Adventure in Guatemala
Guatemala's intact culture and venturesome landscapes offer some of the most rewarding experiences. This 8-day itinerary sweeps you through the colonial city of Antigua and spiritual Lake Atitlan with pit stops at grumbling volcanoes, local villages and the Mayan site of Iximche. See Guatemala's highlights like never before.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Visit the famed highland market, Chichicastenango
- Explore Lake Atitlan's waters by boat, bike and kayak
- Visit the Mayan site of Iximche with a private guide
- Hike the Pacaya Volcano with a gourmet picnic
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When To Travel
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Day 1: Arrive Antigua
On arrival in Guatemala City a private chauffeur will be waiting to drive you one hour to Antigua and your chic boutique hotel. Our local Concierge can recommend the best restaurants in this charming city.
Day 2: Chichi
This morning you can explore Antigua's pastel-hued buildings, elegant plazas and cobbled streets with your expert guide.
Take your time visiting the cathedral and graceful churches of yesteryear. A back drop of volcano peaks makes the city all the more deserving of its UNESCO heritage status. After lunch in town, your driver and guide will pick you up for a journey to Lake Atitlan.
Along the way, you'll stop off at the highland town of Chichicastenango to see its world-famous market. Take in scenes of local Mayans wearing traditional dress, brightly-coloured textiles piled high, flower sellers spilling down the San Tomas church steps. After browsing the stalls, you may want to hike up the hill to Pascual Abaj, a pre-Columbian idol where you can often see shamans performing rituals.
Continue south to Lake Atitlan, your base for the next three nights. Arrive in the late afternoon in time for sunset over this huge crater lake, formed some 80,000 years ago.
Day 3: Lake Atitlan
After a hearty breakfast, head out onto the deep blue waters of the lake with your private guide on a two-hour kayaking adventure.
Looking for a more laidback pace? Choose a boat ride across the glistening water instead. Step ashore for a hike up to Cerro de Oro (Gold Hill). Its summit is the ideal vantage point from which to see show-stopping views of colossal volcanoes and the sheer mass of water.
Then it's off to Santiago for lunch close to the lakeshore and to seek out the home of Mayan deity and spiritual idol, Maximon. Then cruise to San Juan to meet one of Guatemala's indigenous communities, renowned for their weaving co-operatives and naif paintings. Return to your hotel in time for sundowners.
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Learn the art of traditional weaving
Day 4: Lakeshore Life
Today you can make the most of Lake Atitlan's enchanting landscapes. A water taxi will take you to Santa Cruz, a charming lakeside hamlet.
Swap the boat for a bike ride (gentle or strenuous, you decide) through the small highland towns, each with a strong indigenous identity and their own character. One such locale is San Juan la Laguna, whose Tz'utujil community take pride in their weaving and painting traditions. Stop for lunch and a wander here before heading back to your hotel in the afternoon.
Day 5: Iximche
It's time to say goodbye to lakeside life. Your driver will transfer you back to Antigua.
The Mayan citadel of Iximche lies about an hour away, and you'll stop en route to explore the site's pyramids and temples in a serene forest setting. Next, meet a shaman who will perform an authentic Mayan ceremony in your honour, wishing you good fortune. Continue to your hotel in Antigua where you can spend the afternoon as you please.
Day 6: Street Eats
You may want to skip breakfast this morning because today you'll discover the delights of Antigua's culinary scene with a foodie connoisseur.
Visit the city's best-loved comedores (eateries) sampling traditional dishes such as Guatemalan-style tamales, rellenitos (plantain stuffed with beans) and tortillas oozing with cheese. Feeling adventurous? Try the pigs' feet, a local delicacy. Not only is Guatemala's cuisine worth loosening the belt for, it offers a window into the indigenous Mayan culture.
Work off the excesses with a stroll around the cobbled streets and visits to the Antigua cathedral and La Merced monastery. Too full to walk? We have a tuk tuk at the ready to transport you from A to B.
- Coffee tour
- Chocolate tasting
Day 7: Pacaya Volcano
Take a day trip to nearby Pacaya Volcano, which rises 8,000ft as a dramatic backdrop to the city. After a journey of around an hour, boot up for a steep hike through lush pine forest.
As you climb the foothills, the widening trail reveals stunning panoramas of looming volcanoes and the rolling Pacific lowlands. Arrive at the base of the peak, a barren moonscape punctured with steaming vents. You may catch glimpses of orange magma bubbling beneath the crevices. Spend time taking pictures while your guide sets up a gourmet picnic with the crater as you backdrop. Then take the rest of the afternoon to relax.
Day 8: Homeward Bound
It's time to bid farewell to Guatemala.
After a final morning to wander and snap up some souvenirs, your driver will take you to the airport in good time for your flight home.
Kate B is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.