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Guatemala should be on the top of everyone’s travel bucket list. From hiking active volcanoes to kayaking on the lake, this Central American city is the perfect destination for the adventurous traveler. But don’t worry, there are tons of activities to make your trip super relaxing – and even romantic! This Guatemala itinerary works whether you’re visiting Guatemala as part of a longer backpacking trip in Central America, or simply spending one week in Guatemala.There are simply so many things to do in Guatemala. It is also super affordable, making it a great option for all types of travelers!
Guatemala is one of my favorite places in the world to visit. Traveling in Guatemala can be chaotic and difficult, but it is also magical and charming. Read on to find out the best 1 week Guatemala itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Guatemala (for the perfect Guatemala itinerary)
While there isn’t necessarily a bad time to visit Guatemala, with mild temperatures all year round, there are distinct wet and dry seasons.
The high season is from November to February, when the weather is typically the driest. This is the best time to visit if you’re planning a lot of outdoor adventures while in Antigua, and the surrounding areas.
March and April are typically still dry, but the temperatures in the city can get quite hot.
In May the rainy, wet season in Antigua starts, and lasts until November.
Additionally, Antigua hosts one of the biggest Easter celebrations in the world. While prices are a bit higher during this time, it is an incredible time to experience in the city. I was in Antigua during this time once and have the fondest memories of the celebrations and decorations.
How to Get to Guatemala
The most popular way to get to Antigua is by flying into La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. From there airport there are a number of ways to reach Antigua, which is located 40 km from the airport.
The most popular options include a shared shuttle bus, an Uber, or a private car. You can book a private car through Viator here. If you are planning to arrive late at night, I recommend taking a private car. We booked ours directly through our hotel, Casa Jardin, which was definitely more an expensive than usual but for $40USD it felt like the safest way to travel in the middle of the night.
I would try to avoid traveling between Antigua and Guatemala City during rush hour, as traffic can be really really bad.
If you’re traveling to Antigua from other parts of the country, there is a rather extensive network of tourist shuttles in place to get your from point A to point B. We booked a shuttle from Panajachel directly back to the airport with Magic Travel and had a great experience. The shuttle was direct and tickets cost 190Q ($25). You can find the office right on the main street in Panajachel.
Is Guatemala Safe?
Yes and no! I am not going to pretend that there aren’t areas of Guatemala that have higher rates of crime, including violent crime. That said, I would consider the popular tourist areas of Guatemala listed in this Guatemala itinerary to be safe. Crimes still exist, especially petty crimes like theft, so I have included some tips below for staying safe. My second and third visits to Guatemala were also about 10 years apart, and the cities have gotten much safer during that time as they have become more touristic.
Here are some tips for staying safe while traveling to Guatemala:
- Don’t walk around alone at night. Rather than walk, it’s always better to grab a tuk tuk.
- Don’t carry around unnecessary cash or credit cards. Only the essentials.
- While most people walking around now have smart phones, avoid flashy electronics or jewelry.
- Make sure to only take registered taxis or shuttles. I prefer Uber because of the tracking capabilities.
- Trust your gut. Whether you’re traveling in a group or solo, it is so important to always trust your gut.
- A different kind of safety, but please please please do not drink the tap water. I promise you will not have a fun time if you do.
1 Week in Guatemala Itinerary
With only 1 week in Guatemala, I recommend splitting your time between only these two areas. If you have more than a week however, you can consider adding on additional areas such as Tikal and Semuc Champey. For the sake of this itinerary you with be flying in and out of Guatemala City. However, there is also the option to fly into Flores if you are adding Tikal to your itinerary.
- Day 1: Antigua
- Day 2: Antigua
- Day 3: Overnight hike to Acatenango
- Day 4: Earth Lodge
- Day 5: Lake Atitlan
- Day 6: Lake Atitlan
- Day 7: Lake Atitlan
[Guatemala Itinerary] Day 1 – Antigua
Many flights arriving into Antigua, Guatemala from the US arrive late at night. So for the sake of this itinerary we’ll start Day 1 as your first full day in Guatemala.
I recommend using this day to get acquainted with this charming city. One of the best things to do in Antigua is just wander and get lost. The town is extremely walkable and you can see most of the main sites in just a few hours. But don’t worry, I also have an entire guide on the best things to do in Antigua!
There are a ton of great restaurant options in Antigua that cater to any budget or dietary preference. Las Casa de la Mixtas is a great option for cheap local food, while Cactus Taco Shop is the spot for tacos.
For your first dinner in Antigua, I recommend making reservations to eat at Por Que No?. This was by far one of my favorite meals I ate while in Antigua. Although not traditional Guatemalan food, the shrimp curry is delicious! Dining at Por Que No? is an experience in itself. The restaurant is extremely tiny, and you’ll need to hold on to a rope and ascend a ladder in order to reach the tables upstairs. If you don’t have a reservation, make sure to arrive right when they open to snag a table.
If you want to grab a pre-dinner drink with a view, head to the rooftop at Antigua Brewing Company. The volcano views here are incredible, and the craft beers aren’t bad either.
If you’re looking for more drinks after dinner, you can head to Ulew Speakeasy. Coincidentally, this trendy cocktail bar is actually located on the lower level of the Antigua Brewing Company. Enter the red telephone booth on the lefthand side to find the bar. There is actually no menu at this bar! Let the bartendar know your preferred liquors and flavor profiles, and he’ll whip up a custom cocktail catered to your preferences.
[Guatemala Itinerary] Day 2: Antigua
If you want to do any tours, whether that is visiting a coffee farm or taking a cooking class, today is a good that for that!
For lunch today I recommend checking out Caoba Farms Restaurant. You can reach the restaurant in about 20 minutes walking from the main square. Otherwise, you can grab a Uber for just a couple bucks. This farm restaurant is the definition of farm-to-table, with tons of local produce farmed right on the property.
There is also a weekly farmers markets, as well as yoga classes, depending on which day of the week you visit. Note: the restaurant is only open from Thursday to Saturday to make sure to plan your visit accoridngly.
Samsara is a great option if you’re looking for healthy, vegetarian dishes to fuel up for your hike. If you’re planning on doing the Acatenango hike the next day, I would avoid drinking more than a drink or two, as you’re going to want to ready for a long day of hiking. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy you
[Guatemala Itinerary] Day 3: Acatenango
Today is the day to hike Acatenango, one of the best things to do in Antigua. You’ll be up bright and early as most Acatenango group tour have a meeting time between 7:30 and 8am. I recommend booking with Wicho and Charlie for a great experience. This is an extremely challenging hike, so you’ll want to make sure to fuel up with a hearty breakfast.
While it is not necessary to do this hike on your third day, if you’re arriving to Guatemala from a city at a lower altitude, make sure to give yourself at least two days to acclimate. There is quite a large elevation gain on the hike, so you’ll want to make sure you’re physically ready!
After meeting up with your group and getting sorted with your gear, you’ll take a bus to the volcano where you’ll start your ascend. You can expect to spend most of the day hiking, with lots of breaks along to way to refuel and adjust to the change in altitude.
[Guatemala Itinerary] Day 4: Acatenango/Earth Lodge
In the morning you’ll have the chance to (hopefully) experience one of the most beautiful sunrises of your life as the sun rises over the volcanoes.
While it is possible to go straight from your hike onwards to the lake, I recommend resting up one day at the Earth Lodge. Earth Lodge is a eco-hotel on an avocado farm, located just a 20 minute drive from Antigua. You have the option to just stop by to lunch, but I definitely recommend spending at least one night. The property is absolutely gorgeous, the food is delicious – and you’ll have the opportunity to overnight in a treehouse! I could have spend a week her relaxing!
Note: once dropped at the parking lot, you will need to walk about 20 minutes down a dirt path to reach the property. I do not recommend bringing heavy luggage or a roller suitcase. If this isn’t an option for you, make sure to call ahead for assistance!
[Guatemala Itinerary] Day 5: Lake Atitlan
Enjoy a gorgeous sunrise over the volcanoes with your breakfast, maybe enjoy a group yoga class with a view, and then start making your way to Lake Atitlan. You have a number of options for getting to the lake. I would recommend either taking a private car back to Antigua to catch a shared shuttle or booking a private car for the entire 3-4 hour journey. We took an Uber which was relatively easy – although we did need to negotiate the price with the driver a bit after a few cars cancelled on us.
I will write an entire article just on Lake Atitlan and the surround towns soon, however the first thing to decide is where you want to be staying. Panajachel is the gateway to the lake, as it is the only town easily accessible by car. This is where any shared tourist shuttles will drop you. For the sake of this itinerary, I will assume that you are basing yourself in Panajachel, but I recommend looking into which town makes the most sense for you and your travel plans.
For lunch in Panajachel I definitely recommend Deli Jasmin. There is a huge outdoor seating areas and a large menu with tons of vegetarian options. While I am not a vegetarian myself, I do like to make sure I’m getting my proper serving of veggies. And Deli Jasmin has got plenty of that on the menu!
There are a number of great spots to eat and drink in town. You’ll notice quickly that the town is quite touristy, and will cater to this. But there are still some gems. Restaurante Jose Pinguinos is a fun spot with local dishes. Prices are a bit higher, but you can expect nightly live music. I recommend ordering the pepian, a local chicken dish.
If you’re looking to switch it up a bit, Restaurante Hana is a great Japanese restaurant. Their tuna poke bowls are super flavorful and fresh.
Where to stay in Lake Atitlan?
We decided to base ourselves just a few minutes outside of the town of Panajachel – on the road between Panajachel and Santa Catarina Palopo. Panajachel is definitely a busier, more touristy town than many of the quieter towns around the lake. We made this decision based on a number of factors including:
- Access to strong WiFi at Selina Co-working space as we were working remote
- Maximize our time, as we didn’t have a ton of time to explore the lake region
- Our group all had differing schedules – so it was easiest to already be in Panajachel
If you have the time (and aren’t working remote like we were), I would recommend 1 night in Panajachel at this incredible AirBnb pictured below, and at least 1-2 nights in one of the smaller towns around the lake. All of these towns are easily accessible by both public and private boats.
- Panajachel – our loft Airbnb, Hotel Atitlan (luxury hotel)
- San Marcos la Laguna – Lush (Boutique hotel), Eagle’s Nest (yoga resort and hotel)
- Santa Cruz la Laguna – La Fortuna at Atitlan (Luxury eco-resort), La Iguana Perdida (mid-range option with dorms available), Free Cerveza (budget hostel)
- San Pedro – tons of budget friendly options available
[Guatemala Itinerary] Day 6: More Lake Atitlan
With another full day in Lake Atitlan, I recommend exploring one of those other towns around the lake. Although it takes a bit of time, it is super easy to get from town to town. The public boat, or la lancha, typically runs from 6:30am until 7:30pm daily. Outside of these times it is also possible to grab a private boat, which is not too expensive.
From Panajachel to one of the other towns you can expect to pay between 10Q and 25Q, depending on your destination (10Q to reach Santa Cruz la Laguna, 25Q to reach San Marcos la Laguna). We spent our full day on the lake exploring the town of San Marcos la Laguna. You can easily visit two different areas in one day, but part of the joy of being on this magical lake is taking things slow.
We spent our morning at the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve. You can enter the reserve for 25Q, and then spend the day swimming in the lake along the rocks (or cliff jumping if you have the courage). If you’ve been following my travels for a while then you know that I do not cliff jump after an accident in Bali in 2017, but it did look fun! This area is actually one of the few areas of the lake that are good for swimming, so I definitely recommend it if you want to cool off. You can also rent kayaks, but note that these are only available in the morning, as the water is too rocky in the afternoon.
For lunch I’d recommend Samsara, especially if you didn’t visit their other location while in Antigua. We tried out Vida right on the water, but I personally found it a bit underwhelming. The food was on the pricier side and not particularly tasty, especially for the slow service.
If Samsara doesn’t spark your interest, you’ll find a bunch of other spots along the main road. Plenty of healthy options like kombucha, fresh juices, and wellness teas.
If you have the opportunity to take a private boat at sunset, I 100% recommend it. We paid 150Q ($20 USD) for a boat to take us from San Marcos la Laguna to Panajachel, with a stop to drop some friends off in Santa Cruz. Our driver was great and stopped for about 30 minutes to let us drink our beers and enjoy the sun setting over the lake.
Where to next?
If you still have a couple of days left in your trip, I would recommend potentially checking out one of the other towns to spend the night in. If you still have a couple of days left in your trip, I would recommend potentially checking out one of the other towns to spend the night in. I recommended a bunch of hotel options above. If not, you’ll want to make your way back to Panajachel, either on a private or public boat.
If you are planning to hike Indian Nose on your Guatemala itinerary, you will want to likely spend the night in San Pedro as that is the closest town for the early 3am wake up. Even if you are planning to leave Guatemala the next day, it is still possible to do this hike if you are ambitious, as you will be back in San Pedro by 8/8:30am, which should give you enough time to make it back to Guatemala City for your flight home. I had hoped to do this hike on this trip, but alas the broken foot made it impossible.
[Guatemala Itinerary] Day 7: Lake Atitlan
One of my pet peeves when traveling is that window of time between checking out and your next activity, whether that is a flight or a new hotel. You have to plan everything around checking out, storing your bags, blah blah blah. Well if do have time to kill between checking out and heading to the airport, I highly recommend snagging a day pass at Tzampoc Resort for the last day of this Guatemala itinerary.
Located in Santa Catarina Papolo, the area surrounding the property (down the very steep hill) are also super charming. A day pass costs 200Q ($25 USD) and gets your access to this gorgeous infinity pool for the day. It is super convenient because there is space to store your luggage right at the pool, so you can focus on soaking up the sun.
Planning a full Guatemala itinerary? Here are some other articles to check out: