Guatemala, located in Central America, is known to be one of the countries with the highest concentration of volcanoes in the world.
That is actually one of the main reasons why we decided to visit Guatemala. We wanted to see an active volcanic eruption from up close and this was one of the rare places where it is possible. However, we were shocked by just how much more there is to this country. Filled with ancient Mayan ruins, a rich indigenous culture, beautiful volcanic lakes, and delicious food, Guatemala ended up being a total highlight of our travels.
However, with so many things to see, it may be difficult to decide how to best plan your time. For this reason, we have come up with the ultimate 1 week Guatemala itinerary that includes some of our favorite experiences. In case your tastes are slightly different, we have also added some alternative options that can be swapped or added in if your stay is longer.
How long should you spend in Guatemala
We would recommend staying at least 10 days to see all the highlights of the country at a comfortable pace. Although one week is possible, you will need to skip on at least one of the main experiences.
Most of the primary attractions such as Guatemala City, Antigua, the volcanoes, and Lake Atitlan are clustered in a similar area in the south.
The other main sites like Semuc Champey and Tikal, however, are in the north and more challenging to reach. It is for this reason that trying to include both Tikal and Lake Atiltan in the same one-week itinerary would be too rushed.
In our proposed plan of 1 week, we chose to visit Tikal for Mayan history instead of Lake Atitlan for a more unwinding beautiful scenery type of trip. However, this can be easily swapped as will be explained further down. If however you have 10 days, you will be able to visit both areas!
1-Week Guatemala itinerary
In our proposed plan of 1 week, we chose to visit Tikal for Mayan history instead of Lake Atitlan for a more unwinding beautiful scenery type of trip. However, this can be easily swapped as will be explained further down. If, however, you have 10 days, you will be able to visit both areas!
We had personally spent close to 2 weeks in Guatemala and have experienced each of these activities. To see the best that Guatemala has to offer in 7 days, we believe this itinerary is ideal!
Day 1: Arrival in Guatemala City – transport to Antigua – Food tour
On your first day, your international flight to Guatemala will arrive at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. Overall, we would not recommend staying in Guatemala city as there are elevated rates of crime and some safety concerns.
For this reason, we propose booking a transport direct from the airport straight to Antigua. This transport takes between 90-120 minutes depending on traffic but is a pleasant ride through the countryside.
Once arrived in Antigua and checked in to your hotel, one of the best ways to get your bearings on the city is a Food Tour. With a Food tour, not only will you get to experience some of the most authentic local dishes, but you will also be brought to areas that you may otherwise miss.
The guide will also explain to you the history of the country and give you a better understanding of the entire Guatemalan culture.
After a tiring day of flights, this is the ideal activity as the experience is very laid back. There are several evening Food tours in Antigua which you can register for upon your arrival.
If a food tour is not your thing, then maybe try a cooking class. We feel that cooking class also allows you to learn a lot about the culture and gives you access to the expertise and knowledge of your guide.
Day 2: Explore Antigua and ruins
Antigua is a beautiful Colonial city surrounded by 3 prominent volcanoes, which contribute to the breathtaking landscape of the region. Spend your second day just roaming around the city and admiring the architecture. You will quickly notice the distinct style of the buildings, reflecting the Spanish Baroque influence of their colonial times.
In addition to strolling through the cobbled streets, one of the best things to do is visit the churches and cathedrals, or their ruins. As a consequence of multiple earthquakes in the past, many of these grand structures have collapsed and left behind the beautiful framework of the buildings.
Most of the cathedral domes have collapsed, allowing the bright sky to illuminate the remaining archways, facades, and courtyards. This creates a very mysterious and ethereal feeling and presents you with some incredible photography opportunities.
Our favorite ruins include the main Antigua Cathedral as well as Convento Santa Clara. We spent around 3-4 hours visiting both and photographing the beautiful architecture. If you have more time, here are some of the other main ruins:
- Convent of La Campaña de Jesus
- Iglesia El Carmen
- Nuestra Señora de la Merced
- Iglesia de San Francisco
- San Juan El Viejo
- Convent of Las Capuchinas
Also, make sure to stop by the Santa Catalina Archway on the northern side of the town. This is one of the most iconic landmarks of Antigua where the bright yellow archway frames the volcano in the background. This spot is perfect to visit at sunset where the orange glow of the sky makes the view even more magical.
Day 3: Acatenango hike
One of the best experiences in Antigua is the 2 day, one-night hike up to witness the lava eruption of Volcano Fuego from Volcano Acatenango. On the first day, you will be doing a grueling 6-hour hike up to the base camp of Acatenango where you will be spending the night. Here, depending on the tour group you go with, you will be sleeping whether in a tent, a shared cabin, or an individual cabin. From here, you get the perfect vantage point to witness the volcanic eruptions of Fuego.
However, if you are more daring, you can embark on the additional 2-3 hour hike up the slopes of Volcano Fuego where you will stand up close to the eruptions. This was a very challenging hike for us but so worth it!
Standing on the bare peak of the volcano, whipped by the torrential winds, witnessing the night sky lit up with the bright orange glow of the lava. This is a moment we will always remember.
You will then hike back the same way to return to your base camp. After dinner, spend the night dozing off and listening to the rumble of the distant volcano.
For a more in-depth breakdown of all the best things to do in Antigua including the volcano hike, the logistics of all the activities, and photos highlighting the experiences, check out our guide on best things to do in Antigua with 3, 4, 5 days.
Day 4: Finish Acatenango hike – Transport back to Guatemala City – flight Flores
On the next day, you will be finishing up your Acatenango hike. Rising early in the morning, you will have the option of hiking up to the peak of the volcano Acatenango to witness the view from the summit.
After that, you will return to base camp for breakfast before heading downhill. Hiking down the mountain is 1000x easier than hiking up and by around noon, you will be back to Antigua. At this point, you will likely be very tired so spend the day relaxing in transport. You can book the same company to head back to Guatemala city airport directly and then take a flight to Flores in Northern Guatemala.
At Flores, you will be able to witness some of the most incredible Mayan ruins and jungles and visit the world-renowned UNESCO heritage site of Tikal.
Although it is quite out of the way to visit Flores and Tikal, we feel it is 100% worth it. Having traveled to many other countries that have Mayan ruins including Chitzen Itza in Mexico, the experience at Tikal was far more authentic, unique, and memorable.
Before arriving in Flores, try to already organize your tour to Tikal. The best times to visit Tikal are during Sunrise and Sunset so it is better to plan ahead. We would highly recommend contacting Los Amigos Hostel who organize excellent tours around the area.
Day 5: Explore Tikal
On the 5th day, you will be visiting Tikal during sunrise or sunset. These are the ideal times as the glow of the rising and setting sun on the ruins creates a magical experience.
Tikal is an ancient archaeological site and one of the largest and most significant Mayan cities in Mesoamerica. Located in the rainforests of northern Guatemala, Tikal served as a major political, economic, and cultural center of the ancient Maya civilization. Here, you can witness some of the largest Mayan structures ever built and even have the chance to climb up and stand on the top of some of them.
With the help of the guide, you will learn so much about the Mayan culture and history, and several interesting facts of their influence even up till today. For example, the Mayans used a numbering system of lines and dots that is still today reflected in the Guatemalan currency.
Visiting Tikal will take the entire day. The drive to reach there takes about an hour each way and will be included in the tour. If you are thinking of visiting Tikal, make sure to check out the guide we mentioned before as we provide a lot of helpful tips.
Day 6: Explore Yaxha + Flores
The next day, we would recommend taking the time to visit Yaxha, another impressive Mayan city deep in the jungles of Guatemala. You might be wondering if visiting two Mayan ruins back to back would get repetitive, but Yaxha truly brings its own unique experience.
For us, what made it stand out was how immersed you feel. The ruins were only partially excavated and the surrounding forest left completely intact, preserving the environment that the city once existed in. Also, at Yaxha, you are allowed to climb up many of the pyramids and structures, further enhancing the experience. We went to visit Yaxha for sunset and highly recommend it.
Spend the rest of the morning or evening visiting Flores. It is a small but very cute town filled with colorful buildings and so much personality. There are also some incredibly delicious restaurants that we would recommend.
For a full breakdown of what to do in Flores, how to plan your time visiting Tikal and Yaxha, as well as food recommendations, check out our Flores Guatemala Itinerary for 3, 4, or 5 days.
Day 7: Flight back to Guatemala city and then departure
Your final day will be spent mostly on transport. You will be taking the flight from Flores back to Guatemala city and then await your international flight back home.
Depending on the time of flights, you may be able to spend the morning in Flores exploring or even going kayaking on the lake.
Make sure to pick up some Guatemalan coffee on the way out as it is delicious!
Alternative or if you have 10 days
If Mayan history and archeology are of less interest to you, then you can instead visit Lake Atitlan a few hours away from Antigua. Lake Atitlan is a volcanic lake surrounded by lush forests. There are multiple little cities that you can stay at, each providing a unique trait. For example, there is a town focused on meditation and yoga, another focused on art, whereas one focused on backpackers.
If you are interested in visiting Lake Atitlan, then choose this route instead for Days 4-7 in our original itinerary. If, however, you have 10 days in total, then you can simply add these 3-4 days to the original itinerary.
- Day 4: Transport to Lake Atitlan from Antigua + explore Panajachel
- Day 5: Explore Casa Del Mundo hotel + visit San Juan for the street art and galleries + spend the evening enjoying the Hot tub at Casa Del Mundo
- Day 6: Weaving class or yoga class (this can be done in the nearby towns)
- Day 7: Take the 3-hour bus transport to return to Guatemala City and then departure on your international flight
For more details about what to do, where to stay, where to eat, and some of our highlight experiences in Lake Atitlan, check out our Lake Atitlan full itinerary breakdown. We go into a lot more detail about the proposed days 4-7 as described above.
Best time to go to Guatemala
The best time to visit Guatemala is during January, February, March, April, or November to December. The summer months from May to September are the wettest in Guatemala.
Guatemala is known as the land of eternal spring so the temperatures tend to remain pretty constant at around 22-27 degrees celsius. For this reason, the ideal months are those with the lowest probability of rain. We ended up visiting end of November and had perfect weather!
Is Guatemala safe?
A question we get asked often is if Guatemala is safe. The overall answer is Yes, Guatemala is safe. We spent a lot of time traveling through Flores, Antigua, and Lake Atitlan and always felt safe. The only area that we felt a bit more on edge was Guatemala City. It is for this reason that we recommend skipping Guatemala City and heading straight to Antigua. In Antigua, we went out walking at night after visiting Las Palmas Latin bar and felt very comfortable.
In general, as long as you stay within the main tourist areas, then you should feel safe.
Is Guatemala expensive?
Overall, Guatemala is a very affordable country to visit. Accommodation can be had for an average 30-50$ per night, and if eating local food, meals are between 5-15$ per person. The largest expenses of our trip were the tours to visit Tikal and the Volcano Acatenango.
As a point of reference, visiting Tikal costs around 70 CAD per person and the Volcano trek costs around 100 USD per person. Guatemala also had surprisingly innovative international cuisine which cost around 40-60$ per couple.
Summary: 1-Week Guatemala Itinerary
Guatemala, filled with volcanoes, Mayan culture, and such a rich history, makes for an amazing country to visit. With this 1 week Guatemala Itinerary, you are on your way to planning your next adventure!
We have included the ancient history of Tikal, the relaxation at Lake Atitlan, the adventure of Volcano Acatenango, and the rich culture of Antigua, all into one trip that is sure to satisfy everyone’s interests!
Ryan & Nan, travel storytellers and adventure photographers at Wayless Travelers, share their passion for exploration. Having journeyed through 25+ countries, they provide travel planning insights and captivating photography to fuel your next adventure.
They seek authentic culture, adventure, hiking, and venturing off-the-beaten paths to uncover the true marvels of the world. Visit their Instagram account.