What do you get when you mix hiking, biking, and kayaking with culture, archaeology, and wildlife? A family-friendly itinerary that’s guaranteed to please. The following nine-day tour of Guatemala is designed with active families in mind who enjoy cultural experiences as much as adrenaline-filled adventure. From coffee farms, market visits, and ancient Maya ruins to volcano treks and zip-lining, this tour will give you an excellent taste of Guatemala—while keeping you on your toes.
Day 1: You’ll arrive at the Guatemala City airport and transfer to your hotel in the colonial city of Antigua.
Day 2: You’ll gear up to tour the valley of Antigua by bike. Back roads and trails will take you through small villages and farms and provide great views of nearby volcanoes. Along the way, you’ll stop at the town of San Miguel Escobar to learn about the work of As Green As It Gets (AGAIG), a non-profit organization that helps support independent coffee producers. You’ll explore the coffee fields, get a first-hand look at how beans are grown and processed, and eat lunch in the house of a local before finishing your bike tour.
Day 3: You’ll climb Pacaya, an active volcano outside of Antigua. This challenging hike will take you along Pacaya’s foothills through pine forests and to an area of lava rock and ash where you’ll see hot steam escaping through crevices in the ground. Along the way, you’ll learn about the formation and evolution of the volcano as well as about the surrounding environment. If it’s a clear day, you’ll have a view of other volcanoes and the Pacific lowlands.
Day 4: You’ll travel to Chichicastenango, one of the country’s largest markets. Here, you’ll explore the seemingly endless stalls of wood-carved masks, ceramics, textiles, and tropical fruits and vegetables. You’ll also get a close-up look at K’iche’ Maya culture by visiting Santo Tomás (a near-500-year-old church where locals practice a blend of Maya and Catholic religions) and Pascual Abaj (a hilltop shrine where shamans—spiritual leaders—perform traditional ceremonies on special dates). After exploring, you’ll continue to Lake Atitlán.
Day 5: You’ll begin your day by kayaking Lake Atitlán (keep your eyes peeled for local Maya fishermen and the occasional pelican) before hiking to the top of Cerro de Oro, a lakeside hill with stellar views of the area. You’ll also head to Santiago Atitlán, a traditional Tz’utujil Maya town, where you’ll track down the folk saint Maximón, an effigy that’s housed by a different member of the local religious brotherhood each year; shamans often perform rituals wherever Maximón resides. You’ll explore the town, its church, and the local market, too.
Day 6: You’ll visit the Reserva Natural Atitlán, located just outside of Panajachel on Lake Atitlán. Here, you’ll find jungle-lined nature trails (look for raccoon-like coatis and exotic birds), a waterfall, swing bridges, a butterfly preserve, and a series of thrilling zip-line routes that provide stellar volcano views. In the afternoon, you’ll transfer to the Guatemala City airport and fly to the town of Flores in the department of El Petén.
Day 7: You’ll explore Tikal National Park, one of the ancient Maya’s largest and most fascinating urban centers. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal was occupied from approximately 900 B.C. to 900 A.D. and reached its heyday c. 700 A.D. with some 50,000 inhabitants. Today, it comprises more than 3,000 well-preserved temples, palaces, and shrines surrounded by wild jungle; keep your eyes peeled for tropical birds and monkeys in the canopy overhead.
Day 8: This morning, you’ll fly from Flores to Guatemala City and transfer to Antigua. You’ll have a free day to explore on your own.
Day 9: You’ll travel to the Guatemala City airport in time for your flight.