your perfect Guatemala itinerary

Planning a trip to Guatemala and trying to put together your perfect Guatemala itinerary?

In this post I have put together a great, adjustable itinerary that covers many different points of interest – lakes, maya ruins, volanoes and more!

If you have the time, I recommend staying at least 14 days in this beautiful Central American country.

your perfect Guatemala itinerary

1. Flores, 2-3 days

I will start this itinerary in Flores, as this was the starting point on my personal Guatemala itinerary, coming from Belize. If you are traveling by land from Belize or Mexico, this will likely be your starting point as well.

However, if you are flying into Guatemala, you will first make a stop in the capital Guatemala City.

Flores is located in the North of the country and the old part of the city is located on an island on Lake Petén Itzá.

The island is where most accommodation options as well as restaurants and bars are located. It is connected to the mainland by bridge, so it is easily accessible.

There are many things to do in and around Flores, including a day trip to the most famous Maya ruins in Guatemala – Tikal. Visiting those ruins is one of my favorite bucketlist experiences in Guatemala and if in the area, make sure to not miss out on this opportunity.

Also make sure to spend time in and around the Lago Petén Itzá. It´s a beautiful place for swimming, kayaking and taking a boat ride.

The town itself is very charming and colorful. Walk around the small island and get lost in the cobblestone streets. Make sure to also check out a roof top bar for sunset.

How to get to Flores?

If you are coming from Guatemala City, you can either take a domestic flight (which is definitely a more convenient but also more expensive option) or take a bus. Coming from Mexico or Belize by land, you will probably have a shuttle service booked that will drop you off in Flores, which is the main tourist point in the North of Guatemala.

Where to stay in Flores?

There are many options in Flores. I personally stayed at the Los Amigos hostel, which is centrally located and offers great food and a stylish interior. I also camped for one night at Playa Chechenal on the other side of Lake Petén Itzá.

What to do and see in Flores? 

  • Flores island old town
  • Sky bar
  • Jorge´s Rope swing
  • Playa Chechenal
  • Daytrip to Tikal ruins
daytrip to Tikal ruins
daytrip to Tikal ruins
Flores island old town
Flores island old town

2. Semuc Champey, 1-2 days

One of Guatemala´s most famous attractions – Semuc Champey.

The famous limestone pools with crystal clear, turquoise water.

While I did really enjoy the tour to Semuc Champey, I have to say that getting here is quite a pain and I am not sure it is worth the effort.

If you are visiting the North of Guatemala as well and are either driving by yourself or taking a bus, it might be worth a stop in Semuc Champey. If you are only sticking around the Antigua area with volcanoes and Lake Atitlan, I would probably not take the detour to Semuc Champey.

 It is possible to visit Semuc Champey without a tour, however when I visited in rainy season, the roads to get there were not doable for my car and I decided to book a quite cheap tour (about 20 USD) with the hostel I stayed at.

The tour includes pick up at the hostel, transfer in a 4×4 pick up truck, exploring a cave, river tubing and access to the limestone pools of Semuc Champey. Not a bad deal for that price. If you do it on your own and have to pay for the entrance and different activities by yourself, you will probably end up paying a similar amount. 

Again, it is a really great place to see, but I am not sure it´s worth the detour, if a stop here is not along your route anyway. If you are traveling from North to South or the other way around anyway, add Semuc Champey to your Guatemala itinerary!

How to get to Semuc Champey? 

That´s the thing….Not quite easy. You either drive by yourself (which is not a very common thing in Guatemala) or arrive by bus. The nearest town to Semuc Champey is Lanquin. To get here, you must change busses a few times and the rides take several hours. I only heard bad things about the shuttle busses coming here from either Flores or Antigua, so make sure you do a lot of research in advance to see, if the trip is worth it for you.

Where to stay in Lanquin?

There are a few options in the small town of Lanquin. One of the most popular is the Zephyr Lodge aka the party hostel. If you are not into parties, the Vista Verde hostel is a good alternative. I loved their pool and views as well as the dorms and food. They have private room options as well.

What to do and see?  

Semuc Champey is the main attraction here obviously, apart from that there is also a place called Grutas de Lanquin that might be worth a visit, if you happen to have some spare time while in the area.


Semuc Champey
taking a swim in the crystal clear water of Semuc Champey

3. Antigua, 4-5 days

Antigua is a very pretty colonial city in Guatemala and probably the most touristy area in the country. You will have to add Antigua to your Guatemala itinerary!

A main reason for that is Antigua´s proximity to some of the country´s most exciting volcanoes.

Popular trips from Antigua to surrounding volcanoes include the Pacaya volcano (having pizza baked over lava here is one of my favorite bucketlist experiences in Guatemala) as well as the famous Acatenango hike.

From the top of volcano Acatenango you can witness the most insane eruptions of neighboring volcano Fuego. Don´t miss out on this once in a lifetime experience.

However not only the surrounding volcanoes are worth a visit, also Antigua itself has many great places to see and things to do.

Strolling through the colorful roads in downtown and taking pictures at the famous Santa Catalina Arch with volcan de Agua in the background are some of my favorites.

How to get to Antigua?

As Antigua is the most popular place in Guatemala, it is quite easy to get here from basically anywhere in the country.

Antigua is located relatively close to Guatemala City (about 40 minutes drive), so even if you arrive to Guatemala City by plane, it will be easy to make your way to Antigua.

What to do and see in and around Antigua?

  • Pacaya volcano hike & pizza
  • Acatenango hike (2-day, 1 night)
  • Santa Catalina Arch
  • Hobbitenango (hobbit village with amazing views and photo spots)
  • Earth Lodge (great views and amazing food and also accommodation options)
  • Brunch at Caoba farms
  • Cerro de la Cruz
  • Ulew secret cocktail bar
Santa Catalina arch in Antigua
Santa Catalina arch in Antigua
Acatenango hike with views of erupting volcano Fuego
Acatenango hike with views of erupting volcano Fuego

4. Lake Atitlan, 2-4 days

One of my favorite places on this planet! Lake Atitlan is SUCH A VIBE, you CANNOT miss it on your Guatemala itinerary!

Surrounded by volcanoes, this is the deepest lake in Central America. Activities in and around the lake include hiking, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and you can even scuba dive here!

Lago Atitlan is surrounded by 12 indigenous villages and 22!! Different laguages are spoken around that lake! Let that sink in! 22 different languages around one single lake – it´s insane!

The area is so full of culture and tradition, it´s an amazing place to learn about the indigenous villages and their history.

The most touristy villages are San Juan La Laguna, San Marcos La Laguna and San Pedro La Laguna.

Make sure to check out some less touristy like Santa Cruz and Santiago as well.

The best way to get around Lake Atitlan is by boat, they´re running between all the villages during the day. Prices are (compared to the generally inexpensive prices in Guatemala) quite pricey. Also often the boats make their own prices, so make sure to check with them before getting on a boat.

I recommend visiting multiple villages during your stay in Atitlan, they are all very different and special in their own way.

How to get to Lake Atitlan?

Lake Atitlan is quite easily reached through a 2-hour drive from Antigua.

Shuttles and busses are running many times per day. You will likely be dropped in the main village Panajachel and take a boat to your accommodation from here. 

Where to stay around Lake Atitlan?

There are MANY options around the lake. From super luxury to budget options like hostel and camping.

One of my favorite luxury options would be La Fortuna Atitlan, but make sure to book in advance, they are mostly sold out months in advance!

I did camp at Pasaj Cap, a great place with amazing views and a great dock area for swimming. They have great vacation rentals as wel!

If I would not be car camping, I would have stayed at Casa del Mundo. This place has an incredible vibe and so many cool photo spots. Even if you don´t stay here, I highly recommend passing by for lunch and enjoying the vibe.

What to do and see around Lake Atitlan?

  • Activites in the lake such as swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking
  • Hike the Indian Nose (one of my favorite bucketlist experiences in Guatemala)
  • Visit San Juan La Laguna (art town)
  • Visit San Marcos La Laguna (hippie town)
  • Visit San Pedro La Laguna (the most touristy and one of the bigger towns around the lake)
  • Soak in Los Termales in San Pedro
  • Hike from Santa Cruz La Laguna to San Marcos La Laguna
  • Go scuba diving

For a complete guide to Lake Atitlan, click HERE.

Lake Atitlan is a great place for a swim. It´s also the deepest lake in Central America
the art town San Juan La Laguna
camping at Pasaj Cap in San Marcos

5. El Paredon, 1-2 days

I have not visited El Paredon, however I heard a lot of good things about it! The only reason I skipped it was that I figured that this beach town would be similar to others I was going to explore in El Salvador and Nicaragua and I did not have enough time.

El Paredon is one of the most popular beach destinations in Guatemala and one of the top surf destinations in Central America.

This beach town has gained popularity fast over the last few years and many more hotels and restaurants were added recently. It is still a small beach town with a relaxed vibe, though. 

Generally speaking, Guatemala is not really a beach destination. If you are looking for picture-perfect beaches and crystal clear water, you will not find it here. However, if you want to add a few lazy beach days to your Guatemala itinerary and maybe take a surf class, a stop in El Paredon is a great option!

El Paredon is also one of the places in Central America where it is possible to release baby turtles.

I am always very cautious with these kind of activities, however I have learnt that in Central America the black market for turtle eggs is still a big thing and have even witnessed locals “stealing” eggs from the beach once turtles layed them. Therefor many organizations in Central America collect the eggs and bury them in a safe place until the baby turtles are ready for hatching.

Definitely a once in a life time experience to witness baby turtles make their way into the ocean!

How to get to El Paredon?

You can easily get to El Paredon from Antigua either by tourist shuttle or local bus (chicken bus).

Where to stay in El Paredon?

There are a few accommodation options in El Paredon. For party people, the Driftwood hostel is recommended. I was initially planning to go to El Paredon and wanted to stay at BarriOceano, but I ended up not going…

What to do and see in El Paredon?

  • Go surfing
  • Enjoy lazy days at the beach
  • Witness a baby turtle release

I hope this blog post helped with creating your perfect Guatemala itinerary! I am sure you will love this Central American country as much as I do.

Make sure to check out other Guatemala blog posts to help plan your perfect trip: