One of my favourite countries is Guatemala. I actually lived there for 8 years and travelled extensively so I know very well what an amazing luxury, unique adventure this itinerary is. It works really well for couples or families, groups of friends and even for honeymooners – especially if we tweak it and add some Belize, Nicaragua or Costa Rica beaches at the end. Jam-packed with special travel experiences this is really a trips of a life time that will have you bragging to all your friends!
DAY 1: ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA – Spanish Colonial Gem
La Antigua Guatemala is one of the most idyllic destinations in the world, with painstakingly restored Spanish colonial architecture, manicured parks, stylish hotels, superb international cuisine and a horizon shaped by three spectacular volcanoes.
Nestled in a mountain valley and surrounded by evergreen forests, Antigua retains the aura of the 17th century capital that it was, while blending modern amenities that make it an internationally appealing getaway. Walking along cobblestone streets, you’ll find high-end art galleries, fascinating museums, luxurious shops with international treasures, and traditional markets packed to the rafters with locally made textiles and woodcrafts. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, with its architecture, culture and unique setting, Antigua, quite simply, is the most charming city in all the Americas.
Overnight at Las Cruces Luxury Boutique Hotel
Blending into its historic surroundings with colonial-style architecture and hypnotic volcano views, Las Cruces Boutique Hotel offers 11 luxurious suites in the heart of romantic Antigua Guatemala. The hotel pampers guests with state-of-the-art comfort in cozy standard suites, roomy junior suites, and spacious master suites (two with a small private patio and Jacuzzi). Step back into time in rooms embellished with splendid furnishings, tile floors, and a relaxing bath stocked with L’occitane amenities. Las Cruces features religious artwork in its décor, including paintings, sculptures, silver pieces, and crosses (cruces), appropriate for its name and location just behind the Ruinas del Carmen. The hotel also has a relaxing sitting room, an immaculate interior courtyard, and a charming veranda with an amazing view of Antigua and its surrounding volcanoes. Whether you want an unforgettable adventure, a luxury weekend, a trip full of history and culture, or an amazing view to relax, Las Cruces is ideal.
Day 2: Antigua Local Cuisine & Market Tour – Everyday Cuisine that Locals Love
This feast for the senses combines the robust flavours of Antigua’s street food with this colonial city’s colourful traditions, culture, and history. Shoes and appetite ready, you will begin the walking tour along charming cobblestone streets lined with brightly painted Spanish colonial architecture, stopping to learn about the history of some of Antigua’s most picturesque sights. Then it’s on to some of the comedores (eateries) most loved by locals. If you like you may sample delicious, authentic Guatemalan cuisine such as chuchitos (Guatemala-style tamales), pupusas (cheese-filled corn tortillas), rellenitos (plantain dough filled with beans and then fried), and even pigs’ feet (if you dare!). You will learn about the cultural background of these everyday delicacies as your guide leads you through Antigua’s bustling community market to see, smell, touch, and taste the fresh ingredients used in their preparation. One of the best in Guatemala, the thriving market showcases rows of tasty and exotic fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans, grains, spices, meats, and fish. (Please note: This tour is for more adventurous eaters!)
Day 3: Pacaya Volcano Hike with Luxury Picnic
A grumbling, smoke-belching spectacle, Pacaya Volcano beckons adventure-seekers with its breathtaking display of nature’s raw power. Your morning transfer delivers you to Pacaya’s foothills for a trek up through a lush pine forest in a climb that’s considered moderate to demanding. A widening panorama unfolds on the way up, offering views on clear days of northern volcanoes, the Pacific lowlands and all the way to El Salvador. At the base of the peak itself, a barren moonscape of loose rock and pebbles greets you, adding tricky footing to the adventure. Steam rises from numerous vents, which sometimes yield a view of bright orange magma deep inside. You’ll reach a maximum of 2,289 meters (7,510 feet) above sea level with an elevation gain of 430 meters (1,411 feet) during the climb itself. In all, the total distance hiked is 6.8 kilometers (4.25 miles). This full-day expedition wraps up with a brisk walk down to the park base for your return ride to Antigua.
Day 4: Chichicastenango Like a Local – Beyond the Market – Day 1
More than venturing into the biggest indigenous market in Central America, you’ll see what goes on before it opens and dine with a local family to fully experience the way of life at Chichicastenango. Meet your guide at your hotel for the pleasant ride around winding mountain roads. After hotel check-in at Chichi, follow your guide into the vast market for a behind-the-scenes peek at its increasingly busy loading areas. Watch as farmers and artisans arrive from outlying villages, stocking their stalls with a dizzying assortment of merchandise and striking deals with the vendors who will sell their goods. Afterward, explore nearby streets to witness the daily routines of Chichi residents, noting the traditional clothing (traje) worn by many of the locals. Hike up the hill to the Pascual Abaj, where you may see shamans (Maya spiritual leaders) performing rituals. In the evening, a family working to preserve the community’s indigenous traditions welcomes you into their home for an evening of food and culture. A traditional dance wearing colourful costumes and wooden masks is presented, portraying Conquistadors and the Maya they encountered. Share a traditional dinner with the family, sampling potent cusha (Maya liquor) if you dare!
Overnight at the Mayan Inn
Celebrating Guatemalan art and craftsmanship, the historic Mayan Inn features 28 comfortable rooms and two spacious suites that surround guests with the unique charm of the Highlands. Each room greets you with its own unique décor, including colourful textiles, hand-crafted wooden furniture, and genuine antiques. A romantic wood-burning fireplace keeps you warm at night, and hotel staff will gladly light it for you. No two rooms are alike but all share colonial-style architecture. The restaurant serves a range of typical Guatemalan and Central American cuisine with delicious options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy your meal in one of three dining rooms overlooking the courtyard and gardens, or order from room service. The inn, which opened in 1932, offers an ideal respite from Chichicastenango’s busy market, which is a short walk from the hotel, and is a great base for exploring the Highlands.
Day 5: Chichicastenango Like a Local – Beyond the Market – Day 2
In the morning, return to the frenzied market to experience it in full swing! Visit the fruit and vegetable aisles where locals buy produce and household goods, spend time in the crafts area loaded with textiles, ceramics, and wood carvings, and wonder into a real-time Diego Rivera painting amongst bundles of fresh flowers and their eager sellers. Following your before-and-after market adventure and visit the cemetery on the outskirts of town, where the mausoleums are painted in vivid colours – stroll to the nearby Santo Tomás Church, where Maya and Catholic rituals mingle. You can enjoy lunch at Chichi or opt for a late lunch en route.
Hike from Alaska Mountain Range to Laguna Seca
A windswept, rocky area of tall grasses, soaring stands of pine, tiny indigenous communities, and corn and wheat fields, Alaska feels about as remote and wild as the U.S. state with which it shares a name. From its lofty heights, you can see nearby volcanoes like Santa María and urban areas such as Totonicapán and Quetzaltenango. Best explored on foot or by bike, Alaska is lined with narrow trails and paths that take you past grazing sheep and squat adobe homes. Ceremonial spots used by local Mayas dot the area and are often decorated with religious offerings of food, flowers, and candles.
Get a glimpse of what lies ahead — towering volcanoes, lush mountainsides, indigenous villages, and, of course, majestic Lake Atitlán — as you venture into the Guatemalan highlands. Soak up forest-fresh air and breezes as you follow ancient footpaths and trading routes, feeling the mystique of active Mayan ceremonial centers and connecting with your remote surroundings. Learn about traditional back-strap and foot loom weaving techniques, and share stories with the locals in a Maya kitchen over a cup of tea or hot chocolate. Arrive at camp in time for a colourful sunset (if weather allows) and settle in for the night after your day of discovery.
Stay in a spacious, well-appointed tent off the beaten track to immerse in the culture, scenery, and charm of local communities!
Overnight in Beyond Luxury Glamping
From your sky-high campsite, take in magnificent views with volcanic peaks and mountain ranges in distance, all while sipping your morning coffee or enjoying a sunset drink. Our new mobile safari-style camp combines the best of both worlds! Spend a night in a secluded “boutique hotel,” complete with spacious tent, proper beds, private bath, and a personal chef who prepares delicious, traditional meals. Follow your local guide for a behind-the-scenes look at nearby villages, meeting friendly residents and learning their traditions.
Day 6: Hike from Laguna Seca to Lake Atitlan
Get the day off to an unforgettable start with a tasty traditional breakfast overlooking the shimmering blue waters of Lake Atitlán, regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world! Climb a (not-so-high) sacred Maya hill nearby, with 360-degree views of highlands and lowlands, before starting your descent. Along the way, learn how to make tortillas, and let the welcoming locals help you brush up on your Spanish or add a few new words to your vocabulary. Once at the lakeshore, dare to jump in to refresh, or just enjoy the mix between warm and cooler air coming your way. Cruise across the surface by motor boat to the place of your choice to end this expedition on a high note.
With its sparkling waters watched over by three majestic, dormant volcanoes, Lake Atitlán is Guatemala’s highland jewel, which motivated author Aldous Huxley to say, “It really is too much of a good thing”. Surrounded by Mayan villages, the lake’s timeless beauty is only equaled by the exquisitely embroidered clothing worn by the local T’zutujil and Kaqchiquel Maya people. Each lakeside village has its own character: the ceramic arts of San Antonio Palopo, San Juan’s natural dyes and handwoven textiles; San Pedro’s backpacker vibe; San Marcos’ yoga and wellness centres; Santiago Atitlan’s busy markets and shops; and Panajachel’s hectic-eclectic mix of shops, hotels, and restaurants. All have one thing in common: the shimmering lake and dramatic countryside, where you can kayak and canoe, swim, fish, watch birds or just swing in a hammock.
Overnight at Relais & Chateaux Property – Casa Palopo
An elegant boutique hotel with breathtaking views of Lake Atitlán and its volcanic surroundings, Casa Palopó offers an exclusive retreat for sophisticated travellers. Experience Guatemala’s rich culture without leaving the hotel, as the splendid lobby and all 15 brightly painted rooms have exquisite furnishings, artefacts, and artwork. Private bathrooms feature glass-cased rainfall showers (some with stand-alone bathtubs), designer fixtures, and high-end products. Enjoy hypnotic lake views as you relax on your private terrace, lounge in pool at the main level, or soak in the dreamy, infinity-edge pool that adjoins a three-bedroom, hilltop villa. Elegant yet rustic, the hotel’s main restaurant serves Guatemalan-inspired dishes infused with an international twist and using locally sourced ingredients. Nestled on a steep hillside, the hotel is accessible by car, helicopter or boat. One of the finest hotels at Lake Atitlán and among the best in the country, Casa Palopó offers pampered luxury and attentive service in a uniquely Guatemalan style. (Note: Access to Villa rooms, infinity pool and dock requires a vigorous, 150-step climb from the main hotel.)
Day 7: San Juan and Santiago – Lake Atitlan Villages Tour
Although more than a dozen fascinating towns and villages overlook majestic Lake Atitlán, Santiago and San Juan La Laguna top the must-see list. In San Juan, watch indigenous weavers mix natural dyes from locally grown plants and flowers, and then see the women use a back-strap loom to create intricate textiles, thread by colourful thread. From there, peruse a workshop of art naïf painters before boarding the boat for the cruise to Santiago. After a delicious lunch, head out with your guide to find the house of Maximón, the Maya folk saint who moves annually with the selection of his new caretaker. A shaman may be performing a ritual for a local follower or two gathered at Maximón’s candle-lit altar. Afterward you can visit the church, learn about the town’s vivid history and explore the thriving market. Be sure to check out more of the distinctive textiles and primitive art, both famous from the lake basin. The tour includes your morning hotel pickup and evening return.
Day 8: Fly into the Jungle & Yaxha Archaeology Site with Sunset Cruise to Topoxte
Today you transfer back to Guatemala City and take a flight up to Flores in the northern rainforest area of the Peten and to your luxury lakeside lodge.
Overnight Las Lagunas Lodge
Offering the luxury and comfort of a big city hotel in the middle of a wild jungle, Las Lagunas is located in Guatemala’s northern department of El Petén, not far from the famous Tikal ruins. Sixteen spacious rooms overlook a rich forest and various lagoons. Waterfront suites sit right atop the latter; master suites are perched higher up, seemingly in the trees. Each suite is outfitted with first-rate amenities: Expect a satellite TV, iPod dock, air-conditioning, a private deck with a hot tub, and a bathroom boasting a cascade shower, L’Occitane products, and stellar views. The resort comprises a nature reserve (home to ocelots, deer, tapirs, and wild boars), five lagoons, an archaeological museum, an excellent restaurant serving European-style fare, and an infinity-edge pool. A dock in the center of one of the lagoons is a great place for private massages, yoga sessions, and sunset cocktails.
Day 9: Yaxha Archaeology Site with Sunset Cruise to Topoxte
One of the largest Mayan complexes in Guatemala, Yaxhá contains more than 500 structures, including nine temples and one of the few twin pyramid complexes outside of Tikal. Your adventure features a climb up Temple 216 (37 metres / 121 feet), providing a 360-degree panorama of the rainforest canopy, nearby pyramids, and two shimmering lakes. You will also explore the less visited area of the site before hopping aboard a boat to visit the small island ruins at Topoxte. As the sun sets behind this post-classic site, the densely shrouded temples and structures lure your imagination back into a bygone era. Afterwards, enjoy some drinks and savor the sunset.
Day 10: Tikal Archaeology Site with Luxury Picnic
You’ll be met at the hotel by a private guide for a tour of Tikal National Park, where some 3,000 ancient structures rise from the rainforest floor. Not only will you enjoy a fascinating tour of this impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site, but you’ll also experience the sights and sounds of tropical birds and animals, including howler and spider monkeys, that live in the jungle canopy. Once home to an estimated at 50,000 residents or more, Tikal flourished from 800 BC to 900 AD. You’ll follow in the footsteps of Maya royalty and commoners as our guide leads you to such sites as the majestic Great Plaza and its Temple of the Jaguar (44 meters / 144 feet), Temple of the Masks (38m / 125ft), the Acropolis and much more. After the tour, a luxury picnic will be included in the park area. You can also explore the museum at the visitor centre before returning to your hotel.
Cost: 2020 Guatemala Luxury Adventure with Glamping Expeditions Itinerary
Total cost per person based on double occupancy: from $ 13,500 (Depending on time of year and availability)
- All breakfasts
- Other meals where indicated
- Accommodation as mentioned, double occupancy
- Tours and activities as mentioned
- Transport as mentioned, in minibus
- Domestic flights as mentioned
- Local taxes
- Alcoholic beverages or additional beverages with meals
- International flights
- Airport taxes
- Border fees
- Tips and gratuities for drivers and guides
- Personal expenses
- Meals not indicated