With its ancient Mayan ruins, beautiful volcanos, and colourful colonial towns, Guatemala is a very diverse Central American country with lots of wonderful things to see. If it’s your first time here, it can be hard to figure out what places you should visit. This 2 week Guatemala itinerary will show you the country’s highlights.
This itinerary starts either in Guatemala City or Antigua and includes beautiful (volcano) hikes, ancient ruins, swimming in turquoise waters, and some cultural activities that will teach you more about the country.
Planning on leaving rather sooner than later? Make sure to check if you can travel to Guatemala right now.
2 Week Guatemala Itinerary
Arriving in Guatemala
Day 1: Head to Antigua
If you’re flying in from abroad, you’ll arrive at the LA Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. Unfortunately, Guatemala City is neither the most interesting nor the safest place to visit in Guatemala. Armed robberies take place here, and some areas are pretty dangerous. This being said, the city has some safer zones too, so if you still want to visit Guatemala City, try to stick to these and avoid going out at night.
Another option is to head straight to Antigua from the airport. This is what most travellers do. You can book a shuttle in advance via GuateGo or buy a ticket at the airport. It’s a 1 to 2-hour ride from the airport to Antigua, depending on the traffic.
Antigua (3 days)
Day 2: Explore Antigua
This day is all about exploring Antigua, which is famous for being Guatemala’s most beautiful city. It was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and it’s a very safe and picturesque city.
Antigua is full of cobblestoned streets, colourful colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and beautiful ruins. I really, really loved this city and it remains one of my favourite ones in the world!
Some of the things you shouldn’t miss while you’re here are the beautiful Iglesia La Merced, the ruins of the Santa Clara Convent, the Santa Catalina Arch, the San Francisco Church, the amazing view over the city from Cerro de la Cruz, and the San José Cathedral.
Day 3 – 4: Acatenango Volcano Hike (or alternative)
This amazing hike was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Guatemala. You don’t often get the chance to camp next to an erupting volcano! The Acatenango Volcano hike is an overnight trek that takes 1,5 days.
I have to admit that although it’s truly amazing, it’s also quite a challenging hike. You’ll have to hike up a steep path for hours at an altitude between 2.500 and 4.000 m (8202 to 13.123 ft). The rewards are more than worth it though! The landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful and watching a volcano spit lava from your tent is an epic, once in a lifetime experience.
You’ll be back in Antigua on day 4 around 11 am, which will leave you some time to rest and explore Antigua a bit more.
Alternative: There are other hikes around Antigua. If you’d like to do an easier one that takes one day, you can opt for the Pacaya Volcano Hike. This is another beautiful hike where you’ll be able to roast marshmallows with lava. If you decide to do a one-day hike, you’ll have a full extra day to explore Antigua on day 4.
Lake Atitlan (3 days)
The easiest way to get to Lake Atitlan from Antigua is by taking the shuttle bus. It takes about 2 hours, depending on the traffic and can easily be booked from your hotel.
The shuttle will drop you off in Panajachel, which is the main village at Lake Atitlan. An important thing to consider when you visit Lake Atitlan is what village to stay in. Every village is different and they all have their own charm. Make sure to stay in San Pedro or San Juan if you want to do the Indian Nose sunrise hike on day 6 though.
If you find yourself at Lake Atitlan on a Thursday or Sunday, you might want to head to Chichistenango. This is the largest handicrafts market in Central America. It’s full of colourful textiles, traditional clothing, food, spices, pottery and more. Although it’s true that it’s quite touristy, it’s definitely worth visiting. You can easily get to Chichistenango from Panajachel either by tourist shuttle or with the chicken bus, which is a more authentic experience.
Day 5: Explore the villages
After arriving at Lake Atitlan and checking into your hotel, you can take the rest of the day to explore some of the villages around the lake. They’re all easily accessible by small motorboats, called ‘planchas’. These boats leave once they’re full, which can take anything between 5 and 30 minutes.
You should know that the last boat leaves between 5 and 6 pm, depending on the village. Apart from this, there are also tuk-tuks that can take you from one point to another within towns.
Some of my favourite villages were Santa Cruz and San Juan, which are more traditional, San Marcos: the hippy village and San Pedro: the backpackers’ village. Don’t worry if you can’t visit all the villages that you want to see today, you’ll have more time to do so on day 7.
Day 6: Hiking and other activities
The most popular hikes around Lake Atitlan are the San Pedro Volcano Hike and the Indian Nose Hike. The latter can be done independently during the day or by joining a tour for sunrise. It’s a 30-minute hike up the Indian Nose mountain, and from here, the view of the lake is phenomenal!
The San Pedro Volcano Hike takes around 5 hours. I’ve heard it’s very beautiful, but I decided not to do this hike because there were robbers on the volcano when I visited Lake Atitlan.
Other activities you can do by the lake are horseback riding, swimming, kayaking, and paragliding.
Tip: A great company to book tours with is Benjy Tours, located in San Pedro.
Day 7: Last day at Lake Atitlan
This is the last day at Lake Atitlan. It’s up to you whether you want to explore more villages, relax by the lake, have a tarot reading in San Marcos or book another activity. There’s a lot to do around the lake!
Lake Atitlan to Semuc Champey (1 day)
Day 8: Ride to Semuc Champey
Okay, there’s no denying that getting to Semuc Champey is a pain in the ass. These natural, turquoise pools are located deep in the Guatemalan jungle, and it’s an uncomfortable, 8-hour drive to get there from Panajachel. Then, it will be another 8-hour drive to leave Semuc Champey and head to Flores.
This being said, I really think Semuc Champey is worth the trouble! It’s a very peaceful and beautiful place where you’ll be able to swim, enjoy nature and relax.
The minibus will drop you off in Lanquin, the nearest village to Semuc Champey. It’s possible to stay in Lanquin or in a hotel along the road to the pools. If you’re staying at one of the hotels along this road (which I highly recommend as you’ll find yourself in the middle of the jungle) transport from your hotel will be waiting for you at the bus stop.
If you have some more time to spare, you could make a stop at Biotopo del Quetzal, which is on the way to Lanquin. This reserve is not only perfect for bird watching, but it’ll also cut the long bus ride to Semuc Champey in two.
Tip: Note that there’s only one ATM in Lanquin. Make sure to bring enough cash because you don’t want to risk that it’s out of order.
Semuc Champey (1 day)
Day 9: Visit Semuc Champey
Apart from swimming, some of the best things to do at Semuc Champey are tubing down the Kahabon river and visiting the K’an Ba Cave. The tour of the cave takes 1 hour, and you’ll enter them with nothing but a candle and a guide. It’s a very unique experience!
Another thing you shouldn’t miss is the viewpoint (‘el mirador‘). It’s a 45-minute hike to get there, and from here, you’ll have a beautiful view of the pools. Unfortunately, the viewpoint was closed due to construction works when I visited Semuc Champey.
The pools and the viewpoint can be visited individually, but if you want to visit the cave and tube down the river, you’ll have to book a tour.
Tip: Visit the pools as soon as the gate opens at 8 am to avoid crowds. The tours start around lunch, and it’ll be much more crowded then.
Semuc Champey to Flores (1 day)
Day 10: Ride to Flores
The ride from Semuc Champey to Flores is another long, uncomfortable one. You’ll have to book it in advance from your hotel. A minibus will pick you up here around 8 am, and from here, it will head to Lanquin. You might have to change buses there before continuing the drive to Flores.
Beware of scammers in Flores: Flores is full of scammers, so watch out where you book a tour. AVOID Receptores Turisticos Peteneros (RETPSA) at all cost! They’re liars, and their price is much higher than other companies. If a man hops on the minibus to sell tours right before you arrive at the Island of Flores, he’s probably working for RETPSA.
Flores (3 days)
Day 11: Explore Flores
Take this day to explore Flores and book the tours for the next days (Yaxha or an alternative and Tikal). Like I mentioned before, watch out where you book them. I can recommend the tours from Los Amigos Hostel, and you don’t have to stay there in order to book them.
The Isle of Flores is very charming and full of colourful houses. Although it’s pretty small, there’s enough to do here to fill the day! After wandering around its colourful streets, a fun thing to do is to take the boat, climb up the hill, and head to El Mirador Del Rey Canek, an observation point offering a beautiful view over Flores.
Jorge’s Rope Swing is another popular place to go to in Flores. This is a small restaurant and bar located by the water, and as the name suggests, there’s a rope swing here! Finally, somethings you shouldn’t miss is watching the sunset from one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants.
Day 12: Visit the ruins of Yaxha (or alternative)
The ruins of Yaxha are the remains of the third largest Mayan city in Guatemala, right after El Mirador and Tikal. I actually enjoyed these ruins more than the ruins of Tikal because there aren’t a lot of tourists here. I found myself almost completely alone at this site, and it felt magical!
Yaxha is a half-day tour from Flores that leaves at noon. After exploring the ruins (either individually or with a guide) for 2 hours, you can climb up Yaxha’s highest temple to see the sunset over the jungle. Take note of the loud screams of the howler monkeys while you’re there, they sound like dinosaurs!
Alternative: The ruins of Uaxactún or Topoxte are other options, but they’re quite expensive compared to Tikal and Yaxha. If you have more than 2 weeks in Guatemala, you could do the 5-day jungle trek to El Mirador. I didn’t have the time to go there myself, but it must be an epic adventure!
Day 13: Explore the ruins of Tikal
The ruins of Tikal are by far the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala, and I have to say they’re truly impressive! Tikal was one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya, and it dates back to as far as the 4th century BC. It’s packed with temples, and as it’s situated deep in the jungle, there’s a lot of wildlife here as well.
There’s A LOT to see at Tikal! Just like at Yaxha, you can explore Tikal individually or with a guide. Although I think a guide is great when visiting sites like Tikal, I decided to explore Tikal by myself. I easily found all of the temples with a little help from Maps.me, and was completely alone at some of these beautiful, ancient structures!
Check out the official website of Tikal National Park for more useful information.
Tip: Visit the ruins of Tikal as early in the morning as possible. It won’t be as hot then and it starts getting more crowded around noon.
Day 14: Last day in Guatemala
This is the last day of this 2 week Guatemala itinerary. You can take the bus back to Guatemala City from Flores (8 hours) to go to the airport and head home. There’s also a night bus from Flores to Guatemala City, so another possibility would be to take that bus after visiting Tikal on day 13.
If you still have the time to explore another country, there’s a shuttle from Flores to Belize (5 hours).
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