10-Day Guatemala Itinerary – The BEST Places and Things to do
Guatemala is one of the best countries to visit in Central America. With explosive volcanoes, stunning waterfalls, and a unique culture that’ll have you never wanting to leave, Guatemala is the perfect place to explore for a few days.
But contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t need several weeks to enjoy Guatemala. In fact, it is possible to see all the highlights in Guatemala in only 10 days (9 nights!) While this will be a rushed trip, it’s totally possible and, in this blog, I’m going to show you exactly how.
This is my detailed 10-day Guatemala itinerary. It’ll tell you about the best activities, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat, and so much more.
Please note: While this blog is specifically a 10-day Guatemala itinerary if you have more time you can easily adjust it by adding a night or two on in each location. I’ll provide enough activities to make sure if you do have more time, you definitely won’t get bored!
10-Day Guatemala Itinerary Overview
This Guatemala itinerary is a busy one, perfect for anyone short on time who doesn’t want to miss any of the highlights in Guatemala. It starts in Guatemala City where you’ll immediately go to Antigua.
In Antigua, you’ll spend three nights (one ideally camped on Acatenango Volcano) before jumping on a shuttle bus to Lake Atitlan. In Lake Atitlan, it’s all about exploring the land and relaxing and you’ll have two days to do this before your big driving day.
Getting to Lanquin or Semuc Champey is a bit of a drive from Lake Atitlan at about 12 hours total. Take this time to relax on the bus, enjoy the views, journal, or catch up on some sleep. You’ll have two nights in Lanquin where you’ll spend your one full day swimming in the pools of Semuc Champey.
The final stop on this Guatemala itinerary is Flores where you’ll visit the ancient ruins of Tikal. From Flores, you can either bus or fly back to Guatemala City to catch an international flight, or, continue on to either Mexico or Belize.
Below, I’ve summarized this itinerary in detail with things to do in each location as well as other essentials such as getting there and where to stay!
Antigua – 3 Nights
Your Guatemala itinerary starts in the historic city of Antigua. This beautiful city is the perfect place to start your Guatemala travels with cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings everywhere you turn. Antigua is a popular tourist destination, and therefore significantly safer than its larger neighbor, Guatemala City.
Getting to Antigua
There is no airport in Antigua, so if you are arriving in Guatemala by air, then you’ll need to book a flight first to Guatemala City.
There isn’t much to do or see in Guatemala City, so for the sake of not wasting any time, this Guatemala itinerary is skipping spending any time there and taking you straight to the best places to visit – with Antigua being the first.
From the airport in Guatemala City, there are various ways you can take directly to Antigua. Shuttles are the cheapest and fairly easy. There are public ones available at the airport for about $10 USD, or you can book one online in advance for a little more. Alternatively, taxis are also an option just a little more expensive at around $40 USD.
From Guatemala City, it is about a 1-hour drive to Antigua without traffic. Expect traffic and for the ride to take approximately 2 hours overall.
If you’re arriving by land to Guatemala from El Salvador to the south, I recommend taking the Tica bus from Santa Ana or San Salvador straight to Guatemala City. From the bus terminal in Guatemala City, there are regular buses directly to Antigua.
Things to do in Antigua
There are a ton of things to do in Antigua. Seriously, you could easily spend a week here and still not run out of things to do or do. Here are some of my personal favorite picks though:
Hike Acatenango Volcano – If you are up for the challenging hike, this is one activity in Guatemala I would not miss. To date, hiking Acatenango Volcano and spending the night up there watching Fuego Volcano erupt in front of my eyes is one of the best experiences I’ve had. I do recommend booking this for your third night in Antigua as you need some time to acclimatize before this high elevation hike. It is also well worth it to do the overnight tour – you won’t regret it!
Visit Pacaya Volcano – This is a great option if you’re not up to hiking Acatenango. At Pacaya Volcano, you won’t see eruptions, but you will get close enough to the hot rocks from lava to roast marshmallows! This is a day trip from Antigua that involves either hiking on Pacaya or taking a horse.
Explore the city and ruins – There are lots of ruins spread out around Antigua city. Start off wandering the streets yourself or join a free walking tour. Free walking tour times can be found on this website along with detailed instructions about the meeting place.
Indulge at the chocolate museum – The chocolate museum is the perfect place to taste amazing chocolate or even hot chocolate. You can also join one of their chocolate making workshops to participate in making your own chocolate bars! The chocolate museum in Antigua can be found on Google maps.
Shop ‘til you drop – There are some beautiful boutique shops in Antigua that make for the perfect place to grab a high-quality souvenir or two. The local market is also a fun place to spend a few hours interacting with the locals and buying some fresh fruit and veggies.
Where to Eat and Drink in Antigua
Canela Antigua – This café offers tons of gluten free and vegan baked goods that are delicious. You can also try their gourmet sandwiches and drink some coffee or tea.
Pappy’s BBQ – This is the place to go for meat lovers! The brisket here is definitely worth trying.
Hector’s Bistro – This is a fancier restaurant perfect for a fine dining experience one evening.
Antigua Brewing Company – If you want to try some local craft beer then this is the place to go! Not necessarily a place to eat, but well-wroth a stop on your Guatemala itinerary if you want to have a pint or four. They also serve your classic pub food including burgers and nachos.
Where to Stay in Antigua
This hostel is the perfect place for budget travelers, solo travelers, or those just looking for a fun social vibe. It is has a central location as well as a huge bar and restaurant on the main level. Dorm beds and private rooms are available.
$$ – Hotel Los Pasos
This boutique hotel is set in a colonial building with lovely decor. The rooms are very clean and for about $85 USD a night you can get a double room with breakfast included. They are a ten-minute walk from the cathedral and have an on-site restaurant and bar that offers room service.
This 5-star hotel is located right in the city with all of the tranquility and amenities of an isolated resort. Expect a delicious restaurant, a bar with a patio and view, a swimming pool, and of course rooms with all of the bellow and whistles you’d expect from a luxurious stay. Rooms are upwards of $120 USD a night.
Lake Atitlan – 2 Nights
Lake Atitlan is a must-visit on any Guatemala itinerary. This massive lake is surrounding by volcanos, lush forests, and cute villages that offer an authentic Guatemalan experience. The hardest part about visiting Lake Atitlan will be leaving, if you don’t believe me then just ask one of the thousands of ex-pats who call Lake Atitlan home after not being able to leave on a holiday.
Getting to Lake Atitlan
You can easily get to Lake Atitlan by bus or shuttle from Antigua. Various tourist shuttles depart daily doing this route. They are direct, safe, and cheap. In a shuttle, the drive from Antigua to Lake Atitlan will take about 2.5 hours if you get off in the town called Panajachel.
I recommend booking a shuttle that drops you off in the town of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan (more on this below in the where to stay section.) This particular shuttle can be booked online in advance and is a comfortable ride with air conditioning.
Things to do in Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is more about wandering the villages, eating at local restaurants, and relaxing while enjoying the lake views than it is actually about doing tours and activities. With that said, you do have lots of choices when it comes to things to do in Lake Atitlan including:
Yoga classes – Yoga is commonly practiced around Lake Atitlan. There are countless yoga studios (especially in San Marcos town) as well as classes offered at many hostels and hotels.
Hike the Indian Nose – For the best view of Lake Atitlan, hike up the Indian Nose. This is only a half-day hike that is best done on a guided tour.
Visit San Marcos – San Marcos is a cute town on Lake Atitlan. It is very touristy but boasts amazing cafes, lots of handmade goods, and a very chilled vibe.
Go kayaking – rent a kayak and go explore! You can either rent them independently from shops near the waterfront (bring your best negotiating skills) or jump on a guided kayaking tour.
Ride in the water taxis – the best way to get around Lake Atitlan is in the “water taxis” which are essentially boats that operate like public buses. It’s an experience in itself taking the boats to get around, and you can’t miss while visiting Lake Atitlan. My best advice would be to jump on one of the boats from Panajachel to San Juan to explore this bustling little town.
Where to Eat and Drink Lake Atitlan
Local “Comedores” – Comedores are small family-owned restaurants. You’ll find lots of them around Lake Atitlan and this is where I recommend you should eat most of your meals. You’ll recognize Comedores by the lack of menus, plastic tables and chairs, and the typical “menu del dia” (menu of the day) offerings. This is one way to taste real authentic Guatemalan food – plus they’re always super cheap!
Café Cristalinas – This café actually roasts their own coffee on-site! It doesn’t get fresher than that! You can find their location on Google maps.
Café Sabor Cruceno – This café is actually attached to a non-profit school that provides equal learning opportunities to the indigenous in the village. The café supports the school where they teach essential skills such as sewing, cooking, and more. The café also offers an amazing view and the food is cheap and absolutely delicious! Dan and I went here all the time when we were in Lake Atitlan. The cafe is located up a steep hill in Santa Cruz, so it is a bit of effort to get there, but so worth it in my opinion!
Where to Stay in Lake Atitlan
There are lots of different villages to choose from when it comes to deciding where to stay in Lake Atitlan. For simplicity’s sake, I recommend staying in the town called Panajachel. This town is larger than some of the villages around the lake, but offers everything you need and is easy to get to and from (as opposed to some villages which are only accessible by boat.)
The below recommendations are all places to stay in Panajachel specifically, but if you want to know about all of your other options then be sure to read our full blog about where to stay in Lake Atitlan, it offers in-depth info about each village and various hotel options.
$ – Selina Atitlan
Selina hostels are some of the nicest out there, and this one is no different. It is very clean and offers modern decor throughout. You can get a dorm bed for as little as $10 USD, however, they also offer more luxurious hotel-style rooms too. There are daily activities and their lakeside location makes for the perfect place to enjoy the views of Lake Atitlan. Personally, I think Selina is a perfect choice for your Guatemala itinerary.
This hotel is located on the outskirts of Panajachel and is the perfect place to stay for anyone looking for a relaxing stay outside of the hustle and bustle of town. It is a mid-range stay at about $70-80 USD a night but offers all of the modern comforts you’d expect from a highly rated hotel.
$$$ – Hotel Atitlan
This hotel is as luxurious as it gets in Guatemala. If you wanted one place to splurge and treat yourself while on this Guatemala trip, then Hotel Atitlan is it! Rooms start from $140 USD a night but go up considerably from there with some rooms actually offering fireplaces! The on-site restaurant is well-known for serving incredible food and the views from the pool over the lake are unmatched.
Lanquin/Semuc Champey – 2 Nights
After two nights relaxing at Lake Atitlan, it’s time to gear up for the longest journey of this Guatemala itinerary which takes you to the town of Lanquin. Located on the central-east side of Guatemala, Lanquin is a small town that tourists visit for one very special reason – Semuc Champey.
Semuc Champey is a national park that has some of the bluest waterfalls and natural swimming pools I’ve ever seen. This is the main attraction in the area and you’ll need one full day (so two nights) to properly explore.
Alternative route: If you feel like this Guatemala itinerary is too rushed or involves too much time on a bus, feel free to skip Lanquin and Semuc Champey altogether and go directly from Antigua to Flores.
Getting to Lanquin and Semuc Champey
From Lake Atitlan, the best way to get to Lanquin is to take a shuttle. These smaller vans are specifically for tourists and they depart regularly from Lake Atitlan. Expect the drive to take about 10-12 hours from Panajachel on Lake Atitlan until you arrive in Lanquin.
It is a long day of driving but makes for a good opportunity for you to catch up on some rest.
Alternatively, you can get a night shuttle which allows more daylight hours for exploring. However, I personally hate traveling at night so I took the day shuttle.
The company I booked my shuttle through was called Adrenalina Tours. The shuttle picked me up at my hotel in Panajachel and then dropped me off right in Lanquin town. They stopped for about a one-hour lunch break at one point, as well as a couple of other bathroom breaks as we needed.
Important tip: Before leaving for Lanquin it is important to get cash out of an ATM in Panajachel. There are NO ATMs in Lanquin, and many businesses only accept cash.
Things to do in Lanquin
The main attraction in Lanquin is Semuc Champey. On your first night, check into your hotel and relax with some food and drinks. The next day, get up and make your way to Semuc Champey. You can do a guided tour or just explore on your own. Tours can be booked easily through your hotel or hostel.
Be sure to hike up to the viewpoint at Semuc Champey, it only takes about 30 minutes and the view is epic! Also, bring your swimsuit because swimming in the natural pools is a must!
Where to Eat and Drink in Lanquin
Options are limited for dining in Lanquin and around Semuc Champey. If you’re staying at one of the hotels out of town near Semuc Champey then you’ll likely be limited to the food served at the hotel. If you’re staying in the town of Lanquin, you can choose one of the places below:
La Flamenca – This open-air restaurant serves delicious food at reasonable prices. Vegetarian options are also available and it is located in central Lanquin.
Comedor Shalom – This tiny local restaurant is well known by locals. You can get a meal here for as little as 25Q (about $3 USD.)
Kalula Café and Restaurant – A perfect breakfast and coffee place in Lanquin. Vegetarian options are available and there are some gorgeous views from the restaurant.
Where to Stay in Lanquin
El Hostal Lanquin is a centrally located backpacker hostel. With affordable prices, a communal area to hang out, and only dorm rooms available this hostel is perfect for solo travelers or those on a budget. It is walking distance from everything in Lanquin town.
$$ – Guayaha
This place is a glamping experience on the outskirts of Lanquin and Semuc Champey. Although technically sleeping in a tent, the place is very modern and clean and features an on site restaurant and pool. It’s definitely a unique experience!
$$ – Greengo’s
This wilderness hotel offers budget rooms with shared bathrooms as well as slightly pricier rooms with private ensuites. They have a pool and jacuzzi as well as a pool bar and onsite restaurant. Located only a 10-minute walk from Semuc Champey it’s a great location for exploring, but you will have to eat all of the hotel’s food. If being out in nature is what you’re after, then this should be a stop on your Guatemala itinerary!
Flores – 2 Nights
Flores is a city located in the north of Guatemala near the border with Belize and Mexico. Staying in the touristy area of Flores Island means you’re out on a peninsula in a very cute isolated town from the main city. But besides the town itself, the main drawcard to Flores is the nearby Mayan ruins of Tikal. These ruins are particularly special and well worth the effort getting there.
Getting to Flores
From Lanquin, you can get a shuttle straight to Flores. This ride takes about 6 hours and costs about $35 USD. You can take public buses and chicken buses but this requires many transfers and a lot of confusion, so I wouldn’t recommend it at all.
For this route, we once again went with Adrenalina Tours. You can book directly on their website.
Things to do in Flores
Of course, the most popular attraction in Flores is visiting Tikal. On your full day in Flores, you’ll want to book a tour out to Tikal. However, in the evenings and other downtimes, there are a few other fun things to do in Flores including:
Visit the waterfront markets – in the afternoons these markets are the perfect place to come for a snack or bite to eat. I couldn’t believe the huge selection of desserts available!
Visit Jorge’s Rope Swing – This tiny restaurant is a popular hangout spot for travelers. It’s right on the water and there is a rope swing that visitors can try out.
Visit Ixpanpajul Nature Park – This privately owned nature park offers treetop walks, suspension bridges, as well as zip lines. It is a great place to come if you like bird watching.
Where to Eat and Drink in Flores
Restaurante San Telmo and Restaurante Tipico Imperio – Both of these restaurants are ideal for watching the sunset. They are both rooftop and the views are amazing!
Achiote – This restaurant is absolutely delicious. They serve a combination of international dishes as well as traditional Guatemalan food. Be sure to arrive at 4 pm when the happy hour starts and the cocktails are cheap!
Where to Stay in Flores
This hostel offers a vibrant social atmosphere with a variety of rooms to choose from. With budget dorm beds all the way to deluxe private ensuite rooms, there is a choice for all travelers. The central location, cleanliness, restaurant, and bar with events and activities make this a top choice in Flores.
$$ – Hotel Casazul
With an ideal location close to cafes and restaurants while being Lakefront, Hotel Casazul is the perfect choice for a mid-range hotel. The rooms are clean and comfortable with air conditioning. The hotel also has an upstairs balcony which makes for the best seat in the house to watch a lake view sunset!
$$$ – Hotel Isla de Flores
This is about as luxury as it gets in Flores, Guatemala. Hotel Isla de Flores has a central location as well as a rooftop pool. There is a highly-rated on-site restaurant and bar as well as air conditioning throughout. The rooms have all of the bells and whistles you’d expect from Flores’ top-rated luxury hotel
Before you go…
And there you have it, a 10-day Guatemala itinerary! From the end in Flores, you can either fly back to Guatemala City to catch an international flight or continue on your travels up to Mexico and Belize (which is what we did!)
If you found this blog helpful, then check out all of our other detailed Guatemala blogs as well as some related blogs below:
Enjoy your trip!
December 21, 2020