Day 1: Antigua
As you embark on the first day of your Guatemalan adventure, you’ll arrive at the Guatemala City International Airport, as all flights arriving from the United States terminate here. You’ll be greeted at the airport by a personal driver for your private ground transfer to El Convento Boutique Hotel in the heart of Antigua’s old city center.
With its renowned Colonial style, vibrant stucco homes, melancholy ruins and meandering cobblestone lanes, Antigua feels like time stopped in the 1700s while still managing to be an exceedingly cosmopolitan city of 35,000 that filled to the very brim with opulent hotels, gourmet dining, boutique shopping and much more. Once the bustling capital of Guatemala and one of the most crucial Spanish colonies in the Americas, Antigua, today, is noted more for its perennial appeal, mythic ruins and UNESCO World Heritage status.
While in Antigua, you’ll be intoxicated by the traditional simplicity, modern convenience, gracious service, thoughtful amenities and quiet sanctuary of El Convento Boutique Hotel— a 26-room all-suite hotel that’s managed to garner numerous accolades, including a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice award and a Condé Nast Johansen Best Hotel in Central America nod. The boutique accommodations are located on a charming cobblestone street near the famous Capuchinas Convent and boasts the internationally-recognized Elu Restaurant and Lounge on its property. All rooms are very spacious and finely appointed. Some even include cedar-beamed ceilings, fireplaces, private gardens and hot tubs.
Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour OR DLG Fair Trade Coffee Tour
Whether you choose to take a guided walking tour of Antigua or venture a bit out of town for an enlightening agri-tour of a working coffee farm, you’re sure to enjoy a culturally-enriching day in metro Antigua.
If a coffee tour (with tastings) sounds too good to be true, you’ll be amazed by our half-day DLG Fairly Traded Coffee Tour at the nearby village of San Miguel Escobar. You’ll start the day by meeting your bilingual driver at hotel reception for a short drive to the village where you’ll meet an expert local guide from As Green as it Gets (AGAIG). Your tour will take you to visit and work alongside local farmers before sampling their delicious handiwork. You’ll learn about daily coffee production (from processing, picking, pulping and fermenting, through to washing, drying, trilling, sorting and grading), and watch as the farmers fire-roast and hand-grind the beans. Then sit back and enjoy a fine cup of coffee before heading out to partake of a simple and traditional meal in a local family’s home. You’ll begin the short trip back to Antigua after lunch.
AGAIG is a charitable organization that exists to support small independent coffee farmers and promote sustainable agriculture across Guatemala. Coffee season is from November through March. This experience includes a donation to AGAIG.
For those who would rather spend the day exploring Antigua’s historical, cultural and social highlights, our new half-day Antigua Walking Tour will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the most recognized features of this Colonial-era city. You’ll be met at hotel reception by your private guide who will ensure an informative and fun time discovering some of the many convent, church and cathedral ruins. Entry to the Cathedral, La Merced Church and Iglesia San Francisco are included with this tour. Our guides are flexible, so if there are additional sites and monuments you’d like to see, please ask and simply pay any entry fees directly at the site. You may also use tuc tucs for this tour, and these fees are included.
You’ll have the remainder of the afternoon to stroll through this magical city on your own. We suggest popping into the numerous art galleries and one-of-a-kind boutiques that dot Antigua’s winding lanes. Another of our favorite ways to pass the time in Antigua is hitting the foodie trail. Enjoy dinner on your own at one of of the city’s numerous mouthwatering eateries or, for the more adventurous eaters amongst us, keep an eye peeled for long lines of locals and you’re sure to find street vendors with authentic, well-prepared and delicious traditional cuisine. Of course, we also are happy to schedule a private Street Food Tour for you to uncover some of Antigua’s most popular street fare while learning the cultural and historical significance of the cuisine available here.
Day 3: Lake Atitlan & Comalapa Market
On day three of your Guatemala Maya Magic tour, you’re heading to Lake Atitlan for an enlightening and relaxing respite at the upmarket Casa Palopo Atitlan and a day trip to the Comalapa Market and Iximche archeological Site. For the next three days, you’ll experience the rich, colorful and widely varied Highland traditions of this beautiful Guatemala region.
Surrounded by three imposing (and dormant) volcanoes, rugged hills and roughly a dozen diverse and authentic Mayan towns, Lake Atitlan has been compared to Lake Cuomo in Italy and described as the most beautiful lake in the world, but often it is wrongly described as one large and cohesive geographic region. Instead, Lake Atitlan is a collection of small distinct villages each with its own unique personality. This unrepeatable quality means it is possible to experience something totally fresh and new on each stop of a tour in this area with its endearing native villages where locals still practice ancient Mayan rituals and don vibrant traditional clothing.
Upon arrival in the region, you’ll check into the incomparable Casa Palopo— a Relais & Chateaux adults-only playground (15+) where personalized service in an unrivaled setting will at once thrill your mind and settle your soul. Situated on the picturesque shores of Lake Atitlan in Santa Catarina Palopó Village, this posh hotel, boasting seven spacious rooms in the main structure and a separate two-bedroom villa, was converted from a private home in 2000 and has been called “the best luxury hotel in Guatemala.” Through it all, Casa Polopo has retained its private home feel while boasting a magnificent blend of local and contemporary art and the slow pace of the misty Highland landscape it calls home.
But before arriving in Lake Atitlan, prepare to get on the road for a private one-hour drive to the town of Comalapa. Internationally recognized for the local tradition of the naif painting style, Comalapa is a remote bastion for culture and art where you’ll meet local painters and view the renowned mural area school children painted depicting Guatemalan history.
While in Comalapa, we recommend visiting the small museum honoring the composer of the Guatemalan national anthem— a local native— and stopping by the local market to watch the local people buy produce and goods for the remaining week ahead. You’ll have a local lunch before hitting the road to explore the Maya archeological site of Iximche.
Declared a national monument in the 1960s, Iximche is a small but impactful pre-Colombian Mesoamerican site and capital of the late postclassic Kaqchikel Maya kingdom during the 15th and 16th centuries. It features more than 160 mapped structures, including several excavated temples, as well as ball courts and palaces. Located on a high ridge overlooking deep ravines and flowing rivers, the site is picturesque and well worth the trip but comparatively few tourists ever make the trip. In fact, most visitors to the site, including the small on-site museum, are indigenous Maya.
When ready to head onward to Lake Atitlan and Casa Palopo, you’ll transfer to the hotel for check-in. Private guide, driver, entrances and donation to painters are included.
Day 4: Lake Atitlan & San Juan
Remember the collection of small distinct villages nestled along the banks of Lake Atitlan? Today is your day to become acquainted with several of them firsthand. After an a la carte American-style breakfast, you’ll be picked up from Casa Palopo and transferred to San Juan La Laguna Village where you’ll visit a local textile cooperative, learn about the use of natural dyes and see a traditional back strap loom in use. Once you’ve experienced an up-close peek at Guatemala’s vibrant hand-made textiles, you’ll pop into the workshop and home of local naif painters before getting aboard a boat to Santiago.
Once you’ve disembarked in Santiago Village, you’ll stop for an genuinely Guatemalan lunch before taking a leisurely stroll with your guide to seek out the current home of the Maya god Maximon. Each year his location changes as part of an ancient ritual and a new member of the “brotherhood” is granted the honor of caring for the Mayan god. You may even see a local shaman performing ancient Maya rites near this area— although it can’t be booked ahead or guaranteed.
After observing the ceremonies of Maximon, we recommend a visit to the local church where you’ll learn about this traditional village’s history and a trip to the local market where you’ll learn about the textiles and primitive art of the area. When you’re ready, your guide will take you back to Casa Palopo to your evening relaxing on the grounds of the hotel or wandering the quiet streets of the surrounding village.
Private guide, boat transfer, entrances and lunch are included.
Day 5: Chichicastenango & Guatemala City
Next, get ready to hit the road for a private transfer through the Central Highland region en route to the Chichicastenango Market en route to Gautemala City. On the way, keep a keen eye out for the local Maya people going about their days, whether peddling their wares, working in the fields, collecting firewood or simply traveling between markets. Upon arrival at Chichi Market, about an hour later, your guide will take you to explore this famous market where you’ll find everything from locally-grown veggies and fruits to intricate handmade textiles and crafts. Market days are Thursdays and Sundays all year. We also recommend you visit the Pre-Colombian Santo Tomás Catholic Church, a highlight of this area where local Quiche priests still practice traditional Maya ceremonies. This unexpected dichotomy of primitive Maya rites combined with Catholicism illustrates the unusual way in which the different faiths have merged in the Guatemalan Highlands.
While in Chichi, don’t forget to make the easy trek up to Pascaul Abaj or to the community cemetery on the outskirts of town. You may catch the a shaman performing rites for the local Maya people. There is plenty of time to see one or the other (perhaps both if moving briskly) and still make it to lunch at a neighborhood restaurant before onto the next leg of your distinctive journey.
Private guide, transfer, minibus and lunch is included.<br><br>
Then it’s onto the Guatemala City Airport for a domestic flight to the city of Flores in the Department of El Petén where you’ll see into one of the waterfront suites at Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel.
Day 6: Yaxha
Although the Department covers nearly a full one-third of Guatemala, El Petén is the most sparsely populated area in the country and is still widely considered a wild frontier. Once a glistening hub of the magnificent Classic Maya civilization, today the grand cities of old have long since been claimed by the jungle and monkeys and parrots greatly outnumber people. Still, El Petén has enjoyed increasingly manageable access complete with the addition of an international airport and newly paved roads in response to the region becoming one of the most requested destinations in Guatemala in recent years. Despite the surge in popularity, the destination remains authentic, understated and much less developed than elsewhere in country.
Just because El Petén is a remote wilderness doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of top-notch eco-lodges and hotels. One of our absolute favorites is the all-suite Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel where you’ll experience luxury by nature on the banks of the Quexil Lagoon. There are 35 suites dotted throughout the property’s 200 acres of undomesticated private reserve, but we recommend the waterfront suites for their amazingly tranquil lagoon-centric locale. You’ll be surprised to find sheer indulgence in the middle of the jungle at Las Lagunas.
Once you’re settled into your waterfront suite at Las Lagunas, you’ll be swept away to Yaxha National Park to enjoy a private tour of one of the lesser visited Maya ceremonial cites. Although there are several larger Mayan archeological sites within minutes of Las Lagunas (including Tikal, which you’ll see tomorrow), the hilltop setting of Yaxha and its panoramic views of two picturesque lakes make this a particularly scenic excursion. Be sure to catch the 360-degree-view from the top of Temple 216 in the Easy Acropolis before convening at sunset for wine and snacks on the shores of Lake Yaxha before cruising the lagoon and returning to the hotel.
Includes private transfers, archeology guide, entrance fees, sunset snacks and drinks.
Day 7: Tikal & Guatemala City
After a refreshing a la carte breakfast at Las Lagunas, you’ll meet a your guide at hotel reception for a private guided tour of Tikal National Park. One of the most excavated, as well as one of the largest and most famous of all the surviving cities of the ancient Maya, Tikal is the crown jewel of the El Petén region and an expansive archeological site with more than 3,000 known structures and incalculably more still hidden among the dense surrounding rainforest.
While visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll notice the sights and sounds of exotic tropical animals and birds, while following in the footsteps of some 50,000+ people who lived here between 800BC and 900AD. Don’t miss the 125-foot Temple of the Masks, 144-foot Temple of the Jaguar, the Acropolis and the Great Plaza before exploring the visitor center museum. All that archeological exploration is sure to leave you hungry, so we’ll provide a luxury picnic lunch in the park before heading back to the hotel and preparing for transfer to Guatemala City.
Includes private transfers, archeological guide, entrance fees and picnic lunch.
Now, let our guides help you with your bags as you make a ground transfer to Flores and board a domestic flight to Guatemala City. A private driver will pick you up at the airport and take you for an overnight stay at the Westin Camino Real hotel.
The Westin Camino Real was the first 5 Star property in Guatemala City, and you’re sure to rediscover quintessential Starwood hospitality at this city center hotel that scores double points for its close proximity to the airport. If your whirlwind trip through Guatemala has left you longing for some pampering, the Westin Camino Real has you covered with its recently remodeled full-service spa, health club, heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam bath, sauna and more. Plus, you’ll have several tasty on-site choices to enjoy a meal with family and friends. If you still haven’t gotten enough of all Guatemala has to offer, why not venture out from the hotel into lively Zone 10 on your last night to experience some of the city’s best shopping, dining and nightlife.
With over two million residents, Guatemala City is the biggest in all of Central America, boasting a distinctive Latin flair and fast-paced atmosphere. Much like Antigua, Guate (as it’s common.y called) is also known for its unusual blend of modern convenience and Colonial charm. As is to be expected in any large city that enjoys such a dichotomous nature, the city is not without its problems but is certainly home to a certain charm, an undeniable energy and a number of interesting cultural attractions, including museums, art galleries, monuments and theatres.
Day 8: Departure from Guatemala City
After enjoying your last boxed breakfast at the Westin Camino Real, meet your private driver at reception for the quick drive to the Guatemala City International Airport and your return flight home.