Guatemala / Itineraries

Highland Highlights

Map

This brief itinerary around the highlands of Guatemala takes in the key destinations of Antigua, Chichicastenango & Lake Atitlan together with some lesser known ones such as the Mayan ruins of Iximche and the city of Quetzaltenango.

  • Day 1 — Airport to Antigua

    On arrival in Guatemala City you will be transferred directly from the airport to the nearby town of Antigua. As flights arrive in the evening, after a long journey most clients will simply wish to unpack, perhaps have a bite to eat and then get a good night’s sleep.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Encantada
    • — Antigua
  • Day 2 — Antigua (Day trips out)

    Originally Guatemala’s capital, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Antigua is one of the most beautiful towns in all of the America’s and is a must on any holiday to Guatemala. Having been almost destroyed by a series of devastating earthquakes, Antigua is home to a large number of hugely atmospheric ruins, the vast majority of which can be visited on foot.

    Appropriately therefore, your day begins with a relaxed, morning walking tour of Antigua, taking in the main, historic sites including the large central square.

    On completion of your walking tour you will head to the nearby village of San Antonio Agua Calientes, famous for its textiles and handicrafts, before continuing to the indigenous village of Santiago Zamora. Here you will learn about the MayaKaqchiquel culture and have the opportunity to interact with a group of women artisans called Ixoki’ aj Quiema’, who make beautiful and elaborate textile products, using techniques passed down from generation to generation.

    After a traditional lunch you will return to Antigua where the rest of the day is at leisure.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Encantada Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
    • — Antigua
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    • — Antigua, La Recoleccion
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  • Day 3 — Antigua

    As one of the most beautiful towns in the Americas, today is free for you to relax and explore Antigua’s many cobbled streets, squares, churches and ruins at your leisure. Pretty much the entire town can be covered on foot and there are numerous shops, cafes, bars and restaurants to break up your exploration.

    If you’re feeling fit, and don’t mind quite a few steps, walking up to the iconic Cerro de la Cruz will reward you with magnificent views over Antigua.

    Alternative: If all that sounds too relaxing, alternative options include visiting a nearby coffee plantation or, if you’re feeling really fit, trekking up Mt Pacaya, one of Guatemala’s numerous volcanoes.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Encantada Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Antigua
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    • — Antigua, Cerro de la Cruz
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    • — Mt Pacaya, near Antigua
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  • Day 4 — Antigua to Quetzaltenango via Chichicastenango

    After an early breakfast, you leave Antigua behind and head to Chichicastenango.

    A sleepy, unremarkable town for most of the week, Chichicastenango (often referred to simply as Chichi) comes alive on market days, Thursday and Sunday, when local, indigenous K’iche Mayans flood in from surrounding villages to sell their wares.

    In addition to the town’s permanent shops, almost every spare inch of pavement is taken up by colourfully dressed outsiders selling everything under the sun.

    In addition to the market, Chichi’s other prominent draw is the church of Santo Tomas. Over 400 years old, the church is built on top of an old Mayan temple and the set of 18 original steps that lead up the church are still venerated by local Mayan priests

    After taking time to explore the market, lunch will be taken in town. This can be either at the Hotel Santo Tomas or with a local family.

    After lunch, you will continue to the small town of San Andrés Xecul, home to a beautiful church with a yellow façade and adorned with technicolored saints, angels, flowers, tigers and monkeys. After a brief visit it’s back on the road to Quetzaltenango.

    The second largest city in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango (abbreviated to Xela) is located in the country’s Highlands and has a fresh, almost Alpine climate for most of the year. Far more relaxed than Guatemala City, and less touristy than Antigua, Xela is a popular stopping off point on holidays focussing on Guatemala’s natural and traditional attractions.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Pension Bonifaz Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Chichicastenango
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    • — Chichicastenango
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    • — Quetzaltenango
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  • Day 5 — Quetzaltenango (Day trips out)

    Today begins with a visit to two very traditional villages. First off, you will visit Zunil, one of Guatemala’s prettiest and most colourful villages, located in a lush valley, surrounded by steep hills and a towering volcano; then Almolonga, a traditional, indigenous market town which is famous throughout Guatemala for its huge vegetables!

    You will then continue to San Francisco El Alto Market, where indigenous people from the surrounding villages come to shop and exchange goods. Considered to be the largest market in the country, it is perhaps slightly less touristy than Chichicastenango.

    Returning to Xela you will have the opportunity to visit a local textile cooperative and learn the traditional backstrap loom-weaving techniques used by indigenous people.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Pension Bonifaz Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
    • — Outside Zunil
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    • — Vegetable market
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  • Day 6 — Quetzaltenango to Lake Atitlan

    Departing Xela in the morning, it is an approximate 2-hour drive to Lake Atitlan.

    Renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Atitlan is located within the picturesque Guatemalan Highlands, its shores dotted with Mayan villages and overlooked by three towering volcanoes.

    Apart from its sheer, majestic beauty, much of the appeal and romance of Lake Atitlan comes from life on the water which carries on much as it has for hundreds of years; the fact that there is no single road encircling the lake also means that much of the transport between the various towns and villages on the lake is still conducted by boat.

    The largest town on the lake is Santiago Atitlan although the main tourist centre is Panajachel, often referred to as Pana, located on the lake’s north shore with the most convenient road connections. Other, smaller, towns of note include Santa Clara & Santa Pedro, both on the lake’s west shore, as well as the tiny village of San Marcos on the north-west shore.

    Taking a boat trip on Lake Atitlan is almost a given and most trips will visit a handful of towns or villages, each of which have their own character and identity. With such natural beauty, it also goes without saying that many visitors are happy to base themselves on Lake Atitlan for a few days, preferably at a hotel with direct lake access, and simply drink in the views.

    On arrival at your accommodation, the remainder of the day is free for you to relax and enjoy the views.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Atitlan Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Lake Atitlan
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    • — Lake Atitlan
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    • — Lake Atitlan
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  • Day 7 — Lake Atitlan

    After breakfast, you will be collected from your hotel for a private boat trip on Lake Atitlan enjoying the beautiful views, exploring the local Mayan villages that are dotted around the lake and simply experiencing a slice of traditional life in Guatemala.

    Returning to your hotel, the rest of the afternoon is free for you to relax at your hotel or perhaps take in a spot of shopping in Panajachel.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Atitlan Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Lake Atitlan
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    • — Lake Atitlan
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    • — Lake Atitlan
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  • Day 8 — Lake Atitlan to Antigua via Iximche

    Today you will return to Antigua, stopping off en-route at Iximche.

    Iximche was the capital of Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 till 1524 when it was destroyed by the Spanish. Located on top of a high plateau with steep-sided ridges, the ruins of Iximche are still held to be sacred by local Mayan villagers and it is not uncommon to witness traditional ceremonies taking place. The entire site can normally be explored in little over an hour.

    Leaving Iximche, it is an hour or so’s drive to Antigua where you will be dropped off at your hotel. The remainder of the day is yours to do as you please – relax, go for a stroll, shop for gifts, send last minute postcards etc.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Encantada Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Iximche
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    • — Iximche
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    • — Iximche
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  • Day 9 — Antigua & Home

    Depending on your flight time, you will be collected from your hotel in Antigua for the transfer back to Guatemala City and La Aurora international airport.

    Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Antigua, Ermita de Santa Cruz
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    • — Antigua, shop
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    • — Guatemala City
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Please Note

This itinerary is no more than a sample idea which can be tailor made to your exact requirements.

The 'From price' is for travel in September and is based on two adults sharing the same room throughout. Supplements apply for sole occupancy / transport.

The quoted price does not include international flights.

Suggested Accommodation

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When to visit Guatemala

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