Dabbling in Jet Lag
Guatemala is slowly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Central America. Its rich heritage, warm-hearted people, and beautiful landscapes offer something for every type of traveler. In fact, there are so many fun things to do in Guatemala, that you could spend months on end here. Of course, there are stories of economic hardship, but with a little planning, Guatemala will surprise you. In this guide, I detail a 10-day itinerary for Guatemala that takes you through some of its most spectacular sites and hidden gems. You’ll wander through the jungle, swim in crystal clear turquoise pools, and visit ancient Mayan ruins that rival Mexico’s Chichen Itza. It’s a trip that will leave you mesmerized and wanting to return!
Table of Contents
- Suggested Itinerary
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 1
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 2
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 3
- Guatemala Itinerary – Days 4-5
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 6
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 7
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 8
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 9
- Guatemala Itinerary – Day 10
- Tips for Visiting Guatemala
Below is a summary of my suggested itinerary. My trip to Guatemala began in the west on the border of Mexico. But you could start your trip to Guatemala City and follow the same journey.
Lake Atitlan (3 days) – Antigua (3 days) – Semuc Champey (2 days) – Flores (2 days)
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 1
Meador around San Pedro Village
San Pedro is one of 11 villages on Lake Atitlan. Each village has a unique vibe that caters to the type of experience you want to have. Not only that, but it’s easy to travel between villages, so you are not constrained. I decided to stay in San Pedro. This backpacker-style town has inexpensive accommodation options, tons of things to do, and a laidback vibe. So, exploring this town is a must! Spend the day wandering the streets, browsing local shops, and hanging out at one of the many cafes. Don’t forget to stop by the local market, they sell some of the most delicious fruit in Guatemala.
- If San Pedro’s atmosphere does not interest you, I’ve detailed a list of other popular towns on Lake Atitlan below:
- Panajachel – The most developed town around Lake Atitlan with a big city vibe. Here you’ll find lots of options when it comes to shopping, hotels, and restaurants.
- San Marcos – Small but beautiful. This hippiesque town is where travelers come to relax and practice yoga.
- Santa Cruz – One of the smaller towns on Lake Atitlan and it’s home to traditional Mayans. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, then Santa Cruz is for you.
- San Juan – Next to San Pedro, San Juan is a welcome escape from the tourists. It’s an artistic town that is great for those looking for souvenirs or weaving demonstrations.
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 2
Climb San Pedro Volcano
San Pedro Volcano towers over the town of San Pedro, standing at a whopping 3020 meters (9908 feet). This stunning day hike starts at the San Pedro Volcano Visitor Center where you’ll pay 100Q (13 USD) before starting. After which you’ll follow a trail that slithers through the jungle. It’s a steady three-hour climb to the top, but your efforts will be worth it! Once at the summit you’ll have some of the most magnificent views over Lake Atitlan.
- Travel agencies in San Pedro may try to convince you to hire a guide through their agency, but you’ll still need to pay the 100Q entrance fee at the visitor center.
- Guides at the San Pedro Volcano Visitor Center are optional. If you decide to take one, part of the 100Q will go to the guide (i.e. it doesn’t cost extra to hire a guide).
- Due to the high altitude, it is important to hike slowly and drink plenty of water.
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 3
Wander the Streets of Antigua
Antigua is a small city in southern Guatemala that is surrounded by three massive volcanoes. This once colonial capital is most known for its lively markets, delectable restaurants, and stunning architecture. So, whether you are looking for an adventure or want to experience Guatemalan culture, Antigua has something for everyone. Either way, spending a day meandering down the cobblestone streets is a must! For the most iconic sites in Antigua, make sure to stop by Santa Catalina Arch, Cerro de La Cruz, and Tanque La Unión.
Useful Tip: Antigua is also a popular place to take affordable Spanish classes. If you have extra time, it’s definitely worth it!
Guatemala Itinerary – Days 4-5
Climb Acatenango Volcano
Acatenango is Guatemala’s third-largest volcano. It stands at an impressive 3976 meters (13,044 feet) on the outskirts of Antigua. And next to this beast, lies its active and violent sister, Volcano Fuego (aka The Volcano of Fire)! Believe it or not, you can hike Acatenango and watch Fuego erupt from its summit. It’s an incredible two-day experience that will leave you breathless, literally and figuratively.
Useful Tip: If you’re not ready to climb Acatenango, there are several other volcanoes around Antigua that are accessible. The most popular is Pacaya. This active volcano sits at 2552 meters (8372 feet) and is an easy to moderate day hike. At the summit, you can roast marshmallows over the flowing lava!
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 6
Travel from Antiqua to Lanquin
The distance between Antigua to Lanquin (the nearest town to Semuc Champey) might appear small, but the journey will take an entire day (6-7 hours). So, the sixth day in Guatemala will be used to travel from Antigua to Lanquin. Make sure to bring extra snacks, a packed lunch, and a bottle of water.
- The easiest and most efficient transportation option from Antigua to Lanquin is a shared shuttle.
- There are not a lot of accommodation options in Lanquin. Since you’ll most likely be arriving in the evening, be sure to book your hostel in advance.
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 7
Swim in the Turquoise Pools of Semuc Champey
Tucked away in the densely forested mountains of northern Guatemala lies an idyllic limestone paradise called Semuc Champey. Despite the grueling six-hour journey it takes to get there, this is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Guatemala. So, reward yourself by taking a dip in its crystal-clear pools. Not surprisingly, this is not the only thing to do here! Be sure to check out my guide to visiting Semuc Champey for a complete list of activities. It has everything you need to know to guarantee an epic visit!
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 8
Lanquin is a small town without a ton of things to do, but if you’re in need of a relaxing day it offers the perfect setting. Spend the morning strolling through the little streets, shopping at the local market, and observing daily life in the plaza. Afterward, rent a tube and go tubbing in the Rio Cahabon. Then, if you’re staying at the magnificent El Retiro lodge, you’ll be able to enjoy other activities like white water rafting, kayaking, or hanging out in the beautiful gardens.
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 9
Flores is a quaint town in northern Guatemala that serves as a hub for visiting Tikal National Park, but there’s so much more to do here. Grab your camera and wander down the colorful streets. This vibrant city is full of unique buildings that will surely ignite the photographer in you. Then, hop on a local boat and head to Museo Santa Barbara. This museum sits on an island and is home to a wonderful collection of Mayan artifacts. Finally, head over to Playa El Chechenal beach and take a dip in its bright blue waters. The temperatures in Flores can soar in the afternoon, making this the perfect escape from the heat.
Guatemala Itinerary – Day 10
Visit the Ancient Ruins of Tikal
Tikal is one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites with 85% still buried in the jungle. So, spending a day learning about this ancient civilization is an absolute must! In fact, Tikal was once the most powerful empire in the Americas, and, at its peak, had as many as 100,000 inhabitants. At some point, the city was abandoned and wasn’t discovered until the mid-nineteenth century.
Today, Tikal National Park covers an impressive 575 square kilometers. Here you’ll find temples, palaces, public squares, and magnificent views over the vast jungle. and learning about this ancient civilization. You can visit Tikal as part of a tour or on your own. I would recommend visiting on your own. You can book a ride with your hotel or any tour agency in Flores, but make sure to specify you don’t want a guide.
Cost of Visiting Tikal:
Round-trip Bus Ticket without a Guide – 80Q (10.70 USD)
Round-trip Bus Ticket with a Guide – 120Q (16 USD)
Entrance Ticket – 150Q (20 USD)
Useful Tip: Make sure to book your shuttle and/or tour to Tikal the night before.
Tips for Visiting Guatemala
- Currency – The local currency is Quetzales (Q), and can only be acquired in Guatemala. There are plenty of ATMs throughout the country, but always have extra cash in case of emergency.
- Transportation – The most common form of transportation for locals is the chicken bus (i.e. decoratively designed school buses). While tourists can use these buses, they often don’t provide direct transportation over long distances. In these cases, the easiest option is to take a shared shuttle.
- Best Time to Visit – The best time to visit Guatemala is during the dry season from November to April.
- Safety Precautions – While Guatemala has a reputation for being unsafe, this is simply not the case. Take normal safety precautions while traveling and you won’t have any problems.
- Visa Requirements – Most nationalities traveling to Guatemala do not need a visa.
Guatemala is a country of diversity, whether that be in the landscapes, food, or culture. It’s a place that will show you some of the most spectacular destinations in Central America. So, use this guide to help plan your next trip to Guatemala!
Check Out My Other Travel Guides
Hope you enjoyed my 10-day itinerary for Guatemala. Here are some of my other travel guides that you might find interesting.
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