- Visit Belize's coral islands and snorkel its Barrier Reef
- Go cave tubing and visit an exotic butterfly farm
- Tour ancient Maya ruins at Tikal National Park
- Ride horses around Lake Atitlán and take a cooking class
- Hike up an active volcano and camp overnight
|Arrive in Belize City, Transfer to Caye Caulker
|Blue Hole Snorkeling Tour
|Full-Day Snorkelling Tour
|Transfer to San Ignacio, Cave Tubing & Butterfly Farm
|Transfer to Tikal National Park (Guatemala), Explore Tikal
|Tikal National Park
|Transfer to Cobán
|Day Trip to Semuc Champey
|Transfer to Antigua
|Antigua Walking Tour & Cooking Class
|Hike Pacaya Volcano & Camp Overnight
|Descend Pacaya, Transfer to Lake Atitlán
|Lake Atitlán Village Tour
|Lake Atitlán Horseback Riding & Paragliding
|Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Guatemala City
|Depart Guatemala City
Day 1: Arrive in Belize City, Transfer to Caye Caulker
Welcome to Belize! This small but beautiful country has a distinct personality from its regional neighbors. For starters, rather than Spanish, most of the roughly 400,000 citizens here speak an English-based dialect called Belizean Creole. This derives from their unique Garifuna heritage. Garifunas are descendants of mixed free African and Indigenous people exiled to Central America from the Caribbean in the 18th century. The result is a rich Afro-Caribbean culture with great music, cuisine, etc.
Upon arrival at the airport in Belize City, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to the port, where you'll hop aboard a water taxi for the 45-minute ride north to Caye Caulker. This tiny, car-free coral island (it measures just 5 mi/8 km long) draws snorkelers and divers from all over to its unspoiled marine reserve, which is part of the Belize Barrier Reef (the second-largest barrier reef system in the world). After checking in to your hotel, you can spend the remainder of the afternoon lazing in a hammock, sunbathing on the beach, or browsing the souvenir shops in Caye Caulker Village.
Day 2: Blue Hole Snorkeling Tour
What better way to kick off your first morning in Belize than with a full-day snorkeling trip to its most iconic dive site? Before the sun rises, you'll board a boat at Caye Caulker and ride 2.5 hours out to the famous Blue Hole, which is part of Lighthouse Reef. This giant marine sinkhole and popular dive spot formed as a limestone cavern during the last Ice Age and can even be seen from space. It is unique due to its almost perfectly circular shape, which measures 1,043 feet (318 m) across and 407 feet (124 m) deep.
The early start is well worth it, which you'll quickly discover once you plunge into the Blue Hole and swim beneath its shimmering surface. As you break through the thermocline layer into the deeper, motionless waters below, you'll enjoy visibility of up to 200 (60 m) feet. In this environment, you'll see everything from giant underwater stalactites to reef sharks, parrotfish, and turtles cruising past you.
Day 3: Full-Day Snorkeling TourHit the water again today for more snorkeling. This time you'll be swimming around the island in the 61-square-mile (157 sq km) Caye Caulker Marine Reserve. The tour starts at the dock, where you'll spot nurse sharks swimming along the shore. Then you'll hop on a boat for a one-hour trip to a secluded beach surrounded by coral reefs. In the water, you'll snorkel among exotic fish, including rays, parrotfish, turtles, eels, and more harmless nurse sharks. Also included on this full-day tour are snacks and drinks on the beach. At the end of the day, you'll return to Caye Caulker.
Day 4: Transfer to San Ignacio, Cave Tubing & Butterfly Farm
In the morning, you'll transfer back to Belize City by water taxi. Here, a driver will pick you up for the two-hour drive inland to the town of San Ignacio, near the Guatemalan border. On the way, you'll make a detour to the Caves Branch River, where you'll embark on a tubing adventure through limestone caverns.
After a 45-minute hike through the jungle, you'll arrive at the river and the caverns. Following a safety briefing, you'll gear up, hop in your tube, and let the current carry you into the first of two cave passages. As you float downstream through the caverns, you'll see hanging stalactites, towering stalagmites, and even some ancient Maya artifacts like pottery. During the ride, there will be opportunities to stop for snacks and swim in natural swimming holes. Once you've passed through the last cavern, you'll stop on the riverbank for a picnic lunch before returning to the vehicle.
Day 5: Transfer to Tikal National Park (Guatemala), Explore Tikal
Today you'll cross the border into Guatemala and visit the legendary archeological site in Tikal National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers 222 square miles (576 sq km) and was once a great capital of the Maya Kingdom during the Classic period (250-900 CE). Among its many impressive temples and pyramids, Tikal features Temple IV, the tallest pre-Colombian structure in the Americas, which stands at 230 feet (70 m).
Upon arrival in the park, you'll meet up with an expert guide and spend the day exploring this vast complex. During the walking tour, you'll see all the major sites of interest, including Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. The ruins aren't the only highlights because the rainforest surrounding it is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. It's home to exotic animals like monkeys, toucans, and other tropical birds, so be sure to keep your camera close. After the tour, you'll transfer to your rustic jungle hotel located right inside the park.
Day 6: Transfer to CobánWake up early for the seven-hour drive south from Tikal to the city of Cobán, located deep in the heart of Guatemala's coffee country. It's a long drive, but you'll stop on the way for snacks in local villages and at scenic viewpoints to snap pictures. Once in Cobán, you'll check in to your hotel and have the remainder of the day free. Rest up because tomorrow, you'll be venturing deep into Guatemala's central highlands for a nature adventure.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Day Trip to Semuc Champey
Hop in a 4WD vehicle this morning and head east to Semuc Champey. This otherworldly natural landmark is located near the Q'eqchi' Maya town of Lanquín and is famous for its terraced turquoise pools. Just before entering the area, you'll stop to tour the Kam'ba Caves. Here, your guide will lead you by candlelight into underground caverns filled with rivers, waterfalls, and extraordinary rock formations. Afterward, you can take an innertube ride down the Río Cahabón before entering Semuc Champey.
Once here, you can embark on a 45-minute uphill hike to El Mirador. This stunning viewpoint overlooks the terraced pools 2,300 feet (700 m) below. Then you can spend some time swimming at the falls. The best place to snap photos near the terraces is atop a natural limestone bridge that rises 100 feet (30 m) above the water. At the end of the day, you'll transfer back to Lanquín, where you'll check in to a hotel.
Day 8: Transfer to Antigua
Depart Lanquín today for the over-six-hour drive south into Guatemala's southern highlands and the historic town of Antigua. Along the way, there will be roadside stops for snacks and to stretch your legs. Upon arrival in Antigua, you'll check in to your hotel and can then head out and explore.
Founded in 1542, is known for the Spanish colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Parque Central. Three volcanoes also surround it, and the contrast between these imposing mountains and the city's colorful architecture is part of the reason Antigua has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. You can stroll the cobbled streets here, and shop for souvenirs like handicrafts and hand-woven textiles. Be sure to try delicious street food like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala).
Day 9: Antigua Walking Tour & Cooking Class
In the morning, you'll head out and meet a local historian/guide for a history-themed walking tour of Antigua. 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.
Later, you'll partake in a local cooking class. During this three-hour experience, you'll discover that Guatemalan food is an exotic mixture of traditional colonial Spanish and Indigenous cooking that's both delicious and fun to make. The workshop is taught by 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, you'll sit down with your fellow chefs and tuck into your creations.
Day 10: Hike Pacaya Volcano & Camp Overnight
In store for you today is one of the highlight adventures of the entire itinerary: a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552 m) active volcano of Pacaya. Set in its own national park, Pacaya cuts an imposing figure with a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and the massive lava field at the base of its caldera. The hike up to the area where you'll make camp takes about two hours, depending on your group's level of physical fitness. That said, horses are an option for those who'd prefer a more relaxed ascent.Once near the summit, your guide will select an area to camp that takes full advantage of the summit's incredible vistas of nearby volcano peaks like Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. Then enjoy a freshly prepared dinner as your group marvels at sunset views complimented by (perhaps) the orange glow of Pacaya's lava flows. Keep warm after sundown with some hot coffee and tea before retiring to your tent and sleeping bag for the night.
Day 11: Descend Pacaya, Transfer to Lake AtitlánWake at dawn and enjoy the sunrise over the surrounding volcano peaks with a cup of hot coffee in hand. After breakfast and snapping some pics of the incredible views, it will be time to gather your things and make the descent back down the volcano. Once back in Antigua, you'll hop in a vehicle for the three-hour drive west to Lake Atitlán. Guatemala's most famous lake is part of a volcanic crater and, like Antigua, is surrounded by volcanoes. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your waterfront hotel.
Day 12: Lake Atitlán Village TourClimb aboard a boat for a tour 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 13: Lake Atitlán Horseback Riding & Paragliding
Hit the trail this morning on a one-hour horseback ride along the shores of Lake Atitlán. This excursion will take you along nature paths to the western-shore village of San Pedro, where you'll meet members of the local Tzutuhil Indigenous community. You'll also pass by coffee fields and vegetable farms offering amazing views over the lake.
Then, the leisurely ride will end, and then it will be time for a thrilling adventure sport. It begins when you meet a professional paragliding guide and travel to the lakeside mountain, where you'll receive a safety briefing and strap into the tandem chute. Then it will be time to leave terra firma as you soar high over the glassy waters of Atitlán, traveling at eye level with gliding birds and the surrounding peaks of three lakeside volcanoes, San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 14: Kayaking & Hiking at Lake Atitlán, Transfer to Guatemala City
After breakfast, you'll meet your guide for a five-hour excursion on and around Lake Atitlán. First, hop in a kayak and paddle along the north shore of Atitlán for roughly two hours. During the ride, you'll pass by villages perched on lakeside cliffs, you can hop in the water for a swim or even do some cliff-jumping. Your destination is a spot between the villages of Tzununá and San Marcos La Laguna, where you'll leave your kayak behind and lace up your hiking boots.
Follow the lake trail between the villages, taking in views of the lakeside volcanoes. You'll hike along the shoreline and through small villages for about 1.5 hours, at which point you'll arrive in the town of Jaibalito. Enjoy a hearty and well-earned lunch, then meet your driver for the three-hour ride east to Guatemala City, the capital of the country. Here you'll check in to your hotel.