- Roam the picturesque streets of colonial Antigua
- Climb an active volcano and kayak on magical Lake Atitlan
- Discover the Mayan ruins at Tikal and Copan
- Experience Guatemalan city life
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala, transfer to Antigua|
|Day 2||Walking tour of Antigua|
|Day 3||Hike Pacaya Volcano|
|Day 4||Explore Lake Atitlan|
|Day 5||Kayaking and hiking at Lake Atitlan|
|Day 6||Visit Chichicastenango, continue to Quetzaltenango|
|Day 7||Walking tour of Quetzaltenango, cooking lessons|
|Day 8||Fly to Tikal|
|Day 9||Sunrise tour of the Mayan ruins at Tikal|
|Day 10||Rio Dulce and travel to Honduras|
|Day 11||Explore the Copan ruins|
|Day 12||Guatemala City tour|
Day 1: Arrival and Transfer to Antigua
Get ready to discover some of Central America's hidden gems! Arrive in Guatemala's capital, Guatemala City, where a driver will meet you at the airport. You'll be transferred to your hotel in Antigua, about 45 minutes away. Set in a valley beneath three volcanoes, this lovely Spanish colonial city is the perfect starting point for your Guatemalan excursion.
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 see stunning streetscapes of pastel facades against a mountain backdrop, some exquisitely preserved colonial buildings, and lush green parks and plazas. The haunting ruins of the many churches and convents destroyed in a massive earthquake in the 1700's are part of what gives Antigua its unique character.
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! Sample rellenitos (sweet fried plantains stuffed with black beans), tostadas, and elote (grilled corn on the cob) at food carts dotted around the city.
Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano
Today you'll climb to the top of an active volcano, Volcan Pacaya. The two-hour hike is somewhat challenging with several steep paths up to the summit at 8,300 feet (2530 m). If conditions are deemed safe, you might be allowed to look into the crater itself! Enjoy lunch with a view, and then head back down to the base. You'll return to Antigua by late afternoon and have the evening to explore the city.
Day 4: Explore Lake Atitlan
This morning you'll move on to the enchanting Lake Atitlan, about two and a half hours west of Antigua, deep in the highlands. Considered to be among the most beautiful lakes in the world (if not the most beautiful), Atitlan's sparkling blue waters are surrounded by dramatic volcanoes, giving the lake a uniquely magical atmosphere.
Its shores are home to several indigenous Mayan villages, and you'll get to visit a few during your private boat tour. Take time to explore the local markets, shops, and cafes, and learn about Mayan traditions. You'll have the afternoon free to relax at a tranquil cliffside hotel overlooking the lake.
Day 5: Kayaking and Hiking at Lake Atitlan
Enjoy views of the lake today from every angle. Start your morning with a kayaking adventure on Atitlan's deep azure waters. Savor the spectacular mountain landscape as you paddle along the northern shore beneath the towering volcanoes. Then put on those hiking shoes and climb the cliffside trails that will lead you high above the lake and through the local villages as you take in the scenery below.
Day 6: Visit Chichicastenango and Quetzaltenango
Immerse yourself in modern Mayan culture today. In the morning you'll travel by boat to Panajachel, one of the villages on Lake Atitlan, and from there you'll drive an hour and a half north to the market town of Chichicastenango. This colorful town is famous for its enormous open-air crafts market, 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.
Day 7: Walking Tour of Quetzaltenango and Cooking Lessons
Stretch your legs with a walking tour of Quetzaltenango this morning. Your local guide will walk you through the lovely historical neighborhoods, where you'll find everything from bustling markets to brightly colored cemeteries to the most delicious Mennonite bakery. Don't fill up on too many sweets before your cooking lesson, though! For lunch you'll learn to prepare several traditional Guatemalan dishes, like chicken pepian (chicken in a spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce), chiles rellenos (stuffed chile peppers), or kak'ik, a Mayan turkey soup. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring on your own.
Day 8: Fly to Tikal
Return to Guatemala City today and catch a domestic flight to the town of Flores in northern Guatemala. Hidden in the jungle around Flores are several Mayan archaeological sites, the most famous of which is Tikal. When you arrive in Flores, you'll be driven to your hotel inside nearby Tikal National Park, so you can take advantage of an early-bird sunrise tour of the ruins first thing tomorrow.
Day 9: Tour of the Tikal Ruins
Wander around the fascinating temples and pyramids of Tikal with your expert guide. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important archaeological complexes left by the ancient Mayans and was a major center of political, economic, and military power. Set in the tropical rainforest, there is also plenty of exotic wildlife to keep an eye out for, like monkeys and jaguars. After lunch in the park, you'll drive south to Rio Dulce by the Caribbean Sea.
Day 10: Rio Dulce and Honduras
Sail the Caribbean waters of Rio Dulce on a relaxing boat tour this morning. Take in the sights and sounds as you cruise down the jungle river, spotting luscious wildflowers and vibrant toucans, and listening to howler monkeys as you go. Visit Castillo de San Felipe, a Spanish colonial fort with a colorful history of being continuously attacked and looted by English pirates. In the afternoon you'll cross the border into Honduras, and head to Copán.
Day 11: Explore the Copan Ruins
Today you'll visit Copán, one of the most impressive cities in ancient Mayan civilization. Inhabited for over 2,000 years, Copán was a powerful ruling city that developed its own distinctive structural style. You'll learn about Yax K'uk Mo', Copán's founder and leader of one of the greatest Mayan dynasties, as well as the city's special connection with nearby Mayan site Quirigua. Enjoy lunch in Copán village, and take some time in the afternoon to explore on your own.
Day 12: Tour of Guatemala City
Make your way back over the border this morning to Guatemala's capital, Guatemala City. A local expert will show you the sights, and you'll learn about the city's fascinating culture and sometimes troubled history. Visit the National Palace of Culture and the beautiful colonial Metropolitan Cathedral in the city's main plaza, Parque Central. Wander through the many museums and galleries - some of the best the country has to offer. 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, or check out some of the local restaurants.
Day 13: Departure
After breakfast at the hotel or a local café, say your goodbyes to lovely Guatemala. Take the hotel shuttle to the airport for your departing flight.
This article is based on an itinerary created by kimkim local travel specialist Chris Gwinner.