I arrived in Guatemala planning on staying for just under 3 months… I ended up there for 9! It’s an amazing country and I would recommend spending more than a week in Guatemala if you have the time. But If you are on a tight timeline, and only have a week I’ve put together this guide to help you see as much of Guatemala as you can in 1 week.
Before you go any further you need to know that although Guatemala isn’t a huge country the roads aren’t great and the best (fastest and cheapest) way to get around is by minibus, otherwise known as a tourist shuttle. If you are on a real budget you can take a chicken bus (or 10) across the country but if you only have a week I really wouldn’t recommend that as you would likely spend most of your time on a bus! I wrote a guide you can read here to surviving these bus rides!
These tourist shuttle rides are long and uncomfortable, most don’t have AC and the ride can be pretty bumpy. But they get you to where you want to go and they are pretty cheap. During peak season your backpack will be strapped to the roof, in rainy season as they have fewer people generally, you might get lucky and have your backpack in the bus with you. So make sure you travel with a good waterproof cover!
Depending on where you are coming from you can either start in Flores or Guatemala City. If coming from Belize or East Mexico you will start in Flores anywhere else start in Guatemala City and head straight to Lake Atitlan.
Day 1 Tikal
Spend your first day exploring Tikal. I have written a whole post on it here where you can find out everything you need to know.
Day 2 Flores
I didn’t have much time in Flores, but there is plenty to do!
Book yourself on the night bus to Antigua. It will first take you into the city and then you will get a shuttle to Antigua. I would advise you to pay a little extra if you can for a nicer seat. There isn’t much in it and it’s worth the extra. Also, make sure you take warm clothes to wear if you have AC as it will be like a fridge in there! Take a read of my guide on how to survive long bus rides here.
Day 3 and 4 Antigua
I love Antigua and I’m sure you will too! I’ve written a guide to seeing Antigua in 2 days which you can read here. There is plenty to do it will just depend if you want to relax and enjoy some downtime or go on a volcano hiking adventure!
Day 5-7 Lake Atitlan
Book yourself on the first shuttle to Panajachel for the morning of day 5. From Pana, you have a few choices. You could spend the day exploring Pana, they have a great market so if you want to buy any gifts do it here. But it isn’t the nicest place on the lake so my advice would be to take a walk down the main street, have brunch and then take a launch (boat taxi) to San Pedro and use there as your base for the next few days.
I have written a lot on Lake Atitlan which you can read to decide what you want to do while you are there.
Day 7 Take a Shuttle to your next country
Word of caution – don’t be tempted to get a shuttle direct to or from San Pedro or any of the other villages around the lake. Always go to Pana and then take the launch. The roads aren’t great and it will put hours on your journey. The road down to San Pedro is pretty crazy, I’ve taken it twice and that’s enough for me!
Do you have more time? Then check out my 2 weeks, 3 week or 4-week itineraries.