minutes away. After settling in, head out to discover the former capital of Guatemala. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a colorful old town and is surrounded by several smoldering volcanoes.

Spend the rest of your day walking around the cobbled streets, stopping to admire the main plaza, Central Park. Along the way, treat yourself to local street food like tostadas and dobladas (empanadas). Be sure to stop by historic landmarks like the Santa Catalina Arch, the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral ruins, and the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.

Day 2: Pacaya Volcano Day Hike

Start early for your hike up Pacaya volcano

Get an early start and meet your group for a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Pacaya volcano, whose slopes are home to some of Central America's most impressive volcanic landscapes. Set in its own national park, Pacaya cuts an imposing figure with a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and the massive 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 enjoy a picnic lunch amid panoramic views of nearby volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through thick forests and farmland on your way back to Antigua.

Day 3: Hike Acatenango Volcano, Camp Overnight

Acatenango Volcano Eruption
Trek through four microclimates to spectacular volcano views

Set off for an overnight hike to the top of Acatenango volcano. The adventure starts with a drive up to the trailhead at La Soledad. The trek from here takes you through four microclimates, each of which takes around an hour to hike. Pass through lush farmland before heading into an old-growth, high-alpine forest. This type of cloud forest is found on the higher slopes of Guatemala's tallest volcanoes and is home to native birds, including the resplendent quetzal.

After emerging from the cloud forest around midday, you'll enjoy fantastic views of nearby highland volcanoes: Atitlán, Tolimán, San Pedro, Santa María, Santo Tomás, and Tajamulco. You'll have plenty of time to marvel at the scenery as you take a break for a picnic lunch. Temperate and tropical forests characterize the third part of your ascent, leading to the volcano's storm-beaten tree line. Your campsite lies just below and offers sweeping views of the Antigua Valley and adjacent Fuego volcano. After setting up camp, stretch out while your guide prepares dinner at 12,300 feet (3,750 m). Savor your meal and enjoy displays of Fuego's eruptions.

Day 4: Sunrise on Acatenango, Transfer to Quetzaltenango

Watch the sunrise from the summit of Acatenango Volcano

Rise early today to tackle the final ascent up Acatenango. Follow a steep gravel trail through alpine forest for around an hour, emerging at the windy summit. From here, watch the sunrise over nearby volcanic peaks. Rest and take in the breathtaking 360-degree views of the Guatemalan highlands stretching to Mexico. 

After breakfast and breaking camp, you'll begin the three-hour descent back to La Soledad. This route follows a different trail, so you can savor even more beautiful scenery as you descend through different microclimates. From La Soledad, you'll drive across the high sierra along the Pan-American Highway to your final destination of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala's second-largest city, which lies at an altitude of 7,660 feet (2,335 m). Known as Xela to local Quiche Maya people, the city is shadowed by hulking volcanoes that characterize the western highlands.

Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Day Hike on Zunil Volcano

View from Zunil Volcano
Summit Zunil Volcano before descending to some hot springs

Today you'll summit Zunil volcano, accompanied by a team of porters. The journey begins with a short drive to the trailhead in the village of Xecam. You'll hike for two hours from here, ascending 3,280 feet (1,000 m) to the altiplano grassland plateau known as "Alaska." The trail continues across plains filled with sheep and goat herders dotted with villages and forests. Eventually, you'll reach Xela's famous Siete Cruces ("Seven crosses") ridge trail.

Follow this trail through a forest of rare endemic pinebete trees along the ridgeline between Zunil volcano and its neighbor Santo Tomás, climbing to the 11,620-foot (3,542 m) summit of Zunil. After admiring the view, descend through cloud and bamboo forests into the Zunil Valley, where you'll find the steaming Fuentes Georginas hot springs. Depending on the weather and group ability, you'll either descend here via a steep trail or a less direct route with a transfer to the pools.

Day 6: Santa María Ascent & Camping

Tackle the 12,368-foot peak of Santa María volcano

Today's challenge is to climb Santa María, a 12,368-foot (3,770 m) peak. Start with a 45-minute drive to the village of Llanos del Pinal, where you'll start trekking along a gentle path through fields. Finally, you'll reach the base of the cone and continue on a steeper dirt track for up to five hours.

When you arrive at the summit, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the active Santiaguito volcano. Connected to Santa María by a saddle, Santiaguito is lower than its sister, so you'll have a bird's-eye view into its flaming crater—you might even catch an eruption if you're lucky. As the team sets up camp, soak up magnificent sunset views before retiring to your tent for the night.

Day 7: Descend Santa María, Transfer to Jaibalito

Enjoy a rest day on Lake Atitlán

This morning, after descending from Santa María, you'll take a boat to the village of Jaibalito. This is the smallest and most remote of the settlements on Lake Atitlán and can only be accessed by boat or footpaths. Here, you'll check into the guesthouse, where you'll stay for the next two nights.

The rest of the day is yours to settle in and enjoy lake life. Spend the afternoon swinging in a hammock, take a swim, and watch the sunset over Lake Atitlán, Guatemala's most famous attraction. The lake sits in a volcanic crater in the southwestern highlands and is surrounded by jagged peaks.

Day 8: Hike San Pedro Volcano

Views of Lake Atitlán from San Pedro Volcano
Soak up the Lake Atitlán scenes from San Pedro Volcano

Today starts with a private boat trip to the lakeside village of San Pedro La Laguna. From here, you'll transfer to the San Pedro volcano trailhead to begin the full-day hike to the volcano's 9,908-foot (3,020 m) summit. You'll trek for around 3.5 hours through a cloud forest, emerging at the rocky summit.

Feast on a fresh picnic lunch with never-ending views of the Atitlán highlands, including the neighboring peaks of Tolimán and Atitlán across the Bay of Santiago. Afterward, make the long descent back to the lakeshore, where you'll be driven back to your hotel for dinner and a restful evening.

Day 9: Free Day at Lake Atitlán

Perhaps take a boat out to explore Lake Atitlán

Today is yours to appreciate the beauty of Lake Atitlán independently. Start with a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, soaking up the scenery. Then head out to explore the area, including some picturesque villages specializing in traditional Maya crafts and regional cuisine. You can join private tours, take a taxi, or hike to the different towns.

If you want to get out on the water, rent a kayak or paddleboard, or go for a swim off one of the lake's many coves and piers. Other fun activities include ziplining and cycling around the lake. At the end of the day, you'll enjoy dinner back at the hotel.

Day 10: Transfer to Tikal National Park

Tikal's Temple of the Great Jaguar
See the Temple of the Great Jaguar in famous Tikal National Park

Return to Guatemala City this morning in time to catch a domestic flight to Flores in the north. You'll take a private transfer 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. The UNESCO World Heritage Site hosts the former capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya civilization. It features the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas: Temple IV (The Great Jaguar), which stands 270 feet (70 m) tall.

Spend the day with an expert guide exploring this vast complex of temples and pyramids. See all the major sites of interest, including Temples I, II, III, 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 savor the sights and sounds of the jungle. Afterward, you'll head back to your hotel for a free evening.

Day 11: Sunrise Tour & Return to Guatemala City

Tikal National Park, Guatemala
Wake up in time for the sunrise over Tikal National Park
Get up early, in time to watch the sunrise from the top of Temple IV. Take in 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. Afterward, head back to Flores, where you'll board a flight to Guatemala City and check into your hotel for a final evening.

Day 12: Depart Guatemala City

Say goodbye to Guatemala as you catch your onward flight

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, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of Guatemala Volcano Hiking Adventure: Pacaya, Acatenango, Zunil, Santa María & San Pedro – 12 Days
Map of Guatemala Volcano Hiking Adventure: Pacaya, Acatenango, Zunil, Santa María & San Pedro – 12 Days