volcano-shrouded colonial cities, authentic local markets, and ancient Maya ruins
This 9 day itinerary is the perfect introduction to Guatemala, with stunning volcanic scenery, colourful markets and superb Maya ruins.
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Days 1-3: Driven directly to Antigua (just 45 minutes from Guatemala City airport), for three nights. Explore this beautiful colonial city on foot and discover the cobbled streets, pretty squares and many churches. Spend the next morning visiting a nearby coffee plantation which is part of a local community project. A walk to the top of nearby Pacaya volcano where the views are worth the climb, reasonable fitness is needed.
Lake Atitlán: volcanoes and markets
Days 4-6: A couple of hours' drive north of Antigua is magical Lake Atitlán, a volcanic crater formed when an ancient volcano collapsed, leaving a lake 17 kilometres in diameter, now surrounded by a ring of three smaller volcanoes. On the way visit the famous market at Chichicastenango, with its exotic fabrics, rituals, and smells. At Lake Atitlán spend 3 nights with a full day visiting a couple of the lakeside villages, each named after a different apostle and with distinct traditions and dress.
Tikal and Yaxhá: Maya temples
Days 7-9: Return to Guatemala City for an evening flight to Flores and two nights in the Petén, Guatemala's northern jungle. Home to numerous Maya ruins, the most famous of which is Tikal, most of whose buildings are enfolded in tropical forest and today only inhabited by wildlife (including howler monkeys, parrots and macaws). The entire site covers over 200 square miles, a green carpet stretching as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by a handful of temples rising majestically from the rainforest floor.
You will also have time to visit the lesser-known site of Yaxhá, for wonderful sunset views across the forest canopy, before flying back to Guatemala City for onward connections.
It is easy to cross by land from Flores to Mexico or Belize. From the south, a border crossing into Honduras to see the impressive Maya site of Copán is a worthwhile trip. This can also be combined with a visit to the Guatemalan site of Quiriguá and a boat trip on the Rio Dulce.
In the following section you will see our suggested options for possible accommodation.
The estimated flight cost included in this itinerary (assuming international flights from the UK plus any internal flights that are necessary) is £1,260 per person.
Standard - £3,380
- El Mesón de María - a friendly hotel with a beautiful courtyard. The hotel is very close to shops and restaurants.
- Hotel Atitlán - on the outskirts of Panajachel. There are pretty gardens, a restaurant and a pool with lovely views over the lake.
- Jungle Lodge - actually inside Tikal National Park, so you can visit the ruins early in the morning without the crowds.
Price and validity notes
We have tried to give you as accurate an idea of prices as possible, including meals where appropriate (but not when there are good local options so you don't pay for a meal that you might not want), accommodation, transfers, and any tours we have included.
All prices are per person based on two people sharing a room and are intended as a guide (local high or low seasons can cause some variation). All prices were correct when published but may vary with exchange rate fluctuations, fuel surcharges, or changes in the general economic situation.