A Week-Long Itinerary in Guatemala: City and Nature
Food & Wine
Arts & Culture
Guatemala. Volcanos, Mayan culture, crystal blue lakes, incredible markets... the list goes on and on. It is such a picturesque country, and the people are so friendly. Start in Antigua, well known for its architecture, ruins of colonial churches and cobblestoned streets. Move onto Chichicastenango to experience a local market unlike any other, continuing onto Lake Atitlan. This lake is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the world, surrounded by three volcanoes and known for the unique towns around the lake. San Pedro La Laguna is not to be missed for shopping and exploring.
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Where to stay
Hotel Casa Santo Domingo
Glamorous hacienda-style hotel in Antigua with views of the volcano from each suite — perfect for a romantic holiday.
El Convento Boutique Hotel Antigua Guatemala
With each room uniquely designed, this small luxury hotel is an ideal landing spot for exploring the historic city of Antigua.
High above Lake Atitlan, this boutique proeprty is the passion project of the owner and displays her extensive local art collection.
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Day 1: Welcome to Antigua
Have a driver pick you up for the hour drive to Antigua. Check in at your hotel and wander around the cobblestone streets. There are three volcanoes that surround the city , the Volcan de Agua, Acatenango, and the Volcan de Fuego. Be on the lookout for the occasional eruption from Fuego which is the most active volcano in Guatemala; it explodes often, and is great to watch from one of twenty great rooftop restaurants in town. We loved the appropriately named Cafe Sky.
Day 2: Relax and wander around the city
Make an appointment for the chocolate massage at the spa at Casa Santo Domingo. Located in a former convent, this hotel has a wonderful spa which is like an oasis in the middle of town. You can easily spend the day here enjoying the jacuzzi and saunas. Order lunch lounging by the spa pool, and get over any jet lag you may have before going out to explore the town. Do not pack any heels as the cobblestone streets are definitely for comfortable walking sandals or sneakers! Photograph the famous yellow Santa Catalina arch and wander the ancient city ruins. Hop in a tuk tuk for a fun ride around the city outskirts. We enjoyed Aqua Antigua for dinner - absolutely amazing skyline views!
Day 3: Hike to Volcano Pacaya
Roast marshmallows over lava on a volcano! It isn't every week you get to do this - it was a great experience to hike up and enjoy hot marshmellows at the top. Volcano Pacaya is one of the most impressive volcanic landscapes in all of Central America. It is a moderate to strenuous hike depending on your fitness level. Lots of local boys will chase you with horses that can be rented to help with this hike. Half our group ended up on a horse! It takes about an hour drive from Antigua to get here - beautiful views of nearby volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. The hike itself takes about four hours by the time you get up and down, enjoying the view and the marshmallows. Apparently, there is also a man up there cooking pizza on the hot rocks, but we didn't see him on our trip.
Day 4: The world-renowned Chichicastenango Market
Hire my friend Carlos, the best Guatemalan guide ever, to drive you to Lake Atitlan, stopping in Chichicastenango to shop at the market. This small Mayan town has a huge, vibrant market, and the tapestries, bags and shawls are all worth buying - make sure you have room in your luggage! It is one of Guatemala's most-famous tourist spots, and well worth the experience. It was great to have a guide with us here, telling us where to go and giving us the history of the place. Onto Lake Atitlan, you have lots of options for where to stay on the lake.
Day 5-6: Explore Lake Atitlan
Lanchas are the water taxis that ferry people from town to town - it is easy to get one but be aware that boat service stops at dark, so don't miss the boat to get back to your hotel.
Step off of the boat in San Juan La Laguna and you will see all the hand-made clothes and textiles. Our favorite experience was spending time at a local co-op with the local women who taught us how to weave and dye the different textiles. Whatever we bought came with a tag that told you who made the item. Also check out San Pedro La Laguna for lunch - we loved Sababa Restaurant on the water.
I recommend 2-3 nights at Lake Atitlan, with one full day to explore and another to relax and enjoy the lake views.
Day 7: A historic journey back to Antigua
Head back to Antigua stopping at Iximche Mayan ruins on the way. Have dinner in the courtyard at Fermento Kitchen before returning home the next day. Other spots to check out include Angie Angie CafeArte for lunch and Adra Hostel for breakfast. Don't miss getting photos of the colorful "chicken buses" going through town constantly. Antigua and Lake Atitlan are both absolutely delightful. Guatemala checks all the boxes if you want colorful Mayan culture, fun adventure, phenomenal views, great food and fun! I can't wait to go back!
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out my guide to Zihuatanejo, Mexico: 5 Night Coastal Getaway to Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Guatemala.