On this weeklong journey through Guatemala, explore major sites in the western highlands and northern rainforests. The trip begins in Antigua with a sightseeing tour followed by a stay on beautiful Lake Atitlán and a visit to an indigenous market dating back thousands of years. Then venture north to discover the ancient Maya city of Iximché and the awe-inspiring pyramid temples at Tikal National Park.

Highlights

  • Go sightseeing in Antigua and take part in cultural workshops
  • Stroll the bustling Maya market at Chichicastenango
  • Admire the views of Lake Atitlán and visit lakeshore villages
  • Visit ancient ruins at Iximché and Tikal National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua City Tour & Village Workshops Antigua
Day 3 Transfer to Panajachel, Maya Market Tour Panajachel
Day 4 Explore Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlan
Day 5 Tour Iximché & Travel to Tikal National Park Tikal National Park
Day 6 Tour Tikal National Park Guatemala City
Day 7 Depart Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala!
Welcome to Guatemala!

Welcome to Guatemala City! Upon arrival, a travel representative will be waiting at the airport to present you with a welcome packet that includes all relevant information regarding your itinerary. From the airport you'll transfer about an hour west to Antigua. This historic city is surrounded by three looming volcanoes and has earned UNESCO World Heritage status for its well-preserved historic center and Spanish colonial architecture.

After checking into your hotel, you'll have the remainder of the day free. 

Day 2: Antigua City Tour & Village Workshops

Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch
The famous Santa Catalina Arch, in Antigua

Today you'll head out for some in-depth exploration of Antigua and its nearby villages. Interestingly, this 500-year-old city was once the capital of Guatemala, and today it's known for the Spanish colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Central Park. As you stroll Antigua's cobbled streets, you'll be in awe of the colorful facades of 16th-century mansions, churches, and convents that abound here. 

Visit church ruins like the 16th century Iglesia de San Francisco and Monasterio de Santo Domingo, a former Dominican monastery. Another highlight is the Iglesia de La Merced, a Baroque church destroyed by earthquakes but rebuilt in the late 1700s and whose canary yellow facade is a hallmark of the city. Of course you'll also pass through the iconic Arch of Santa Catalina, which dates to the 17th century.

Afterward, you'll leave Antigua for tours of nearby indigenous villages. Here you'll take part in workshops designed to introduce you to the rich Maya culture that defines this region. Options include visiting a leatherworker, chocolatier, coffee producer, textile manufacturer, and even a jade workshop. All of these are an integral part of Maya culture and history, particularly jade-working. To the ancient Mayas, this mineral was more valuable than gold and held great religious and spiritual significance.

After the workshops, you'll return to Antigua. You'll have the evening free to have dinner in town and perhaps enjoy some nightlife. 

Day 3: Transfer to Panajachel, Maya Market Tour

Chichicastenango Market
Chichicastenango Market

In the morning, you'll transfer from Antigua to the town of Panajachel, located on the north shore of Lago de Atitlán. Here you'll check in to your hotel and unpack. Then, around 10 am, you'll go on another drive north a little over an hour to the highland town of Chichicastenango.

This village has been a hotbed of Maya culture and commerce for more than 4,000 years. Chichicastenango is most famous for its bi-weekly market where vendors sell everything from flowers and fresh produce to handicrafts and handwoven textiles. It's not only the biggest open-air market in Guatemala, it's reportedly the biggest in all of Central America. Enjoy walking amid the many vendor stalls and feel free to shop 'til you drop.

Next, you'll visit a factory in town that produces masks worn by indigenous Guatemalans during their ceremonial dances. Then it's off to the whitewashed Iglesia de Santo Tomás, a 16th-century Roman Catholic church built on the site of a former Maya temple. Here you'll get an introduction to Guatemala syncretism (a mix of ancient Maya religious beliefs and traditional Catholicism) and see firsthand how many Guatemalans simultaneously adhere to two different religions and cultures. 

Enjoy lunch at Moreria Sto, before returning to Panajachel. You'll have the remainder of the day free to enjoy the town on your own.

Day 4: Explore Lake Atitlán

Santa Cruz la Laguna, Lake Atitlán
 The incomparable Lake Atitlán

In the morning, embark on a village tour around Lake Atitlán. Get exclusive access to hidden gems known only to local guides, and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the local cultures. 

One highlight is a visit to San Juan La Laguna, an indigenous community located on the western shore of the lake. This colorful town is home to weaving co-ops run by women who sell traditional textiles and artwork that makes great souvenirs. It's one of the least-visited communities on the lake and thus offers a more authentic Guatemalan experience. Also here is a unique cotton museum that gives an overview the Maya tradition of processing this material, from the creation of yarn to the dyeing of garments.

Next, you'll visit Santiago Atitlán, which is famous for its artisanal crafts as well as being the purported home of the rascally deity Maximón. Santiago is also the home of the Weaving Center and Museum of Cojolya, which was founded by the Maya Women Weavers Association of Cojolya.

Day 5: Tour Iximché & Travel to Tikal National Park

The Iximché ruins
The Iximché ruins

At 7:30 am, you'll transfer from Lake Atitlán back to Guatemala City. Along the way, you'll stop at the Iximché ruins, an archeological site in Guatemala's western highlands. Iximché was once a great capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom back in the 15th century. On a guided tour, you'll visit ancient structures that include a number of pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ballcourts. The ruins of Iximché were declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. 

After touring Iximché, transfer to the Guatemala City Airport and catch a flight to the lakeside town of Flores, in the northern Petén region of the country. From here you'll travel by car north to your next destination: Tikal National Park. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and enjoy the evening at your leisure.

Day 6: Tour Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park, Petén.
Tikal National Park

In the morning you'll tour the ruins at Tikal National Park. This archeological site is part of the Reserva de la Biósfera Maya (Maya Biosphere Reserve), an area that covers 8,340 sq miles (21,602 sq km). It's home not only to the ruins of ancient Mayan cities but exotic flora and fauna too. Keep an eye out for howler and spider monkeys as well as toucans and even the psychedelic plumage of the ocellated turkey. 

The half-day tour allows you to explore all the highlights around this ancient Mayan citadel, which thrived from 200 to 900 CE. Must-visit highlights include the Temple of the Great Jaguar, Temple II (which you can ascend via a wooden staircase), and the Gran Plaza, which is flanked by two massive temples. Following the tour, enjoy lunch back at the hotel.

Following the tour of Tikal, enjoy lunch at the hotel. Then, transfer to the airport in Flores for your flight to Guatemala City. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and spend the remainder of the evening however you like. Perhaps have dinner in the city to celebrate your final night in the country. 

Day 7: Depart Guatemala City

Adiós, Guatemala!
 Adiós, Guatemala!

Parting is such sweet sorrow. In the morning, a personal driver will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

More Guatemala Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Guatemala? Check out these other Guatemala itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Guatemalan Highlands: Antigua, Lake Atitlán & Tikal - 7 Days
Map of Guatemalan Highlands: Antigua, Lake Atitlán & Tikal - 7 Days