- Walk the ancient streets of colonial Antigua
- Climb an active volcano and kayak on Lake Atitlán
- Discover Maya ruins at Tikal and Copán
- Experience Guatemalan city life
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 2||Walking Tour of Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 3||Hike Pacaya Volcano||Antigua|
|Day 4||Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Boat Tour||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 5||Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 6||Transfer to Quetzaltenango, Visit Chichicastenango||Quetzaltenango|
|Day 7||Walking Tour of Quetzaltenango, Cooking Lesson||Quetzaltenango|
|Day 8||Transfer to Tikal National Park||Tikal National Park|
|Day 9||Sunrise Tour of Tikal, Transfer to Río Dulce||Río Dulce|
|Day 10||Río Dulce Boat Tour, Transfer to Copán||Copán|
|Day 11||Explore the Copán Ruins||Copán|
|Day 12||Transfer to Guatemala City, Guided Tour||Guatemala City|
|Day 13||Depart Guatemala|
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua
Welcome to Guatemala! Get ready to discover one of Latin America's lesser-known gems, as this country boasts immense natural beauty, well-preserved history, and a thriving Indigenous Maya culture. You'll arrive in the capital of Guatemala City, where a driver will meet you at the airport. Then you'll transfer west about an hour to historic Antigua. Set in a valley beneath three volcanoes, this lovely Spanish colonial city is the perfect starting point for your great Guatemalan adventure.
Day 2: Walking Tour of Antigua
After breakfast, set out on a walking tour of Antigua with an expert local historian. As you stroll down charming cobblestone lanes, you'll pass by Spanish colonial buildings with pastel facades situated around the main plaza, Parque Central. Antigua was actually one of the early capitals of Guatemala before a major earthquake in the late 18th century forced its relocation. So during the tour, you'll visit the ruins of colonial churches and convents destroyed in that quake.
You'll have the afternoon free to explore Antigua's many local markets. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables at El Mercado, shop for textiles and handicrafts at Nim Po't, and don't forget to taste some of the legendary street food along the way. Visit food courts around the city to sample rellenitos (fried plantains stuffed with black beans), tostadas, and elotes (grilled corn on the cob).
Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano
In the morning, you'll head just outside of Antigua to a trailhead where you'll embark on a hike to the top of Pacaya. The two-hour hike up this active volcano is somewhat challenging, with several steep paths leading to the summit at 8,300 feet (2,530 m). If conditions are deemed safe, you might even be allowed to peer into the crater itself. Once at the top, enjoy lunch with a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks, then make your descent back down. You'll return to Antigua by late afternoon and will have the rest of the evening to enjoy the city.
Day 4: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Boat Tour
After breakfast, you'll transfer about 2.5 hours west to the enchanting Lake Atitlán, located deep in Guatemala's highlands. Considered to be among the most beautiful lakes in the world (if not the most beautiful), Atitlán's sky blue waters are surrounded by dramatic volcanoes, which create an almost magical skyline.
The shores of Atitlán are also home to several Indigenous Maya villages, and you'll get to visit a few during a private boat tour. At each stop, take time to explore the local markets, shops, and cafés. In doing so, you can learn about Maya culture and traditions from locals. After the tour, transfer to your cliffside hotel overlooking the lake and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.
Day 5: Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán
Start your morning with a kayaking adventure across Atitlán's sparkling azure waters. Savor the spectacular highland landscapes as you paddle along the north shore beneath the towering volcanoes. Then leave the kayak behind, lace up those hiking boots, and follow cliffside trails leading high above the lake. Along the way, you'll pass local villages and hike up to viewpoints offering stunning views of the lake below. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Transfer to Quetzaltenango, Visit Chichicastenango
Immerse yourself in Maya culture today. In the morning you'll travel by boat to Panajachel, a village on the northeast shore of Lake Atitlán. From there, hop in a vehicle for the 1.5-hour drive north to the market town of Chichicastenango. This colorful village is famous for its enormous open-air crafts market (the largest in Guatemala) and its proud Indigenous population. Browse the masks, textiles, pottery, and more before breaking for lunch. Then continue on to Quetzaltenango (known locally as Xela), Guatemala's second-largest city. Here, you'll check into your hotel and will have the rest of the day free.
Day 7: Walking Tour of Quetzaltenango, Cooking Lesson
Stretch your legs with a walking tour of Quetzaltenango this morning. Your local guide will lead you through the city's historic neighborhoods, where you'll find everything from bustling markets to brightly colored cemeteries to a delicious Mennonite bakery. Don't fill up on too many sweets, though, because lunch involves a hands-on cooking lesson in which you'll learn to prepare traditional Guatemalan dishes. These include pepian (chicken in a spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce), chiles rellenos (stuffed chile peppers), and kak'ik, a Maya turkey soup. Spend the rest of the day exploring on your own.
Day 8: Transfer to Tikal National Park
Return to Guatemala City in the morning and catch a one-hour domestic flight to the lakeside town of Flores in northern Guatemala. Hidden in the jungle around Flores are several Maya archaeological sites, the most famous of which is Tikal. When you arrive in Flores, a driver will pick you up for the 1.5-hour ride north to Tikal National Park. You'll be staying at a lodge right in the park in order to enjoy a sunrise tour of the ruins first thing tomorrow.
Day 9: Sunrise Tour of Tikal, Transfer to Río Dulce
Wake before dawn and 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.
Upon arrival, you can hike up Temple IV, which, at 230 feet (70 m), is the tallest pyramid in the ancient Maya world. From here, watch the sunrise over the tops of the pyramid temples and the jungles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve that surround the park. Spend the rest of your time at this UNESCO World Heritage Site exploring its other pyramids. As you go, keep an eye out for exotic wildlife like monkeys and (if you're lucky) jaguars. After lunch in the park, you'll hop back in the car for the five-hour drive south to Río Dulce, near the Caribbean side of Guatemala.
Day 10: Río Dulce Boat Tour, Transfer to Copán
Set sail up the Río Dulce today on a relaxing boat tour. As you cruise along the jade waters of this tranquil river, relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle. Waterbirds like herons and egrets are constantly flitting about, and you'll probably spot howler monkeys and colorful toucans in the trees. Along the way, you'll pass Castillo de San Felipe, a Spanish fort built in the 17th century as a defense against marauding English pirates. In the afternoon, you'll cross over the border with Honduras and head to Copán, a small town that's famous for its 250-acre (100 ha) Maya archeological site.
Day 11: Explore the Copán Ruins
In the morning, you'll visit Copán, one of the most impressive cities of the ancient Maya civilization. Inhabited for over 2,000 years, Copán was a powerful ruling city during the Maya Classic Period (200-900 CE) that developed its own distinctive architectural style. During this guided tour of the temple and plaza ruins, you'll learn about Yax K'uk Mo', Copán's founder and dynastic ruler, as well as the city's connection with nearby Maya ruins at Quirigua. Enjoy lunch in town at Copán, then take some time afterward to explore on your own. Later you'll return to your hotel.
Day 12: Transfer to Guatemala City, Guided Tour
After an early breakfast, meet your driver for the ride back over the border and the 4.5-hour ride to Guatemala City. There, you'll meet a local expert who will show you the capital's major sights on a guided tour. Visit the National Palace of Culture and the beautiful 19th-century Metropolitan Cathedral, both located in Constitution Plaza. In the afternoon, check into your hotel and take it easy before tomorrow's departing flight. If you're up to going out, drop by the popular bohemian enclave of La Bodeguita del Centro for live music any night of the week, and perhaps dine at one of the local restaurants.
Day 13: Depart Guatemala
After breakfast at the hotel or a local café, say your goodbyes to lovely Guatemala. Then take the hotel shuttle to the airport for your departing flight. Until next time!
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