Spend 14 days exploring Maya history in Guatemala and Belize, beginning the adventure in Antigua, a former colonial capital surrounded by mighty volcanoes. Then, head to the Caribbean to learn about Afro-Guatemalan culture before visiting Tikal, an important Maya city. Move onto neighboring Belize, where you'll spend days snorkeling around the Belize Barrier Reef and enjoying the Caribbean Sea.

Highlights

  • Walk around Antigua, the former colonial capital of Guatemala
  • Learn about the Afro-Guatemalan Garufina culture in Livingston
  • See the Tallest pre-Columbian Structure in the Americas in Tikal
  • Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef in Caye Caulker

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City, Free Day in Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour & Traditional Guatemalan Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano Antigua
Day 4 Transfer to Rio Dulce Rio Dulce
Day 5 Rio Dulce Boat Tour & Visit Livingston Rio Dulce
Day 6 Finca Paraiso Hot Springs, Transfer to Las Conchas Las Conchas
Day 7 Drive to Flores & Swim in the Blue Crater Flores
Day 8 Explore Maya Ruins at Tikal National Park Flores
Day 9 Boat Tour Around Flores Island & Explore Actun Kan Caves Flores
Day 10 Transfer to San Ignacio in Belize, Tour Cahal Pech Maya Temples San Ignacio
Day 11 Zip Line in the Jungle, Transfer to Caye Caulker Caye Caulker
Day 12 Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef Caye Caulker
Day 13 Free Day in Caye Caulker Caye Caulker
Day 14 Transfer to Belize City, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Free Day in Antigua

Parque Central in Antigua, Guatemala
Parque Central in Antigua, Guatemala

Welcome to Guatemala! Upon arriving at Guatemala City International Airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to the colorful colonial town of Antigua. Spend the afternoon at your leisure in this beautiful city, which boasts an impressive catalog of colonial relics and pastel facades outstretching beneath three volcanoes.

Visit the city's Central Park, where you'll find landmarks like the Antigua Cathedral and City Hall Palace. Other places to see during your free afternoon include the 18th-century Santa Clara Convent, the National Guatemala Museum of Art, and the Colonial Art Museum. Or stroll around the lovely old town, trying local food.

Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour & Traditional Guatemalan Cooking Class

Old Town in Antigua, Guatemala
Old Town in Antigua, Guatemala

In the morning, meet an expert local historian and set out to explore Antigua. Visit landmarks like the Palace of the Captain's General as you get an insight into its historical significance. Learn about life before the Spanish conquest by walking down the Paseo de los Museos ("Museum Path"). Here, you'll get more insight into Maya archaeology and culture.

In the afternoon, pick up new skills at a cooking class. Guatemalan cuisine is a delicious mix of colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya gastronomy. Native Guatemalan chefs, who are members of the Sacatepequez people, will guide you through the steps for making a regional specialty, homemade tortillas, and a tasty dessert. 

Day 3: Day Hike to Pacaya Volcano

Panoramic views from Pacaya Volcano
Panoramic views from Pacaya Volcano

Views of Antigua often include the city's dramatic backdrop of the Pacaya Volcano. Set in its own national park, Pacaya is a fascinating 8,370-foot (2,552 m) volcano with a continuous plume of smoke rising from its summit. A massive field of dried lava surrounds the mountain at the base of its caldera.

Take in the vistas that appear with each step. Traverse unique volcanic-rock landscapes as you ascend toward the peak. At the summit, stop for a freshly-prepared picnic and views of the nearby Agua ("water"), Fuego ("fire"), and Acatenango volcanoes. The way down brings you through Pacaya's dense forests and farmlands. Upon returning to the trailhead, head back to Antigua.

Hiking distance: 3.8 miles (6 km)

Day 4: Transfer to Rio Dulce

Sunset paddle on Rio Dulce
Sunset paddle on Rio Dulce

Say goodbye to Antigua and embark on a long journey to Rio Dulce in the Guatemalan Caribbean. The trip will take approximately six to eight hours by private shuttle.

Along the way, look out the window to see the varied landscape. Pay attention to how it changes as you get closer to the coast. Once you arrive at Rio Dulce, relax with the sounds of nature in this protected space. If there's still daylight, walk around the river's edge or indulge in fresh fish.

Day 5: Rio Dulce Boat Tour &Visit Livingston

Boat floating on Livingston Beach
A boat floating on Livingston Beach

Start the day with a waterfront breakfast before joining a scenic boat tour through Rio Dulce. Cross the river while keeping your eyes peeled for glimpses of wildlife. Stop at landmarks like the Castle of San Felipe, where you'll find hot springs, deep ravine canyons, and numerous species of birds. Your final destination will be the exciting town of Livingston, which is only accessible by boat.

In this Afro-Guatemalan community, you'll learn about the distinctive Garifuna culture, which has its own language, cuisine, and customs. Enjoy the warm waters of the Caribbean, do some bird-watching, and try tapado, the community's most popular dish. Or learn to dance punta, a traditional Garifuna dance. Return to Rio Dulce for the night.

Day 6: Finca Paraiso Hot Springs, Transfer to Las Conchas

Finca Paraiso Hot Springs Waterfall
Finca Paraiso Hot Springs Waterfall

Visit unique Finca Paraiso, a hot spring waterfall reached after a short, scenic hike. Swim in the nearby cool river to recover from the heat of the trek. Then, when you want to warm up, stand under the hot waterfall to get the health benefits of contrasting temperatures.

Enjoy lunch by the side of the river before hiking to the mouth of a submerged cave. You'll be equipped with a headlamp and encouraged to swim as far as possible into the mysterious cave. After the adventure, head back toward Rio Dulce and get ready to transfer to Las Conchas, a small town known for its natural setting. 

Day 7: Transfer to Flores, Swim in the Blue Crater

Blue Crater near Flores, Guatemala
Blue Crater near Flores, Guatemala
Plan your trip to Guatemala
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Early this morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to Flores, a densely packed island, gateway to national parks and Maya ruins. Your first excursion will be the Blue Crater and Pucté, natural streams on the Rio Pasión. Transfer by road to Sayaxché to board your tour boat. During a two-hour journey over the river, enjoy the vegetation and observe the abundant animal life in the area.

Arrive at the Blue Crater and observe the area's circular formation of crystalline waters and the incredible underwater gardens. Spend the afternoon swimming in this natural wonder, whose deep blue water makes for perfect pictures. Once the sun starts to set, head back to Flores to rest.

Day 8: Explore Maya Ruins at Tikal National Park

The Great Jaguar Temple in Tikal
The Great Jaguar Temple in Tikal

Tikal is known worldwide for its impressive Maya pyramids and sprawling ruins. The UNESCO World Heritage site hosts the former capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. It boasts the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas: Temple IV (or the Great Jaguar Temple), which stands at 270 feet (70 m) tall.

Spend the day with an expert guide exploring this vast complex of temples and pyramids. Take the opportunity to see all the major sites of interest, including numerous temples, the Great Plaza, and the Window Palace. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the tour, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle. 

Day 9: Boat Tour Around Flores Island & Explore Actun Kan Caves

Flores Island on Lake Petén Itzá
Flores Island on Lake Petén Itzá

Sail around Petén Itzá, the second-largest lake in Guatemala, on a boat tour around Flores Island. A guide will point out places of interest and give you an overview of the history of this unique place. Learn about how Maya communities lived on the lake before the Spanish arrival. Stay to watch the sunset taking in views of the sky, turning different colors and reflecting on the water.

Alternatively, explore the Regional Municipal Park of Actun Kan Caves, located in Santa Elena de la Cruz. The park comprises several hills covered with forest, hiding an extensive network of caves once used for different spiritual ceremonies. Admire the rock formations that hang from the cave roof or protrude from the ground as you walk deep underground. 

Day 10: Transfer to San Ignacio in Belize, Tour Cahal Pech Maya Temples

Cahal Pech pyramid in San Ignacio, Belize
Cahal Pech pyramid in San Ignacio, Belize

It's time to say goodbye to Guatemala and head to Belize. A driver will pick you up at your accommodation and drive you through the border into the town of San Ignacio. Sitting on the banks of the Macal River, this remote destination is known for its surrounding forest trails and archaeological preserves.

Take an exciting tour to Cahal Pech, once the royal acropolis-palace of an elite Maya ruling family who lived here during the Classic period. The site was abandoned by 800 CE. It consists of seven plazas and over 30 structures, including temples, residential buildings, ball courts, an altar, and a sweat lodge. One of the temples in this small complex commands the best view of the surrounding Belize River Valley

Day 11: Zip Line in the Jungle, Transfer to Caye Caulker

Panoramic view of Caye Caulker
Panoramic view of Caye Caulker, Belize

Seek adrenaline on a zip lining adventure near San Ignacio. Breeze through the jungle on a series of lines testing how brave you are. While you head up to the first station, don't forget to stop and look at the flora and fauna, which change as you ascend to the tree canopies.

Then, it's time to transfer by land and boat to Caye Caulker, one of Belize's most beautiful islands. With only one small village, most of the area comprises stunning natural landscapes like mangrove forests and sand bars. The island is on the impressive Belize Barrier Reef, home to whale sharks, dolphins, sea horses, rays, and hammerhead sharks.

Day 12: Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef

Snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef
Snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef

Get excited for a fun day spent swimming around the Belize Barrier Reef, one of the largest reef systems in the world. Hop on a boat and enjoy a one-hour ride through the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Don your snorkeling gear and hop straight into the sea, where you'll find a world of color teeming with life.

You'll have the chance to see corals, which attract all kinds of marine animals. Known as the ocean's nurseries, corals are the perfect place to glimpse diverse species of small fish, as well as certain sharks and whales. Other animals you might encounter include octopuses, manta rays, and jellyfish.

Day 13: Free Day in Caye Caulker

Kayak boats on Caye Caulkner boats
Kayak boats on Caye Caulkner boats

Today, enjoy a free day in Caye Caulker. You can relax on one of the idyllic beaches of this pretty island as you swing on hammocks and sip fruity cocktails while lying on the sand. Alternatively, you can have an active day in and out of the water.

On land, rent a bike and make your way around the island, stopping to buy souvenirs or indulge in fresh seafood. You can also do a snorkeling or diving tour. Another popular activity is sea kayaking. Get farther out into the sea than you would swimming, and have fun navigating the push and pull of the waves.

Day 14: Transfer to Belize City, Depart

Shops at Belize City dock
Shops at Belize City dock
This morning, take a private transfer to Belize City, which is not, as many think, the capital of Belize. (That's Belmopan.) Head straight to the airport to catch your onward flight.

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Map

Map of Maya History in Caribbean Guatemala & Belize - 14 Days
Map of Maya History in Caribbean Guatemala & Belize - 14 Days