Guatemala Maya Adventure

♦ Start: Guatemala City
♦ Finish: Guatemala City

On our expert-led archaeology tour to Guatemala, you will come to understand the culture of the present-day Maya and learn about the spectacular accomplishments of the ancient Maya. Guatemala is an awe-inspiring country where you will find natural beauty, with highland lakes ringed by volcanic cones and steamy jungles teaming with wildlife and birds. Delightful colonial architecture with flashes of highland culture contrast with brightly colored markets and impressive Maya ruins. On this tour you will see, interact, and experience Maya culture up close and personal and get an authentic taste of Guatemala that most tourists don’t.  Hike to volcanoes, zip line through jungles, play in waterfalls, and explore Maya ruins with a Guatemala expert.


11 nights/ 12 days

Physical Rating


Hiking, Ziplining, Kayaking, Exploring Ruins, Cultural

Places Visited

Guatemala City, Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Santiago Atitlan, Santa Cruz, Chichicastenango, Tikal


  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Antigua and Tikal with an expert archaeology guide
  • Hiking on volcanoes and through lava fields
  • Explore a nature reserve with waterfalls, swinging bridges over ravines, ziplines and local wildlife such as monkeys and pisotes
  • Visit a local shaman in the village of Cha’qa’ya for a traditional Maya ceremony
  • Visit the Tzutujil Maya community that is the largest indigenous town in Central America
  • Kayaking on Lake Atitlan
  • Shopping in the famous Chichi market, where vendors sell handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, wooden boxes, condiments, textiles, and many other things.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Traveling between certain locations on this trip can be quite challenging, especially when using local transport. It’s also a fantastic way of meeting the locals.
  • The tropical climate of Central America means conditions can be really hot and humid. Always carry plenty of water with you and stay hydrated, especially on walking tours.
  • Accommodations on this trip are either twin or multi share in 3-4 star hotels that are locally owned and centrally located. Single travelers will share a room with other travelers of the same sex, unless you’d like to pay extra to have your own room.
  • Try to learn as many Spanish words as you can. Locals are very friendly, but also shy, so you’ll need to make plenty of effort to break the ice. Attempting to communicate in Spanish is a great way of showing you care.

Guatemala City/ Antigua

Upon arrival in Guatemala City, you will take a shuttle to Antigua, an approximate one-hour drive. The afternoon is free for exploring Antigua, the original capital of Latin America after the arrival of the conquistadors, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built 1,500m above sea level, it was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773 but its principal monuments are still preserved as ruins. The city is famous for its well-preserved 16th-17th century architecture, colonial churches and it’s role in the history of the Americas.


— Airport transfer from Guatemala City to Antigua (1 hour)

Overnight at Hotel Posada San Vincente or similar


Antigua (B, D)

After a group breakfast at Dona Luisa’s, an 18th century home, now a restaurant and local institution, Mike will guide us on a walking tour of colonial churches and ruins, as well as other Antigua sights of interest.

We then depart at 2:00pm for a sunset hike to Pacaya, one of Guatemala’s youngest volcanoes. A relatively easy climb of 1.5 hours brings us to La Meseta, the shelf just below the cinder cone. From here we’ll have an awesome view of recent lava flows. We’ll explore the lava fields, then eat a simple but filling dinner (with the opportunity to roast marshmallows over geothermal vents) while taking in the sunset before hiking back down Pacaya.


— Morning walking tour of Antigua
— 2pm-8:30pm Volcano Hike & Dinner (1 hour driving, 3 hours hiking)
— Meals – Breakfast & Dinner

Overnight at Hotel Posada San Vincente or similar


Antigua/ Panajachel (Lake Atitlan)

The morning is free to explore Antigua. After lunch, we’ll depart to Panajachel, a lakeshore town on Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is a caldera lake (approximately 10 miles wide) surrounded by three volcanoes. It offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. The charm of each of the numerous villages surrounding Lake Atitlan is unique in traditional Maya dress and local culture. The combination of scenery and culture makes Atitlan recognized as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and one of Guatemala’s most important international tourist attractions. Also, be sure to explore Pana’s exuberant nightlife!


— Private transportation to Panajachel (3 hours)

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos or similar


Panajachel (Lake Atitlan) (B, D)

After breakfast at the hotel we will visit a local nature reserve with waterfalls, swinging bridges over ravines, and local wildlife such as monkeys and pisotes. This reserve also features two sets of zip lines (12 in total) with breathtaking views overlooking the lake. The longest single span is a 860m (2822 ft) flight through the trees.

This evening, we’ll enjoy dinner at the locally famous Circus Bar, known for its nightly live performances by flamenco guitarists. (Local transportation costs in tuk tuks not included, approx. $1 per ride)


— Entrance to Nature Reserve
— Ziplining
— Meals – Breakfast & Dinner

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos or similar


Panajachel (Lake Atitlan) (B, L)

After breakfast, we’ll travel to the traditional indigenous village of Cha’qa’ya (located 2,000 feet above Pana on the caldera rim). This is where our guide, Mike Saunders, has conducted research for over twenty years, and where his family now resides for extended periods. They are some of the only foreigners who visit this area. Here, a local aq’ij (shaman) will conduct a Maya ceremony. Mike has worked with Don Fidel for twenty years while researching Maya spirituality and its Pre-Columbian origins, and he is a truly authentic practitioner who serves his community (and many others) as their primary spiritual guide.

In the afternoon, we’ll hike to several local sacred sites and a remote, spectacular scenic overlook of the lake and surrounding volcanoes where we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch. We’ll then return to the hotel to relax after what promises to be an exhausting, but fulfilling day.


— Visit the traditional indigenous village of Cha’qu’ya for a Maya ceremony by a local shaman ($25 suggested donation by guests)
— Guided hike to several local sacred sites & picnic lunch
— Meals – Breakfast & Lunch

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos or similar


Santiago Atitlan/ Santa Cruz (B, D)

After breakfast, we’ll depart for a 45-minute boat trip across the lake to Santiago Atitlan, a Tzutujil Maya community that is the largest indigenous town in Central America. A portion of the population still observe the old traditions, and the town is known for its handicrafts, such as wooden carvings, paintings, and weavings. The town is also famous for unique local spiritual indigenous traditions. We’ll visit some of the town’s sacred sites as well as explore the town and its many interesting sights.

In the afternoon, we’ll return by boat across the lake to the Kaqchikel Maya village of Santa Cruz, headquartering here for two more days on the lake in semi-rustic accommodations situated only feet from the shore with incredible views of the lake caldera and the volcanoes surrounding it, as well as lakeshore swimming and relaxing. Our home for the next two nights is also locally famous for its nightly five-course gourmet meals prepared by professionally trained local Maya cooks, with farm-to-table ingredients.


— Boat ride to Tzutujil Maya community (45 min)
— Shopping & visit to sacred sites (luggage to be transferred while we are in Santiago)
— Afternoon boat ride to Kaqchikel Maya village of Santa Cruz
— Meals – Breakfast & Dinner

Overnight at Hotel Arca de Noe Lake Atitlan or similar


Santa Cruz (D)

After an early breakfast at Arca de Noe or one of the surrounding small restaurants (not included), we’ll go kayaking in Lake Atitlan’s deep blue-green volcanic waters. The caldera lake is surrounded by 10,000 foot volcanoes and the best way to view them is from the water. The rich Maya culture is also evident and we’ll have many up close encounters, from the pesaderos who fish the lake in their hand-sewn cayukas to the farmers working coffee and maiz along the lakeshore. Experience a unique culture up close while you learn about the Maya way of life.

In the afternoon, we’ll return to the hotel for an afternoon yoga session, or you can choose to go hiking several hundred feet above the ever-changing waters of Atitlan for breathtaking views of the famous volcanoes. This evening, we’ll enjoy dinner at a nearby restaurant in a hostel that offers family style meals and an opportunity to mingle with other like-minded travelers.


— Kayaking on Lake Atitlan (2-3 hours)
— Yoga or Hiking
— Meals – Dinner

Overnight at Hotel Arca de Noe Lake Atitlan or similar


Santa Cruz/ Chichicastenango

Today we leave Santa Cruz and travel about two hours to Chichicastenango, well known for its famous market days on Thursdays and Sundays, where vendors sell handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, wooden boxes, condiments, textiles, and many other things. This is the place to buy high quality folk art, as well as just view the incredible hustle of a huge Maya market.

Upon arrival to Chichicastenango, we’ll settle into our accommodations before taking a walking tour of the town. We’ll visit the famous 500-year-old Santo Tomas cathedral (although a Catholic church, ancient Maya ceremonies are continuously conducted here) and we’ll tour the cemetery, also renowned for Maya ceremonies. Chichi is a location to get yet another immersive view of Maya culture as well as shop for souvenirs. We will stay this evening in a famed local hotel, long known for its colonial architecture and gracious hospitality. By staying the evening before, we can shop the market in the morning, avoiding the larger crowds of tourists arriving in the afternoon.


— Private transportation to Chichicastenango (2 hours)
— Guided tour of Chichicastenango including 500-year-old Santo Tomas cathedral and the cemetery

Overnight at Maya Inn Chichicastenango or similar


Chichicastenango (B)

After breakfast, we’ll spend the morning at the Chichi market. Then we’ll travel to Guatemala City to board a small passenger plane for an hour and a half flight to Tikal, one of the most famous of the massive ruins of the Maya Lowlands.

We’ll arrive at the Tikal Inn in the evening, one of only three hotels located within the national park, which allows us to explore the ruins in the early morning and late afternoon after the park closes to other visitors. We’ll also have the opportunity to view the sunrise or sunset from atop of one of the pyramids.

Tikal and the surrounding agricultural lands once supported (1,000 years ago) a population of up to 100,000 people in an environment that is only sparsely populated today. Much of Mike’s research is closely tied to Tikal’s long history, and he can offer a far more detailed view of the ancient culture of this archaeological site than would otherwise be available. The area is also filled with wildlife such as howler and spider monkeys. We will be able to spend a few hours in the park this evening, or simply rest after a long day.


— Shopping at the Chichi Market
— Private shuttle to Guatemala City (3 hours)
— Flight to Tikal (1.5 hours)
— Meals – Breakfast

Overnight at Tikal Inn (located within the national park)


Tikal (B, L)

Today will be fully dedicated to exploring these massive ruins, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the surrounding rainforest. After the previous week, coming to understand the culture of the present-day Maya, we will end the trip by viewing the spectacular accomplishments of the ancient Maya. Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an imposing sight. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures waiting to be explored. There are more than 3,000 buildings in all, dating back as far as 600 BC. For those who are up for it, you can climb to the top of Temple IV for spectacular views over the canopy and you may even spot toucans, macaws, and other colorful birds.


— Full Day Guided Tour of Tikal
— Meals – Breakfast & Lunch

Overnight at Tikal Inn (located within the national park)


Tikal/ Guatemala City/ Antigua

For those who are interested, we’ll wake up early this morning to watch the sunrise atop of the pyramids before breakfast. We’ll then board an early afternoon flight to Guatemala City and take a private shuttle to Antigua for a final night in this incredible country.  Now is the time to do some last minute shopping or sightseeing and we’ll enjoy a final group dinner (not included) at a restaurant which serves upscale, traditional cuisine… and they have great margaritas!


— Flight to Guatemala City (1.5 hours)
— Airport transfer from Guatemala City to Antigua (1 hour)

Overnight at Hotel Convento Santa Catalina or similar


Antigua/ Guatemala City/ Departure

Today is departure day and there are no planned activities. At an appropriate time, take a shuttle to the airport in Guatemala City for your flight home or to your next destination.


— Airport transfer from Antigua to Guatemala City (1 hour)

2018 Dates & Pricing

Gather your favorite people to share this adventure on the dates of your choice.  10% discount for groups of 8+!

***Pricing Available Upon Request***

All prices are per person in U.S. dollars based on double occupancy.

NOTE: All quotations are based on the current rates of park fees, VAT, other government taxes, and current exchange rates. Should any of these be increased or a new tax introduced, these increases will be added on even if your trip has already been paid for.

Not finding what you’re looking for? We can tailor your adventure to fit your travel style, time frame, budget, and interests. From different styles of lodging to your favorite adventure activities, we’ll create the best custom itinerary for you. Feel free to call one of our travel specialists for information on custom trips. Let us plan your next adventure of a lifetime!

Request a Custom Itinerary

11 nights hotel All meals indicated in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L= Lunch, D=Dinner)
Bilingual, archaeologist guide All transfers listed in the itinerary
Half-day walking tour of Antigua Half-Day walking tour of Chichicastenango
Full Day tour of Tikal Volcano Hike & Dinner
Nature Reserve entrance fee Ziplining adventure
Traditional Maya ceremony in the indigenous village of Cha’qu’ya Yoga class
Airfare to/from Guatemala City (GUA) Airport taxes & excess baggage fees
Travel Insurance Beverages & meals not specified
Personal Expenses Gratuities
Optional Activities
Mike with Don Fidel
local people
women of Guatemala
lake atitlan
lake atitlan
lake atitlan
indigenous people
santa cruz
antigua guatemala
antigua beach
Chichicastenango market
lake atitlan

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