Guatemala is a fantastic Central American destination! You’ll find ancient Mayan ruins, picturesque colonial towns, volcanos to hike, jungles to explore, and lakes and oceans for water fun.
Public transportation in Guatemala is predominantly limited to buses, but you lose a lot of time traveling by bus. You can rent a car, but the roads here are too hectic for me (though you might be used to driving in more chaotic conditions). So I recommend traveling by shuttle or hiring a car and driver.
This will give you flexibility on your arrival and departure times and will still be relatively inexpensive. GuateGo is the best site for booking shuttles and private transportation.
Guatemala is also one of my Top Budget Destinations Around The World!
So here is my ultimate 10-day Guatemala itinerary!
3 Nights in Antigua
Your flight should land in Guatemala City, then take a shuttle to Antigua. The entire city of Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage because of its well-preserved Spanish Baroque architecture. This town is so colorful, and there are fantastic views of the surrounding volcanos at every turn.
Spend your first two days exploring the city. I recommend starting with a walking tour that will include the town’s highlights – the Arco de Santa Catalina (pictured above), Iglesia de La Merced, and Parque Central. Other must-do activities are walking up to Cerro de la Cruz (pictured above) – one of the most fantastic viewpoints you’ll ever visit – and exploring at least one of the town’s open-air markets.
Antigua is renowned for its coffee and chocolate, so you should visit a plantation or do a tasting. This Sip ‘N Cycle Bike and Coffe Tour was one of my favorite things I did in Guatemala, and I don’t even like coffee that much!
Then spend your third day in Antigua doing one of these day trips:
Hike Pacaya Volcano: Pacaya is the most accessible active volcano in Central America. And, as volcano hikes go, it’s a relatively moderate climb. The ascent is relatively steep, but even going at a slow pace, the walk should only take around 3 hours. The trail is well-traveled, well-marked, and there’s food stands, restrooms, trash cans, and rest stops the whole way.
Mayan ruins of Iximche: Iximche is a small archaeological site that’s relatively unknown to tourists, but it’s of great cultural significance to the indigenous people. If you want an off-the-beaten-path destination that’s great for cultural or history enthusiasts, then this is the site for you!
2 Nights in Panajachel
Panajachel is a hill town on Lake Atitlán – one of the Can’t-Miss Destinations in Guatemala. There are many villages you can stay in, but I recommend Panajachel because it’s a larger town, which means it’s a more convenient “home base” for tours and excursions.
Lake Atitlán is a massive crater ringed by volcanos. It’s a stunning destination that should be on every Guatemala itinerary. Must-do activities when you’re here are a boat tour and a traditional Mayan cooking class.
I also recommend visiting a local avocado orchard and the Atitlán nature reserve, which has a butterfly garden and some fantastic hiking trails.
You could do Lake Atitlán as a day trip from Antigua if you had less time, but it will be a long day trip, and the lake is worth a couple of nights stay.
2 Nights in Semuc Champey
On your sixth day, depart Lake Atitlán for the jungle paradise of Semuc Champey. It’s about a nine-hour drive to Semuc Champey, so plan on this being a transit day. Semuc Champey is a limestone bridge that formed over a river.
On day seven, you can swim and slide down waterfalls in the crystal clear pools of the bridge, hike to a fantastic viewpoint, tube down the calm aboveground part of the river, or water cave.
Most people stay in the town of Lanquin and take a 4X4 pickup truck (the local taxis) to Semuc Champey for the day. But there are some resorts and ecolodges in the jungle closer to Semuc Champey.
Here’s my Ultimate Guide to Semuc Champey for more information on what to do, where to stay, and how to prepare for Semuc Champey.
3 Nights in Tikal National Park
On day eight, head to Tikal National Park. It’s about an eight-hour drive from Semuc Champey to the park, and you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the park in time to check-in, settle into your accommodation, and go on either a sunset or moonlighting tour of the jungle and ruins.
For the sunset tour, you’ll hike into the jungle when it’s daylight, explore some of the ruins, climb up a temple to watch the sunset, then walk back in the dark. The moonlighting tour only happens during a full moon. But if the timing works out, this specialty tour about Maya Cosmology is fascinating.
I strongly recommend procuring lodging inside the national park. This is the only way you’ll be able to do the evening and morning excursions. The park is only accessible from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm unless you’re staying in the park.
Start day nine by sleeping in since you’ll have been up late in the park and take a day trip to the island town of Flores.
On day ten, plan for a very very early morning for a sunrise tour. With this tour, you’ll trek into the jungle when it’s still dark. Then you’ll climb up a temple where you’re actually above the rainforest canopy to watch the sunrise and hike back once it’s daylight. This is one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever done!
You can then catch a flight from the nearby Mundo Maya International Airport back to Guatemala City or to Belize City to head home or to your next destination.
If you have more than ten days in Guatemala, then I would recommend visiting one of the country’s coastlines. Monterrico on Guatemala’s western coast has striking volcanic black sand beaches and a turtle sanctuary. And Livingston on the eastern coast has that iconic Caribbean-paradise-vibe.
Shop My Guatemala Essentials
Ready to plan the rest of your trip? Then check out my Ultimate Guide to Guatemala!
What would be on your Guatemala itinerary? Share below so we can work together on providing even more options for a Guatemala trip!
For Planning the Rest of Your Guatemala Trip
10-Day Guatemala Itinerary
YOUR TRAVEL CHECKLIST
PIN THIS ITINERARY!
This Guatemala itinerary is not a sponsored post. And, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Some of the links in this Guatemala itinerary are affiliate links. And, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.