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 Flores shortly after breakfast, it’s a drive of just over an hour to the town of Sayaxche from where you will catch a small, private boat for the beautiful journey along the Pasion River to Ceibal.

    The name Ceibal derives from the Ceiba, a tree endemic to the region and the national symbol of Guatemala. Ceibas were also considered sacred by the ancient Maya who believed that these enormous trees somehow connected the earth and sky.

    Historically, Ceibal was just one of a number of important Mayan cities in this part of Peten, including nearby Dos Pillas and Aguateca.

    Although Ceibal was the largest city in the region, the current site is almost entirely covered in dense jungle with only 1 pyramid having been restored. Although incomparable in scale and restoration to either Tikal or Yaxha, Ceibal is noteworthy for its numerous stelae which relate much of the city’s history. It also attracts very few tourists so there is a good chance you will have the site to yourself.

    Returning back along the Pasion River, you will pass through Sayaxche and continue to the open waters of Lake Petexbatun and your accommodation for the night. Arriving in time for a late lunch, the rest of the day is at leisure.

    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

    This morning, you will continue across Lake Petexbatun to the ruined Mayan city of Aguateca.

    Abandoned shortly after being attacked and ransacked around 820 AD, such was the speed and totality of its abandonment that a large temple under construction was left half built while personal possessions, such as porcelain vases, were left behind in many of the private residences.

    Defeating Aguateca would have been no mean feat as it had some of the best natural defences of any Mayan city. The main part of Aguateca, home to the key religious and government buildings, as well as the homes of the city’s elite, was built on top of a limestone plateau with steep cliffs offering a natural defensive position.

    Leaving Aguateca behind, you will return to the road for an approximate and very pleasant 2-hour drive to Candelaria. After checking in at your hotel, and a spot of lunch, it is then just a short drive to Candelaria Park.

    Located at the foot of the Chama mountain range, the Candelaria Caves are considered amongst the largest and most impressive anywhere in Latin America. The total length of the cave system is estimated at some 80kms of which 12kms follows the underground passage of the Candelaria River.

    The main cave, known as Tzul Tacca, is some 60 metres high, 30 metres wide and 200 metres long and features vast stalagmites that are lit up by cathedral-like, natural ‘windows’.

    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

    Departing from Candelaria after breakfast, it’s an approximate 3-4 hour drive, the last part along unmade roads, to your next destination, Semuc Champey.

    Considered by many to be the most beautiful spot in Guatemala, Semuc Champey consists of a series of tiered limestone pools which form a ‘bridge’ over the River Cahabon.

    Perfect for a relaxing swim, and surrounded by beautiful vistas all around, Semuc Champey would attract a great deal more visitors (and lose much of its appeal) were it not for its relative isolation.

    Arriving at your accommodation in time for lunch, the rest of the afternoon is free for you to relax in the pools.

    For those feeling fit, a 45 minute trek (known simply as El Mirador) to the top of the valley overlooking Semuc Champey affords stunning views of the both the pools themselves and the surrounding, verdant valleys and hills.

    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

    It really is too beautiful to just spend half a day here so today is free for you to relax or explore the area further.

    If you enjoyed your previous visit to the caves at Candelaria, there is another cave system nearby at 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

    Leaving behind the beautiful surroundings of Semuc Champey and returning to the road, which begins its climb into the Guatemalan Highlands, it’s an approximate 3-hour drive to Coban.

    Once the powerbase of the Rabinal Mayans, in the 19th century the hilly countryside around the small town of Coban was settled by German immigrants who built up vast estates growing both coffee and cardamom.

    Having checked in at your accommodation, there will be an opportunity to explore Coban on foot as well as take in visits to a local orchid farm and coffee visitor centre.

    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

    The journey from Coban to the Ixil Triangle takes at least 5 hours, parts of it on rough, bumpy, unmade roads. The one plus point about juddering along at slow speeds is that you certainly won’t miss the beautiful, surrounding countryside.

    This Highlands of Guatemala are home to a number of different Mayan groups, each with different customs, beliefs and, most noticeably, dress. Perhaps nowhere is this traditional way-of-life more engrained into everyday existence than in the Ixil Triangle, high in the Cuchumatanes mountains.

    Due to its isolation, the Ixil Triangle is not an area one stumbles upon or visits on a casual day trip. For us however, this is more than made up for by its beautiful scenery and fascinating, traditional culture of the Ixil Mayans.

    The Ixil Triangle itself is made up of the small towns of Santa María Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and San Gaspar Chajul, as well as a number of small villages including our favourite, Acul, located in a truly picture-postcard valley setting.

    Arriving in time for a late lunch, the rest of the afternoon is free for you to relax, take in the beautiful natural surroundings or perhaps go for a stroll into nearby Acul.

    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

    With your car and guide, you will spend the morning exploring the surrounding valleys and villages of the Ixil Triangle before returning to your hotel 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

    After slightly doubling back on oneself, and returning to the junction at Sacapulas, it’s a lovely drive through rolling, green countryside via Chiantla and Huehuetenango before joining one of the world’s most iconic roads, the Pan American Highway, as it winds its way to Quetzaltenango.

    Romantic notions aside, as an important business route, the Pan American Highway does suffer from significantly more traffic (especially slow, lumbering trucks) than you will have experienced thus far, so ‘Highway’ is possibly a bit misleading.

    Approximately 5-6 hours after setting off this morning, you will arrive in Quetzaltenango.

    Xela, as the city’s name is abbreviated to, is Guatemala’s second largest city after the capital, Guatemala City, but is a far more attractive, pleasant and relaxed place to spend a day or two. Unlike ‘pretty’ Antigua, and in keeping with the often-chilly weather, the architecture of the city centre feels harder and more serious, perhaps a reflection of the influx of German settlers who moved here.

    After checking in at your hotel and a chance for a late lunch, there will be a short, walking tour of the city’s historic centre.

    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

    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
    • — Outside Zunil
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    • — Vegetable market
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  • Day 10 — Quetzaltenango to Antigua

    Departing Xela after breakfast, you will today head back to Antigua for your final night.

    En-route, and not long after departing Xela, you will stop off at 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 Antigua which you should reach in time for lunch.

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

    Depending on your flight schedule, today is free for you to relax at your Antigua, go for a stroll or perhaps do a bit of last-minute shopping before you are transferred to Guatemala City for your flight 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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