Main Claire's Itchy Feet logo

Backpacking In Guatemala The Ultimate Guatemala Itinerary

Looking for a 4 week Guatemala itinerary?  1 month in Guatemala is the perfect time to see the highlights of this beautiful country.  If you have the time I would recommend spending a bit longer in Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

I planned on staying in Guatemala for 3 months and I ended up staying for 9 months and still didn’t see everything. So, here is my 4-week Guatemala itinerary.

ps. Before planning any Guatemala travel take a read of this guide to Guatemala

The Ultimate Guatemala Itinerary

  • Flores/ Tikal Ruins (2 nights)
  • Rio Dulce (2 nights)
  • Semuc Champey (3 nights)
  • Antigua (8 nights) – including an overnight hike to Acatenango
  • El Paradon (2 nights)
  • Antigua (1 night)
  • Lake Atitlan (5 nights)
  • Xela (2 nights)
  • Huehuetenango (4 nights)

This Guatemala Itinerary is just a guide. Personally, I would try and keep some flexibility in your schedule as you may prefer to spend less time in Antigua and more time at the Lake. You may also decide to skip Xela (I did) and go directly to Huehue.

Continue reading for some tips and advice to help you plan for each leg of this Guatemala itinerary.

Entering Guatemala

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. You can also fly from Guatemala City to Flores if you really want to save time and have the money.

Guatemala itinerary

Day 1 Backpacking Guatemala – Pay a Visit to Tikal Ruins

On the first day of your Guatemala itinerary spend it exploring Tikal. I have written a whole post on it here where you can find out everything you need to know. If you want to do a sunset or sunrise tour you will need to book and pay in advance.

I would recommend taking the evening tour as you have a better chance of seeing the sunset. It is often very misty in the mornings plus you will need to book the day before for the morning tour and you can only book in the banks. So this could be an issue if you arrive late.

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Day 2 – Chill and explore Flores

I didn’t have much time in Flores, but there is plenty to do. From Kayaking to cooking you will find plenty of tours online to book through or you can call into Los Amigos where they have a big notice board as well as a tour office.

Need accommodation in Flores?

If you decide to stay in Tikal itself I recommend the Jungle Lodge or Tikal Inn

Day 3 – Travel from Tikal to Rio Dulce

You will easily be able to book yourself on a tourist shuttle from any of the hotels or hostels in Flores to take you to the Rio Dulce. Or once again you can book with GuateGo.

Need accommodation for Rio Dulce? Check here.

Day 4 and 5 Explore the Rio Dulce 

You are going to need 2 days minimum of your Guatemalan itinerary to really explore Rio Dulce. Sadly I never made it there but you can read all about Wanderlust Chloe’s time there here.

Day 6 Travel to Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey. There is no easy or nice, way to get to Semuc Champey. It is deep in the jungle and the roads only allow for the small minibusses to get down. 

When you arrive in Lanquin you will be greeted by a sea of men shouting hotels to you. Most people stay at Zephyr lodge if you want somewhere a bit more lively. There are lots of great options though. All of the local hostels run a free shuttle service though so I would have an idea of where you want to stay before you get there. Then listen out for them shouting the name and get a ride. If you do want to stay at Zephyr though you should book in advance if you can as it does get booked up in peak season.

Need accommodation for Semuc Champey? Check here.

Day 7 Semuc Champey Tour

Getting to Semuc Champey isn’t easy. But it is so worth it! I don’t always advocate for taking organized tours but this one is one I would always advocate for. If you don’t take the tour you won’t be able to access a lot of the places there like the caves. So spend your day in Semuc doing the tour. You can read all about my experience and advice for booking here.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

Day 8 chill at Zephyr (or wherever you stay)

I really wish I’d had a spare day in Lanquin to relax. The bus rides in and out of Semuc aren’t pleasant and having an extra day would have been so nice. It really is a beautiful place and the accommodations there are really nice. I could have happily spent a day just swimming in the river and pool and drinking coconut water. If you have the time take this day to chill or return to Semuc Champey on your own to take more time in the pools.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

Day 9-15 – Travel from Semuc Champey to Antigua

I’m afraid it’s no better leaving Semuc Champey as it is arriving! You can book a shuttle at the place where you are staying, they are all pretty much the same price and normally leave at 8 am. Read more about it here.

There are 3 places I recommend Selina or Yellow House Hostel if you are looking for a hostel. For hotels, I recommend Hotel Mesón de María, Barbara’s Boutique Hostel, or Hotel Paseo de la Merced.

Once you arrive in Antigua you will be shattered. Backpacking Guatemala can be exhausting because the travel isn’t particularly comfortable. So take a shower, go in search of food and then get an early night. I love Antigua and I’m sure you will too! I’ve written a guide to seeing Antigua in 4 days which you can read here or if you are there over the weekend I’ve written a guide to spending the weekend in Antigua you can read here. There is plenty to do it will just depend on if you want to relax and enjoy some downtime or go on a volcano hiking adventure!

See my ultimate Guatemala Itinerary on my amazon!

How to spend a day in Antigua Guatemala

Day 16-17 take a trip to El Paradon from Antigua

El Paradon is the closest beach to Antigua and only takes a few hours to get to. It has great surf, food and some of the nicest accommodation I’ve stayed in here in Guatemala. Take a read of my guide here. There is only one bus each way every day. You will leave Antigua at 9 am and the shuttle then returns at 1 pm from El Paradon. So if you can squeeze an extra day in then spend an extra day chilling here. Wifi is non-existent so be prepared to go offline for a day or two!

Need accommodation in El Paradon? Check here.

Guatemala itinerary
El Paradon

You will need to return to Antigua to take a shuttle to Lake Atitlan your next destination.

Book yourself on the first shuttle to Panajachel for the morning of day 18 from Antigua. 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 to stay 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 then work your way back to Panajachel over your 5 days.

Guatemala Guides | Guatemala Backpacking Itinerary | How to see Guatemala in 4 weeks

As you have a little time at the lake I would recommend hiking Volcan San Pedro and going to ChiChi market. I have written a lot on Lake Atitlan including how to get to Chichicastenango market which you can read. This will help you to decide what you want to do while you are there.

Day 23 – 25 – Xela

On the morning of day 23 take a shuttle from Panajachel to Xela. It should only take you a few hours and you can easily book a shuttle or take a chicken bus. I didn’t visit Xela but if you do go be sure to do some Trekking and visit the Hot springs. You can read more about all of the things to do in Xela here.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Xela? Check here.

Day 26-28 – Huehuetenango

You may not find Huehuetenango on many Guatemala itineraries, that’s because it can be a little complicated to get to. You can only take the bus so far and then you need a 4×4 driver! It’s somewhere I’m planning to explore and when I do I’ll write up a full guide. But you can learn more about Huehue here.

Want to visit Huehuetenango with me? I’m going to be learning a brand new group trip to some off-the-beaten-path places in Guatemala this year in partnership with Heart of Travel. If you want to learn more about these trips you can fill out the form below and I’ll let you know when we have the dates and itineraries fixed.

Day 29 Return to either Lake Atitlan or Antigua

As you will have visited both you will I’m sure to have a preference as to where you would like a few more days! It’s easy to leave Guatemala from either Panajachel or Antigua as they both have daily buses that will take you to neighboring countries. Antigua is a little bit easier and it’s closer to Guatemala City if you are flying out.

Guatemala Guides | Guatemala Backpacking Itinerary | How to see Guatemala in 4 weeks

Day 30 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!

Guatemala itinerary – General information for traveling in Guatemala

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! 

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do
The public bus to Tikal

These tourist shuttle rides are long and uncomfortable, most don’t have AC. But they get you to where you want to go and they are cheap. During the peak season, your backpack will be strapped to the roof, in the rainy season as they have fewer people generally, you might get lucky and have your backpack in the bus with you. Make sure you travel with a good waterproof cover!

For more top tips take a read of my guide to bus travel in Central America here

For all of your transport needs in Guatemala, the only website that you can book shuttles, buses, tours and Spanish classes is GuateGo


Final Thoughts

I really hope you love backpacking Guatemala as much as I did (still do). If you don’t have 4 weeks then I have also put together 1 week, 2 weeks and 3-week itineraries. Have a wonderful time traveling in Guatemala and make sure you let me know all about your adventures!

See my ultimate Guatemala Itinerary on my amazon!

If you like this Backpacking In Guatemala The Ultimate Guatemala Itinerary, save it in your Stipple trip planner where you will find destinations, things to do, and accommodation all in one place without juggling between several apps.

Guatemala Itinerary

4 week Guatemala Itinerary

Chloe Gunning

Thursday 12th of October 2017

Thanks for including me in your post! I loved Guatemala - one of my fave countries on that trip!

Claire Summers

Sunday 15th of October 2017

My pleasure! Me too, I was so sad to leave!