Guatemala is one of the most diverse destinations in Central America. With our travel itinerary for Guatemala, you can check off all your travel desires. This includes venturing into the jungle, climbing a volcano, enjoying the beach, exploring charming cities, discovering the fascinating Maya culture, and learning about the country’s rich history. Guatemala offers something for every type of traveler, with easy travel options and a touch of adventure. There’s plenty to explore, and most beautiful places are shared with only a small group of fellow travelers. Curious about what Guatemala has to offer? Check out the ultimate travel itinerary with tips for Guatemala below!
Transportation for the Guatemala Travel Itinerary
Almost everyone travels around Guatemala by bus. For shorter distances, you can take the local “chicken buses,” which are old American school buses still widely used in Guatemala. For longer distances, there are also more comfortable buses and special shuttles for travelers. The latter are a bit more expensive but much faster for longer distances since you often have to transfer with the local bus. Our articles provide detailed information on how to get to each destination from other stops on the itinerary. Taxis and tuk-tuks are readily available in cities and towns, offering affordable transportation from point A to point B.
How Many Weeks Do You Need for This Travel Itinerary?
If you want to follow the entire travel itinerary for Guatemala, we recommend setting aside at least three weeks. This will give you ample time to explore the various destinations at your leisure. If you have more time, you can also combine this travel itinerary with one of our itineraries for Mexico or Belize. If you have less time, it’s better to skip some places. This travel itinerary forms a loop, so you can travel in both directions, but we suggest following it clockwise for a relaxed start with shorter travel times.
When you fly to Guatemala, your journey will always begin in Guatemala City. This is the least safe place in Guatemala and not particularly beautiful or cozy. Therefore, we recommend traveling directly from the airport to Antigua, which is only a one-hour journey. You can pre-book a taxi or bus in advance to travel hassle-free to Antigua right after your flight. This way, you start your journey in the most beautiful city in Guatemala.
A Great Start to Your Journey: For a perfect beginning to your trip, we recommend staying at the delightful Ojala. This charming colonial building exudes a relaxed atmosphere and is a great place to meet fellow travelers. It is beautifully decorated with cozy nooks, hammocks, and seating areas. They offer both double rooms and dormitories. Here, you can experience an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the city. It tends to get fully booked early, so it’s a good idea to make a reservation for your first nights as soon as you book your flights. When you book here, you can cancel free of charge up to three days in advance, which is handy in case your travel plans change.
Welcome to the city of eternal spring. Antigua is a beautiful picturesque city filled with impressive colonial buildings. In 1773, the city was rebuilt after being nearly destroyed by a severe earthquake. Located at an elevation of 1500 meters (4921 feet), Antigua enjoys a pleasant climate throughout the year. Daytime temperatures typically range from 22 to 26 degrees Celsius (71 to 79 Fahrenheit), while evenings cool down to around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 Fahrenheit). This makes it the ideal place to explore Guatemala and recover from your flight. Check out our tips for Antigua to see what there is to do.
Travel Time from Guatemala City to Antigua: One hour by bus or taxi.
From Antigua: Climbing Acatenango Volcano
After exploring Antigua at your own pace and getting some rest, it’s time to tick off one of the highlights of a trip through Guatemala. Just outside the city, you can climb the Acatenango volcano on an exciting two-day hike. From Acatenango, you can witness the nearby Fuego volcano spewing ash and lava into the air, a natural spectacle you shouldn’t miss! Check out our tips for climbing Acatenango to get a good idea of this hike.
Guatemala may not be known for its beautiful beaches, but there is one coastal spot you should definitely add to your travel itinerary. El Paredon is an upcoming destination where you can relax with your feet in the sand. Play a game of beach volleyball, take a surf lesson, or enjoy a cocktail in your hammock. Here, you can completely unwind in one of the many cozy accommodations right by the beach. Check out our tips for El Paredon to learn more.
Travel Time from Antigua to El Paredon: Approximately two to three hours by shuttle bus.
The next destination on the travel itinerary is Lake Atitlan. This is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, where you can often witness spectacular sunsets. Surrounding the crystal-clear lake are three massive volcanoes. Along the lake, you’ll find several villages, each with its own character. Whether you’re looking for a lively atmosphere, tranquility, nature, or culture, you’ll find it all here. Check out our tips for Lake Atitlan to discover the activities you shouldn’t miss.
Travel Time from El Paredon to Lake Atitlan: This is a 3.5-hour bus ride.
Lanquin & Semuc Champey
From the village of Lanquin, you can visit Semuc Champey, a breathtaking natural area hidden amidst Guatemala’s mountains. The journey here takes some time, but the long bus ride is well worth it. Rio Cahabón flows through the jungle, a river with azure-blue water, numerous waterfalls, and limestone terraces forming natural pools. It’s hard to imagine that this enchanting place was formed naturally. Float down the river on an inflated tractor tire or explore the various waterfalls, pools, and caves. Learn all about it in our article with tips for Lanquin & Semuc Champey.
Travel Time from Lake Atitlan to Lanquin: 10 hours by shuttle bus.
From Lanquin, the travel itinerary continues to the north of Guatemala. Here you’ll find Flores, a small island located in Lake Peten Itza. This is the most popular base for visiting the ancient Maya city of Tikal. The island is filled with old buildings painted in various cheerful colors. Flores has a fantastic atmosphere, and there are plenty of excellent restaurants and fun bars. We recommend the best places in the article with tips for Flores.
Travel Time from Lanquin to Flores: 8 to 9 hours by bus.
Some people come to Guatemala specifically for Tikal, and that’s not surprising because this ancient Maya city ranks alongside Petra in Jordan, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, or the temples of Bagan in Myanmar. Here, you’ll find dozens of Maya temples, some reaching heights of up to 42 meters (138 feet). Explore the most beautiful temples with a guide and learn all about the Maya culture and the fascinating history of this ancient kingdom. You can even climb some of the temples, and because they are deep in the jungle, you’re likely to encounter many animals here, such as monkeys, toucans, tarantulas, and colorful birds. Planning a visit to Tikal can be done in various ways, and there are several things to consider. Therefore, be sure to check out our tips for Tikal in advance.
Travel Time from Flores to Tikal: Approximately one and a half hours by bus or an organized tour.
On your way back to Guatemala City, you’ll first pass by Rio Dulce. This river flows into the Caribbean coast near the fishing village of Livingston. If you love beautiful nature, Rio Dulce is the ultimate place to wrap up your trip. Along the riverbank, you’ll find the most beautiful lodges with jungle bungalows. Hang in your hammock above the water and enjoy the sounds of the jungle, or paddle in a kayak and explore the narrow channels around the river. Curious about what there is to do and which lodges are the most fun? Check out all the tips for Rio Dulce.
Travel Time from Flores to Rio Dulce: 4 hours by bus to Rio Dulce, and often a short boat ride to your lodge from there.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Guatemala
During our travels, we always look for the most unique and enjoyable hotels and hostels. From a cozy boutique hostel to a jungle bungalow with a breathtaking view, as long as it has something special to make your trip extra enjoyable. In Guatemala, we found a number of beautiful places that we’d love to share with you. For every destination on this travel itinerary, we have three unique recommendations that you can find in our list of our favorite places in Guatemala. This way, you can be sure you’ll be staying in the most delightful spots during your journey through Guatemala!