Twelve days is the perfect amount of time to experience Guatemala's ruins, nature, Indigenous culture, and delectable cuisine. It begins in the historic city of Antigua with walking and food tours before continuing to Lake Atitlán and the jade waters of the Río Dulce. As if that's not enough, you'll hop the border to Honduras to visit the Maya archeological site at Copán, one of the most impressive in Central America.


  • Take walking and food tours around Antigua
  • Explore the villages and markets around Lake Atitlán
  • Enjoy a boat ride down the famous Río Dulce
  • Tour the ancient Maya ruins at Copán, in Honduras

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Cooking Class Antigua
Day 2 Antigua Walking Tour Antigua
Day 3 Canopy Zipline Tour, Chocolate Museum Experience Antigua
Day 4 Antigua Street Food Tour Antigua
Day 5 Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Lake Village Tour Lake Atitlán
Day 6 Visit Chichicastenango Market, Handicraft Workshop Lake Atitlán
Day 7 Tour Iximché Ruins, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 8 Transfer to Río Dulce Río Dulce
Day 9 Río Dulce Boat Ride, Transfer to Copán (Honduras) Copán
Day 10 Explore the Copán Ruins & Macaw Mountain Copán
Day 11 Transfer to Guatemala City, Walking Tour Guatemala City
Day 12 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua & Cooking Class

Learning to cook traditional Guatemalan food
Learning to cook traditional Guatemalan food like tamales

Welcome to Guatemala! Whether your interest is archeology, outdoor adventure, or colonial history, this Central American nation has you covered. It's filled with ancient Maya ruins, Indigenous culture, limitless natural beauty, and some of the most well-preserved Spanish colonial landmarks in the Americas. Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to the historic city of Antigua, one of the grand capitals of Spain's empire from the 16-18th centuries. When you arrive, you'll check in to your hotel.

Later, you'll participate in a local cooking class where you'll learn to prepare traditional Guatemalan cuisine. This food is an exotic mixture of traditional colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya cooking that is both delicious and fun to make. Even better, the four-hour workshop is taught by local chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez Indigenous community. Besides the main dishes, you'll also prepare handmade tortillas and a dessert. At the end of the class, sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy your delicious creations.

Day 2: Antigua Historic Walking Tour

Santa Catalina Arch and Acatenango volcano in the background

In the morning, you'll head out to meet a local historian and embark on a walking tour of the city. During this excursion, you'll visit landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento ("City Hall Palace"); Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum; the Palace of the Captain's General; and La Merced Church, whose canary-yellow Baroque facade is a hallmark of the city. You'll also stroll around the Paseo de Los Museos complex, which features six museums and three art galleries. When the tour is over, you'll return to your hotel.

Then you'll have the rest of the day to time to explore Antigua on your own. Perhaps spend more time walking around Old Town and enjoying the shops and cafés around the main plaza, Parque Central. You can also treat yourself to local street food like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). Be sure to stop by other historic landmarks like the Santa Catalina Arch and the 18th-century Convento Santa Clara. This impressive architecture is one of the main reasons Antigua has earned UNESCO World Heritage Status. 

Day 3: Canopy Zipline Tour, Chocolate Museum Experience

Zipline Tour
Enjoy a zipline tour

Get ready for an exciting zipline tour! Not only will you experience the thrill of soaring over the treetops, but you'll do so over Guatemala's famous coffee fields. After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the ride out of Antigua to a nearby coffee farm, complete with a full zipline on site. Designed for adventure lovers, you'll enjoy the thrill of two mega zipline rides over a canyon. Each runs almost 1,700 feet (518 m) and reaches heights of up to 500 feet (152 m).

Afterward, you'll participate in a "bean to bar" chocolate workshop. Besides crops like coffee and bananas, Guatemala also produces cacao (cocoa), the main ingredient in chocolate. Cacao has been cultivated here for thousands of years and was even enjoyed by the ancient Maya. Speaking of which, besides learning about the production process of cacao, you'll also prepare your own delicious Maya chocolate drink plus make custom chocolates to take home with you. When the workshop is over, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 4: Antigua Street Food Tour

Visit the markets and street food vendors in Antigua

Wake up and enjoy breakfast at a restaurant on the plaza. Then perhaps browse Antigua's markets to pick up souvenirs like handicrafts and hand-woven textiles. The first part of the day is yours to enjoy however you like.

Later, you'll meet a local guide who will introduce you to Guatemala's rich culture through its gastronomy. On this three-hour walking tour, you'll taste culinary creations with influences dating back thousands of years. It includes stops at eight traditional restaurants and vendors, each serving up a variety of savory and sweet treats. Besides the delicious food, you'll also learn about Antigua's history as you enjoy views of the nearby volcanoes. At the end of the tour, you'll receive a list of some of Antigua's best restaurants and bars to visit during your free time.

Day 5: Transfer to Lake Atitlán, Lake Village Tour

Off to Lake Atitlán

Hop back in the car this morning for the three-hour drive through the southern highlands to Lake Atitlán, a body of water in a massive volcanic crater. Once here, you'll check into your lakefront accommodation in a local village.

Once you've settled in, you'll head out for a tour of the region. Climb aboard a boat to visit some of the towns around Atitlán. In the company of a local guide, you'll stop at villages far off the tourist trail and experience their authentic culture. For example, you'll visit a local women's weaving co-op and see how they turn cotton into beautiful textiles by hand. You'll also visit a shrine to Maximón, an infamous Maya saint known for his depraved behavior. 

Day 6: Visit Chichicastenango Market, Handicraft Workshop

Chichicastenango Market
Chichicastenango Market

Your driver will pick you up today for the ride farther into the highlands to reach the traditional Maya town of Chichicastenango. The public market here is one of the largest and most famous in Central America. Held every Thursday and Sunday, it draws locals from surrounding villages who come to sell handicrafts, textiles, regional clothing, and fresh produce. Upon arrival, you and your guide will spend time browsing the market and chatting with locals.

Then, you'll transfer 1.5 hours west to Totonicapán. Besides its Spanish colonial history, Totonicapán is famous for the artisanal items and handicrafts produced by its residents. Here, you can find everything from hand-woven cotton textiles to intricately crafted masks—a tradition that has been passed down through the generations. During this stop, you'll visit family homes and workshops where locals make these items with foot looms, ceramics, and wood. If you're visiting during a holiday, you might even see locals perform traditional dances. Afterward, you'll return to Atitlán.

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

Day 7: Tour Iximché Ruins, Transfer to Antigua

Tour the ancient ruins of Iximché 
In the morning, you'll board a boat for a ride to the eastern shore of Lake Atitlán. Then, take a private shuttle through the beautiful highlands to the ruins of Iximché. Back in the 15th century, this archeological site was a great capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom. Its ruins sit in the western highlands of Guatemala and include pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ball courts. Take a personal guided tour through the site, which was declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. After the ruins, you'll hit the road back to Antigua and check in to your hotel.

Day 8: Transfer to Río Dulce

Lago Izabal and the start of the Río Dulce
Say goodbye to Antigua and embark via private shuttle on a six-to-eight-hour journey to Río Dulce National Park, home to the river of the same name. This "sweet river" is located near the country's eastern border with Belize and connects to Lago Izabal. Upon arrival, you'll settle into your accommodation in a waterfront lodge and enjoy lunch. Afterward, spend the remainder of the day relaxing or taking a leisurely stroll along the river. For dinner, be sure to try some fresh river fish.

Day 9: Río Dulce Boat Ride, Transfer to Copán (Honduras)

Rio Dulce Boat ride
Take a ride on the Río Dulce

Pack your sunhat and meet your guide for a boat tour on the Río Dulce. As you travel north along the tranquil jade waters, keep your camera at the ready, as the banks are lined with stunning rainforest scenery and quaint villages. Waterbirds like herons are constantly flitting overhead or resting on the lily pads, and you're sure to see blooming flowers like orchids and white water lilies.

The ride will take you to Livingston, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. This Afro-Guatemalan community is defined by its distinctive Garifuna culture, which has its own language, cuisine, and customs. You can take a dip in the warm waters of the Caribbean, do some bird-watching, and try tapado, a seafood stew that's the community's most popular dish.

After spending time in Livingston, you'll transfer south and hop the border into Honduras. Your destination is Copán, a small town near the border famous for its ancient Maya archeological site, which you'll get to visit tomorrow. In the meantime, check in at your hotel and rest up.

Day 10: Explore the Copán Ruins & Macaw Mountain

Explore the Copan Ruins
The ruins at Copán

Today you're in for a treat as you get to visit one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the Maya world: Copán. This UNESCO World Heritage Site (also known as the "Kingdom of the Sun") dates from the Maya Classic Period (200-900 CE) and was the capital city of the kingdom at the time. The site covers 250 acres (100 ha), and within it are thousands of structures, including two pyramids, plazas, stairways, ancient ball courts, and several stone sculptures. Your expert guide will lead you on a tour through the site, during which you'll stop at the major landmarks and can hike up temples.

After the tour of Copán, you'll transfer to nearby Macaw Mountain Bird Park. This avian rescue and rehabilitation center occupies 10 acres (4 ha) of Honduran forest, now home to birds who can no longer survive in the wild. Many of these specimens are macaws, but there are plenty of other species here, too, including toucans, aracari, owls, hawks, and more. On this two-hour tour, not only will you get to meet some of these feathered residents, but you'll also take a stroll through coffee fields and a botanical garden filled with endemic plants. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 11: Transfer to Guatemala City, Walking Tour

Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Bid Copán farewell this morning as your driver picks you up for the trip back to Guatemala City. After checking in to your hotel, you'll embark on a tour of the Centro Histórico ("Historic Center") led by a local expert. Head to the Plaza de la Constitución and visit the National Palace, a historic Spanish Renaissance building that was once the headquarters of the president, but today it's a museum. Nearby are famous religious landmarks like the 18th-century Iglesia San Francisco, St. Augustine Rectory, and the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built in 1871.

Day 12: Depart Guatemala City

Sunset over the Copán ruins
Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Guatemala before it's time to depart. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up for the ride to the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Best of Guatemala & Copán - 12 Days
Map of Best of Guatemala & Copán - 12 Days