See the best of Guatemala over 11 action-packed days. It begins in the southern highlands, where you'll visit Spanish colonial landmarks in historic Antigua, hike up the active volcano of Pacaya, and ride bikes to coffee plantations. After spending time at the almost mythic Lake Atitlán, you'll fly to the northern jungles and walk in the footsteps of the ancient Maya on tours of the Tikal and Yaxhá ruins.


  • Tour Antigua and take a cooking class
  • Hike up Pacaya volcano and cycle to coffee plantations
  • Take a boat tour of Lake Atitlán and visit local villages
  • Discover the ancient Maya ruins at Tikal and Yaxhá

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Hike to Pacaya Volcano, Spa Day at Santa Teresita Antigua
Day 4 Bike Ride & Coffee Tour Antigua
Day 5 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Village Tour Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán
Day 7 Transfer to Antigua, Visit the Iximché Ruins Antigua
Day 8 Transfer to Tikal National Park via Guatemala City Tikal National Park
Day 9 Explore Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 10 Tour Yaxhá Ruins Tikal National Park
Day 11 Transfer to Guatemala City, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua

Antigua's historic Central Park

Welcome to Guatemala! This relatively small country in Central America has become a popular tourist destination in recent years as travelers discover its abundant natural beauty, rich Indigenous culture, well-preserved Spanish colonial heritage, and delicious food. During your stay, you'll enjoy all the great sights, adventures, smells, and tastes that Guatemala has to offer.

Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will be waiting to transfer you an hour west to the historic city of Antigua. Once the capital of the nation, Antigua is known for the Spanish colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Central Park. 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 remainder of the day walking Antigua's cobbled streets and enjoying local cuisine at cafés. 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. These include the Santa Catalina Arch and the ruins of the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.

Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class

The Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua

In the morning, meet your local guide (who's also an expert historian) to explore Antigua. Guatemala's former capital boasts an impressive array of 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 three-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.

Afterward, you'll participate in a local cooking class where you'll learn to prepare traditional Guatemalan cuisine. This food is an exotic mixture of traditional colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya cooking that is both delicious and fun to make. Even better, the four-hour workshop is taught by local chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez Indigenous community. Besides the main dishes, you'll also prepare handmade tortillas and a dessert. At the end of the class, you'll sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy your delicious creations.

Day 3: Hike to Pacaya Volcano, Spa Day at Santa Teresita

Panoramic views from Pacaya Volcano
Views from near the top of Pacaya

Get an early start for a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Volcán Pacaya. These 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 dried 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 and even roast marshmallows over the volcano's natural heat. The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forest and farmland. 

Then, you'll transfer by vehicle to nearby Santa Teresita, home to volcanic hot springs. Here, you'll enjoy well-deserved spa treatments that begin with hot and cold therapy. Next, move on to a combined steam and hydrotherapy bath before finishing with a relaxing 25-minute massage. Afterward, you can take a dip in the thermal pools and enjoy a snack and fruit smoothie—it's a great way to relax after the long hike. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel in Antigua.

Day 4: Bike Ride & Coffee Tour

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

After breakfast, your guide will pick you up for today's combined mountain bike excursion/coffee tour. When your bikes are ready, you'll ride outside Antigua to the De la Gente coffee cooperative. On this half-day tour, you'll visit DLG's large-scale production farm. The site itself is a community on the flank of Agua volcano, where local farmers work together to grow, pick, and process their own coffee. DLG works with these farmers to help them brand their coffee and export it to global markets.

Upon arrival, your personal guide will lead you on a short hike around the fields, where you can meet some of the farmers. Then, you'll visit the roasting house to see how they toast the beans, one small batch at a time. A real treat is when you sit down to lunch with one of the farming families, sample their coffee, and learn a bit about life on a working coffee farm. After the meal, you'll ride back to Antigua.

Day 5: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Village Tour

Spend time at Lake Atlitán

Your driver will pick you up this morning for the 2.5-hour ride west from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, the most famous lake in the country, which is sacred to the Maya people. A section of this drive is on the Pan-American Highway, part of a network of roads stretching from one end of the Americas to the other, from Alaska to Argentina. As you get closer to Atitlán and around the mountain bends, keep an eye out for stunning views above the lake.

Once you've settled into your hotel on the lakeshore, you'll board a boat for a private tour of the villages around Atitlán. In the company of a local guide, you'll stop at villages like Santiago Atitlán and San Juan Laguna, which are far off the tourist trail and offer a truly authentic cultural experience. 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 the infamous Maximón, a Maya saint known for his depraved behavior. After the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 6: Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán

Kayaking on Lake Atitlan
Kayaking on Lake Atitlán

Wake up to views of the lake and its towering volcanoes before meeting your guide for today's five-hour expedition. You'll start out in a kayak, paddling westward along the north shore of Lake Atitlán for roughly two hours. Pass by villages perched on lakeside cliffs, hop in the water for a swim, or even do some cliff jumping. Your destination is a spot between the villages of Tzununá and San Marcos La Laguna, where you'll leave your kayak behind and lace up your hiking boots.

Follow the lake trail between the villages, taking in views of the San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán volcanoes. Hike along the shoreline and through small villages for about 1.5 hours, and eventually, the route will return you to your lodge. You'll then have the remainder of the afternoon free.

Day 7: Transfer to Antigua, Visit the Iximché Ruins

The Iximché ruins
In the morning, you'll board a boat for a ride to the eastern shore of Lake Atitlán. Then, take a private shuttle through the beautiful highlands of the region on your way to the ruins of Iximché. Back in the 15th century, this archeological site was a great capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom. Its ruins sit in the western highlands of Guatemala and include pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ball courts. Take a personal guided tour through the site, which was declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. After the ruins, you'll hit the road back to Antigua and check in to your hotel.

Day 8: Transfer to Tikal National Park via Guatemala City

The Great Jaguar Temple in Tikal
The Great Jaguar Temple (Temple I), in Tikal
Transfer to the airport in Guatemala City this morning and fly north to the town of Flores. A driver will be waiting to take you on the hour's journey to Tikal National Park. Tikal was once the capital of one of the ancient Mayas' most powerful kingdoms, and the ruins around this archeological site date to at least the first century CE. They feature sprawling citadels and towering pyramids, including the most impressive of all, Temple IV. At 230 feet (70 m), it is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in Central America. You'll visit this temple and more on a guided tour tomorrow. 

Day 9: Explore Tikal National Park

Spot diverse wildlife in the Maya Biosphere Reserve

In the morning, join your guide for a four-hour tour of Tikal, an archaeological site that covers 222 square miles (576 sq km). Dating to around 400 BCE, Tikal was a powerhouse during the Classic Maya period (200-900 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. 

Not only will you explore the ruins of this ancient Maya city, but 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 the 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. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 10: Tour Yaxhá Ruins

Yaxhá National Park
Yaxhá National Park
Meet your guide after breakfast and transfer southeast of Tikal for a four-hour tour of Yaxhá National Park. 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 return to your hotel in Tikal.

Day 11: Transfer to Guatemala City, Depart

Sunset over Tikal

After all those unforgettable adventures, it's time to say adiós to Guatemala. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport in Guatemala City, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Introduction to Guatemala: Antigua, Lake Atitlán & Tikal National Park - 11 Days
Map of Introduction to Guatemala: Antigua, Lake Atitlán & Tikal National Park - 11 Days