guatemala 10-day itinerary things to do in antigua, guatemala

Guatemala 10-Day Itinerary: The Ultimate Road Trip Adventure

I spent 10 days in Guatemala and I have been to all these places. And now I give my blueprint for the ultimate 10-day itinerary in Guatemala. 

I did it myself, it’s safe, achievable and extremely memorable. If you’re reading this and think about renting a car and doing a road trip in Guatemala, then I have a feeling you will have one of your best travelling adventures in Guatemala. 

As for me, I loved it so much that I would go back and do it all over again.

I spent 10 days in Guatemala, and I have been to all of these places. Now, I will give my road trip blueprint for the ultimate 10-day itinerary in Guatemala. 

I did it myself, and it’s safe, achievable, and extremely memorable. If you’re reading this and thinking about renting a car and going on a road trip in Guatemala, then I have a feeling you will have one of your best travelling adventures in Guatemala. 

As for me, I loved it so much that I would go back and do it all over again. 

Map for this Guatemala 10-day itinerary

I have this exact itinerary, but the other way around. However, if I had to do it again, I would recommend this direction considering the time, traffic, easiness of driving and everything else.

Of course, you can do this 10-day itinerary in Guatemala in whatever direction you prefer.

Because I wasn’t sure of the state of the roads at the time, after spending 2 days in Antigua, I decided to turn around back to Guatemala City and head to Rio Dulce. But that was the worst mistake on my road trip in Guatemala. The main reason was traffic. 

If you’re interested in renting a car in Guatemala and driving this itinerary yourself, then read all my tips about driving in Guatemala before deciding. I drove all around Guatemala in a normal sedan, so I know what I am talking about.

Guatemala 10-Day Itinerary

About this Guatemala road trip itinerary

This is a road trip itinerary for Guatemala if you intend to rent a car and discover everything on your own. This is my preferred way of travelling. I am very experienced in driving all around the world, so driving in Guatemala wasn’t an issue for me.

This Guatemala 10-day itinerary is created for a road trip. It can be done using public buses in Guatemala, too, but the travelling time will greatly increase, and I don’t think you can fit this entire itinerary if you are not driving it yourself. However, you can do it in 2 weeks or more if you’re using public buses.

For many drivers, this proposed 10-day road trip itinerary in Guatemala might be a bit extreme. However, if you have been to countries with a similar driving style (Egypt, Morocco, India, Latin America, SE Asia), then you should be okay.

All prices are expressed in Guatemala’s national currency — the Quetzal. I have made the conversation to US dollars thought this road trip guide in Guatemala.

I strongly advise you to learn Spanish and to know a bit more than the basic phrases. The reality of any country in Latin America is that most people do not speak English. Without speaking any Spanish, you will be clueless, but you can get to places. Note that almost all traffic signs, indications, and basically everything is in Spanish.

People are mostly friendly and very helpful. I never had any issues.

Guatemala is a very safe country, contrary to popular belief and the US travel advisory.

Most places accept card payments. Simply ask, “Puedo pagar con tarjeta?”. I’m talking about even the most remote petrol stations, hotels, and restaurants. But it’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you, no more than $100. You can get cash from ATMs (look for signs for “cajero”).

When renting a car in Guatemala, I recommend getting full insurance. It’s mostly for your peace of mind.

Check for car rental deals in Guatemala. I chose Hertz and had a great experience with them during my 10-day road trip in Guatemala. But before renting, make sure to check out my tips for driving in Guatemala, to make sure you are up for the task.

For an international eSIM, I always use and recommend Airalo. It works great in Guatemala, and you shouldn’t venture into this kind of road trip without an internet connection.

Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City

Most tourists arrive in Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala, at the La Aurora International Airport (GUA). 

From there, you have two options. 

  1. Stay somewhere near the airport. There are plenty of acceptable hotels and guesthouses near the airport. You can walk to some of them, but most of these places offer a free shuttle (free pick-up or drop-off service). I assume that’s because their prices are slightly above average compared to other hotels in Guatemala.
  2. Book a shuttle to take you to your first stop in Guatemala. For most visitors, the first stop is Antigua City. 

I arrived at the airport at about 8 PM and decided at the last minute to book a rental car (I did this while on the plane to get to Guatemala, using the WIFI paid service on the American Airlines flight from the U.S.).

Since I had a car in Guatemala, after I left the airport, I drove to a nearby hotel. 

Note that when you look at the map, most hotels look like they’re just in front of the airport. And they are. But there are no street lights, and it’s not usually recommended to walk or drive at night. 

Since this was only a short drive, it wasn’t an issue for me. But if you are not driving, I recommend that you book your hotel before you arrive so that you can ask for a pick-up shuttle from the airport. 

The airport is pretty crowded, and many taxi drivers await travellers outside. Having a plan and someone to pick you up is a better plan. However, I never felt unsafe in Guatemala, not even around the airport. 

I spent the night at Casa Quetzal, which has free private parking and breakfast included in the price of the room. They also have a shared kitchen and an inner garden, which guests can use. The hosts made us feel very welcome. The room was basic but clean, and we had a private bathroom. 

Day 2: Antigua City

Where to stay? Hotel Luna Maya Antigua

On the second day in Guatemala, I drove to Antigua. 

antigua guatemala road trip itinerary

Antigua is by far the most touristy place in the entire country. 

It’s also the safest and the most expensive. 

The drive from Guatemala City to Antigua should take around two to three hours, depending on the traffic. 

During this trip, you’ll get a glimpse of the way people drive in Guatemala. 

Since I rented a car in Guatemala and drove all around the country myself, I will write a separate guide about this topic. In short, driving in Guatemala is possible, but it’s not for everyone. 

After arriving at our hotel in Antigua, we settled in and then went for a stroll around the city. Luckily, Antigua is a very walkable city. It is not huge, and you can get almost everywhere on foot. 

The main reason people come here is to explore the well-preserved Spanish colonial city of Antigua and to hike on volcanoes in Guatemala. 

I wrote a very detailed guide on what to see and do around Antigua, Guatemala. I also have a cute video on my YouTube channel showing some of the fun and easy activities to try in Antigua, Guatemala.

Day 3: Antigua City

Use this day to explore Antigua a bit more or to hike one of the volcanoes around.

You have two main volcano-hiking options: Acatenango volcano and Pacaya volcano. 

Note that both of these trips should be done with a reputable guide. The general concern is that foreigners can get lost or sick on those trails. Also, some years ago, muggings were reported on these trails. 

The thing is that in the jungle, there is no law or rule that applies. Since a lot of the local population is poor, mugging a rich American is easy. Of course, they will not ask you about your nationality. 

Remember that Antigua is the most touristic place in the entire country, and locals know that foreigners roam all around. So, everyone wants a cut.  

antigua guatemala

Acatenango volcano

This is an active volcano that is best seen by hiking on top of a nearby volcano. 

Since the exploding lava is best seen at the crack of dawn, the Acatanengo volcano hike is often stretched over 2 days. You start in the morning and slowly climb up, with regular breaks, to get acclimated to the altitude. 

You will spend the night in a tent on a mountain and then hike up for the last stretch at dawn. You will get at an altitude of over 3,976 meters (13.044 ft). 

If you are lucky, after a night spent in the wilderness, with no toilet facilities, after a very tiring steep incline, you will see the Acatanengo volcano spewing lava all around it. 

If you’re unlucky, you will not see much because, at that altitude, the clouds often surround the peaks of the volcanos. 

Nevertheless, avid hikers and mountaineer fanatics from all over the world travel to Guatemala to witness the eruption of the Acatanengo volcano, which is seen as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

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Pacaya volcano

The second option for hiking a volcano in Guatemala is the Pacaya volcano

This is a much easier hike and will take you half of the day. 

Again, go with a tour agency. 

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If you are looking for more easy and fun suggestions for things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, check out my blog here.

Day 3: Atitlan Lake

Where to stay? Hotel Atitlan, Panajachel

lake atitlan

Atitlan Lake is a volcanic lake located at 1,562 m (5,124 feet). It is 18 km wide and 10 km long. It is surrounded by three volcanoes – Atitlán (3,537 m), Tolimán (3,158 m) and San Pedro (2,995 m), which is what makes the world-famous image of the lake. 

With a depth of 341 meters (1,118 feet), Lake Atitlan is famous for being the deepest lake in Central America.  

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You can spend as many days as you like around the lake if you want to. You may even drive around the lake; the roads are okay, and you get to see more villages around. I read online that the main mode of transport around Atitlan Lake is by boat. 

However, there are roads, so if you’re renting a car, you can drive. But I strongly suggest that you rent a car with an automatic transmission. If you’re coming from the U.S., I think you would pretty much prefer that. 

Most villages around the lake are very touristy, and some of the most visited are Panajachel, Santa Cruz, San Pedro, San Juan la Laguna, San Marcos, Santiago, Santa Catarina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó.

If you’re from Europe, as I am myself, you might say that you can handle a manual transmission. For sure you can, and I drove a manual transmission car at home. But you have to trust my word when I say these roads in Guatemala are something else. If you can, get the automatic and you will thank me once you get to drive around the lake. 

Day 4: Chichicastanengo

Where to stay? Mayan Inn 

Chichicastenango, often shortened to “Chichi,” is a vibrant town in the Guatemalan highlands and is known for hosting one of the largest and most colourful indigenous markets in Central America. 

chichicastenango guatemala 10-day itinerary road trip

The town is steeped in indigenous Mayan culture, visible in its rituals, traditions, and the K’iche’ language spoken by the local population. 

The market, held on Thursdays and Sundays, is a bustling hub where locals and tourists alike come to buy and sell a wide variety of goods, including textiles, handicrafts, pottery, and traditional foods. 

Chichicastenango is also famous for its historical and religious significance, with the Santo Tomás Church, a 400-year-old church where Mayan and Catholic rituals are intertwined, standing as a central landmark. 

The town offers a unique blend of cultural traditions, making it a fascinating destination for travellers interested in history, culture, and local life.

I personally believe that Chichicastenango remind travellers of the famous Varanasi in India. It carries similar religious customs, and travellers from all over the world travel here just to experience that. If ancient religious rituals is not your thing, you don’t need to hang around for too long. 

Luckily, the best view of the famous Chichi cemetery is right from the private garden of the Mayan Inn, so you should definitely stay there. 

Day 5: Coban

Where to stay? Hotel Don Juan Matalbatz

Cobán is a city in central Guatemala, known for its verdant landscapes and coffee plantations. It serves as the capital of the Alta Verapaz department and is a gateway to outdoor adventures and indigenous culture.

I recommend to use it as a base while you explore the city and then visit the a local coffee plantation to learn about coffee production and sample some of the world’s finest beans.

guatemala 10-day itinerary Coffee Tour Chicoj cooperative

I visited the Coffee Tour Chicoj cooperative. They give tours in Spanish and English. You don’t need to book it. Once you arrive there, just park and go to the cafe and ask for a tour. If the guide is already on a tour, they will ask you to have a coffee while you wait. The entire place is lovely. However, it’s very hot. 

If you have the time, I also recommend checking out Orquigonia, a private nature reserve just a few minutes south of Coban. The price for one person was 70Q ($9). 

guatemala 10-day itinerary Orquigonia coban

This orchid reserve was started many years ago by the father of the current owner. They have over 700 orchid species there, and depending on when you visit, you might see some of them bloom. 

The best time to visit, when you’ll see the most orchids, is May to June. But I visited in March, and still, there were plenty of orchids. The tour is mainly in Spanish, but if you can understand a little, it’s still worth it, because you’ll get to see so much. 

At the end we got served a green tee and saw a humming bird. The trees are also home to toucans and other birds specific to the area. 

This private property offers tours, and you don’t need to book them in advance. They also have a camping site and a small Volkswagen Beetle, which has now been transformed into a double bed and can be booked for overnight stays. 

Day 6: Semuk Champey

Where to stay? Hotel El Recreo Lanquín-Champey, El Retiro Lanquin

Semuc Champey is a breathtaking natural wonder of Guatemala. 

Known for its stunning series of stepped turquoise pools sitting atop a natural limestone bridge, this serene oasis offers a picturesque landscape of cascading water and lush vegetation. 

The pools are fed by the Cahabón River, which flows underneath the bridge. You can swim in the clear, refreshing waters, hike through the surrounding tropical forest to observe diverse wildlife and flora, or climb to the Mirador viewpoint for a panoramic view of the entire area. 

Semuc Champey’s remote location adds to its tranquil charm, making it a perfect destination for those seeking natural beauty and adventure.

Since the area has become more touristy, more hotels are appearing around Lanquín, the small town before you head to the river. 

I recommend staying in Lanquín since you can get there by car or bus. The road is new and in a perfect state. 

Semuc Champey

How to get to Semuc Champey from Lanquín

From Lanquín, it’s recommended to park your car at your hotel and take one of the shuttles offered by locals. These are normal 4WD pick-up trucks that can carry people also outside in the pick-up. 

Semuc Champey is only 11 km from Lanquín, but the road used to be a dirt road. 

As of March 2024, the price for a trip from Lanquín to Semuc Champey entry is 25 Q ($3.20, one way). 

Don’t worry about booking this transport, as it is more ad hoc. 

Just go to the Estacion De Servicio Puma petrol station (click on the name for Google Maps location) and ask around. Most likely, they will ask you if you want a ride. Note that the locals are more hectic and don’t speak perfect Spanish, but they will not try to trick you. 

The road to Semuc was great for the first 6 km (out of 11 km) in March 2024. But they are still working on it, and will make a proper road right up to the entrance to the park. I think they will officially open the road in less than one year. This will obviously kill the small businesses of locals carrying tourists to Semuc. 

The entrance for Semuc Champey (a national park) costs 50Q ($6.40) for foreigners. The last entry is at 4 PM and you must exit by 5 PM. This was the rule in March 2024. The best view of the swimming pools are from the Mirador, which is a 45-minute walk from the entry, through the jungle. 

Bring sunscreen, bug and mosquito spray, towels, and a swimming suit. 

Day 7: Flores

Where to stay? Casa Alemán, El Remate

After a relaxing day in the jungle, start driving North. 

The aim is to get somewhere around the Peten Itza Lake in North Guatemala. There are many hotels around, but I mentioned Flores as your destination because it’s the largest town around. 

If you want a drive just a little bit more and get closer to Tikal for the next day, I recommend getting to El Remate, which is one of the last villages before entering the mesmerising Tikal National Park. 

The lake is beautiful all around, and if you choose to stay at Casa Alemán, you will have the absolute best view over the lake right from your room. 

It will be a bit rough to get there with your sedan; if you have a car with a higher clearance from the ground, it should be no issue. The last part of the road is dirt road, but you can make it. 

Spend two nights at the same place if you have more time, and book at least three nights so you can relax for the entire day after Tikal. 

Day 8: Tikal

Tikal is one of the largest and most significant archaeological sites of the ancient Maya civilization, located in the rainforests of northern Guatemala. 

tikal national park guatemala 10-day itinerary

This UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses over 3,000 structures, including towering temples, plazas, and palaces, spread across 16 square kilometres. Tikal was a major cultural and political centre from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D.

I recommend buying tickets online here – Entrada al parque (Extranjeros) for 150Q ($19.20)

However, you can just buy your tickets at the entrance. You just stop the car in front of the barrier, get off, and to your right is the palace to buy them. 

As of March 2024, they only accepted cash to pay for the tickets (this was the only place in Guatemala that didn’t accept card payments). That’s why we ended up buying them online; we didn’t have enough cash. 

Either way, it’s better to save some cash, because you may one to buy a map for 25Q ($3.20) or water or snacks in the parks. All in cash. 

Visiting Tikal in Guatemala

I suggest you spend 4-6 hours here. After 6 hours in the jungle, you might feel like you had enough. 

It’s hot, humid and slightly uncomfortable. However, there are toilets where cold beverages (not beer) are sold. 

I strongly recommend buying a map, so that you’ll know your way around. But don’t worry, you can’t get lost, as the pathways are well-marked, and you are always seeing sights towards the next stop or towards the exit. 

There’s also a big map at the entrance which you can take a picture of. 

You’ll see lots of birds, parrots, toucans, coati, howler monkeys and spider monkeys. They also warn you about the jaguars, but I hope you won’t see them. 

In the parking lot, just before the actual entrance, are a few restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels. There’s also a museum which presents some of the excavation process. You can pay with a card at all these places. In the middle is a tourist information point and the staff will gladly help you. 

You will also have plenty of local small shuttles waiting for you at the exit. So if you don’t have a ride back to the villages, you can get on one of those too. Parking at Tikal was free, although there wasn’t a massive parking lot. 

Day 9: Rio Dulce

Where to stay? Nanajuana Río Dulce

Rio Dulce, or ‘Sweet River,’ is a picturesque river in eastern Guatemala that stretches from Lake Izabal to the Caribbean Sea. This area is known for its lush, tropical scenery, rich biodiversity, and unique mix of cultural influences.

Here, you can explore the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara. This is a historic Spanish fort built to combat pirates in the 17th century.

rio dulce guatemala 10-day itinerary

If you love hot springs, visit Finca El Paraíso, which offers a natural thermal bath experience.

If you have the time, I recommend taking a boat tour to admire the famous Bird Island. 

Enjoy the wonderful natural world, as this is my last day in Guatemala. 

Day 10: Guatemala City

For the last day, I recommend you start driving super early, as soon as there’s light outside. So at 6 AM, you should be ready to hit the road. 

I recommend this to make sure you will not stuck in traffic as you’re heading towards Guatemala City, the capital city, and probably towards the airport. 

The thing is that the CA 9 road unites Guatemala City to Puerto Barios, where all the trucks are transporting things. 

Since most of this road only has one lane in each direction, and hundreds of trucks pass on it daily, it can easily become congested. 

Accidents are also common, and it can take hours to clear the road and start moving again. 

Even if Waze (the mobile app recommended for driving in Guatemala) estimates that it will take less than 6 hours to drive from Rio Dulce to La Aurora airport in Guatemala City, it will definitely take longer.

Overall, starting the day early will help you stay out of trouble and get to the capital in time. 

But it also depends on your flight. This works if your flight is in the evening (after 4 PM). If it’s earlier, then adjust your itinerary and instead of spending the night in Rio Dulce the day before, aim to get to Morales (at least). If the time allows, drive even more. 

The time of your flight should influence the itinerary for your last two days spent in Guatemala. 

guatemala 10-day itinerary
Photo in Antigua Guatemala, check my “Top things to do in Antigua Guatemala” to find this spot

10-day itinerary in Guatemala

I hope this schedule and itinerary help you plan your first trip to Guatemala. 

I’m not going to lie; this will be a lot, and it will feel intense, especially if you have never been to a country in Latin America. 

Driving in Guatemala is a whole topic which I will discuss in another blog. If safety, money or transportation is a concern, then read my Guatemala travel guide as well.

As general rules, learn Spanish, be nice and polite, don’t drive in a hurry, and always pay attention to what’s happening around you, and you will absolutely adore your time in Guatemala. 

Oh, and the stories you’ll take with you back home! Enjoy. 

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog,

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