Guatemala is a beautiful country, with lots to see. You will find beautiful cities and smaller villages; colorful markets; mighty volcanoes always on the verge of erupting; a gorgeous volcanic lake inhabited by indigenous communities that have kept their traditions; a multitude of archeological sites (Tikal and Yaxha are just two of them!) and stunning natural sites. With so much to see, coming up with a good Guatemala itinerary is not easy.
But don’t worry – I am here to help. have been to Guatemala three times and know a great deal about the country. So I thought I’d be nice and draft a Guatemala itinerary that is easy to follow, packing just the right amount of places to visit and things to do.
Ready to start planning? Keep on reading!
Overview Of This 2 Weeks In Guatemala Itinerary
If you’ve only got 2 weeks in Guatemala, you’re going to want to pack your itinerary full with the best destinations in the country. If it’s your first time, then it might be difficult to figure out how you’re going to get around and where you should be going.
This Guatemala itinerary covers the bucket list destinations in the country, and it will help you get between major cities and rural hotspots without much trouble at all. Here’s the basic outline of the trip and how much time I recommend you spend in each destination:
Days 1-3 – Antigua
Days 4-7 – Lake Atitlan, with Chichicastenago en route
Day 8 – Antigua
Days 9-10 – Lanquin / Semuc Champey
Days 11-13 – Flores and Tikal
My Guatemala itinerary is based on those who are flying into Guatemala City, which is about an hour away from Antigua. It is very possible to follow the above itinerary in reverse, however, if you are arriving in Guatemala via the land border crossing from Belize. From there you can start at Flores – the same goes if you have caught an international flight to Flores to start with, too.
Finally, let’s see what you can see and do with 2 weeks in Guatemala.
The Best 2 Weeks In Guatemala Itinerary
This small city is where you’ll start your trip in the beautiful country of Guatemala. Once the capital city (for 200 years, in fact), this charming colonial city was completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1773. This ended Antigua’s tenure as capital city.
Despite the earthquake, the historic core of Antigua remains, with many restored buildings featuring colorful facades and Baroque churches, and countless opportunities to wander through its many cobbled streets. It’s no wonder the historic center of Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Given that you’ve got three days to explore this gem of a city, there’s enough time to visit some of the top sites in and around Antigua. One of these involves not being in the city at all, but instead making a trip to Pacaya for some trekking.
Pacaya is an active volcano with an elevation of 2,552 meters (8,373 feet) above sea level. It’s one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes, and it’s well known for its frequent eruptions – even so, it’s very accessible and there are even food stands and drinks stalls along the way. Expect to see plenty of other people on the hike, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult – you’ll definitely need a good level of fitness. Trekking through the landscape here means glimpsing ancient lava flows and unique landscapes.
For guided hikes of Pacaya Volcano, click here. For more information, read my post Everything You Need To Know To Hike Pacaya Volcano.
Back in Antigua itself, you can take a self-guided tour to discover the history and architectural heritage of the city. There remain some churches and convents here that actually date back to the 16th century. When you’re not lapping up the history, there are plentiful eateries and cafes to enjoy the local food (and some coffee, of course).
To make the most of Antigua, you may want to join a guided tour such as this one or this one. For more information about Antigua and its surroundings, head over to my posts The Best Things To Do In Antigua, Guatemala.
How to get to Antigua from Guatemala City Airport
You have several options to get from Guatemala City Airport to Antigua – the cheapest one is definitely a chicken bus (public transport in Guatemala). However, if it is your first time in the country and you’ve just arrived after a long flight, and with luggage, you are probably better off opting for something a bit more comfortable. You can opt for an Uber, an airport taxi, a private driver and a shared shuttle.
Book your shuttle from the airport to Antigua here.
Where to stay in Antigua
El Caceo is the most popular place to stay in Antigua, and it’s great for first timers. Alongside many museums, art galleries, and historic architecture, El Caceo boasts bars and restaurants too. There are plenty of accommodation options, including Hostal Antigua: featuring dormitories and private rooms, it’s a colorful property with a rooftop terrace.
Elsewhere you may want to opt for Barrio de la Concepción. Still central, but much quieter, this district features hotels such as Hotel Camino de Santiago – a rustic, down to earth place to stay in Antigua.
For more places to stay in Antigua, read this post.
Your next stop is Lake Atitlan. Situated in the highlands of the Sierra Madre, this beautiful pale blue lake is an oasis away from city life. Once you spend four nights in Lake Atitlan, you may even want to stay longer – it’s a slice of natural paradise.
But before you get there, make sure to stop off at the centuries old Chichicastenango Market. This is the largest and most famous market in Guatemala, if not all of Latin America. It’s popular with locals who travel from villages located in the surrounding countryside to buy and sell all manner of things every Thursday and Sunday – an ideal place to soak up the atmosphere (and maybe buy some souvenirs).
Also nearby is the Chichicastenango Cemetery. Despite it being, well, a cemetery, it’s a colorful place with a rainbow of mausoleums and gravestones.
Once you arrive at Lake Atitlan, there’s plenty to keep you busy. One popular thing to do is hop on a boat and explore the lakeside villages and communities that call this place home – places such as Santiago Atitlan, San Pedro Atitlan, San Marco La Laguna, San Antonio Paolopo and the rest all all worth visiting.
For a guided experience of the Mayan cultures of Lake Atitlan, click here.
Getting around Lake Atitlan via boat isn’t complicated – most accommodation will be able to arrange a trip for you. Boat tours around Lake Atitlan can also be booked online. Check out this one.
You could also stretch your legs in the surrounding mountains. There are numerous hiking trails at Lake Atitlan, weaving through the countryside and even to the peaks of volcanoes themselves (a good option for amazing views of the lake).
Yoga is also a big thing at Lake Atitlan. You could simply use these four nights to drop by one of the yoga studios dotted along the lakeshore and enjoy the tranquility of this location.
For more information, read my post The Best Things To Do In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
How to get to Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is easy to reach from Antigua or Chichicastenango by chicken bus, but the trip can be a long one as there will be several changes. Since you are visiting Chichicastenango on the way, I recommend booking a private shuttle.
You can book your shuttle from Antigua to Chichicastenango locally. You will then need a bus or shuttle from Chichicastenango to Panajachel. Once you get to Panajachel, hop on one of the public boats to the village where you are staying. Beware you may be asked to pay the tourist price.
Where to stay in Lake Atitlan
From budget-friendly backpacker digs to more high-end eco resorts, there are plenty of accommodation options around Lake Atitlan. You may want to look for one of these in San Pedro la Laguna – this is a popular spot for tourists on the southern shore of the lake, and naturally has many places to choose from. Casa Blanca, for example, has a waterside deck and a vibrant atmosphere.
For something less touristy, San Marcos la Laguna is more about the yoga and has a relaxed atmosphere to show for it. You could splash out a little and stay at Lush Atitlan, complete with lakefront rooms and beautifully decorated interiors.
Make sure to read my post Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan.
After chilling out alongside the lake at Lake Atitlan, it’s time to head back to the city, but only for one night. You could use this time to stock up on supplies (snacks, for example) or simply enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant. If you’ve got time, you could spend some of it shopping at one of Antigua’s many exciting markets.
And if you missed it on your first time around, don’t forget to snap a photo of Arco de Santa Catalina – an icon of the city dating back to the 1690s. This bright yellow arch overlooks the bustling street with a view of Volcan de Agua in the background. But for something more chilled, you could hang out in the Parque Central – a perfect spot to soak up local life and enjoy people-watching.
How to get to Antigua from Lake Atitlan
Since you will be in no particular rush, you won’t be stopping at Chichicastenango or other places along the way, why don’t you travel back from Lake Atitlan to Antigua via chicken bus? This is how to do it:
- Take a boat to Panajachel
- Walk to Panajachel bus terminal and find a bus to Solola
- Once in Solola, take a bus to Los Encuentros
- From Los Encuentros, take the bus to Chimaltenango
- Lastly, from Chimaltenango take the bus to Antigua.
Where to stay in Antigua
For something different to Barrio de la Concepción or El Caceo, you could find somewhere to stay in the district of Santa Ana. It’s a more traditional area with a slow pace that hums with local life – hotels here include the charming Hotel Santa Ana.
Elsewhere, you could opt to stay at Posada el Refugio – it’s cheap, clean, and conveniently located close to the bus terminal.
Then it’s onward to Lanquin, where you’ll be spending at least two nights. Officially named San Agustin Lanquin, this small town is situated 380 meters above sea level and is home to many people of Q’eqchi’ Maya descent.
Lanquin is famous for its surrounding natural wonders. If you’re interested in caving, then you’ll love the incredible cave system just outside of town. Located around one kilometer northwest of town, the Grutas de Lanquin is an impressive network of caves and tunnels that weave down into the earth for several kilometers.
The cave is ticketed, and there are lights throughout, but you’ll still need to be prepared – after a few hundred meters the cave becomes undeveloped – much of it hasn’t even been explored or mapped. If this is your kind of thing and you’re experienced, then you’ll be treated to a world of sculpture-like stalactites and stalagmites, and the buzz of bats overhead.
If caving isn’t your thing but impressive nature is, then you can come to entrance of Grutas de Lanquin at sunset when thousands of bats pour out of the cave making for a stunning spectacle.
The crowning of Lanquin, however, is Semuc Champey. This limestone formation is home to a series of bright blue rock pools, and it’s arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the whole country. The best way to take in the real beauty of it all is from the El Mirador viewpoint – but be prepared for a 45-minute uphill slug from the carpark.
Make sure to read my Complete Guide To Visiting Semuc Champey.
How to get to Lanquin from Antigua
You have two main options of getting from Antigua to Semuc Champey: a combination of chicken buses via Guatemala City and Coban, or a direct shuttle ride. Considering you have limited time and that traveling by chicken bus is not only very uncomfortable but also painfully slow, you will be better off getting a shuttle.
Book your transfer a couple of days before departure directly at your hostel or hotel. Opt for the morning shuttle departing at 8:00 so as to be in Lanquin by 5:00 pm, in time to comfortably get to your accommodation.
Where to stay in Lanquin
Despite Lanquin being so small, there is a handful of stylish and rustic accommodation options dotted around the area. One popular place to stay in Lanquin is El Retiro Lodge – with its riverside location and open-air feel, it’s a calming spot to soak up the surrounding nature in Lanquin.
For something a little bit closer to the azure pools at Semuc Champey, you could opt to stay at Hostal el Portal de Champey. It’s very close to the national monument itself, making it easy to get to the pools without too much trouble at all – in fact, it’s just a 10-minute walk to the pools themselves. Adding to the convenience of this hostel, there’s even an on-site restaurant and bar here, too.
Finally, you will find yourself in Flores. I recommend spending three nights here as it’s packed full of things to see and do. This town may be compact, but it boasts a unique location, being set on an island on Lake Peten Itza – only linked to the mainland by a causeway to the town of Santa Elena on the shore.
The capital of the Peten region, Flores is not only an interesting destination in its own right, but it works very well as a jumping off point to explore the nearby Mayan ruins and national parks.
The most famous of the ruins is Tikal. Around an hour-and-a-half by car from Flores itself, Tikal – which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 – is actually the centerpiece of Tikal National Park. It is the ruin of an ancient Mayan city located deep in the rainforest in the heart of the national park. Much of the architecture here amazingly dates back to the fourth century BC, and it’s a relic of one of the most powerful kingdoms in the ancient Maya world which once dominated this region.
Another Mayan ruin that you may want to check out is Yaxha. This archaeological site was once a ceremonial center thought to be first occupied from around 1000 to 350 BC. Here you can explore the ruins of more than 500 structures of the ancient city, which boasted plazas, causeways, and acropolises.
For more natural wonders, make a beeline for Ixpanpajul Natural Park. This is a wonderland of outdoor activities, where you can fly high above the jungle canopy on a zipline or simply explore on horseback or hop on a mountain bike. One of the most impressive attractions here is the Skyway – three kilometers (1.86 miles) of suspension bridges and paths through the canopy itself.
Back in Flores, you could take a short boat ride across Lake Peten Itza to the north shore. Here you’ll find San Miguel, a small town complete with its own lesser visited Mayan ruins in the form of Tayasal. One of the pyramids here, called the Mirador, aptly gives visitors the chance to see amazing views out across the lake, including the island of Flores itself. There’s also the San Miguel Peninsula loop trail, a hiking route that weaves through the area eventually winding up at Mirador, too.
Need more information? Read my post The Best Things To Do In Flores.
How to get from Lanquin to Flores
The best way to get from Lanquin to Flores is a shuttle bus. This departs in the morning and takes about 10 hours for the trip, leaving you at your hotel.
From Flores, you can travel onwards to San Ignacio, in Belize, where you may be continuing your trip, or fly back to Guatemala City and then home.
Where to stay in Flores
Surprisingly, even though it’s a small area, there is a good selection of accommodation both on the island and on the shore. One option is Bolontiku Hotel Boutique, which offers stylish rooms and a treat for the final nights of your trip.
For something a little bit more budget friendly, you could opt to stay at the Los Amigos Hostel – a friendly, bohemian sort of place with a welcoming atmosphere where you can unwind after a day of exploring the area.
Final Consideration For This Guatemala Itinerary
When To Visit Guatemala
Contrary to what many would think, it’s not always hot in Guatemala – certainly not everywhere. On the contrary, places like Chichicastenango, at high altitude, can be colder than you’d expect. At the same time, Flores, in the Peten region, tends to be hot and humid year round.
My best advice is to avoid traveling to Guatemala during the rainy season, as that makes moving around the country quite difficult. A few other things to keep in mind are:
- December to April (especially Christmas, New Year and Easter), as well as June and July are high season in Guatemala. That’s when the country will be most crowded with tourists, prices higher and you’ll need to book your accommodation (and even transfers) in advance.
- Shoulder season is in October and November – temperatures are milder, the chances or rain are less compared to the low season, but hurricanes can be an issue especially in October.
- Low season goes from April to May and from August to September, and is the best time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds and travel on a smaller budget. But keep in mind chances of rain are higher.
Getting Around Guatemala
When I drafted this Guatemala itinerary, I did so on the basis of using public transport and shuttle buses to move around. I don’t really recommend driving in Guatemala: the road conditions are for the most part less than ideal and it may end up being more stressful than anything else.
Chicken buses – old, brightly colored school buses – reach every corner of the country. They are super cheap, but also quite slow as they stop literally all the time to let people on and off (there are no official bus stops). For longer trips, tourists typically rely on shuttle buses that can be booked in advance and will pick you up from your accommodation; or on long distance “first class” buses that make no intermediate stops and that are actually quite comfortable.
Check out my post Everything You Must Know About Chicken Buses.
Safety In Guatemala
I’ve been to Guatemala three times and never had an issue – in fact, I met some of the most genuine, welcoming people a traveler could hope for. Yet, this doesn’t mean that safety is not a concern when visiting Guatemala.
Tourists are hardly the target of violence, but there are certain things you need to be aware of. Robbery can happen when hiking, even in popular places such as Lake Atitlan. It’s always best to go with someone else and / or with a guide to avoid any inconveniences. If someone tries to rob you, the best thing you can do is surrender your stuff. Carrying a fake wallet with very little cash is definitely a good idea!
Try to avoid traveling at night unless you are using a “first class” bus – that’s a direct bus that doesn’t make in-between stops.
Keep your eyes open when withdrawing money; don’t bring any valuables when visiting crowded places such as Chichicastenango Market and by all means don’t flaunt your belongings!
Finally, knowing a bit of Spanish definitely helps so plan to learn a few basic words before your trip, or take some classes once you arrive in Antigua.
Make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip to Guatemala. To get a quote, click here.
Quick Packing List
Whatever you need in Guatemala, you will find – and for cheap – at one of the many colorful markets. Pack light so that you can enjoy some shopping during your trip. Before your trip, however, make sure to get hold of a good water bottle such as this one, or even better a filter such as this one – tap water in Guatemala is not safe to drink.
Make sure to read my other posts:
- Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Guatemala
- The Best Things To Do In Guatemala
- Everything You Must Know About Chicken Buses
- The Most Beautiful Mayan Ruins In Guatemala