I have traveled to over 50 countries on seven continents, more than half of which were visited solo. I love traveling, being outdoors, and hiking. I hope to inspire others to travel and explore further, even if that means going alone.
Hey, I'm Ashley!
Guatemala is an amazing country with a vibrant culture, spectacular architecture and landscapes guaranteed to take your breath away. From ancient ruins to incredible hiking trails, this 14-day itinerary promises the perfect way to experience all this gorgeous country has to offer.
But before you start packing, keep in mind the dry season runs from November – April. This season offers mild temperatures ideal for those looking for more outdoor opportunities.
Hop on a plane to Guatemala City which is the perfect starting point for this exciting trip! When you arrive, grab an Uber or hop on a pre-arranged shuttle bus off to Antigua.
I used Gekko Trails Explorer for one of my shuttles I booked in advance in Guatemala. They don’t have the best reviews on Google, but I had no issues with them. Guatemalan drivers drive fast, no matter what company you use. Good thing the journey from Guatemala City to Antigua is a very well-traveled, flatter (for Guatemala) route.
First, you’ll be exploring Antigua. Antigua is a picturesque town with centuries-old architecture and cobblestone streets. You’ll want to take it easier this first day and just explore the city. This will help you better acclimate to the high altitude if you’re planning any hikes! Below are some must-visit places in Antigua you don’t want to miss:
Get to the Santa Catalina Arch as early as possible, right after sunrise would be best! Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time getting a picture of the arch without a load of tourists. This arch is very popular for photos because not only do you get to photograph this beautiful archway, but you also get Volcán Acatenango in the distance.
This church, Iglesia de la Merced is unfortunately off-limits for pictures. However, it’s definitely one of the more impressive religious sites in Antigua. It’s also right down the road from the Santa Catalina Arch.
Take a break from all the sightseeing in Antigua’s Central Park. Relax with an ice cream under some shade while people-watching. There are also plenty of restaurants and shops nearby to explore.
While the inside of the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral may not be jaw-droppingly impressive, it’s located just steps away from Central Park. Why not stop in while you’re already in the area?!
Convento Santa Clara was the ultimate highlight of my time in Antigua! The archways are so beautiful and there’s so much to check out here. Just keep one thing in mind, no tripods allowed within these walls.
From the grand Convento Santa Clara to the smaller charms of Iglesia Católica San Francisco el Grande, both have magnificent, ancient ruins. Iglesia Católica San Francisco el Grande even offers a museum if history is your jam.
Guatemala is known for its natural beauty. One of the most incredible experiences you can have here is hiking Volcán de Acatenango and Volcán de Fuego. This hike is extremely challenging, but very rewarding at the same time. It takes you up one of the most active volcanoes in Central America, Volcán de Fuego. The volcano provides insane views above the clouds. You’ll also have a chance to camp overnight right beneath the Volcán de Acatenango summit.
I booked the Double Whammy Volcano Tour with OX Expeditions and an amazing team of guides!
The night before your hike, be sure to attend the pre-meeting for information about what you need to pack for this adventure. Don’t forget sturdy hiking boots to give you a good grip in the volcanic sand. Most importantly, bring plenty of water, more than you think you need. Hydration is most definitely key when climbing to 13k feet high. If you prepare properly, nothing will stand in your way of summiting both volcanoes.
After trekking 6-8 hours to the campsite below the summit of Acatenango, drop your bags and head onward another 1.4 miles for the most spectacular part of the hike, Volcán de Fuego! You may get to feel the ground shake as you get close enough to watch lava spewing from its peak. If that’s too much excitement or you’re just too worn out, chill out by the fire back at the campsite.
You’ll be extremely tired after this long day, but there is truly nothing like spending a night under the stars while listening to Fuego eruptions! Only downside, you and your crew will be tucked in the cabins like sardines! I certainly felt cramped next to strangers who I had just met earlier that day.
Wake up at about 4 am and join the group on a summit to Acatenango. You’ll climb your way toward an incredible view of the sunrise, while standing atop one of Guatemala’s highest peaks.
If you’re tired of hiking, hit the snooze button and instead wake up at 6am to enjoy sunrise from the campsite. When the group summiting Acatenango returns to camp, take the slippery descent back down to La Soledad.
For more epic hiking destinations, check out these recent posts.
Now its time to relax! Take a shuttle from Antigua to the gorgeous Lake Atitlán, surrounded by volcanoes and Mayan villages. You can have days of boating, hiking or just taking in the local culture. There’s such a variety of things to do at this stunning lake
Lake Atitlán is located in the Sololá department of Guatemala, and is accessible by car or by shuttle. The lake is surrounded by a number of small towns, each with its own unique character and charm. You can easily transport between towns by local boat.
There are plenty of options for accommodations in the area. I stayed at the Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve near Santa Cruz La Laguna. When you arrive in Panajachel, you will be greeted by the resort’s boat captain. Your captain will take you on a 30-minute boat ride to this secluded resort.
Whether you want a peaceful walk along its lake shore or an intense trek up one of its majestic volcanoes, there’s something for everyone at this lake.
At the Laguna Lodge, take in sunrise views with a hike to a palapa on the resort’s own nature reserve. Take time to sit and relax in the palapa while listening to the birds sing.
For hikes around the lake, Indian Nose and Volcán San Pedro are the most popular. Both are pictured above with Volcán San Pedro being the large volcano on the left and Indian Nose being the smaller peak to the right of myself. Indian Nose is known for its guided sunrise hikes. However, catching sunrise may require special planning. Transport before sunrise isn’t available by local boat from Santa Cruz La Laguna! It would be recommended to stay in a nearby town.
If you’d prefer to get closer to the water, the Laguna Lodge offers free kayaks. Just make sure you’ve got the skills to navigate Lake Atitlán. There can be some choppy waters on this lake, more often in the afternoon.
Lake Atitlán is surrounded by a number of small towns, each with its own unique character and charm. Wave down the local boat from your resort’s boat dock to visit each village. Each local boat ride is 10-25Q and these are the most popular towns around the lake to visit.
If you’re looking for excitement, this little town probably isn’t the place to find it, unless you’re there to hike Volcán San Pedro. But don’t worry, just a few miles down the road lies a town more catered to tourists with plenty of shops.
San Juan La Laguna is filled with plenty of local artisan studios. Its also a great town for those seeking that perfect insta-worthy photo. The most popular photo spot would be La Calle de las Sombrillas, a nicely painted street with umbrellas over head.
San Marcos La Laguna is known for its health and wellness culture. Eagle’s Nest is the most unique yoga studio, high up on the mountain, overlooking the lake. Take a TukTuk up here and relax with a freshly blended juice.
Afterwards, explore shops along the town’s narrow alleyways or visit Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve (located to your right as you’re heading back to the boat dock on the lake). If you’re short on time though, I would skip Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve. I wasn’t all that impressed.
With too little time to explore Lake Atitlán, I missed out on Santiago Atitlán which is known to be the most traditional Mayan town around the lake. I found this blog post that expands on this town as well as the next two towns.
This town is the place to be if you’re looking for a unique souvenir. San Antonio Palopó has handmade ceramics and artfully weaved goods.
This town looks to be more colorful and picturesque with unique hot springs that give it that additional edge.
Lake Atitlán is a peaceful and calming place, and there are plenty of opportunities to relax and recharge. On your final day, take some well-deserved rest at the resort. But if you can’t stop exploring just yet, venture to neighboring towns nearby, perhaps ones that were missed yesterday! Catch a late boat back to Panajachel where Calle Santander awaits with tons of souvenirs.
Head out from Panajachel on a 10 hour shuttle through the mountains to San Agustín Lanquín. If you get car sick, you will want to bring medicine with you for this ride!
Located in the lush mountains of northeastern Guatemala, San Agustín Lanquín is a small town that is quickly becoming one of the country’s popular destinations for adventure and ecotourism.
Be sure to book your accommodation within walking-distance of Semuc Champey. You’ll have a better chance of getting an early view of its breathtaking landscape, without the swarm of tourists. Don’t forget to ask your hotel for transportation upon arrival, many offer it complementary.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself further into nature, then Semuc Champey is the place to be!
This unique destination features turquoise pools connected by a series of cascading waterfalls. You can explore hiking trails that offer spectacular views from above or relax along/in the pools. Here are some of the top activities you can enjoy while visiting this natural wonder:
Make your way to the main viewpoint of the area, a spot accessible after just a short hike.
Once you enter the park, look out for the path leading off to your left. Then, prepare yourself for 30-45 minutes of moderate uphill hiking. Make sure you don’t slip on the wet rocks on the way up, no matter how much good traction you believe your shoes have!
If you’re looking to beat the heat, take a dip in Semuc Champey’s incredible turquoise pools! But don’t forget some bug spray, there are pesky flies around the waterfalls, and their bites last for weeks! Trust me, unfortunately, I know!
Include an epic underground journey. With a guide, you’ll be able to observe stalactites and stalagmites by candlelight.
Say goodbye to your hotel near Semuc Champey and head out on a shuttle to Flores. This charming town is the perfect place to base yourself if you’re exploring the nearby ruins of Tikal National Park.
Flores is also easily accessible by plane from Guatemala City if you don’t visit Semuc Champey. There are several, daily flights to Flores from the capital.
Nearby Flores is Tikal National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to many ruins of an ancient Mayan city, and located in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle.
From Flores, you can hire a taxi, take a shuttle, or hire a guide to reach the park. This journey will be about a two-hour drive. Try visiting at sunrise when you can hear the jungle come to life with wildlife in the area. You can spend the day exploring the site and learning about the rich history of the Mayan civilization.
On this last day in Guatemala, explore Flores, a small but bustling island town situated on Lake Petén Itzá. Flores is full of architectural gems and thriving street markets. Take a boat tour of Lake Petén Itzá, visit the local markets, walk the streets, and enjoy the nightlife.
Extend your adventure and take a shuttle to the beaches of Belize or soar back home via Guatemala City!
Looking for a shorter trip? Skip out on Semuc Champey and Tikal National Park! Instead, explore the incredible sights of Antigua and Lake Atitlán. They’re much closer to Guatemala City. If you need time to adjust to the elevation before tackling the Volcán de Fuego and Acatenango hikes, try visiting Antigua last. It’ll give your lungs just what they need!
February 17, 2023