See Central America's most diverse country in style on this 13-day guided tour of Guatemala. A luxury twist on an adventure trip, you'll take to the skies in a helicopter six times for thrilling bird's eye views of lush mountain forests. Experience camping on a volcano with the added comfort of a 4WD ride almost to the top. Land at top sights such as Lake Atitlán and El Mirador Maya ruins by helicopter.


  • Take helicopter rides between several sites, soaring over mountains and jungle
  • Walk across the recently formed lava fields of Pacaya
  • Hike and camp under the stars on the active volcano of Acatenango 
  • Helicopter into the land of Maya ruins in El Mirador and Tikal National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua History Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Hike the Pacaya Volcano Lava Fields Antigua
Day 4 Acatenango Volcano Overnight Camp-Out Acatenango 
Day 5 Volcano Sunrise & Hike Back Down Antigua
Day 6 Discover Colonial Antigua Antigua
Day 7 Helicopter Ride Over the Volcanoes Antigua
Day 8 Fly to Semuc Champey's Waterfalls & Caves, Transfer to Cobán  Cobán
Day 9 Fly to El Mirador Maya Ruins, Transfer to Flores Flores
Day 10 Tour the Maya Ruins at Tikal National Park Flores
Day 11 Free Day in Flores, Fly to Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán
Day 12 Explore Lake Atitlán, Fly to Guatemala City Guatemala City
Day 13 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua

El Carmen ruins, Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala, "The Land of Eternal Spring," where the climate stays pleasant year-round and flowers never stop blooming. Few countries in Central America boast such a diversity of unspoiled ecosystems and ancient Indigenous and Spanish-colonial cultures.

You'll have some free time to explore Antigua on a self-guided walking tour. Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for the colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Parque Central. Three volcanoes also border 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.

Walk along Antigua's cobbled streets and treat yourself to local street food like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). Be sure to stop by historic landmarks, such as the Santa Catalina Arch and the ruins of the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.

Day 2: Antigua History Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class

Walk around the historic streets of Antigua
Walk around the historic streets of Antigua

Explore the beautiful city of Antigua with the help of a local guide and historian. This former capital includes an impressive catalog of colonial relics, including streetscapes of pastel facades. Many religious and civic structures have been restored, while others retain a tumbledown charm. You'll learn about the City Hall Palace, the Palace of the Captain's General, the cathedral, and Maya archaeology, and visit the complex of Paseo de Los Museos (which features six museums and three art galleries).

After, tie your aprons and take part in a cooking class. During this three-hour experience, you'll discover that Guatemalan food is an exotic mixture of traditional Spanish and Indigenous cooking that's both delicious and fun to make. The workshop is taught by local chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez 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 tuck into your creations.

Day 3: Hike the Pacaya Volcano Lava Fields

Hiking at Pacaya volcano
Hiking Pacaya's lava fields

Get an early start for a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) Pacaya volcano, a hike that's one of the most impressive in Guatemala. Rising above Pacaya National Park, this natural wonder looks like a storybook volcano—a continuous plume of smoke drifts from its summit, and a massive dried lava field forms the base of its caldera. 

You'll meet your guide and make the 90-minute road transfer to the trailhead. The guide will lead you across recently re-formed dried lava fields (created during the 2010 eruption) before you stop to enjoy a picnic near the peak. From here, you'll have a panorama of the three other nearby volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. Descend through Pacaya's lush and lesser-known forests and farmland, and on arriving at the trailhead, you'll be transferred back to Antigua for a well-earned rest.

Day 4: Acatenango Volcano Overnight Camp-Out

Camping on Acatenango's slopes

Get ready to hike in some of the most incredible scenery in Guatemala. This two-day/one-night private tour will take you up the slopes of Acatenango volcano to a private campsite on this 13,041-foot (3,976 m) giant. You'll set off from the Old Town Outfitters tour operator in Antigua, riding in a 4WD vehicle through neighboring towns and local life. After an hour, the roads turn from concrete to dirt, and you'll arrive at the entrance of a farm at the base of the volcano.

This is where the real adventure begins, as the vehicle traverses the maze of farmland and forest on an ascent. About halfway up, your guide will prepare a picnic lunch, and you enjoy the vista of Volcán Agua and the Antigua valley. You'll then hike for just over an hour to reach the campsite on a trail through temperate coniferous and tropical dry forests. The tree line here was caught in a forest fire decade ago, leaving intriguing starch-white petrified trees behind.

The campsite sits just below the tree line, at 12,303 feet (3,750 m), with sweeping views of the valley and Fuego volcano. After setting up camp, you're free to relax and enjoy your surroundings while the guide prepares dinner and hot drinks. Weather providing, you'll sit around a campfire and spend the night under the stars, perhaps even witnessing a "high-altitude firework show" from Fuego.

Day 5: Volcano Sunrise & Hike Back Down

Watch the sunrise over Fuego

Depending on weather conditions, your group will rise early, enjoy the sunrise over volcano peaks, and embark on a 45-minute/one-hour trek up a gravel trail through a pine forest. This is the steepest trail yet, leading to the rocky, windy summit of Acatenango. You made it! At the peak, you'll have a chance to rest and enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the Guatemalan highlands stretching to Mexico.

After breakfast and breaking camp, you'll begin the three-hour descent back down. This route follows a different trail, so you'll get to see the diversity of contrasting microclimates. After a break in Finca La Soledad, you'll transfer by shuttle back to Antigua, where you'll have the rest of the afternoon free to relax and enjoy the town.

Day 6: Discover Colonial Antigua 

Fruit stand in Antigua's main market
Fruit stand in Antigua's primary market
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today has been left free for you to explore Antigua on your own. There is much to see in this incredibly walkable city, between its ruins, markets, cafés, and boutiques. Indulge your sweet tooth with a visit to the ChocoMuseo, where you'll learn about the delicious Maya chocolate you see everywhere around town and even make your own. Get lost in El Mercado, where the aroma of sweet fruit permeates the narrow, maze-like alleyways. Or, browse souvenirs at the Nim Po't and Colibri stores, which sell exquisitely crafted textiles and handicrafts.

If you'd like to go farther afield, take a trip to a nearby coffee plantation to sample some of the world's finest coffee and see how it's made. You can combine this with a cycling trip, picking up bikes in the city and pedaling up to the De la Gente coffee cooperative. The site is a community on the flank of Volcán de Agua, where farmers work together to grow, pick, and process coffee. Dinner is up to you—have an elegant meal at the hotel or try some local hotspots, like Hector's Bistro or Restaurante Casa Santo Domingo.

Day 7: Helicopter Ride Over the Volcanoes

See the countryside from above on today's helicopter flight

It's finally time to take to the skies! You'll ride a helicopter for an hour to take in the sights from above. Fly over the rolling Magdalena Milpas Altas region and, of course, the colorful city of Antigua itself. Continue to the volcanoes of Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego and over the town of Ciudad Vieja. You'll also pass over Pacaya volcano, where you slept a couple of nights ago, and the vast Lake Amatitlán.

After landing, you'll transfer back to your hotel and have the rest of the day at your leisure. In the evening, why not graze on the city's delicious street food, such as empanadas, rellenos (stuffed chile pepper), and arepas (cornmeal cakes)? Antigua also has a fantastic nightlife scene—get involved in the local culture by hitting the La Sala club, where Latin music and killer salsa moves are standard. Or, sample fine wines and Cuban cigars at Tabacos y Vinos.

Day 8: Fly to Semuc Champey's Waterfalls & Caves, Transfer to Cobán

Semuc Champey cascading pools
Semuc Champey's cascading pools

After transferring to Guatemala City, you'll board another helicopter. Soar over farmland and swaths of pristine jungle, before landing near the Río Cahabón in Semuc Champey. This fairytale-like park is known for its terraced turquoise pools, watery caves, and swimming holes. You'll set off on a private tour to spend the day exploring.

The first stop is Kam'ba Caves. Your guide will lead you by candlelight into underground caverns filled with rivers, waterfalls, and unique rock formations. Afterward, you can take an innertube ride down the Río Cahabón, which will deliver you to the famous pools. These six staircase-shaped swimming holes were formed naturally by a 984-foot (300 m) long limestone ridge. Some are deeper than others, so you can swim or paddle, whatever your water confidence. At the end of the day, transfer west to the beautiful town of Cobán to spend the night.

Day 9: Fly to El Mirador Maya Ruins, Transfer to Flores

El Mirador rises out of the northern Guatemala jungle

Today you'll delve into the Maya ruins at El Mirador in northern Guatemala. Enjoy aerial views of the mountains as you fly by helicopter from Guatemala City to this ancient site, which pre-dates other famous Maya cities like Tikal. El Mirador features the largest cluster of buildings of any Maya site and the tallest building in the Maya world, at 230 feet (70 m). Many structures have yet to be fully excavated, giving the place a haunting aura of ancient secrets hidden below the surface.

Board a helicopter again to the nearby town of Flores. In Guatemala's densely forested north, the island town of Flores has an almost Mediterranean feel with its pastel houses, tranquil promenades, and views over the deep blue waters of Lake Petén Itzá. Most people come here with ruins in mind, namely the awe-inspiring collection of temples of Tikal, which you'll see tomorrow.

Day 10: Tour the Maya Ruins at Tikal National Park

Tour the Mayan ruins at Tikal
Tour the Maya ruins at Tikal

Discover Tikal National Park today, home to the most well-known of the Maya sites in Guatemala. Tikal's location deep in the jungle sets it apart from other Maya ruins, and you'll pass under a dense rainforest canopy between strikingly steep temples. Your guide will help you navigate the highlights of this fascinating complex of pyramids and temples. This UNESCO World Heritage archeological site dates back to around 400 BCE: Tikal was a powerful economic, political, and military center that reached its heyday during the Classic Maya period (250-900 CE).

Watch the sunset over the Tikal towers and listen to the jungle sounds as you relax after your day of exploration. If you're up to it, continue to Uaxactún, about a 20-minute drive away. Here you'll discover some of the finest artwork in Maya civilization and an essential astronomical site that marks the summer and winter solstices, among other treasures. At the end of the day, you'll return to Flores and your hotel.

Day 11: Free Day in Flores, Transfer to Lake Atitlán

Free Day in Flores
Explore Flores at your own pace

Take advantage of a free day to discover the charming town of Flores. Flores isn't just a place to rest your head after a day of sampling Maya architecture—it has charms all of its own, with red-roofed colonial buildings and cobbled streets. Stroll across the causeway that links the island to the mainland and walk the shores of Lake Peten Itza, where the cute cafés come with wide open views. There's kayak hire aplenty—you could choose to take a kayak or boat over to Jorge's Rope Swing (a swing ride and bar/café) on the north shore of the lake.

There is one organized treat for today, though—your transfer from Flores to Lake Atitlán, which is a spectacular 90-minute helicopter ride over volcanoes and lakes. Atitlán formed around 84,000 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption, lies an incredible 4,921 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. Its depth of up to feet 1,110 feet (341 m) makes it the deepest lake in Central America.

Day 12: Explore Lake Atitlán, Fly to Guatemala City

Explore Lake Atitlan
Sunset over Lake Atitlán

Writer Aldous Huxley described Lake Atitlán as "too much of a good thing; it touches the limit of the permissibly picturesque." Today, you'll get a better idea of why as you kayak on the lake's pristine waters and take a break to splash around in a lovely swimming hole before continuing to the Indigenous lakeside town of Panajachel. You'll go on a two-hour hike to a remote clifftop hotel for a meal, where you'll be treated to panoramic views of the lake and volcanoes. 

Return by boat to Panajachel, where you can browse the Indigenous textile stalls the town is known for. If you'd like, stop by Casa Cakchiquel, a hotel once frequented by Che Guevara, Ingrid Bergman, and other intellectuals and artists in its 1950s heyday. Today the hotel features exhibits, a fair trade store, and a vintage photo gallery. From there, continue to the Atitlán Nature Reserve for a relaxing shaded walk around the jungle trails, butterfly park, and orchid gardens. At the end of the day's activities, you'll end the trip in style with a helicopter ride back to Guatemala City.

Day 13: Depart Guatemala City

Cathedral of Guatemala City

Say your goodbyes to Guatemala (for now, anyway). In the morning, your driver will pick you up and take you to Guatemala City Airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Adiós!

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Map of Luxury Guatemala Helicopter & Cultural Tour - 13 Days
Map of Luxury Guatemala Helicopter & Cultural Tour - 13 Days