Guatemala / Itineraries

The Road Less Travelled

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Starting in Flores and ending in Antigua, this itinerary takes clients on the backroads of Guatemala, visting sites and regions that the vast majority of visitors to the country never see. The travel isn't always easy or comfortable and accomodation options very limited but, for those who like to get off the beaten track, this itinerary is calling out to you.

  • Day 1 — Flores to Aguateca

    Departing from your hotel in Flores shortly after breakfast, it is an approximate 75 minute drive to the town of Sayaxche on the banks of the Pasion River.

    From here, you will hop into a small motorboat and head east along the river for an hour so, until disembarking for the short, uphill walk to Ceibal.

    This scarcely populated corner of Peten province was once home to a number of Mayan cities, including Ceibal, Dos Pillas & Aguateca.

    With no nearby roads, Ceibal can only be accessed by boat and, accordingly, receives very few visitors. Although relatively little of the site has been excavated, like Quirigua, there are a number of stelae in remarkably good condition and from which much of the history of the city has been gleaned.

    Returning to the river, you will head back the way you came along the Pasion River, passing by Sayaxche before entering the placid waters of Laguna Petexbatun.

    Arriving at your hotel in time for a late lunch, the rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore your immediate environs (there are scattered Mayan ruins close by) or simply enjoy the lake views from your room.

    Suggested Accommodation: Chiminos Island Lodge Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    • — Ceibal, Pasion River
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    • — Ceibal
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    • — Ceibal
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  • Day 2 — Aguateca to Candelaria

    From your accommodation, it is a short, picturesque journey by boat to the second of your Mayan sites, Aguateca.

    Protected by both Laguna Petexbatun and its own elevated position, Aguateca was nonetheless comprehensively defeated and sacked in around 820. Such was the speed and ferocity of the attack that the city was abandoned almost immediately after.

    Exploring Aguateca takes a little over an hour, after which you will return to dry land where you will join up with your transport for the scenic 2-hour drive to Candelaria.

    On arrival in Candelaria, there will be time to check in at your hotel and enjoy lunch before driving the short distance to Candelaria Park.

    One of the largest cave systems in Latin America, caves also play a central role in the Mayan belief system as they are considered to be entrances to the underworld or Xibalba. As a result, numerous offerings have been found throughout the network that is thought to extend to over 80kms.

    The largest cave, Tzul Tacca, is over 60 metres high and 30 metres wide and is often described as being similar to a cathedral, a reference to the large ‘windows’  which flood the cave with natural light.

    Returning to the hotel in the afternoon, if you wish to explore further there is even a large cave at the end of the property’s extensive gardens.

    Suggested Accommodation: Candelaria Lodge Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Aguateca
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    • — Aguateca
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    • — Candelaria
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  • Day 3 — Candelaria to Semuc Champey

    Leaving Candelaria, the road continues its gradual ascent into the Guatemala Highlands.

    After approximately 4 hours on the road, the last hour of which is along bumpy, unmade roads, you’ll reach your destination for the next two nights, beautiful Semuc Champey.

    Vying for the title of most beautiful destination in Guatemala, all that prevents Semuc Champey from becoming a tourist magnet is its isolation, hours from the nearest town of any significance.

    The focus of its appeal is a series of tiered limestone pools, in various shades of blue, that form a natural bridge over the River Cahabon as it makes its way through a steep-sided valley, covered on either side by dense forest.

    Having arrived at your nearby hotel in time for lunch, the rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore as you see fit.

    To get the best view of the pools and surrounding countryside, one can set off on the steep trek up to the viewing spot at El Mirador. Alternatively, if that sounds like too much effort, just find your own little pool and relax to your heart’s content.

     

    Suggested Accommodation: Hostal El Portal Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Semuc Champey
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    • — Semuc Champey
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    • — Semuc Champey
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  • Day 4 — Semuc Champey

    As it’s a long journey to and from Semuc Champey, and it really is very beautiful, we would suggest spending a day doing very little indeed.

    If you do wish to engage in a bit of local sightseeing, there are more caves to be explored at nearby Lanquin.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hostal El Portal Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Semuc Champey
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    • — Semuc Champey
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    • — Semuc Champey
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  • Day 5 — Semuc Champey to Coban

    Tearing yourself away from Semuc Champey, the road climbs and the temperature drops as you head for the town of Coban, an approximate 3 hour drive.

    Capital of the Alta Verapaz department, and properly titled Santo Domingo de Coban, the area was originally settled by the Rabinal Mayans.

    Unlike the rest of Guatemala, it wasn’t Spanish settlers who subsequently arrived in the region in the late 19th century, but German. Attracted by the cool climate and rolling hills, these German settlers recognised that the terrain and climate were ideal for cardamom and, even more so, coffee. To this day, Coban is one of Guatemala’s major coffee growing areas although the German influence is less apparent.

    Having arrived at your hotel and a brief opportunity to relax, the afternoon will be spent exploring the town on foot as well as heading out in the car to visit a nearby coffee visitor centre and, if time allows, an orchid farm.

     

    Suggested Accommodation: Casa Gaia Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Coban
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    • — Orchid
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    • — Coffee beans
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  • Day 6 — Coban to Ixil Triangle

    Departing Coban after breakfast, the roads here are some of the worst in the Highlands, making for a bumpy, sometimes slightly uncomfortable 5-hour journey to your next destination, the Ixil Triangle.

    The Ixil Triangle takes in the three primary towns of Santa Maria Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and San Gaspar Chajul, all nestled high in the Cuchumatanes Mountains. One of the most traditional regions of Guatemala, the population here is almost entirely comprised of indigenous Ixil Mayans and you will see men and women in local dress almost throughout.

    As with Semuc Champey, this is a very remote part of Guatemala and one that receives very few visitors. Getting there isn’t easy but is worth it to enjoy the beautiful countryside and to glimpse a way of life that has barely changed over the centuries.

    Your destination tonight is at a small hacienda, located with an idyllic, Alp like setting close to the village of Acul.

    Arriving in time for a late lunch, after a long and bumpy day in the car we suggest taking the afternoon off to relax at the hacienda or go for a walk in the beautiful surrounding countryside.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Mil Amores Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
    • — Ixil Triangle
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    • — Ixil Triangle
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  • Day 7 — Ixil Triangle

    Together with your car and guide, the morning will be spent exploring a variety of nearby traditional villages before returning to the hacienda in the afternoon.

    The rest of the day is at leisure.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Mil Amores Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
    • — Ixil Triangle
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    • — Ixil Triangle
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  • Day 8 — Ixil Triangle to Quetzaltenango

    Heading back down to the junction near Sacapulas, the road winds its way over scenic, rolling hills via Chiantla and Huehuetenango before joining the Pan Pacific Highway en-route to Quetzaltenango where you will arrive in time for a late lunch.

    Guatemala’s second largest city is quite different to either Guatemala City or Antigua and, like Coban earlier in the itinerary, was settled mainly by German immigrants. With its heavy stone architecture and cooler climate, Quetzaltenango feels more serious and business-like on first arrival although it’s a friendly, laid-back town with a compact historic centre.

    Accordingly, after lunch, there will be time for an afternoon walking tour of the city centre with the remainder of the day at leisure.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Pension Bonifaz Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Quetzaltenango
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    • — Quetzaltenango
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    • — Quetzaltenango
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  • Day 9 — Quetzaltenango

    Part of the appeal of visiting Quetzaltenango lies in its surrounding countryside and traditional villages which you will explore on today’s day trip out of the city.

    A short drive from the city and located in a picturesque valley, Zunil is one such traditional village and widely considered one of the most picturesque in the region.

    Also nearby, Almolonga’s claim to fame is altogether more extraordinary, namely the size of its vegetables (they are vast), which have gained fame throughout Guatemala and even beyond.

    Your final visit will be to San Francisco El Alto market, the largest traditional market in the country, to which villagers from the surrounding hills descend on mass to buy, sell and barter their produce.

    Returning to Quetzaltenango, the day ends with a visit to a textile cooperative. Here, you will see the methods used to make many of the iconic Guatemalan costumes you see throughout the country including the back strap and the loom weaving technique for which the region is famous.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Pension Bonifaz Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Outside Zunil
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    • — Vegetable market
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  • Day 10 — Quetzaltenango to Antigua

    Setting off from Quetzaltenango after breakfast, you will head back towards Antigua for the last night of your holiday.

    En-route, there will be a brief stop in the town of San Andres Xecul, famous for its church whose façade is decorated bright yellow and adorned with a variety of angels, saints, flowers and even monkeys and tigers.

    Returning to the road, you should arrive in Antigua in time for lunch after which the rest of the day is free for you to explore one of the most beautiful towns in Latin America and one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Guatemala.

    After days bumping along the backroads of Guatemala, you will also find that Antigua is home to countless bars and restaurants in which to celebrate the end of your holiday.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Encantada Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — San Andres Xecul
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    • — Antigua
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  • Day 11 — Antigua to Guatemala City & Home

    Depending on flight times, the morning is free for you to relax or further explore Antigua before taking the short transfer to Guatemala City’s La Aurora airport and the start of your journey back home.

    Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Antigua
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    • — Antigua
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    • — Antigua, shop
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Please Note

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

We imagine that most clients will wish to combine this itinerary with the primary tourist destinations of Lake Atitlan, Antigua, Tikal etc but it really is entirely up to you.

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.

Suggested Accommodation

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