To preface this post, I have to mention that I have not done this whirlwind, marathon week, but I do know it’s completely possible. In fact, a friend recently did it and made a Guatemala vacation out of my wedding. This is an itinerary that I had created for my wedding website, so I thought I’d share it here on my blog. With just one week in Guatemala, you can see the Big Three – Antigua, Lake Atitlán, and Tikal.
All international flights will take you to La Aurora International Airport. As someone who has been to the country three times, I would skip Guatemala City and head directly to Antigua. Spend 2-3 days here – there’s tons to do and it’s a great home base for activities that are only a short trip away. Make sure you check out Arco de Santa Catalina and have some amazing Guatemalan coffee. If you have the time, think about climbing a volcano. Pacaya is easily accessible from Antigua and only about a 2 hour hike up. There are also a ton of coffee farms close by. My friends highly recommended De La Gente, where they take you into the home of a local coffee farmer and walk you through the entire process of making coffee, from berry to cup.
Your next stop will be Lake Atitlán. Panajachel is great for shopping and eating, but think about spending time at one of the other villages around the lake. San Lucas Tolimán, nestled at the foot of Volcán Tolimán, is a coffee-growing town. Santiago Atitlán is the largest of the lake villages, with the strongest indigenous identity. You can find more information about how to spend 2 days in Panajachel on my post here.
Your last stop will be Tikal. Head back to Guatemala City and hop on a short flight to Flores, the town closest to the Mayan ruins. Spend a day exploring the ruins – make sure you hire a guide so you can learn all about the history and significance. Even if you’re with a local, I highly recommend hiring a guide. You can find more information about Tikal on my post here.
If you have some time to spare in Guatemala City, my recommendation would be taking in the grandeur that is Guatemala’s shopping malls. Oakland is one of my favorites – it’s always beautifully decorated for Christmas and it has all the stores I love. Fontabella is gorgeous and has excellent restaurants.
For hotels, I highly recommend the Porta family – we stayed in and got married at Porta Hotel Antigua and it was gorgeous. In Pana, we stayed at Porta Hotel del Lago. The Camino Real hotels are also excellent – many of our guests stayed at the Camino Real in Antigua for our wedding.
And if you’re a Priority Pass holder, be sure to check out the Casa Del Ron lounge at the airport on your way out. They offer fabulous Zacapa (the national pride) rum cocktails and made to order meals. It’s a great way to chill out before your flight home.