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GUATEMALA IS A FANTASTIC ADVENTURE DESTINATION TO HEAD TO - EVEN IF YOU ONLY HAVE A FEW WEEKS TO SPARE. THIS 2 WEEK TRAVEL ITINERARY IS PACKED FULL OF EPIC ADVENTURES, BEAUTIFUL TOWNS AND LOTS OF FUN. EXPLORE IT BELOW.
Guatemala is an absolutely stunning Central American country full of history, culture, and adventure. And thanks to its rather small size you can really see a lot of its highlights in about 2 weeks (though as usual, the more time you have the better!).
Below is my action packed 2 week travel itinerary, where you will find an outline of the top destinations and the amount of time you should spend there. While this itinerary doesn't cover every place in Guatemala - trust me, there is a whole lot to see - it should give you a great taste of how amazing this country is.
THE PERFECT GUATEMALA TRAVEL ITINERARY
While the capital of the country is quite large, it doesn't really have a lot to offer (unfortunately). Most likely you will only spend time in the city either as you enter the country (especially via air) or as you leave.
If you do end up having to spend a day there, then consider visiting Zona 1/The Historic Center, which is where you will find many of the most important and historical buildings Including, the National Palace of Culture (Palacio Nacional de la Cultura), the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Congress, the Presidential House (Casa Presidencial), the National Library, and Constitution Plaza, which is the old Central Park.
TIME NEEDED: 1 day
But really one of the first places you should head to upon entering Guatemala - especially if coming from Guatemala City - is Antigua. This very beautiful old town is full of amazing buildings, great food, delicious coffee, lots of history and a lively atmosphere.
While I ended up spending more than a week here, I think you can see most of the major sites and get a feel for its atmosphere in a couple of days.
► Find my FULL Antigua, Guatemala Travel Guide (which includes the top 5 things to do, plus where to stay and eat) here.
TIME NEEDED: 3 days
ACATENANGO VOLCANO HIKE
If you are looking for an epic Guatemala adventure then make sure to add hiking up Acatenango Volcano to watch Fuego erupt to your travel itinerary. Located about an hour from downtown Antigua, Acatenango is an absolutely incredible place to spend a couple of days - especially if you get lucky and have clear skies.
While I go into more detail in my Acatenango Hiking Guide, the basic premise of this adventure is you hike up to basecamp on Acatenango Volcano (which takes about 7 hours and is relatively challenging), and watch Fuego Volcano erupt nearby, and then the next morning you wake up for sunrise and summit Acatenango before hiking back down.
This 2-day adventure costs around $50 - $70 USD and can easily be booked in Antigua.
TIME NEEDED: 2 days
After hiking up Acatenango Volcano it is time to head to another famous and beautiful spot in Guatemala: Lake Atitlan.
Known as the deepest lake in all of Central America, this massive body of water is surrounded by volcanoes and small villages - many of which you can really only get to via boat. Because of this, you have a lot of choices when it comes to things to do. From hiking in the nearby hills - including to the famous Rostro Maya (Indian Nose) formation - to boating around to all of the small towns to just sitting at a waterside bar drinking a cocktail or two, you can easily spend 3 or 4 days here and feel like you haven't done it all.
💬 INSIDER TIP: definitely make sure to visit the village of San Marcos, which is considered the "hippy" town. Here you can find lots of coffee shops and health-conscious restaurants, spiritual houses and yoga/meditation retreats.
Once you get your fill of the lake, consider spending a day visiting the nearby Chichicastenango Market - one of the largest traditional markets in the country. If you want to buy unique and authentic souvenirs, then this is the place to go.
TIME NEEDED: 3-4 days
Another can't-miss spot in Guatemala is the increasingly popular natural wonder of Semuc Champey. Located in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle near the small town of Lanquin, this national monument - which includes 6 turquoise colored pools, a candlelit cave and some waterfalls - is an awesome spot to head to if you are an adventurous traveler looking to explore the more natural side of the country.
But be warned, it takes a bit of an effort to get there. If coming from Antigua you will need to take an 8 hour bus ride, and if you are coming from Lake Atitlan expect the journey to take around 10 hours.
► You can explore my in-depth guide on spending the day in Semuc Champey here.
TIME NEEDED: 2 days
FLORES AND TIKAL
The final destination in Guatemala that should be on your travel itinerary is to explore the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal.
This beautiful national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the far northern corner of the country near the jungle town of Flores. While Flores doesn't have too much to offer the traveler, it doesn't really matter because you really come to this part of Guatemala for the ruins. And man what stunning ruins they are.
If you are a history buff or you just want to learn more about Mayan history, then making the trek up there is worth it. You can find shuttles to and from Flores from most of the major Guatemalan destinations (including Guatemala City, Antigua and Lake Atitlan). You likely only need one day in the national park to check out the famous ceremonial ruins and then a day on either side for traveling to and from Flores.
TIME NEEDED: 2 days
ANTIGUA OR GUATEMALA CITY
If you have any extra time at the end of your Guatemala trip, then try to spend it in Antigua over Guatemala City (just more relaxing in my opinion) OR consider adding on one of the other fun destinations outlined below.
Walk around the center of Antigua, visit a church or the local market, grab a tasty coffee (or two) and just soak in the last bit of Guatemalan culture.
❔GOOD TO KNOW: from Antigua, it takes about 1.5 hours to reach the main airport in Guatemala City (traffic can be intense, especially during rush hour). You can find many shuttles or taxis that will do the journey for you at a relatively cheap price in town.
TIME NEEDED: 1 day
❔GOOD TO KNOW: if you are ending your trip in the northern part of the country (especially in Flores/Tikal) then maybe consider jumping the border into Belize or Mexico and either continuing your travels there, or booking a flight back home from one of those country's major airports.
\\ Optional Add-Ons to Your Guatemala Travel Itinerary
This is a pretty basic outline of the top things to do during your trip to Guatemala. Now obviously the country has A LOOOOOT more to offer, so if you have the time to spend, do it.
Below are a couple of awesome add-ons to consider:
| Xela: or Quetzaltenango, is one of the largest cities in Guatemala, and one with a whole lot to offer a traveler focused on learning more about the country's unique and thriving culture. Likewise, Xela is a great basecamp for exploring the nearby area, which includes multiple volcanoes (like Santiaguito and Tajumulco Volcanoes, the latter of which is the tallest point in Central America), hiking trails and hot springs.
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 days
| Rio Dulce and Livingston: another fun outdoor destination that could be worth visiting if you have the time is Rio Dulce National Park and the nearby coastal town of Livingstone. Rio Dulce (or Sweet River) is the gateway to the Caribbean Sea and a haven for various coastal vegetation and wildlife, including lots of birds, manatees and crocodiles.
TIME NEEDED: 3 days
| El Paredon: want to spend a couple of days relaxing on the coast or getting out on a surfboard? Then make sure to put aside a few days in the very backpacker friendly, surf town of El Paredon. Located about 2.5 hours from Antigua, this tropical destination could be a great place to sit back and relax or catch a wave.
TIME NEEDED: 3 days
Guatemala is full of some truly amazing adventures: from roaring volcanoes to tranquil beach towns to historic, colorful towns, this Central American country has a lot to offer. Hopefully, this 2-week Guatemala Travel Guide helps you plan your own epic adventure.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or reach out directly!
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PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR ADVENTURING IN GUATEMALA
| Reusable water bottle: we love LARQ water bottles since they are the world's first self-cleaning water bottle and water purification system. Plus, they are rechargeable!
| Eco-friendly sunscreen: we love MadHippie sunscreen because it’s cruelty-free, vegan, broad spectrum, and reef safe. And even better, they donate $1 for every purchase to conservation efforts.
| Allbirds shoes: comfortable shoes can make or break an adventure or travel day, these eco-conscious and cozy shoes from Allbirds have been our faves for years.
► Find our full sustainable travel packing list here.
STAYING SAFE & PLANNING AHEAD
| SafetyWing: make sure you are staying safe with this easy-to-sign-up health insurance that is specifically meant for digital nomads. You can even sign up once you are already abroad.
| WayAway: this flight aggregator helps travelers find the best rates on airline tickets.
| BusBud: explore millions of bus routes and destinations in one easy-to-use search; plus, you can compare prices and book your tickets online.
| Rentalcars.com: check out the world’s biggest online car rental service that is available in over 150 countries worldwide.
| iVisa: this site helps make sure you have all the necessary documents and entry requirements while traveling.
| Wise: an app that makes it super easy to transfer money between currencies while abroad.