Antigua is a charming city in Guatemala which attracts tourists with its cobblestone streets, famous Santa Catalina Arch, and magnificent volcanic landscape. Though beautiful, Antigua is tiny and can be explored in just a few days. So, go on, make Antigua your base destination, but be sure to have a few excursions outside of this ancient city to explore. If you’re in a bind, read below to plan an unforgettable itinerary.
Remember to check our adventure & culture programs with all the must-see and do in Guatemala.
Lake Atitlan is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world–it would be a shame to visit Guatemala without setting your sights on its magic. It was developed by the three surrounding volcanoes almost 84,000 years ago. Today, the lake is surrounded by Mayan towns and villages which hold strong to the indigenous culture. In addition, the area supports of variety of farm crops, coffee, and avocado orchards. It really is too much of a good thing.
Distance from Antigua: 3 hours
On the Cheap: From Antigua, hop on the local bus to Chimaltenango and depart at Los Encuentros. You will hear people shouting Solola, take that bus and then transfer to the bus heading to Pana. Total: $3.50
Comfort: A direct shuttle can cost as little as $15 per person
Tikal National Park
Located in the middle of lush jungle, you’ll find one of the major sites of the Mayan civilization–Tikal. This incredible archeological site is preserved through its UNESCO World Heritage status making it a must-do for anyone traveling through Guatemala. Through history, and shared stories, the Mayas have kept the tale of Tikal alive. Make sure to add this site to your weekend excursions and learn first hand about the ceremonial, cultural, and commercial importance of the greatest Mayan city.
Distance from Antigua: 8 hours
On the Cheap: Take the bus into Guatemala City. From the city, you can find an overnight bus (safe, and convenient schedule-wise) to Flores, Santa Elena; $30 one way.
Comfort: A travel agency can arrange all transportation and itineraries. For overnight transportation to Tikal, a guided tour, and overnight transportation back, expect to pay about $200 per person.
Pacaya Volcano and Hot Springs
Adventure lovers can’t miss the hike up Pacaya Volcano. As one of Guatemala’s youngest volcanoes, Pacaya remains active with mild eruptions and lava flow emissions. It last erupted in 2014, and hikers since have experienced the hot lava up-close. After your day hike, spend your evening soaking in one of the natural hot springs that surround the area because you deserve some rest & relaxation, too!
Distance from Antigua: 1.5 Hours
On the Cheap: A bus to Guatemala City, then transfer to a microbus, and then a tuk-tuk–not worth the trouble. Take the comfort route.
Comfort: Directly from Antigua, you can catch a shuttle for $15 per person, round-trip.
In the middle of the Guatemalan Jungle is a paradise called Semuc Champey. After traversing the 300m limestone bridge, you’ll come to a series of turquoise pools, waterfalls, and limestone caves. Some pools are deep enough to dive into from the limestone above, making it the perfect destination for those seeking a tranquil getaway, or those looking for more of an adrenaline-fueled adventure. However, like all hidden gems, Semuc Champey is no easy feat. You’ll first be faced with the task of hiking a steep 45 minutes before coming to the bridges. Worth it? Definitely.
Distance from Antigua: 9 Hours
On the Cheap: Hop on the bus to Guatemala City. From Guatemala City, take a Mojan Blanca bus to Coban. From Coban you will need to take a minibus to Lanquin. Total cost should be about $12.
Comfort: Direct shuttles from Antigua average about $30.
Chichicastenango is the largest market in Central America. Every Thursday and Sunday, the town is flooded with locals and travelers looking for discounted prices on colorful weaves and textiles and fabrics. The other days of the week provide a quiet tranquil environment when you can visit the town’s main church, Iglesia de Santo Tomas, or pay your respects at the famous colorful cemetery located 5 minutes from the market. You really have to see it to believe it.
Distance from Antigua: 2 Hours
On the Cheap: Jump on a chicken bus on Friday (a non-market day) for, literally, pennies.
Comfort: You can arrange a private day trip through a number of tour companies for about $50. Included is round-trip transportation and a full itinerary.
Those who spend no time in Guatemala City often paint a negative picture, but there’s no better way to explore the modern culture than to spend time in its capital. It’s the hustling, bustling city that brings dreams to life. Spend a weekend exploring historical museums, art galleries, the booming restaurant scene, parque central, and the aurora zoo. Guatemala City allows you a unique experience you won’t get anywhere else in the country.
Distance from Antigua: 1 Hour
On the Cheap: Chicken buses cost $1.25
Comfort: Shuttles can be purchased for $15 per person