Essential Guatemala Travel Itinerary (One Week, 7-10 Days)

Great Jaguar Temple (Tikal)

This is a suggested travel itinerary for Guatemala that includes Antigua, Lake Atitlán & Tikal.


Why Travel To Guatemala

  • Ancient civilization, historical sites & ruins
  • Colorful colonial towns
  • Varied landscape
  • Unique culture
  • Friendly locals
  • Value for money

Guatemala Travel Map


Guatemala Travel Map
(Above map image via Google Earth)

Guatemala Travel Itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua
  • Day 2: Explore Antigua
  • Day 3: Hike Volcano Pacaya
  • Day 4: Travel to Panajachel (Lake Atitlán)
  • Day 5: Explore Lake Atitlán & Indigenous Villages
  • Day 6: Visit Chichicastenango
  • Day 7: Fly to Flores
  • Day 8: Explore Tikal's Mayan Ruins
  • Day 9: Depart

If you've got few more days then consider also visiting Semuc Champay to enjoy stunning scenery and adventure sports.

Best Time To Visit Guatemala

The best time to visit Guatemala is between November and April when the conditions are dry.

Guatemala Top Experiences

  • Fascinating ancient Tikal ruins
  • Indigenous villages around Lake Atitlán
  • Colorful colonial town of Antigua

Day 1: Arrive In Guatemala City, Transfer to Antigua

After flying into Guatemala City take the transport to Antigua which is under an hour drive. Antigua is a beautiful small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala. Antigua was once the capital of Spanish Colonial Guatemala but was abandoned in the 1700s after a devastating earthquake. Antigua is full of Baroque-inspired architecture, fascinating church ruins and cobble stones streetsIt is also UNESCO World Heritage site.

The area of El Caseo (Historic Center) is the best place to stay in Antigua. The Historic Center of Antigua is home to the main colonial buildings, museums and historic churches of the city.

After arriving in Antigua settle into your hotel/hostel. It you're not too tired then spend rest of the day walking around the lovely cobble stone streets of Antigua. Enjoy and appreciate famous Santa Catalina Arch which was built in 17th century.

Santa Catalina Arch (Antigua)
Santa Catalina Arch (Antigua)

Day 2: Explore Antigua

Start your day by visiting the lovely baroque style Catholic church Iglesia de la Merced. It was inaugurated in 1767. Don't miss the Fountain of los Pescados inside the church. Then visit Cathedral of San José which has been damaged due to earthquakes. Also visit Iglesia de San Francisco which is one of many ruined churches in the city and often visited by the pilgrims. 

Also checkout Casa Santo Domingo Museum (which is also a hotel). The property has a world-class museum, interesting ruins, gorgeous gardens and a hotel.

Iglesia de la Merced (Antigua)
Iglesia de la Merced (Antigua)

Fountain at Iglesia de la Merced (Antigua)
Fountain at Iglesia de la Merced (Antigua)

Iglesia de San Francisco (Antigua)
Iglesia de San Francisco (Antigua)

Day 3: Hike Pacaya Volcano

Start your day with a guided trek of Pacaya Volcano. The trek will provide you the opportunity to marvel the volcanic ashes and hot lava. Pacaya is an active volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala.

After returning back from your trek just relax and enjoy rest of your day at the charming town of Antigua.

Pacaya Volcano (Guatemala)
Pacaya Volcano
(Above photo by Airbagfailure at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Day 4: Transfer to Panajachel (Lake Atitlán)

Take transportation to the town of Panajachel which is about 2.5 hours by road from Antigua. The town of Panajachel is located on the Northeast shore of Lake Atitlán and will be your base while exploring Lake Atitlán. Panajachel was a famous hippie haven in the 1970s. Today it offers travelers easy access for day trips around Lake Atitlán. Also it is  full of Spanish language schools, yoga classes, supermarkets, restaurants, bars and cafés. Spend rest of the day walking around exploring the lovely town of Panajachel.

Panajachel
Panajachel

Day 5: Explore Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán is one of the most mystical places in Guatemala. Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America and one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

Lake Atitlán is surrounded by many indigenous Mayan communities. San Pedro, San Juan and Santiago are the most popular villages around Lake Atitlán. Sign up for an organized tour to visit these indigenous villages around the lake.

Lake Atitlán
Lake Atitlán

San Juan La Laguna (Lake Atitlán)
San Juan La Laguna (Lake Atitlán)

Church of St. Peter at San Pedro La Laguna (Lake Atitlán)
Church of St. Peter at San Pedro La Laguna (Lake Atitlán)

Day 6: Visit Chichicastenango 

In the morning travel to the town of Chichicastenango, which is little more than an hour's drive from Panajachel. You can arrange for a guided tour or do a simple transfer. Chichicastenango is known for it's bustling and colorful market which is open on Thursdays and Sundays. The vendors sell handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, wooden boxes, condiments, textiles, etc. It is a great place to get the feel of the colorful Mayan culture. Also visit 400-year-old Church of Santo Tomás which is right next to the market. Get back to Panajachel to enjoy the evening with dinner and drinks. 

Alternatively you can choose to spend the day exploring any of the villages or getting involved in some activities like hiking, yoga, etc.

Chichicastenango
Chichicastenango

Iglesia de Santo Tomás (Chichicastenango)
Iglesia de Santo Tomás (Chichicastenango)

Day 7: Transfer to Flores

Take a short domestic flight to the town of Flores in northern Guatemala. You can decide to stay at a hotel in Flores or in a hotel very close to the archeological site Tikal. 

Travel Tip: Please note that any hotel close to the archeological site would be actually located inside the protected jungle. Please do your research to understand the pros & cons of staying at a hotel inside the protected area.

Tikal is the biggest and best preserved Mayan city in all of Mesoamerica. Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BCE, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, c. 200 to 900. At Tikal you will find around 3,000 structures like temples, terraces, ceremonial platforms and plazas. 

Day 8: Explore Tikal

Full one day is enough for most people to see the highlights of Tikal. The most prominent structures are the six surviving pyramids/temples that are labeled Temples I–VI, some of them over 200 feet high. 

Travel Tip: Some of the questions to consider before visiting Tikal would be: 1) Do you prefer to explore on your own or with a guide?; 2) Would you like to be there for sunrise or sunset?. Please wear right footwear to allow walking and climbing. Be prepared for the heat in the afternoon (wearing a cap, carrying enough water, etc.). Also wear a bug spray to repel the mosquitoes.

Great Jaguar Temple (Tikal)
Great Jaguar Temple (Tikal)

Tikal
Tikal

Day 9: Depart

Depart from Flores to your destination.


What to Shop In Guatemala

Guatemala is known for textiles, ceramics, Jade jewelry, masks, coffee and rum.

Please do let me know in the comments section below if you like this itinerary or if you've any questions/suggestions about the itinerary.


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