Discover Guatemala on this 2-week adventure with cultural, culinary, and outdoor experiences, starting in the preserved, colonial town of Antigua. Get active by climbing Pacaya Volcano, hiking and kayaking around Lake Atitlán, and exploring Rio Dulce and its Finca Paraiso hot-spring waterfall. Enjoy Guatemalan culture with visits to open-air markets, cooking classes, and Mayan craft villages, as well as exploring the Mayan palace and temple ruins in Tikal National Park.

Highlights

  • Hike the summit of Pacaya Volcano and kayak on Lake Atitlán
  • Explore the Mayan temples and palaces in Tikal National Park
  • Discover the historic centers of Antigua and Guatemala City
  • Visit Mayan craft villages and the Chichicastenango open-air market
  • Learn how to make traditional Guatemalan cuisine with cooking classes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Antigua - Explore the city Antigua
Day 2 Discover Antigua with a walking tour and a cooking class Antigua
Day 3 Conquer the summit of Pacaya Volcano Antigua
Day 4 Transfer to Lake Atitlán and explore with a boat tour Lake Atitlan
Day 5 Kayak along Atitlán's shore and hike to different villages Lake Atitlan
Day 6 Enjoy a free day on Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlan
Day 7 Visit an open-air market and transfer to Quetzaltenango Quetzaltenango
Day 8 Explore Quetzaltenango with a walking tour and cooking class Quetzaltenango
Day 9 Fly to Flores and transfer to Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 10 Explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 11 Explore Rio Dulce National Park and Finca Paraiso hot springs Rio Dulce
Day 12 Explore Rio Dulce and coastal Livingston by boat Rio Dulce
Day 13 Fly to Guatemala City - Enjoy a walking tour Guatemala City
Day 14 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Antigua - Explore the city

San José Cathedral
San José Cathedral, Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala! Upon arriving at Guatemala City International Airport, you'll transfer to the colonial city of Antigua. After settling into your accommodation, enjoy free time to explore the city at your leisure. 

Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is filled with a colorful Old Town surrounding its central 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 settlements in the country.

Enjoy the rest of your day walking around the cobbled streets, treating yourself to local snacks at cafes and food vendors. Tomorrow you'll explore the city with a guided tour, so for now, simply stroll by 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: Discover Antigua with a walking tour and a cooking class

Arches on City Hall Terrace, Antigua
Arches on City Hall Terrace, Antigua

In the morning, you'll 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, with streetscapes of pastel facades unfolding beneath three volcanoes. Many old religious and civic structures are beautifully renovated, while others retain tumbledown charm with fragments strewn about park-like grounds.

On this tour, you'll visit the City Hall Palace, the Palace of the Captain’s General, the Paseo de los Museos, and the Cathedral with its majestic ruins. You'll also learn about Mayan archaeology and the spiritual jade stone.

After the tour, you'll have time to enjoy lunch, relax, and wander around Antigua on your own. 

In the afternoon, a traditional cooking class awaits you. You'll immerse yourself in the rich culture of Guatemala and learn how to prepare a local meal. Guatemalan cuisine is a curious mixture of colonial Spanish and Indigenous Mayan flavors. Native Guatemalan chefs from the local region of Sacatepequez will lead the class, teaching you to create a main dish, prepare Guatemalan tortillas, and craft a traditional dessert.  

At the end of the class, you'll enjoy the meal with the chefs.

Day 3: Conquer the summit of Pacaya Volcano

Landscape Near Pacaya Volcano
Landscape Near Pacaya Volcano

Views of Antigua often include the city's dramatic backdrop of the 8,370-ft (2,552-m) mountain, 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 with its continuous plume of smoke drifting from the summit, plus a massive dried lava field at the base of its caldera.

As your group moves up the mountain trails, you'll enjoy the vistas that seem to appear with each step. Upon reaching the base of the caldera, your guide will direct the group through the rugged dried lava fields that were recently reformed by a massive eruption in 2010. No matter the conditions you encounter on the route, you'll traverse unique volcanic-rock landscapes as you ascend towards the peak. At the summit, you'll stop for a freshly-prepared picnic to enjoy along with views of nearby volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango

The hike down brings you across the remaining dried lava fields before beginning the descent through Pacaya’s dense, lesser-known forests and farmland. Upon returning to the trailhead, you'll head back to Antigua.

Hike Details:

  • 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: Transfer to Lake Atitlán and explore with a boat tour

Boats and volcanoes on Lake Atitlán
Boats and volcanoes on Lake Atitlán

This morning, you'll start a scenic, 3-hour drive to Lake Atitlán, traversing through parts of the Pan American Highway, a network of roads stretching north from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina at its southernmost point. As you near Atitlán, keep an eye out for the famous views of the lake and its surrounding volcanoes. 

Once you arrive in Lake Atitlán's main town of Panajachel, you'll enjoy a boat tour with a local guide. Many smaller Mayan villages are located along the lake, and you'll stop by a few of them to learn about local arts, traditions, and stories. Highlights include visiting a local women's weaving co-op and a shrine of the infamous "Maximon" Mayan saint.

After the tour, you'll head to a beautiful lakeside hotel. The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax, swim in the lake, and take in the views.

Day 5: Kayak along Atitlán's shore and hike to different villages

Kayaking on Lake Atitlán
Kayaking on Lake Atitlán

Wake early and admire the sights and sounds of Lake Atitlán. After enjoying breakfast under the gaze of the area's three dominating volcanoes, you'll meet your guide to begin a scenic kayaking tour, paddling westward along the north shore of Atitlán for about two hours. As you pass tiny villages perched on the sides of ridges rising up from the waters of the lake, you can opt for a swim and/or enjoy the thrill of cliff jumping.

Upon reaching the trail set between the villages of Tzununá and San Marcos La Laguna, you'll trade your kayak for trekking boots for a day hike. You'll follow a popular lakeside hiking trail that connects several villages along the shoreline and offers striking views of San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán Volcanoes. After about 1.5 hours, you'll arrive in the town of Jaibalito.

Enjoy a hearty and well-earned lunch back at the hotel, then continue to explore Atitlán on your own for the rest of the afternoon.

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

Day 6: Enjoy a free day on Lake Atitlán

View of Lake Atitlán
View of Lake Atitlán

The day is yours to enjoy the beauty of Lake Atitlán at your leisure. Start with a relaxed breakfast at your hotel, enjoying the scenery around you. Then head out to explore the area, including some of the picturesque villages specializing in traditional Mayan crafts and regional cuisine. You can join private tours, take a taxi, or hike to the different towns. 

If you wish to enjoy the water, you can rent kayaks, go swimming, or try your luck at other water sports. There are plenty of public boats that take you around the lake, and several companies offer specialized themed tours.

Day 7: Visit an open-air market and transfer to Quetzaltenango

Aerial View of Quetzaltenango
Aerial View of Quetzaltenango

This morning, you'll end your time on Lake Atitlán with a boat transfer back to Panajachel. From here, you'll continue north to the town of Chichicastenango, which is renowned for its massive open-air market and indigenous Maya culture. You'll have ample time to explore the colorful market and some of the village's religious sights. You can't miss the 16th-century Iglesia de Santo Tomás, which has been used for both Catholic and Mayan ceremonies.

After lunch, you'll transfer to the city of Quetzaltenango, which is also known by its Mayan name of Xela. As Guatemala’s second-largest city and the center of the Quiche Mayan people, this high-altitude city sits at over 7,500 feet (2,335 m). After settling into your hotel near Parque Centro América, you can visit the Quetzaltenango Cathedral and browse the neighborhood restaurants for dinner.

Day 8: Explore Quetzaltenango with a walking tour and cooking class

Parque Centro América, Quetzaltenango
Parque Centro América, Quetzaltenango

A local historian will guide you through the city of Quetzaltenango on a walking tour of its historic city center. You'll enjoy some of the religious sites, including San Nicolas Church and Quetzaltenango Cathedral. You'll meander through streets filled with colorful Spanish colonial architecture, as well as boutique shops and cafes.

Following the walking tour, you'll attend a cooking lesson with a local chef, learning how to prepare a variety of typical Guatemalan dishes. Enjoy your creations for lunch, followed by a free afternoon to continue exploring the city on your own. The hills of Municipal Cerro El Baúl Park offer excellent views of Quetzaltenango, as well as the surrounding hills.

Day 9: Fly to Flores and transfer to Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park, Guatemala
Tikal National Park, Guatemala

After breakfast, you'll return to Guatemala City to catch a domestic flight to the city of Flores set in the north of the country near Lake Petén Itzá. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel inside Tikal National Park, an expansive protected area known for its Mayan temple and palace ruins. 

After settling into your accommodation, you can relax with the sounds of the surrounding unspoiled nature. The park is known to limit its electricity at night, preserving its natural ambiance so you can hear birds, monkeys, and the wind rustling the trees.

Day 10: Explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal National Park

Mayan Ruins in Tikal National Park
Mayan Ruins in Tikal National Park

Today's excursion takes you through Tikal National Park to visit its vast complex of Mayan ruins. Tikal is known worldwide for its impressive pyramids and temples. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the former capital of the ancient Maya civilization, including its impressive Temple IV, which, standing at 270 feet (70 m), is the tallest pre-Colombian structure in the Americas.

An expert guide will lead you through the park, visiting its major sites, including the five main temples, plus the Lost World, Complex Q, and The Great Plaza. You'll end the tour at the beautiful Window Palace with a picnic lunch in the park. Keep an eye out for wildlife while you enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle. 

In the afternoon you'll have time to relax at the hotel, lounge by the pool, or enjoy the sunset.

Day 11: Explore Rio Dulce National Park and Finca Paraiso hot springs

Finca Paraiso Hot Springs Waterfall
Finca Paraiso Hot Springs Waterfall

In the morning, you'll transfer south to the Caribbean side of Guatemala and Rio Dulce National Park, where you'll settle into your accommodation in a waterfront lodge. After taking some time to relax and enjoy lunch, you'll make your way to the nearby hot-springs waterfall, Finca Paraiso. You'll have the entire afternoon to relax and swim in the waterfall.

After dinner, the evening is yours to swim in the river or simply relax within the park.

Day 12: Explore Rio Dulce and coastal Livingston by boat

Boat on Rio Dulce
Boat on Rio Dulce

After a relaxing waterfront breakfast, you'll meet your guide for a boat tour of Rio Dulce and the park. Starting at the hotel, your boat will take you all the way to Livingston, a small town set on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. Along the way, you'll stop at the famous riverside Castle of San Felipe. You'll also visit a protected island filled with birds, a natural hot spring, and a scenic canyon.

Upon arriving in Livingston, you'll have a chance to experience a different side of Guatemala. This waterfront village has a different vibe than the country's inland towns. Enjoy lunch amongst the colorful facades, white-sand beaches, and laid-back mentality. In the afternoon, you'll return to your hotel in the park.

Day 13: Fly to Guatemala City - Enjoy a walking tour

Post Office Building, Guatemala City
Post Office Building, Guatemala City

Today you'll say goodbye to Guatemala's national parks and return to the bustling streets of Guatemala City for your final night in the country. In the morning, you'll transfer back to the airport in Flores and catch your flight to the capital city. After settling into your accommodation, you'll meet a local guide to learn about the history and culture of the city. 

Your tour will start in the city's historic center, near the Plaza de la Constitución. Here you can visit the National Palace of Culture, which houses a museum emphasizing the history, art, and culture of Guatemala. You can also visit some of the city's religious sites, such as Iglesia San Francisco, St. Augustine Rectory, and Iglesia del Cerrito del Carmen

For lunch, visit the Mercado Central to taste a variety of traditional Guatemalan dishes, as well as peruse vendors selling clothing, crafts, and souvenirs. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure. You can continue exploring the city's neighborhoods, relax at the hotel, or enjoy more local cuisine at wine bars and bistros.

Day 14: Depart Guatemala City

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala in Guatemala City
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala in Guatemala City

It's time to say goodbye to Guatemala. When you're ready, you'll transfer to the airport in time to catch your flight.