Antigua: Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central highlands. Noted for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque architecture, as seen in its elegant historic homes, palaces, cathedrals and churches, including San Francisco Church and La Merced Church. The area is also a mosaic of forests, streams, Indian villages and farms.
Chichicastenango: This large indigenous town spreads out on the crests of mountaintops at an altitude of 1,965 meters/6,447 feet. It is known for its traditional K’iche’ Maya culture. One of the more famous local markets takes place on Thursdays and Sundays. Vendors sell all sorts of goods including handicrafts, food, pottery, medicinal plants, cal (lime stones to prepare tortillas), pigs, chickens, machetes and textiles. The city is also known for its carved wooden masks.
Flores: Flores sits on an island in Lake Peten Itza, and is connected by a causeway to the mainland and its two sister towns of Santa Elena and San Benito. All three are often referred to as Flores. Close to Tikal, Flores is a charming city worth exploring with its colonial, red-roofed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, an historic church and open Spanish plaza. It is also close to Yaxhá National Park, occupied from about 800 BCE to 1600 CE. It embraces more than 500 buildings, including the only twin pyramid complex outside of Tikal. Nearby, in Yaxhá Lagoon is the Mayan site, Topoxté.
Guatemala City: The capital city serves as the main port of entry, with restaurants, hotels, art galleries, theaters, museums and a modern transport system. In colonial times, it was a small town, with the 17th-century El Carmen Monastery. It became the capital of the Spanish Captaincy General of Guatemala after earthquakes in 1773 destroyed the old capital of Antigua.
Iximche: This Mayan ruin site sits in the Western highlands of Guatemala in Tecpan between Antigua and Lake Atitlan. It is not as well known as the major archaeological sites of the Classic Period (250 CE to 900 CE). It served as the capital of the Kaqchikel Maya from 1470 to 1524 CE. Here, visitors can witness an authentic Mayan shaman ritual.
Lago Petén Itzá: Set in the rainforest high above the shores of Lago Petén Itzá, La Lancha is a small 10-room lodge owned by Francis Ford Coppola’s family. Tucked into a cliff overlooking the lake, the lodge is perfectly situated as a hub for exploring the region, including the grand Mayan ruins of Tikal deep within the rainforest. Activities include canoeing, swimming, and wildlife viewing, from birds to howler monkeys. Guided horseback rides travel through hilly pastoral land used for cattle ranching, and into the lush tropical forests that hug the hillsides overlooking the lake. Small overgrown Maya ruins bear witness to the region’s ancient inhabitants.
Lake Atitlan: The stunning lake is volcanic in origin, filling an enormous caldera formed in an eruption some 84,000 years ago. Atitlan is recognized as the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth about 340 meters/1,115 feet. The lake is shaped by deep escarpments that surround it and by three volcanoes on its southern flank. The majority of inhabitants of the region are of Mayan ancestry. The Tz’utujil are one of the 21 Mayan ethnic groups that dwell in Guatemala, dating back to the Post-Classic Period (900-1500 CE) of the Mayan civilization, and inhabit the southern watershed of Lake Atitlan. The Tz’utujil people are noted for maintaining strong cultural practices, with their distinctive embroidered dress and family traditions.
Tikal: The country’s most priceless archaeological gem, Tikal ranks among the great ancient cities of the world. This epic site’s towering pyramids loom out of the thick jungle canopy like stoic sentinels of ancient mysteries. Once an affluent city complex with more than 100,000 inhabitants, it was the seat of power for the Jaguar Clan lords. The site was discovered by outsiders in 1848. Tikal is mesmerizing in its elegance and scale. This UNESCO Heritage of Humanity Site includes a staggering 3,000 or so structures: palaces, temples, plazas, ceremonial platforms, ball courts, terraces, avenues and steam baths. The Maya began Tikal about 600 BCE, and for the next 1,500 years it served as an important religious, scientific and political center. Tikal National Park is also home to howler monkeys, boisterous parrots, white-lipped peccary, brocket deer, coati mundi, toucans, scarlet macaws, ocelots and the rare jaguar.
Uaxactun Archaeological Park: Uaxactun Archaeological Park is surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. In addition to its natural beauty, this city was an important center for the development of monumental art. The site was occupied beginning in the Middle Formative Period (900–300 BCE) of Mayan culture, and several ceremonial buildings had been erected before the close of the Late Formative Period (300 BCE–100 CE). The most impressive ruin remains the Structure E-VIIsub, the focal point for the plaza with three temples aligned along its eastern edge. Together these structures were used for astronomical studies. The equinox and solstice were accurately determined by sighting the sunrise from the eastern stairway to one of the three pyramids to the east. Uaxactun is one of the longest-occupied Mayan sites. It is also a community where traditional “Chicleros” (gum collectors) have lived for over 100 years. Many residents now make their living from gathering forest products including chicle, allspice and xate palm leaves, used in floral arrangements. Travelers have a distinctive opportunity to stay overnight at a private tented campsite in the ruins.
Volcanoes of Guatemala: Guatemala’s volcanoes have formed its landscapes and influenced its cultures. The Central American Volcanic Arc is a chain of volcanoes which extends from Guatemala down through El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and northern Panama. This volcanic arc is 1,500 kilometers/930 miles long, and is formed by an active subduction zone along the western boundary of the Caribbean Plate. From hiking up an active volcano to roasting marshmallows over hot vents in the rocks to a helicopter flight over six different volcanoes en route to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala offers a unique look into the world of volcanology.
Day 1: Guatemala City, Guatemala / Antigua
Antigua is a colonial masterpiece known for its Baroque architecture.
Day 2: Antigua
La Democracia is a Pre-Classic Period Mayan archaeological site with monumental stone heads carved by the Monte Alto culture, just one of the ancient sights near and around this colonial city.
Day 3: Antigua / Guatemala City / Peten / Uaxactun
Uaxactun was a major Mayan city, just 19 kilometers/12 miles north of the more famous Tikal. Its impressive Structure E-VIIsub is the focal point with three temples aligned along its eastern edge.
Day 4: Uaxactun / Tikal / Guatemala City / Antigua
Spectacular Tikal includes the main plaza, pyramids and temples and was an important Mayan ceremonial center.
Day 5: Antigua / Chichicastenango / Antigua
The contemporary Chichicastenango Market is one of the most colorful and famous markets in Latin America.
Day 6: Antigua / Lake Atitlan
Three volcanoes rise out of the emerald surface of Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful settings in the country.
Day 7: Lake Atitlan / Guatemala City / Depart
Custom Travel Options
Iximche (3 days)
This Mayan ruin in the Western highlands between Antigua and Lake Atitlan is not well-known, but ancient traditions are still practiced here.
Lago Peten Itza (4 days)
In the serene rainforest above Lago Petén Itzá, La Lancha lodge is a small 10-room lodge owned by Francis Ford Coppola’s family.
Uaxactun and Glamping (2 days)
Uaxactun is famous for the discovery of the oldest complete Maya astronomical complex, and glamping here allows guest to spend a night at the Mayan ruins in the comfort of a private camp, complete with a candle-lit dinner.
Volcanoes of Guatemala (2 days)
Guatemala has dozens of volcanoes, some still active, that have helped form this country, both its lands and its people.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$400 per person per day