Gaze over the jungle from the magnificent ruins of Tikal. Be immersed in Antigua’s old-world charm. Take a boat to vibrant Santiago, a traditional village on Lake Atitlan.
Explore Guatemala by boat, by van, by any way you can. From the cultural capital in the highlands to an isolated town on the Caribbean coast, this nine-day adventure takes you through palatial jungle ruins and down remote rivers, across highland lakes and into traditional villages. Whether it’s walking the cobblestone streets of Antigua or kayaking on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala’s magic can be in every experience and every person.
Breakfast Included: 8 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included:
Welcome to Antigua! As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the colonial buildings have been restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired under the watchful gaze of the ever-present Pacaya Volcano. You’ll be transferred from the airport in Guatemala City; please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. Things will kick off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, after which you can join an optional group dinner or explore Antigua by night.
Today you’ll travel in a private vehicle to Rio Dulce. The Rio Dulce (Sweet River) runs out of Lake Izabal to the Caribbean Sea through Guatemala’s small stretch of eastern coastline sandwiched between Honduras and Belize. It’s home to the Guatemalan manatee, which you may be lucky enough to see tomorrow. It’s a long journey, approximately 6.5-7 hours, and on the drive your leader will teach you some useful Spanish phrases other than ‘una cerveza, por favor’. The van will stop for an optional lunch on the way.
Take a scenic boat trip downstream to Livingston, a laidback town at the mouth of the Rio Dulce that offers a unique glimpse into local Garifuna culture. Afterwards explore Siete Altares (Seven Altars), the hidden cascading waterfalls. A fair level of fitness and good walking shoes is required for the path, and water shoes for the falls themselves are recommended for this activity. Later, there are several optional activities to choose from, such as exploring the nearby San Felipe fort, checking out the heritage-listed Quirigua Ruins or submerging yourself in the natural hot springs. Free evening in Rio Dulce.
Depart Rio Dulce at 9 am for Flores, a 3.5-4 hour drive by private vehicle. Arrive in time for an optional lunch by the water. Afterwards, choose to spend the afternoon either relaxing or taking part in one of the optional activities on offer. A boat tour on Lake Peten Itza or a visit to El Castillo Fort are both good options. Your leader will also take you on an orientation walk around town. The evening is free for you spend how you please; find a restaurant or grab some street food and picnic by the lake.
Tikal Ruins / Flores
Rise and shine, the group is up (very) early today in order to witness a Tikal ruins sunrise. Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy and you may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. You’ll have an hour-long guided tour then time to explore the site on your own before returning to Flores.
Another early start today with a 5.45 am departure to Flores airport for a 7 am flight to Guatemala City (1 hour). You’ll jump in a private vehicle to Panajachel, a town in the Guatemalan highlands on the shore of Lake Atitlan, and your leader will take you on an orientation walk before checking in to the hotel. There’s an optional lunch and the afternoon is free for you to explore the town’s thriving market, take a walk around the lake or perhaps you’d rather hire a kayak for a different view.
Lake Atitlan / Panajachel
There are numerous villages scattered around Lake Atitlan and today you’ll jump in a shared boat and visit Santiago, the largest of them. Santiago remains very traditional with many villagers continuing to live a Tz’utujil lifestyle, and your leader will take you on a walking tour of the community. Lunch is included at Casa del Mundo, a spectacular hotel overlooking the lake, after which there’s free time walk around the village and markets on foot or rent a bike to explore further.
Antigua is calling and we’re listening. Take a private vehicle (3 hours) back to where it all started and take a city tour (2 hours) with a local guide. Antigua remains the cultural centre of Guatemala with its cobbled streets, markets and colonial buildings, not to mention the indigenous marimba music drifting from the many bars and restaurants. The afternoon is yours to enjoy – perhaps you’ll take a chocolate-making workshop, or visit a coffee and macadamia plantation, or even hike the mighty Pacaya Volcano outside town. Don’t forget to organise a farewell dinner tonight with your group!
Today is your final day and there are no activities planned. You’re free to depart after breakfast, but there’s plenty to do in Antigua if you’d like to stay on, and a whole lot more to see in Central America if you’re interested in jumping on another trip.