Travel to the far corners of Guatemala in search of fun, culture, history, and beauty. Set off from the cobbled streets of colonial Antigua to embark on countryside bike tours and volcano hikes. After enjoying activities at the stunning Lake Atitlán, you'll travel north to visit Tikal and other ancient Maya ruins before finishing the trip cruising the emerald waters of the Río Dulce and soaking in natural hot springs.


  • Explore Antigua on a walking tour
  • Visit coffee farms and hike volcanoes
  • Tour ancient Maya ruins at Tikal and Yaxhá 
  • Take a cooking class and travel up the Río Dulce

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Walking Tour Antigua
Day 2 Chicken Bus Tour, Chocolate Workshop Antigua
Day 3 Hike Pacaya Volcano, Transfer to Lake Atitlán & Maya Ceremony Lake Atitlán
Day 4 Hike Lake Atitlán, Coffee Plantation Tour Lake Atitlán
Day 5 Patzicía Market, Nimajay Caves, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 6 Transfer to Tikal National Park, Tour Yaxhá Ruins Tikal National Park
Day 7 Explore Tikal, Zipline Canopy Tour, Transfer to Flores Flores
Day 8 Transfer to Río Dulce & Hot Springs Río Dulce
Day 9 Río Dulce Boat Tour & Cooking Class Río Dulce
Day 10 Transfer to Guatemala City, Quiriguá Ruins Guatemala City
Day 11 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Walking Tour

The Santa Catalina Arch in Guatemala 

Welcome to Guatemala! Besides its natural beauty, this country boasts over 2,000 years of settled history, from the times of the Ancient Maya societies through Spanish colonial conquest to the present day. Much of this history you can see in the form of temple ruins and well-preserved colonial landmarks. Besides the man-made attractions, you'll also spend your time here enjoying Mother Nature's highlights in the form of volcanoes, lakes, and rivers.  

Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will pick you up for the one-hour ride west into the southern highlands and the Spanish-colonial gem of Antigua. The cobbled streets and cathedrals of this former national capital sit in the shadow of three active volcanoes. Within the city, many of its 16th, 17th, and 18th-century structures have been beautifully renovated, while others have fallen to ruins yet retain a tumbledown charm.

After checking in to your hotel, you'll head out and meet a local historian. The two of you will then embark on a walking tour of the city. 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. When the tour is over, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 2: Chicken Bus Tour, Chocolate Workshop

Tour Guatemala on a "chicken bus"

Experience Guatemala like a local as you visit several traditional and picturesque villages around Antigua. You'll be traveling on the locals' transport of choice: the chicken bus. Within Guatemala, these brightly painted buses are the most cost-effective mode of public transportation. They earned their nickname from the fact that locals would often ride them with pets and livestock (like chickens) in tow, though it's not so common these days.

In the morning, you'll board one of these buses and embark on a half-day tour. During the outing, you'll visit historic villages as well as markets where you can purchase textiles and other Guatemalan crafts. There will also be plenty of delicious street food to sample. Highlights of the trip include visiting the Spanish-colonial town of San Pedro Las Huerta, touring a macadamia nut farm, and stopping at Ciudad Vieja, the original capital of Guatemala until 1541.

After the chicken bus excursion, you'll participate in a "bean to bar" chocolate workshop. Besides crops like coffee and bananas, Guatemala also produces cacao (cocoa), the main ingredient in chocolate. Cacao has been cultivated here for thousands of years and was even enjoyed by the ancient Maya. During the workshop, you'll learn all about this history as well as the process of growing the cacao, harvesting it, and roasting the beans. Of course, the tour concludes with a delicious tasting. 

Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano, Transfer to Lake Atitlán & Maya Ceremony

Volcan de Pacaya
Take a group hike up Pacaya volcano

Lace up your hiking boots—this morning's excursion is a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) 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 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 (you can even roast marshmallows over volcanic vents). The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forests and farmland. At the trailhead, you'll meet a waiting vehicle for the three-hour drive west to Lake Atitlán. Guatemala's most famous lake is part of a volcanic crater and, like Antigua, is surrounded by volcanoes. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your waterfront hotel.

Once you've settled in, head out to participate in a 2.5-hour traditional Maya fire ceremony. A local guide will explain the significance of this experience as well as prepare you for the event, which is led by a local spiritual guide known as El Ajq'ij. Part of this ceremony/meditation involves the use of candles, which helps to align your energy with the cosmos. This is a longstanding tradition, as the Maya have been practicing such ceremonies for over 5,000 years. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 4: Hike Lake Atitlán, Coffee Plantation Tour

Hike along the shore of Lake Atitlán

In the morning, you'll transfer to Santa Cruz, located on the north shore of Lake Atitlán. From here, hike west to the remote village of Tzununa along ancient paths that the Kaqchikel Maya people have used for centuries. This region has been little touched by the outside world, which you'll see in its traditional villages and farmers tending their maize and coffee fields. The hike will take you well above the shoreline of Atitlán, and you'll enjoy breathtaking views of the magnificent highland scenery and surrounding volcanoes. 

Upon arrival in the village, you'll visit its various community projects. One nonprofit works with the local primary school to develop nutritional programs. You'll tour the school and its kitchen, then stop in at a traditional family home and a vocational training center. After visiting a couple of medical clinics, you'll head down to the lakeshore to meet the boat for the return trip.

Once back at your hotel, you'll transfer to the town of San Miguel Escobar, located at the foot of Agua volcano, and visit a coffee plantation run by a co-op of local farmers. During this half-day experience, you'll tour the coffee fields and visit the home of a local farmer for a tasty education on the history of coffee production in Guatemala. Besides learning about the different kinds of machinery used to process coffee by hand, you'll also get to roast beans in the clay comal, just as the Maya have been doing for thousands of years. Then, you'll sit down to share a fresh cup with the farmer and their family.

Day 5: Patzicía Market, Nimajay Caves, Transfer to Antigua

Patzicia Market
Shop for produce at Patzicía Market

After breakfast, you'll transfer east to the town of Patzicía. This village sits in the center of an agricultural hotbed filled with crops that produce much of Guatemala's produce. The town hosts a famous municipal market where farmers come from far and wide to buy and sell products. On any given day here, the market is overflowing with fresh produce, street-food vendors, handicrafts, hand-woven textiles, and more. Upon arrival at the market, you can browse the stalls, sample the food, and pick up some souvenirs to take home.

Then you'll return to Atitlán and the lakeside town of Panajachel. From there, a local guide will lead you on a hike up to a network of sacred caves that the Maya have been using for centuries to perform fire ceremonies. These cleansing, healing, and protection ceremonies have been an integral part of Maya culture dating back centuries. That's why the Maya of today continue to practice these rituals: to help maintain the connection with their ancestors and ancient spirits. In fact, the ceremonies still draw highland Maya tribes, who travel for hours to participate. Today you'll get to witness this sacred ritual.

You'll arrive in the cave of Nimajay, which is situated 3,937 feet (1,200 m) above Atitlán and affords great views of the lake. Here, your guide will give you an overview of the fire ceremony and the unique meanings of the Maya calendar. Then you'll observe a real Maya shaman perform the ritual that is a living part of Maya culture and which connects them to the cosmovisión (the Maya concept of the world as divided between heaven, earth, and the underworld). After the ceremony, you'll transfer three hours from Atitlán back to Antigua via Panajachel.

Day 6: Transfer to Tikal National Park, Tour Yaxhá Ruins

Sun setting on Yaxhá
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport in Guatemala City, where you'll catch a one-hour flight to the Petén region and the lakeside town of Flores. This will be your base for exploring ancient Maya ruins over the next couple of days. Upon arrival in Flores, a driver will pick you up for the 1.5-hour ride east to Yaxhá National Park. Here, you'll meet a local guide for a half-day tour.

This archaeological site at Yaxhá 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, drive another 1.5 hours to the legendary Tikal National Park, where you'll overnight in a jungle lodge. Before night falls, however, you'll head to the ruins in the park and hike up Temple IV, which rises 213 feet (65 m). From the top of this ancient pyramid, you'll watch the sunset over the jungle canopy as you listen to the sounds of exotic birds and howler monkeys in the trees.

Day 7: Explore Tikal, Zipline Canopy Tour, Transfer to Flores

The Great Jaguar Temple in Tikal
Temple I (The Great Jaguar Temple), in Tikal

Head out on a half-day guided tour of Tikal, known worldwide for its ancient Maya pyramids and sprawling ruins. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Classic Maya period (250-900 CE). Among many highlights, Tikal is home to the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas: Temple I (The Great Jaguar), which stands 270 feet (70 m) tall. You'll 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

After hiking around the archeological site, you'll then take to the air as you soar over the treetops on a fun zipline tour. 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 canopy tour consists of 10 platforms and nine different ziplines, each offering safe and exciting jungle fun. After the ride, you'll meet your driver and transfer to Flores, where you'll overnight.

Day 8: Transfer to Río Dulce & Hot Springs

Hot spring waterfalls at Finca Paraíso

In the morning, you'll transfer south about 3.5 hours to the Caribbean side of Guatemala and 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, you'll settle into your accommodation in a waterfront lodge.

Then you'll make your way to Finca Paraíso, a beautiful river and waterfall fed by natural hot springs. You'll have the entire afternoon to relax. One of the most enjoyable ways to spend your time 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 adventure, you'll return to your hotel for dinner.

Day 9: Río Dulce Boat Tour & Cooking Class

Castillo San Felipe, on the Río Dulce

After a leisurely breakfast, you'll 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. Along the way, you'll stop at the famous 17th-century Castle San Felipe.

The ride will eventually take you to Livingston, where 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 boat and start making your way back down the Río Dulce toward Lago Izabal. 

Once you're back, take a ride to a nearby traditional village and participate in a cooking class hosted by a local family. During this workshop, you'll discover that Guatemalan cuisine is a tantalizing mix of colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya gastronomy. It's a fun and eye-opening experience in which you'll prepare a regional meal utilizing local ingredients (vegetarian options available). When the cooking is done, sit down with your hosts to feast on your creations and wash them down with local beer or wine.

Day 10: Transfer to Guatemala City, Quiriguá Ruins

Quirigua, Izabal.
Ancient stelae at the Quirigua ruins

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the 5.5-hour trip back to Guatemala City. You'll break up the long drive with a stop at the ruins of Quiriguá, an ancient Maya archaeological site in southeastern Guatemala. The site covers about 2 square miles (3 sq km) along the Río Motagua. During its heyday around 800 CE, it was an administrative center at the junction of several important trade routes. Today, it's famous for its 17 impressive sandstone stelae (monuments), which you'll see up close. 

When the tour of Quiriguá is over, continue on to Guatemala City. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and enjoy your final evening in the capital at your leisure. Perhaps head out to dinner in the upscale neighborhood of Zone 10, where you'll find several trendy restaurants.

Day 11: Depart Guatemala City

Plaza de la Constitución
Time flies when you're having fun. Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Guatemala before it's time to transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. ¡Buen Viaje!

More Great Guatemala Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Guatemala? Check out these other Guatemala itineraries, explore different ways to spend 11 days in Guatemala, or learn about the best time to visit Guatemala.


Map of Guatemalan Adventure: Antigua, Atitlán, Tikal & Río Dulce - 11 Days
Map of Guatemalan Adventure: Antigua, Atitlán, Tikal & Río Dulce - 11 Days