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Two Weeks in Guatemala

The Ultimate Itinerary for Two Weeks in Guatemala

Guatemala Travel Planning

Gorgeous volcanos, colorful cities, Mayan ruins, crystal clear swimming holes, dirt cheap prices, and adventure around every corner–if that sounds like your kind of vacation destination, it’s time to consider Guatemala.

Set just south of Mexico and west of Belize, Guatemala packs an endless amount of things to do into a small, relatively navigable space (about the size of Tennessee)–and as a bonus, it also boasts the best food in Central America.

Two weeks in Guatemala is the perfect amount of time to start exploring this fascinating country: you won’t see everything, but it’s enough time to move through several different destinations, and get a taste of what different regions have to offer.

If you only have one week available, don’t worry–you can easily adapt this itinerary for two weeks into Guatemala to a shorter itinerary by focusing on Antigua and Lake Atitlan only. If you have longer? Rio Dulce and other areas of the eastern half of the country may be calling your name… or you can do what we did and relax on Lake Atitlan for two weeks instead.

Whatever you choose, there’s no doubt that you’ll leave Guatemala completely overwhelmed by how much excitement it packs into a tiny amount of space.

Two Weeks in Guatemala

2 Weeks in Guatemala Itinerary

Tikal/Flores: 2 Days

The Highlights:

Tikal is known as one of the most impressive sets of Mayan ruins in Central America, and as a bonus for Star Wars lovers, it was used as a filming location for A New Hope.

Sunrise tours are popular here, but for those of us have difficulty pulling themselves out of bed hours before dawn, daytime tours, and sunset tours are also available (often for a lower price than the popular sunrise tour!).

I went ahead and noted spending two days here to allow yourself to recover from the journey to Flores and enjoy the small island village–but the island of Flores is very small, so if you have lots of energy and are ready to move on, you could consider spending only one day here instead!

Things to Consider:

Though Flores is the closest tourist-friendly town to Tikal and the usual stop along the backpacker trail for people interested in seeing the ruins, it is still about a two hour drive each way from the town to Tikal–be prepared for a long day.

Also, assuming you fly into Guatemala City initially, it is a long day (10+ hours by van or bus, or a very short but expensive plane ride) to get from Guatemala City to Flores–be prepared for that when making your planes.

Alternatively, if you are approaching as a backpacker from Belize, Flores is the first logical stop in Guatemala and will make sense logistically to access. Travelers coming from Chiapas, Mexico to the north or Honduras from the south should also be able to find transport directly to Flores, though prepare for long travel times.

Two Weeks in Guatemala

Where We Stayed in Flores:

Hotel Villa Margarita — If we had to sum this hotel up in a word, it would be “bland”. It wasn’t good enough to rave about (and the shower mildly electrocuting me a couple of times definitely dampened any goodwill I felt for the place), but there was nothing terrible about it either. I would consider this a solid choice for a quick stay in Flores, but don’t expect to be wowed.

Semuc Champey: 1 Day

The Highlights:

Semuc Champey is a series of crystal-clear pools and small waterfalls, and the area is known as a traveler’s playground. Stay in the town of Lanquin, and take a tour or simply grab a ride in one of the many nearby pickup trucks/taxis to reach the pools, and spend a day relaxing and reveling in the gorgeous nature.

Semuc Champey easily makes the list of most magical places that we found in Central America or even the world–there’s an unbelievable, I-can’t-quite-believe-I’m-here quality to it that left us utterly enchanted. Don’t be surprised if this is one of your favorite stops during two weeks in Guatemala!

Nearby wet caves can be explored with the help of a guide and a candlestick that you hold in your hand, as well–we didn’t try it, but if you’re feeling like an adventure, definitely give it a shot!

Things to Consider:

There’s really just no two ways around this: Semuc Champey is a pain in the ass to get to. It’s approximately an 8-hour shuttle ride from Flores to Semuc Champey, and an additional 8 hours to Antigua once you leave. The only good thing that can be said for this is that it is at least vaguely on the way to Antigua, and totally worth the trouble.

Lanquin, the nearest village to Semuc Champey (about 30 minutes away), is almost entirely off-grid: it’s one of the only places in our travels that we went without wifi, which was bizarre for the first 12 hours or so and very peaceful after that!

Two Weeks in Guatemala

Two Weeks in Guatemala

Read Next: Visiting Semuc Champey Independently

Where We Stayed at Semuc Champey:

Vinas Hotel — Located less than a ten minute walk from the center of town, the only issue we had here was with the lack of electricity for most of our stay–but there wasn’t anything the hotel could do about that. The room was clean, property well kept, and the restaurant had good food at low prices. We would not hesitate to stay here again if we returned to the area!

Antigua: 4 Days

Highlights:

Colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, ruins from the 18th century, plentiful volcano hikes nearby, enormous markets, and more: this is Antigua. The city is easy to get sucked into, from its hilltop views to the remains of destroyed buildings scattered throughout the town–relics of an 18th-century earthquake that erupted through the then-capital of Guatemala.

While Antigua itself is worth exploring during your two weeks in Guatemala, the real gems lie outside of town: if you’re up for an overnight excursion, hike to the top of Volcano Acatenango and–if you’re lucky–catch sight of Volcano Fuego erupting next door.

If you’d prefer a day trip, consider climbing Pacaya. Lucky visitors will get to see lava rolling lazily down the volcano, and almost all day trips include a marshmallow to roast with the natural heat.

Things to Consider:

Antigua is a great jumping off point for traveling through Central America as a whole–if you’re planning to head south to either El Salvador or Honduras via bus after two weeks in Guatemala, Antigua is a great place to plan on leaving from.

We loved our time in the little city, and even returned to hang out a little longer after our time in Lake Atitlan. Don’t come here with an enormous list of things to do (outside of climbing a volcano, that is)–Antigua is a great place to relax and wander through the town center.

As always, be cautious, especially at night–we felt very safe during the day here but uneasy at night, a sentiment many travelers we met echoed as well.

Tips for Hiking Volcano Acatenango

Two Weeks in Guatemala

Read Next:

Hiking Volcano Acatenango: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,

Tips for Hiking Volcano Acatenango in Guatemala

Where We Stayed in Antigua:

Sadly, the hostel that we loved so much in Antigua (La Dolce Vita Guesthouse) has permanently closed.

Here are two similar properties we would consider staying at these days (highly rated, with private rooms, wifi, and an exellent location):

Casa Gitana (9.3 rating on Booking.com) — Just 400 meters from Antigua’s central plaza, you can’t find a better location in Antigua. A shared kitchen is also available.

Un hotel en la Antigua (9.0 rating on Booking.com) — Perfect for someone who’s looking for a quiet place to stay not far from the action, Un hotel en la Antigua is located a 7 minute walk from the main plaza, while still being located in the heart of downtown Antigua.

Two Weeks in Guatemala

Lake Atitlan: 4 Days

Highlights:

There could be no better way to close out two weeks in Guatemala than to relax at magical Lake Atitlan–beautiful, quiet, relaxing, and literally mystical depending on who you ask, Lake Atitlan has been drawing writers and other artistic types of generations, including the famous Aldous Huxley.

The joy of Lake Atitlan is in its small villages, each with a distinct feel: head to San Pedro to enjoy the biggest, most tourist-centered town, with plenty of restaurants, shops, and tours nearby. San Marcos is the haven for hippies, where anything from meditation to crystal healing can be found advertised on its many bulletin boards.

Then, there are the smaller villages that see few tourists at all–we stayed at an amazing Airbnb in San Pablo, where no other tourists or tourism infrastructure was nearby. True, that meant a tuk tuk ride to one of the other villages for our Spanish lessons, grocery store visits, and horseback riding–but you couldn’t beat the view from where we stayed.

Things to Consider:

What village you stay in on Lake Atitlan will have an enormous impact on your experience–before booking a place, be sure you know where it is and what kind of experience you are looking for.

As what we wanted from this trip was peace and quiet, along with some Spanish lessons, our out-of-the-way spot was exactly what we were looking for. Had we been wanting to hit bars or even eat out for more than an occasional meal, though, the location would have gotten old very quickly.

Also, as a side note: people do swim in Lake Atitlan, but sadly as gorgeous as it is, it’s very polluted. Most people will advise against getting into the water, though even without the warning, we didn’t feel a need to try. This is a lake best admired from above.

Two Weeks in Guatemala

Travel Budget for Guatemala

Where We Stayed at Lake Atitlan:

Stuart’s Airbnb — We loved this bungalow on Lake Atitlan! The views were incredible, there was plenty of hot water, there was decent enough wifi considering the location, and the host was wonderful. This was an incredibly comfortable place to work and relax. The downside was that it’s in San Pablo, a tiny village on Lake Atitlan with no tourism infrastructure whatsoever. To experience the best of what Lake Atitlan has to offer to tourists, you’ll need to visit some of the other villages by tuk tuk or lancha.

Not a member of Airbnb yet? Sign up here to get a discount on your first stay!

Two Weeks in Guatemala

Getting Around During Two Weeks in Guatemala:

Though chicken buses and collectivos are available for cheap, unless you are on a very tight budget, I would recommend using a tourist shuttle for at least the travel to Flores/Tikal (if you’re coming from Guatemala City), to Semuc Champey, and to Antigua. Those distances are long enough as is, you don’t want to risk adding significant amounts of time.

We took one collectivo while in Guatemala, from the border to Flores: while we saved some money, 18 humans and two puppies were an incredibly tight squeeze in a 15 passenger van–frankly, we wouldn’t bother doing it again.

Within towns and cities, tuk tuks are readily available in most spots (though oddly not as many in Antigua–not much of an issue, as it’s very walkable).

During our time in Guatemala, we primarily used tuk tuks or our own feet to get around within cities and towns, and to get between different villages on Lake Atiitlan.

Read Next: Show Me The Money: Travel Budget for Guatemala

What to Pack for Guatemala:

Here are a few things we were very glad to have with us in Guatemala:

  • SteriPen — To make tap water safe to drink.
  • Sunscreen — It will be far more expensive to purchase it in Guatemala than to bring it from home.
  • Sea Bands — To prevent motion sickness during boat and bus rides.
  • Pacsafe — To protect valuable belongings in your lodging.
  • Comfortable shoes–I love my Keen’s Whisper Sandals.

Check out our full packing list for Central America & Mexico below!

Read Next: The Ultimate Packing List for Central America & Mexico

Tips for Hiking Volcano Acatenango

This itinerary for 2 weeks in Guatemala only accounts for 11 days: due to a few long days of travel that will be required to get from place to place, we feel it’s better (read: more realistic) to plan on having some unproductive days during two weeks in Guatemala than to overplan and end up burning out from trying to squeeze too much in.

Guatemala is an enchanting place: from the charming cities to the mind-blowing nature to the incredible food and the low prices, there are more than enough reasons to plan on spending two weeks in Guatemala.

Don’t spend two weeks in Guatemala without travel insurance! We use and recommend World Nomads due to their affordability, ease of purchasing, and the clarity of their contract!

Two Weeks in Guatemala

23 Comments Write a comment
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23 Comments

  • Jo July 25, 2017

    Wauw! I always wanted to go to Middle America, but always went the other direction ( Asia and Australia 😉 ) Guatemala looks so pretty and relaxed. I will bookmark your itinerary to add to our bucket list. Great read!

    • Kate Storm July 25, 2017

      Thanks, Jo! Pretty and relaxed sums up quite a bit of Central America. 🙂

  • Joan Torres July 25, 2017

    Your itinerary sounds perfect and it seems the ideal destination for couples! Did you see many solo backpackers? In December I am going to Mexico and will spend some time there, so perhaps, I will consider coming here. And yes, if I go I will stay more than two weeks, so just googling río dulce and more things to do in the East 😉 Thank you for tiny piece of inspiration!

    • Kate Storm July 25, 2017

      Thanks!! Yes, we saw tons of solo backpackers throughout Guatemala and the rest of the region–more solos than couples, honestly. Hope you have a great time in Mexico! It’s one of our favorite countries in the world.

  • Abigail Sinsona July 26, 2017

    I’ve always wanted to explore Central America for its rich cultural heritage, history and natural beauty. It seems as though Guatemala has ticked all of those boxes! I also love the sights you featured here. I definitely have Antigua and Tikal National Park in my bucket list!

    • Kate Storm July 26, 2017

      It definitely does tick all the boxes! Antigua is such a great city–if you want to take Spanish classes, it’s a super popular spot for that as well!

  • Lisa July 26, 2017

    Wow Semuc Champey looks like a dream! I think some of the best places on this planet are a pain to get to, but totally worth it. Stuart’s Airbnb sounds wonderful, and with great views too. Such beautiful photos, it looks like you both had an amazing time!

    • Kate Storm July 26, 2017

      A dream is a perfect way of describing Semuc Champey, especially since we had no internet while we were there. It was an amazing detox!

  • Marlies July 26, 2017

    What an interesting two week itinerary for Guatemala, this is high on my list. The view over the city and mountain is beautiful. Too bad Lake Atitlan is polluted. It seems like you have done your homework and had an amazing trip.

    • Kate Storm July 26, 2017

      I love that view, too–just a quick “hike” (aka walk) up a hill in Antigua! We did have a wonderful time. 🙂

  • Mariella Molestina July 26, 2017

    I really enjoyed your post on Guatemala and all the places you went to in the country. I love how you really wanted to feel a raw experience and get away from all the hustle and bustle of the main tourist attractions and rather stay away from the hubs to take in the beauty of all the places you were at. Very well advised post and definitely will take into consideration when I go, which hopefully will be soon!

    • Kate Storm July 26, 2017

      Thanks, Mariella! Hope you get a chance to visit!

  • Rachelle July 27, 2017

    Your pictures are so stunning and stir up my wanderlust to an ultimate high! I’ve never been to Guatemala, but I sure want to go now! It’s so sad that Lake Atitlan is polluted! There are crazy people everywhere that don’t care how clean the water is or not. I live right next to the Great Salt Lake in Utah and it amazes me how many people wade into that icky lake!

    • Kate Storm July 27, 2017

      Aw, thank you Rachelle! I agree–it’s so sad when things get polluted, and I will never understand people who jump in anyway!

  • Aryane July 27, 2017

    Weeeell, thanks to you, I have now just added a new destination to my list! 🙂
    Your photos look beautiful and I love that Guatemala is a bit “off the beaten path” compared to maybe Costa Rica, which seems to be overcrowded with backpackers!

    • Kate Storm July 27, 2017

      Glad to help that list, Aryane! 😉 Honestly, we way preferred Guatemala to Costa Rica (Nicaragua was our favorite in Central America, and Guatemala our second favorite–we visited all but El Salvador on this trip). We did visit Costa Rica at the end of this trip, so I feel like we should give it another try one day, but it’s hard to prefer it when Costa Rica costs double what Guatemala does!

  • Raymond Carroll July 27, 2017

    Guatemala looks stunning. Your pictures are great and those volcanoes look like proper volcanoes. I’ve never been to Central America (except for Mexico – Tijuana) but would love to go one day. This post has inspired me to dig a bit deeper in regards to finding out everything it has to offer. Nice uplifting post.

  • Kate Storm July 28, 2017

    Proper volcanoes is the perfect way to describe them! Like something out of a cartoon we would watch as kids.

  • James July 29, 2017

    When I visited Tikal I came in from Belize City and left on the day bus to Guatemala City. Like you say, Tikal is shown so clearly in the Star Wars – A New Hope movie so Star Wars fans will love it and who isn’t a Star Wars fan? If I read this post earlier I would have visited Semuc Champey on the way to Guatemala City / Antigua. Your photo of Volcano Acatenango is a stunner!

  • Kate Storm August 1, 2017

    Thanks, James! Sounds like you have some excuses to go back to Guatemala, right? 😉

  • 21 Unmissable Things to Do In Guatemala - Eternal Arrival August 3, 2017

    […] long days on cramped shuttle buses in transit. If you have a short amount of time, check out this 2-week itinerary for Guatemala to best help you maximize your […]

  • Gearoid McSweeney November 16, 2017

    Guatemala is calling my name, although I think I’ll possibly combine it with El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Not sure about Tikal or Semuc Champey (both out of the way), but I think Atitlan and Antigua look unmissable. You’ve given me some food for thought…

    • Kate Storm November 17, 2017

      Your trip sounds wonderful! We didn’t make it to El Salvador, but can speak highly of all the others. We had incredible experiences in each of them!

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