When looking for places to go and people to see, you may want to go and see Guatemala. Sarah and I chose to adventure in Central America for a month. There were plenty of places to go and people that are friends with us that live in Guatemala. So we chose to do 12 days in Guatemala.
Now, Guatemala is not the dangerous, people dying, poor nation that some may think. Granted, it has dangerous parts where people are mugged, there are poor parts, the roads are terrible, and there are times you just need some guides to protect you.
Guatemala is full of beauty, history, wonder, excitement, cheap eats and accommodation, plus a wide array of things to do and discover. Here I am going to lay out a 12-day itinerary of the must see things to do in Guatemala. You can spend weeks, months, and years just living in parts of Guatemala, but if you are like us you may not have all of that time to spend.
How to get there:
There are a couple of different ways to get to Guatemala.
- You can fly into Guatemala City.
- You can drive into Guatemala from Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, or Mexico.
That is about the only two ways you can get into Guatemala. We came through the Belizean Border. We left San Ignacio to Guatemala. There may be people offering rides, but it will cost you of course.
Make sure to have some some Guatemalan Qs for paying for a ride. So exchange a little at the border, or fly in.
What to Pack:
Guatemala has some great weather. It will be hot and humid near Tikal. So pack shorts, some great dry-fit shirts in case you get drenched with sweat.
It can get a bit cooler in the higher areas of Antigua.
If you plan to camp overnight at one of the Volcanoes, make sure to bring cold weather clothing. I heard it would drop close to Zero degrees Celcius at night.
When I travel, I try to always bring some insurance for emergencies. World Nomads is my go to for insurance. If you are looking for some good insurance here is a nice link.
Day 1: Arrival to Guatemala: Off to Flores.
Some travelers may travel to Guatemala via Belize. That is how we did it. There is no money changing stations on either side of the border. There are people willing to exchange money, but do not exchange to much if you are heading to Flores.
In Flores, there is an ATM you can grab a better rate from. It is better to get 100-200 Quezales. 7.5 Q= $1 USD. We got a ride from a van driver for 100 Q to our destination, but who knows what the price would be. Bargain, Bargain, Bargain.
Flores happens to be the best place to stay if you are heading to Tikal. Tikal is one of those wonders of the world that is full of Mayan Temples. The temples are these large pyramids jetting out over the canopy of the tree line.
Flores is also this cool little colorful town on an island in Lake San Pedro. It has some restaurants, hostels, hotels, lake activities, and a cool little side stands of food as you enter the city.
The side stands are cheap. They have tostados, burritos, tacos, and any other side stand food. Each item for like 5 Q.
Check out some of the best places to stay for accommodations here.
Day 2: Trip to Tikal
While in Flores, make sure to book a ride to Tikal. They will probably put you in a tourist mini bus for 60-80Q. For foreigners to get into Tikal it will cost $150Q ($20 USD). Tikal usually has two different times for tours.
First time to go would be at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. You all may get up earlier. The park opens up at 6:30 a.m. The other time is to go at 1:00 p.m. in order to catch the sunset. What I heard was that most of the time people never see the sunset due to cloudiness. Plus it is about 6 hours to walk around the park. It gets hot in the day so we did it the morning.
Afterwards, go back to Flores. Once back in Flores, make sure you have booked a ride to Semuc Champey. It will be the next destination on your trip through Guatemala. Then you are able to spend the day with some rest, eating good food, sipping on some drinks with happy hour deals, or relaxing. You may be tired after a full day of Tikal.
Tip: When booking transportation, go to various different places to get different prices. Bargain, Bargain, Bargain.
Day 3: The Journey to Semuc Champey
Get ready for a ride. Bring a book, kindle, music, and be ready to have a 9-10 hour ride along the rough roads of Guatemala.
Your next day will be full of driving. You are heading to the little Mayan town of Lanquin. This is where the buses drop off tourists for Semuc Champey. The ride will be long, tedious, bumpy, and there will probably be like two to three stops for restrooms and lunch. Please remember to listen to the bus driver on times. They may say it in Spanish, but listen carefully they will leave you. I saw a couple left at a stop because they didn’t hear the correct time.
Once you hit Lanquin, your accommodation would have sent a driver and a truck to help direct you and drive you to your hotel or hostel. We stayed at El Portal De Champey, which was right by the entrance of Semuc Champey. We rode about a 45 minute ride on the back of the truck holding on as we drove the rocky roads. Most of the other hotels and hostels are in and around Lanquin, which there is not much of anything. They would have to ride the next day to Semuc Champey.
At the end of the day, settle in, get aquainted for the next two nights, and relax. The next day will be full of excitement, adventure, and some pretty good sites.
Places to Stay:
Day 4: The Day for Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is a place I have never seen before or heard about. There are these gorgeous pools of clear blue water, which you will be able to swim around, relax in, and have some fish nibble at your dead skin. There is hike to get up to see the pools from above. It is quite beautiful.
If you can, I advice you to arrive early. There will be crowds of people coming in and out. There will be people jumping into the pools, hiking the trails, and just enjoying themselves. It is a great amount of fun.
There are also options to go through a cave. There will be candles in your hand to give you light as you go through this cave to reach your desitination.
You will also have the opportunity to go tubing down the river. You will be dropped off at one spot, and flow down the rushing river. There will be locals that will try to sell beer and other drinks as you float on. They will jump into the river with the drinks to come serve you as you float down. Now that is what I call service.
Be wary, that it usually rains in the afternoon.
After all the fun is done, you will head back to your place of residence and relax and enjoy the atmosphere because once again you will be on a journey for a long ride to Lake Atitlan. Make sure to book this through your hostel or hotel.
Day 5: Journey to Lake Atitlan.
(We missed the ferry by 5 minutes. It cost us. The bus driver was trying to stay on time, but some people were not paying attention to his times. Just a warning.)
Like I said, you will spend all day in the Bus. It is a long day. Bring a book to read, something to write, music to listen to, and just be friendly to the people around you. They may become your friends after this ride.
There will be several towns around Lake Atitlan you may be going to. The cheapest to stay in would be San Pedro. It is also the biggest. There are plenty of restaurants, hostels, hotels, cheap food, and anything in between. This is a good place to stay for a while.
Places to Stay:
Day 6-7: Lake Atitlan and Surrounding towns
Lake Atitlan is full of fun things to do. You are able to rent some kayaks and go paddle around in the lake. You can take an early morning hike to Indian Nose. (great for sun rises).
You can venture off to the neighboring towns like San Juan and San Marco for a cheap ferry ride. In San Marcos, there is a platform where you can jump off of into the lake. It is about 10 meters up.
Plus Lake Atitlan is a great place to relax at. The food is great, the people are so nice, and there are so many things you can do. It is a chill place to stay for a few days.
Day 8-10: Antigua
To get to Antigua from Lake Atitlan you can book transportation. It is actually quite a short trip. It is probably an hour and half to two hours. You can take a morning van to Antigua and be on your way to having fun in a cool Colonial town.
Antigua is a small ex-colonial town maybe an hour or less from Guatemala City. It sits nestled below a couple of Volcanoes. It is historic, beautiful, and full of lots of culture.
Place to stay:
Activites to do in Antigua:
While in Antigua, you can go off and do a coffee tour. One of the best plantations is the Filadelphia coffee plantation. You can do that in the morning and take a trip to the Choco Museo for an afternoon full of chocolate.
The Choco Museo is a place where you will learn about the history of chocolate. Then there will be a cooking class to make your own chocolate and take it home as a treat.
There are also chances for you to learn some spanish, take a cooking class, and even just wander around.
One day, we took a morning hike to Cerro De la Cruz. We were able to spend some time there to get some great photos of the cross and the city of Antigua.
Adventure in Antigua
If you are looking for more adventure, there is a chance to hike two volcanoes. The one is Acatenango. You can actually spend the night at this volcano. You may have the chance to see flames from the near by Fuego.
Pacaya is the other volcano you can hike. The tour guides will take you up to the very active volcano where you will have the chance to roast marshmallows over the scolding hot rock that has come down from the top.
You could stay in Antigua for more days. Our time was shorter, and we were meeting up with some friends that lived in Guatemala City so our trip would keep going.
Day 11: Guatemala City
Take a visit to Guatemala City. Going to be honest, it is just a city. If you do visit you visit a section called Carillo. It looks like a city in Greece.
The downtown of Guatemala City is pretty cool with some big churches and nice colonial buildings. We were there during some special Catholic holiday.
This is also a great city to fly into and out of Guatemala. We stayed with friends before we would headed off to Honduras.
Day 12: Time to leave Guatemala
Tip: Also listen to the times for when Bus drivers give you a break. We were told 15 minutes for a break, and one couple was still not there after 30 minutes, and the bus driver needed to leave. So we left, and we had their backpacks as well.
The End of the adventure
Have any tips or suggestions leave them in the comments section.
Have you been to Guatemala?