Cultural Immersion in Guatemala curated by Ryan Sterzinger | Fora Travel

Cultural Immersion in Guatemala

Advisor - Ryan Sterzinger

Curated By

Ryan Sterzinger

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  • Culture

  • Historical

  • Off-the-beaten-path

  • Budget friendly

cobblestone streets in Guatemala with green vines and tan orange buildings with a black iron gate

Curator’s statement

Guatemala is rich with history and culture and isn’t overrun with tourists like other Latin American countries. Tikal is one of the best-maintained Mayan archaeological sites, and Lake Atitlán is the only place in Central America that I feel is reminiscent of an Italian lake district like Lake Como or Lake Maggiore. Guatemala packs a lot in such a small country when it comes to natural beauty.

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Day 1: Arrive in Antigua

pink orange building with red roof in Guatemala

Check in to your Antigua hotel

After checking in at your hotel, relax by the pool, and take a nice stroll around Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage city. 

Snap a photo of the yellow archway of Santa Catalina, the signature icon of Antigua with volcanoes in the background and the city in the foreground. 

Walk through Parque Central, and take some time to absorb the sites and atmosphere of the city.

Head to dinner with a view

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Tartines for dinner. One thing about Antigua that is surprising is that it doesn't have a ton of Guatemalan food, but they do have a lot of international food. Tartines is high-end Italian dining with pasta and meat dishes that are beautifully plated.

Tartines has amazing views of nearby ruins of the former presidential palace and the Fuego Volcano in the distance that erupts every night around 8 pm. You'll even see the lava coming down! 

Antigua is a heavily seismic city. There was a major volcanic eruption in the 1700s that left half of the city in ruins. Instead of getting rid of everything and rebuilding, they turned the ruins into museums. You can go to Guatemala and eat right next to ruins.

Day 2: Get to know Antigua

yellow and white building in Guatemala with people sitting on arches and green palm trees in background

Take your morning to fuel up and enjoy the Guatemalan-style breakfast at the hotel with fried plantains, bread and jam, mole and bean paste. 

Next, head out to explore the old town. Antigua is a very walkable town. Some of the most fascinating sites to see are fortunately all within walking distance of each other. Iglesia de la Merced is one of the oldest churches in town with a colorful bright yellow exterior. Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro and Tanque la Union are joint structures where horses used to eat and drink and are now a very unique park right next to a church. 

At the chicken bus terminal behind Mercado de Antigua, you’ll see American school buses that have been decked out into colorful buses with sparkles and streamers. There are competitions to see who can have the most creative over-the-top decorations.

Have lunch in a beautiful setting

Very close to the central park is La Posada de Don Rodrigo, a gorgeous park which has the most beautiful courtyard in Antigua. The courtyard restaurant is within a hotel, but visitors who aren’t staying at the hotel are also allowed to dine there. Try the pepián, the signature dish of Guatemala – it’s a tomato-based chicken or beef stew and isn’t very spicy.

Catch the sunset with a view

For sunset, grab a taxi and head to Cerro de la Cruz. The park has a giant cross that is juxtaposed with the town of Antigua and the Fuego volcano.

Head to a local spot for dinner

Dine at Rincon Tipico for traditional Guatemalan food. The restaurant closes early so plan to arrive before 7 pm. Have an early dinner where the locals go and get a Guatemalan stew.

Day 3: Check out Instagrammable spots

girl in blue flower dress standing on top of large white hand statue in Guatemala

Visit Altamira

After breakfast at the hotel, grab a taxi and spend your morning at Altamira. The weather can be about 15 degrees cooler than Antigua, so be sure to bring a sweater. The best views are in the morning before the clouds roll in. 

The Altamira Hotel is an Instagrammer's paradise full of photo-worthy moments. There are amazing viewpoints all over the property with little platforms to take pictures on with all of the valley as a background. There are gigantic structures you can pose on like a paper airplane and hands. The trampolines are awesome for getting jumping shots that look like you’re flying over the valley. The Altamira Hotel has a cafe and is a great place to grab lunch and enjoy the views.

Go to Hobbitenango

After lunch, spend your afternoon at Hobbitenango. The town is modeled after The Lord of the Rings and also has great views. There’s much to do here from enjoying the hobbit structures, swinging on a rope swing, playing carnival games and many interesting places to snap pictures. Have dinner here in a little hobbit room that you’ll enter through a small circular door. Even the tables are super small, you feel like you're like a giant. They serve traditional Guatemalan food, but everybody's dressed like characters from The Lord of the Rings.

Day 4: Learn about ancient Guatemalan history at Tikal

ancient grey and white ruins with green grass and tall trees in Guatemala

Go on a day trip to the Tikal archeological site at Antigua Tours. Your day starts at 4:30 am, so be sure to get some good rest the night before. 

You’ll fly from Guatemala City to Flores in northeastern Guatemala. In Flores, you'll be met by your guide for the day, who will take you on a private tour into the Tikal National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site. 

In the park, enjoy a buffet-style lunch of traditional Guatemalan foods. Once you get into the archaeological site, you’ll be amazed as it's so well preserved. You can climb to the top of three different pyramids each with different views of the rainforest or other pyramids. Keep your eyes open for howler monkeys and jaguars! When you’re ready, fly back to Antigua from Flores.

Day 5: Head to Lake Atitlán

blue ocean at sunset in Guatemala with volcano mountains and pink clouds

Check out of your hotel and head on a tour in Lake Atitlán with Kayak Guatemala. You’ll be picked up in Antigua around 7 am, and driven to Lake Atitlán. The main proprietor will take you to his private residence right on the lake and make you breakfast himself. It's a very personal experience, and one of my favorite recommendations for the region.  

The best time to be out on Lake Atitlán is early in the morning because it tends to fog over later in the day. After breakfast, you’ll go kayaking, swimming and cliff jumping around the beautiful lake.

If you still have the energy, you can grab a ferry to any of the Lake Atitlán towns to hike through them and visit local shops and restaurants. San Marcos is known for holistic healing centers, meditation, yoga and cliff jumping. San Juan has art galleries, women's weaving cooperatives and medicinal plant gardens. Santiago is where to go if you want to learn about Tzutujile Maya traditions and spiritual beliefs.

Yoga Forest will be your base in San Marcos. Check into the meditation center, have dinner and partake in the evening activities. They serve traditional Guatemalan food and have several vegetarian options. Check the schedule of events and plan your excursions based on the timings of happenings at the retreat. It’s located a bit uphill and has incredible views of the lake and nearby forest.

Day 6: A day dedicated to spirituality and wellness

two hands holding yellow fruit with white seeds on a black table in Guatemala

Get a blessing from a Mayan Shaman

Have an early breakfast at Yoga Forest before heading out for a Mayan Shaman experience with Kayak Guatemala for a half-day excursion. Visit the most sacred and holy locations around Lake Atitlán including the sacred caves alongside an experienced cultural guide. You’ll see shaman priests perform fire ceremonies at sacred caves for healing, protection, safe travels, centering their energy and much more.

Get your yoga flow on

Return to Yoga Forest for yoga in the afternoon, followed by dinner and relaxing around the property.

Day 7: Partake in a cacao ceremony

two people in boats with ores blue mountains and tall shadow trees

One of the most popular cacao ceremonies is led by a white man, Keith. Keith is a wise and sweet man, often with a cat curled up in his lap. The ceremony is five hours long, and Keith will lead you through a meditation, and you end by doing group energy transfer and healing.

Advisor - Ryan Sterzinger

Advisor

Ryan Sterzinger

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