Guatemala do it yourself, you can do it! 15 day itinerary

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Aina Martin

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Despite not being one of the easiest countries I have visited on a trip to Guatemala do it yourself it's really doable for anyone, just pay a little attention and listen to advice that the locals have to give.

During our trip to Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, we decided to dedicate an itinerary of about 15 days to this genuine country, even if in hindsight I would have dedicated a couple more to it since there are places that I would have liked to visit but for which we did not have enough time.

After all, when you travel do-it-yourself it is not always easy to understand through the internet or reading blogs how much time a place really deserves, or how much time is wasted in endless transports, in the nerve-wracking search for the right bus, in unexpected events and long waits.

Market, Guatemala

Sometimes you think you can do two or three things in one day and then you end up being able to do one badly and then any program skips.

If then instead of being careful planners are also improvisers, this time variable becomes decidedly indecipherable and in the end one is, like it or not, forced to give up something.

Other times, however, you do not understand exactly what a place is able to give us until you put your feet in it and here the two days that you thought to spend there become even 4 or 5.

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After all, when you arrive in a place and you are literally with your mouth open with amazement, it is good and right to give it the time it deserves.

In any case this is mine itinerary in Guatemala of (approximately) 15 days, since we entered Guatemala from Mexico by walking across the border to Talisman, when we came out on the opposite side to give ourselves a few days of well-deserved rest in the serene and peaceful island of Caye Caulker, in Belize.

Maybe you might also like: What to see in Guatemala

Days 1 and 2: from Mexico to Lake Atitlan

Getting from Mexico to Guatemala passing through the frontier of TalismĂ n takes more time than expected. Crossing the border on foot is quite simple, customs formalities are dealt with in a few minutes (you pay and stamp your passport) and walk a bit of road attacked by nagging bagherini who try to exchange money at a rather favorable exchange rate. , for them clearly.

Tip: the bagherini are there even before the border but the best change is obtained once you arrive in Guatemala: just resist a few hundred meters.

From the border there is no public transport, the only solution is to take a taxi to a small town and from there jump on the first departing chicken bus.

Since in Guatemala you don't travel at night (or at least it would be better not to) we stop to sleep in San Marcos (not to be confused with the one on Lake Atitlan), where we find as the only accommodation a very spartan room with no bathroom inside. of a garage. After all we paid $ 4 is not that we could expect so much more, eh.

Lago Atitlan

The following day we leave early in the morning: to get to Atitlan the road is long and you have to change chicken buses even more than once. Finally after so many hours, so many taxes and so much fear after we arrive at Panajachel where we take the public boat which takes up to San Pedro La Laguna. We look for a hotel (impossible not to find a place to sleep, San Pedro is the backpackers mecca in Guatemala) and we still have time to walk around and look for the spanish school and the excursion on the Indian’s Nose for the following days.

Days 3, 4 and 5: Lake Atitlan and excursions

We took advantage of these days to rest and for study Spanish in one of the many schools on Lake Atitlan. There are courses for all tastes and all levels, for those who spend a couple of days on the lake, or for those who stay for several months also staying with local families.

Maybe you might like it my guide to Lake Atitlan!

We stopped for a few days and while we were studying Spanish in the morning, in the afternoon we took the opportunity to go on excursions to neighboring countries such as Santiago e San Marco la Laguna. From Lake Atitlan there are also trails for various trekking on the surrounding volcanoes. Lake Atitlan is still one of those places you would never leave.

Day 6: Chichicastenango

Day dedicated to the purchase of souvenirs in the market of Chichicastenango held twice a week. Despite being one of the most touristic opportunities that can be found in Guatemala, the market is a great opportunity to buy handicrafts at very affordable prices, as well as being very interesting.

I want to make a recommendation. I have seen tourists bargain until they drop off discounts of one euro on the fabrics that women carry around to sell at the market. Bargaining is a good thing, but there are ethical limits that should not be exceeded. In Guatemala, women still work the fabrics on the loom and spend whole nights there: when they meet tourists in order to sell, they are sometimes forced to drop below the real value of the goods, losing out. For us, bargaining a dollar is a game, but for them it is the job with which they support the family. Remember when you bargain that you are not just buying a piece of embroidered fabric: you are buying a piece of hand-embroidered fabric that in addition to being the result of hard work is also the result of hundreds of years of traditions passed from hand to hand from mother in daughter.

Chichicastenango market

Day 7: Atitlan to Antigua

Moving day. In Guatemala, whether you take the chicken buses or the shuttles for tourists, travel takes a lot of time. When traveling, it is better not to plan anything for the same day. Once in Antigua we still had time to look for the hostel, to do a little inspection tour and to look for the excursions for the following days.

Days 8 and 9: trekking on the Acatenango

Fuego seen from the top of the Acatenango

Two days of very tiring trekking with overnight stay in a tent on the slopes of theAcatenango one of the active volcanoes of Guatemala. In front of us, Fuego in all its strength put on a show all night with a series of eruptions of incandescent lapilli. The fireworks of nature. Beautiful experience that I recommend everyone to do (but the climb is hard eh)

Day 10: Excursion to the Pacaya

Half day excursion on the Vulcano Pacaya. Nothing to do with the one on the Acatenango, but in any case if you want to see a volcano and maybe cook marshmallows in the heat of the lava, the excursion is nice and not too tiring.

Day 11: Antigua

After the crazy excursions of the past few days, we enjoy some well-deserved rest and dedicate ourselves to visit of the town of Antigua which is truly a gem. Antigua is very prepared to welcome tourists: hotels and restaurants of all kinds, souvenir shops (beautiful jade jewels), entertainment and evening shows. In short, the mecca for tourists.

Day 12 Antigua Coban Lanquin

Another day of travel. From Antigua to get to Lanquin (and from there on to Semuc Champey) it takes practically all day. You arrive in Lanquin in the evening, after a stop for lunch at CobĂĄn (in CobĂĄn there is also an ATM, in Lanquin there are none so if you don't have a lot of money it's better to pick up here if you don't want to be without). From Antigua to Lanquin it is better to take the shuttle, with chicken buses it would be impossible to do it in just one day.

Day 13 Semuc Champey

The pools of Semuc Champey

From Lanquin you get badly loaded into the back of a pickup to get to Semuc Champey. But the day is not one that is easily forgotten: between caves in which to crawl in the dark, dives in jade-colored pools, waterfalls and forest, Semuc campey is one of those places not to be missed.

Day 14: From Semuc Champey to Rio Dulce

From Semuc Champey to Rio Dulce by shuttle it takes about 5 hours of dirt road and hops that make your soul splash away. Upon arrival in the town of Rio Dulce (which is ugly) you take a boat and go to one of the many hostels on the river. The rest of the day we spent in the hotel resting.

Day 15: Rio dulce and Livingston

Day dedicated to descent by boat from Rio Dulce to Livingston cheerful fishing village famous for the Garafuna culture. Nice day and nice trip.

sweet River

Day 16: Finca Paraiso and arrival in Flores

Since the public bus to Flores leaves around one in the afternoon and takes about three and a half hours, in the morning we decide to go and visit a waterfall which is about forty minutes by bus from Rio Dulce and famous because of hot thermal water. The driver is asked to get off at the Finca Paraiso and the waterfall is reached after a few minutes of walking in the woods: when we arrive, the waterfall is over-crowded with locals with cackling children who spoil all the magic. We don't even want to take a bath. I take some photos as a souvenir and let's go back immediately.

We return to Rio Dulce early enough so we sit in a small restaurant on the river and have lunch.

Towards mid-afternoon we arrive at Flores just in time to find a small hotel before dark. In Flores there is not much to see, it is usually used as a base forexcursion to Tikal. Some travelers have told me that in any case to visit Tikal it is best to stop at The Remate which is much prettier and quieter (and closer).

Day 17: Flores and Tikal


The excursion to Tikal that we contract with the agency is the one that leaves at 3 in the morning to arrive in time to see the sunrise from the top of a temple above the forest and the Mayan site. Too bad we will see absolutely nothing because the fog (present most of the times) is cut with the knife. However, the archaeological site is among the most beautiful I have seen in my entire trip, including Mexico. We return to Flores in time to go and buy the bus ticket to Belize and to take another tour of the town, or to buy the last souvenirs (although in hindsight I recommend buying everything in Chichicastenango and Antigua which have shops and objects a thousand times more beautiful)

This was the itinerary of our trip to Guatemala do it yourself and while it wasn't exactly 15 days, it's still possible to cut something, like staying one day less in Antigua and one less day on Lake Atitlan. If you are not interested in excursions on volcanoes, but you want to stop in Antigua for just a couple of days, my advice is to try to visit the Ixil's triangle.

We came from Mexico so we couldn't do otherwise, but the perfect 15-day itinerary for Guatemala would be turning in the opposite direction to ours and that is:

Guatemala City - Antigua - Lake Atitlan - Ixil tringle- Semuc Champey - Rio Dulce Livingston -Flores and Tikal- to then return to Guatemala City (perhaps by plane, there are internal flights connecting flores to Guatemala City) for the return flight.

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