Highlights of Guatemala - 5 Days
- Explore the streets of colonial Antigua
- Take a traditional Guatemalan cooking class
- Hike the Pacaya Volcano and traverse its lava fields
- Explore the Maya villages along Lake Atitlán
- Discover the ancient Maya ruins of Iximché
|Day 1||Arrive in Antigua, Explore||Antigua|
|Day 2||Antigua Walking Tour & Cooking Class||Antigua|
|Day 3||Hike Pacaya Volcano||Antigua|
|Day 4||Day Trip to Lake Atitlán & Maya Ruins in Tecpán||Antigua|
|Day 5||Depart Guatemala|
Day 1: Arrive in Antigua, Explore
Welcome to Guatemala! Upon arrival at the Guatemela City Airport, you'll transfer to the colonial city of Antigua. After settling into your hotel, you'll have free time to explore at your leisure.
Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for the Spanish colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Central Park. The city is also surrounded by several volcanoes. The contrast between these imposing mountains and the colorful architecture of the city makes it one of the prettiest places in the country.
Spend the day walking the cobbled streets and treating yourself to local cuisine at cafes, or head to the food markets for quick eats like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). Tomorrow you'll explore the city on a more in-depth guided tour, so for now simply hit a few of the main attractions like the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and the remains of the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.
Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour & Cooking Class
In the morning, meet your local guide (who's also an expert historian) to explore Antigua, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guatemala's former capital boasts an impressive array of historic Baroque buildings and colonial homes painted in bright pastels. Many old religious and civic structures have been beautifully renovated after major earthquakes, while others retain a tumbledown charm.
On this 3-hour tour, you'll visit 18th-century landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Palace), which houses the town offices and a museum of ancient books; the Palace of the Captain's General, home to the headquarters of the Guatemala Institute of Tourism; the Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum; and La Merced Church, whose canary yellow Baroque facade is a hallmark of the city.
You'll also learn a bit about Maya archaeology and their use of jade. To the ancient Mayans, this mineral was more valuable than gold and held great religious and spiritual significance. After the tour, take some time to enjoy lunch, relax, and stroll around Antigua on your own.
In the afternoon, you'll Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Guatemala through its smells and flavors as you take part in a local cooking class. This cuisine is unique in that it's a potent mix of colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya flavors. Native Guatemalan chefs from the surrounding region of Sacatepequez will lead the class, teaching you how to cook a main dish, make authentic Guatemalan tortillas, and prepare a traditional dessert. At the end of the class, you'll sit down and enjoy the meal with your chefs.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano
Prominent in the city of Antigua's dramatic skyline is the shape of the 8,370-ft (2,552-m) Volcán Pacaya. It may not be Guatemala’s highest peak, but its slopes are home to some of the most impressive volcanic landscapes in Central America. Set in its own national park, Pacaya is a fascinating volcano in that it's highly active, with a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit. Plus there's a massive, dry lava field at the base of its caldera
No need to worry, as hiking up Pacaya is safe and relatively easy. With each step your group moves up the mountain, incredible vistas appear. Upon reaching the base of the caldera, your guide will direct you over dried lava fields, recently reformed by a massive eruption in 2010. You'll continue traversing unique volcanic landscapes as you ascend towards the peak. At the summit, you'll stop for a picnic amid stunning views of other nearby volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango.
The hike back down takes you across the remaining dried lava fields before beginning the descent through Pacaya’s dense forests and farmland. Once back at the trailhead, you'll head back to Antigua.
- Est. hiking time: 3-4 hours
- Distance: 3.8 miles (6 km)
- Ascent: 1,300 feet (400 m)
- High point: 7,500 feet (2,288 m)
Day 4: Day Trip to Lake Atitlán & Maya Ruins in Tecpán
Today's early start is worth it as your destination is Lake Atitlán, quite possibly the most beautiful lake in a country filled with beautiful lakes. The drive from Antigua takes up to 2.5 hours to the town of Panajachel, on the north shore of the lake. Here you'll hop on a boat for a tour of Atitlán's lakeside indigenous villages. These are truly special places, abounding with rich Maya culture evinced in the local traditions, markets, arts, crafts, and even the stories of the people.
Your first stop is the town of Santiago, which is known for its quality artisanal crafts as well as being home to the infamous Maya saint of Maximon. Nearby is San Juan, a village famous for its textiles and weaving co-ops run by indigenous women. You'll get to visit one of these co-ops to learn about the natural dying process and other time-honored techniques that go into producing beautiful handmade clothing, handbags, shawls, and other products.
After lunch on the lake, it will be time to return to Antigua. Along the way, you'll stop at the Iximché ruins, in Guatemala's western highlands. Iximché is an archaeological site that was once a great capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom back in the 15th century. On a guided tour, you'll visit ancient structures that include a number of pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ballcourts. The ruins of Iximché were declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s.
Afterward, you'll continue the trip back to Antigua.
Day 5: Depart Guatemala
Unfortunately, it's time to say goodbye to Guatemala. Enjoy your final breakfast in Antigua before transferring back to Guatemala City for your departure flight. Safe travels!
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.