Our Suggested Itinerary to Discover Tikal and Mayan Civilization in 14 Days
Discover the wonders of Guatemala and the mysteries of the Mayan civilization. This trip will allow you to discover the must-see sites of Guatemala: Antigua, Lake Atitlan and the pyramids of Tikal. The itinerary will take you into the heart of Guatemala to meet the Mayan people. The lush forests and jungle will seduce you. At Lake Atitlan, a family from the Tzutuhil community opens their door to you. You’ll spend an over night at a local home, where you’ll meet with local fisherman and attend a weaving workshop. In Peten fall asleep in the heart of the jungle at comfortable lodge and enjoy the sunrise from the highest pyramid of Tikal. You’ll even have the chance to get up close with lava on the slopes of a volcano! This tour will delight the curious nature lovers searching for an authentic way to experience Guatemala.
Length of stay: 14 days
Kind: Must-See Guatemala
Fix: For all public
Countries visited: Guatemala, Honduras
San Juan la Laguna
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Day 1 : Guatemala City
Bienvenidos a Guatemala!
Arrive at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, meet your driver and transfer to Antigua. Overnight stay at the hotel Meson María.
Day 2 : Antigua
Surrounded by 3 majestic volcanoes, the ancient capital of Central America has suffered throughout its history many natural hazards: earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions… But Antigua is now one of the most beautiful cities in Guatemala.
Discover this colonial city, home to more than thirty monasteries, convents and a grand cathedral in the central square. The cobblestone streets adjoin the colorful patios of the colonial houses. Stroll along the arcades of Parque Central, admiring the volcanoes Fuego, Agua and Acatenango in the distance.
Note : Walk tour of the city (no vehicle required). Overnight stay at the hotel Meson María.
Day 3 : Antigua
Ascension of the Pacaya volcano :
Climb the Pacaya Volcano:
This morning, depart early for Pacaya Volcano, one of 3 active volcanoes in Guatemala. After a 1 hour and 30 minute drive, begin the ascent (3 hours hiking, 400 meters of altitude difference). The hike is accessible to all and offers beautiful views of the valley and the volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. At the base of the cone, observe the crater and fumaroles escaping. Lava flows can be seen when the volcano is active. Descend the giant and return to Antigua around 1PM. Free afternoon to explore Antigua.
Note: Good physical condition is recommended! There is the possible to do this activity on horseback. Option included : Entrance fees to volcan Pacaya. Option included: English speaking local community guide (mandatory for your climb).
Descend the volcano and head to a restaurant with a panoramic view of the Antigua Valley. Lunch prepared with fresh garden grown produce! Visit the vegetable garden and an orchid greenhouse.
After lunch, transfer to Chichicastenango (approximately 3 hours).
Option included : English speaking local guide for Pacaya Volcano. Overnight stay at the hotel Santo Tomas.
Day 4 : Chichicastenango
Market day in Chichicastenango
Today travel to Chichicastenango to explore it’s famous market (Thursday and Sunday). The Kaqchikel Indians descend from surrounding villages twice a week to sell their handicrafts here. The city is transformed into a real kaleidoscope of colors and smells! The women wear the traditional huipil, representing the seasons of the Mayan calendar. In the center of the village, shamans purify the stairs of the church with incense and partake in Mayan rituals.
Continue on to Lake Atitlan, a true symbol of Guatemala. This beautiful lake is nestled between 3 volcanoes at 1,600 meters above sea level–the panoramic views are magnificent! There are many small villages that sit on shores of the lake, often only accessible by boat. Here, they celebrate local festivals and host markets rooted in tradition.
Visit the Atitlan reserve. Walk along the winding trails and suspended bridges through the lush vegetation. Observe many birds and spider monkeys! Overnight stay at the hotel Dos Mundos Panajachel.
Day 5 : San Juan la Laguna
At 8:00 AM meet with a local English-speaking guide and depart by boat for Santa Cruz la Laguna. Walk in the direction of the village of Jaibalito with it’s beautiful views of the volcanoes Toliman, San Pedro and Cerro de Oro. The 1-hour walk allows you to appreciate the local life: the farmers hard at work in the corn fields and coffee plantations. You’ll cross paths with locals as you walk along the lake.
After, discover the small Mayan village of San Juan La Laguna. Here the weavers’ cooperative will open its doors to teach you about the techniques of natural coloring and traditional weaving. Appreciate the naive paintings that represent scenes of daily life in the region.
Note: Trave by public taxis that serve the small villages bordering Lake Atitlan (tickets included, trips every 30 minutes).
Experience Mayan Daily Life
The Tzutuhil people are one of the 21 Mayan peoples of Guatemala. They are present in only a handful of villages southwest of Lake Atitlan. A local family welcomes you to participate in their daily life. Depending on the season, you may find yourself shucking corn, drying coffee beans or accompanying the grandfather to his cultivated plot.
The dinner is prepared with the family. Overnight stay with a local resident.
Day 6 : San Juan la Laguna
Visit Santiago Atitlan where you’ll discover a curious syncretic cult: Maximón, the cigarette smoking God of Guatemala is feared as much as he is idolized. Somewhere between good and bad, the villagers offer Maximón gifts in the form of cigarettes, alcohol or money.
Return to Panajachel and spend the rest of your afternoonexploring in the small town.
Option included: private boat transfers on Lake Atitlán.
Option included : English speaking local guide.
Mayan Immersion in San Juan la Laguna
Free morning with your host family. Walk in the village with a family member. The women’s weavers’ cooperative opens its doors to explain the techniques of natural cotton dyeing and traditional weaving.
Traditional lunch with local residents.
Overnight stay at the hotel Dos Mundos Panajachel.
Day 7 : Panajachel
Lake Atitlan Reserve Tour:
Take a walk along winding trails and across suspension bridges amongst lush vegetation. Observe many different species of birds, and even spider monkeys! Discover a butterfly sanctuary and admire the array of colors in the afternoon sun.
Archeological Site of Iximché:
Then, travel to the Mayan site of Iximché, capital of the Mayas Kaqchikel who allied themselves with the Spanish settlers against the Quiché Maya. The conquistadors established the first Spanish city of the country, but the Kaqchikels revolted and burned the city in 1562. The site is sometimes the place of Mayan rituals practiced by shamans and locals alike.
Transfer to Guatemala City. Overnight stay at the hotel Stofella.
Day 8 : Guatemala City
Private transfer to Copán in Honduras.
In the morning, discover the archaeological site of Copán, close to the border with Guatemala. The city was an important cultural and scientific influence at its peak in the 7th century. IIt’s baroque style, sculptures and finely ornamented steles make it one of the most spectacular Mayan cities. You may also enjoy bird watching on site.
Option included: English speaking local guide in Copan. Overnight stay at the Hotel Casa de café.
Day 9 : Copan
Return to Guatemala, and travel on to Quirigua. The ruins of Quirigua, an archaeological site in the valley of Motagua. Quirigua was an important and respected city during the Mayan Classic period (200 – 900 AD). The site is particularly famous for the beauty of its steles, the highest reaching 10.70 meters high and 65 tons!
Continuation to Puerto Barrios, where you’ll start to feel the Caribbean vibes!
Transfer by boat to Livingston (private boat). Reach Livingston by boat (30 minutes). Part of the population is Garifuna ethnicity, descendants of the Black Caribs. The contrast with the rest of the country is striking! Overnight stay at the hotel Villa Caribe.
Day 10 : Livingston
Coconut trees, white sands and Caribbean vibes.
Departure in the morning by boat to an isolated beach near the border with Belize. It takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach the Playa Blanca site. Spend the day relaxing on the white sands and swimming in the turquoise water of the Caribbean.
Return to Livingston in the early afternoon. Afternoon free to explore.
Note: 4 USD to be paid on site for access to the private beach.
Overnight stay at the hotel Villa Caribe.
Day 11 : Livingston
Relaxing boat trip down the Río Dulce. Cross a canyon and stop for a swim in the hot springs. Reach the village of Río Dulce, where many sailboats come to drop anchor. Visit Fort San Felipe built in the 17th century to stop recurrent pirate attacks.
Then continue to Tikal , where you will spend the night in the jungle.
Option included : private boat from Livingston to Río Dulce. Overnight stay at the hotel Jungle Lodge Tikal.
Day 12 : Tikal
Sunrise in Tikal
Early departure (4:30 am) for Tikal. The impressive Mayan city built in the 4th century BC reached its peak between the 3rd and 9th centuries AD.
We enter the site in the darkness to climb the highest pyramid and witness the awakening of the jungle: first the howler monkeys whose cries can be heard several kilometers away, then the birds that cross the twilight. The light rises over the tropical forest, gradually revealing the pyramids that surround us.
Return to the hotel for breakfast. Then visit the archaeological site. Some 3,000 structures emerge from the rain forest in a mystical atmosphere. The temple of the great jaguar faces that of the masks in the great square, the nerve center of the city. At 65 meters high, the Snake Temple was the highest building in the New World until the 19th century.
Nature is not to be outdone, engulfing the traveler who enters the reserve. We are watching for spider monkeys, pheasants, coatis, toucans and other multicolored parrots. The screams of howler monkeys can be heard from several kilometers away. The traveler is surprised by the smell of vines and roots.
Transfer to Flores located on a peninsula in Lake Peten Itza.
Option included: English speaking local guide in Tikal.
Overnight stay at the hotel Isla de Flores. Premium Room.
Day 13 : Flores
Departure for Yaxha, meaning “green water” in the Mayan language. The city is located on the shores of Lake Yaxha, which served to supply fresh water to the Mayan population. Walk along the marked trails of this large and rarely visited site. Don’t miss the view of the lake from the Temple de las Manos Rojas!
After lunch, transfer to Flores airport.
Option included : English speaking local guide in Yaxha. Domestic flight Flores – Guatemala (flight time to be confirmed).
City Tour of Guatemala City
Discover the panoramic historic center of Guatemala City. Visit the Giant Relief Map, a technical feat of the beginning of the century that covers 1,800 m2 and provides an excellent overview of the country and its volcanoes! Visit the Anthropology Museum and the Ixchel Museum (indigenous clothing).
Option included: Tour guide.
Overnight stay at the hotel Stofella.