Guatemala / Itineraries

Highland Highlights

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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)

    Guatemala’s one time capital city is widely regarded as being amongst the most attractive towns in Latin America. Not surprisingly, it is also one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country.

    Located in a natural bowl, almost every street and building in town either dates back to the Spanish colonial period or, where of more recent build, has been sympathetically designed to blend in with its surroundings. Antigua is also a relatively small town that can be easily explored on foot.

    Appropriately, 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 Maya Kaqchiquel 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

    Today is free for you to relax and explore Antigua’s many cobbled streets, squares and churches at your leisure. Antigua is home to numerous atmospheric ruins and heading from one to the next is a great way to get a feel for the town.

    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.

    Should all that sound too relaxing, alternative options include visiting a nearby coffee plantation or, if you are feeling really fit, trekking up Mt Pacaya, one of Guatemala’s numerous volcanoes.

    As well as being an attractive and historic destination, Antigua is also boasts a wide range of shops, markets, bars and restaurants and is a great place to kick-back and watch the world go by.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Encantada Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Antigua
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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 at an altitude of some 2,300 metres 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)

    After breakfast, you will head out of Xela to explore its surrounding countryside and traditional villages.

    First up is Zunil, one of the most attractive and colourful villages in the Guatemalan Highlands, located in a verdant valley that is surrounded by steep sided hills and smouldering volcanoes.

    That is followed by somewhere a bit more left field, Almolonga, a market town that has become famous in the country, and even beyond, for the size of its vegetables. The secret of its success? We’ll leave that to you to decide.

    Almolonga is followed by another market, this time at San Francisco El Alto.  As with Chichi on Day 4, local Mayans from the surrounding villages descend into town to shop, barter and chew the cud. Considered the largest market in Guatemala, it is also more ‘authentic’ than Chichi so shopping opportunities are perhaps more limited although it is still a wonderful spectacle.

    Returning to Xela in the afternoon, your day ends with a visit to a textile cooperative where you will learn the traditional weaving techniques including those that go into making the ubiquitous back straps you will see on Mayan women everywhere.

     

    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.

    Together with Antigua and Tikal, Lake Atitlan is widely regarded as being one of Guatemala’s three main tourist destinations and, as soon as your car turns that corner and you catch your first glimpse, you will understand why.

    Not only is Lake Atitlan one of the most beautiful lakes in the world – and not many others that we know of are watched over by no less than three volcanoes – but much of its appeal comes from the fact that little has changed over the years.

    Dotted around its shores are countless Mayan villages whose inhabitants still live, trade and travel much as their ancestors have for hundreds of years.

    Most visitors to Lake Atitlan congregate around the town of Panajachel on the lake’s north shore. Having arrived at your nearby hotel, the rest 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

    Taking a boat trip on Lake Atitlan is pretty much a given and, after breakfast, you will be collected from your hotel for a private boat trip on the lake.

    With your guide, you will visit a selection of traditional towns and villages on the lake such as Santa Clara, Santo Pedro & San Marcos. The largest of Lake Atitlan’s towns is Santiago de Atitlan where, time allowing, an audience with Maximon may be something worth considering.

    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.

    Depending on the day of the week, and your appetite for more markets, there is a twice-weekly market at Solola, a short drive from 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

    Departing back towards Antigua after breakfast, there will be a stop en-route at the magnificent ruined Mayan city of Iximche.

    Capital of the Kaqchikel Mayans, in 1524 the city was destroyed by the Spanish colonialists who then proceeded to make the site their first capital city.

    Unlike the more famous Mayan cities in the north of the country, all located in the hot, humid, lowland jungles of Peten region, cool, breezy Iximche is situated on top of a large plateau with steep sided ridges all sides and distant views all around.

    It takes around an hour or so to explore Iximche and, as the site is still held sacred by the local Mayan villages, it is not unusual to come across a traditional ceremony taking place.

    From Iximche, it is roughly an hour’s drive to Antigua where you will be dropped off at your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure for you to relax, have a final explore or do a bit of last minute shopping.

     

    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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