Day 1: Arrival Day in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua
Upon arrival at the La Aurora International airport (located in Guatemala City), you will receive a transfer by taxi or van to the charming colonial town of Antigua, just over an hour outside of the capital. This is the perfect place to be based for a few days after a long flight, as we do not stay in Guatemala City due to safety concerns. However, exploring the old town of Antigua is very safe, and there are plenty of interesting streets and old buildings to enjoy and explore. You will also have the opportunity to change some money into Guatemalan Quetzals, with the exchange rate being $1 USD = 7.5 Q.
Due to the potentially different arrival times, there will not be any planned activities, but if we can meet as a group for dinner on the first night, that would be great! 😃
If you arrive in the afternoon, you will have the opportunity to explore this exceptionally pretty town, or you may wish to rest. There is a local market and the craft market Museo ‘Casa De Tejido’, famous for local textiles. La Antigua art gallery, the ruins of the Old San Francisco church, and the ruins of La Merced and the convent are also worth visiting during your free day of exploring. Additionally, a walk to the Cerro Arco Cruz viewpoint is highly recommended. Most of these things cost very little to see or visit, or nothing at all!
In the evening, you could join an intro Salsa class if you're keen, or if you're tired, you can just enjoy a few local cocktails in one of the many local establishments in the downtown.
Overnight Accommodation in Antigua :
- 3*** Las Marias (shared rooms of 2 or 3 maximum), breakfast included
- 4**** Las Farolas (same price)
Both options are classified as sustainable properties and feature typical colonial house with patio courtyards and gardens. The cost of a single room is an additional $30 USD.
Day 2: Full Day in Antigua: Short City Tour and Surroundings
After breakfast, you will be met by a local English-speaking guide. Our 2-hour walking tour of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will bring you past all of the breathtaking landmarks that make Antigua famous. During the tour, we will discuss Antigua's history, interesting facts about Guatemala, details of Mayan culture, and what makes all of the beautiful sites here in Antigua so important.
The following sites will be visited/discussed during the tour:
- La Merced Church
- Santa Catalina Arch
- Central Park
- City Hall
- The Captain General's Palace
- Santiago Cathedral Ruins
- Tanque Union Park
- San Francisco Church
You will also hear about some of the hotspots in town that serve the best food and drinks and will be provided with tips and suggestions for other excursions to do while in Guatemala.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can join a sunset trek on the nearby Volcano of Pucaya, which shouldn't take more than 4 hours. The hike leaves around 2 pm and returns by 7 pm, with a total of 3-4 hours. Horses can be hired as an option, with the cost ranging from $30-35 per person, depending on numbers.
Overnight Accommodation in Antigua : 3*** LAS MARIAS (shared rooms of 2 maximum)
Single room additional $30 USD
Day 3: Transfer to Lake Atitlan (Mayan Village of San Juan De Laguna)
After breakfast, we hit the road for a 3-hour drive to Lake Atitlan, where we will continue to the village of San Juan De Laguna. In the afternoon, we have the opportunity to explore the different artisanal workshops in the village, including how they produce medicinal plants, textiles, coffee, and cacao. This is a chance to delve into the local culture! 😃
Around 4 PM, we will go on a short walk to the rural countryside where we will participate in an ancient Mayan tradition of tree planting. The Mayan tree-planting ceremony is a way of giving back to the land and seeking blessings from Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). They believe that all living things, including birds, animals, insects, and trees, must be in harmony, and tree planting helps to restore this harmony with nature.
During the ceremony, candles or effigies are burned to connect the land to the gods of the skies and mountains. This is done in partnership with local farmers as a sign of respect for the land. It is something we should all do everywhere on our planet! 🌍🌳
Each person (or couple) will receive a baby tree to plant wherever they choose. It's a unique opportunity to leave your mark on the world! 💚
Overnight Eco-lodge Maya-Chik
Single room additional $25 USD
Day 4: Morning Hike to Indian Nose for Sunrise on the Lake
We start the day with a pre-breakfast hike to Indian Nose for a sunrise over the lake and its 3 volcanoes. The 2-hour trek is worth the early start, and sunrise is at 6.30 AM, so we should aim to start no later than 4.30 AM. You'll be rewarded with stunning views of the lake and its 3 volcanoes! 😍
In the late morning, we will take a boat trip across Lake Atitlan to visit several villages, including the colorful town of Santa Catarina Palopo, where we will visit a local workshop-museum. We'll end the day in Panajachel for lunch and then return to Antigua in the late afternoon. 🛥
The 3-hour trip back to Antigua in the late afternoon means we have less travel to do the next day. 🚗💨
Day 5: Travel day - Transfer to Rio Dulce
Once we have finished our breakfast, we will transfer to Rio Dulce (around 6 hours) with a stop for lunch along the way 🍴. On the way, you'll get a great insight into the rural way of life in Guatemala 🇬🇹. Our mode of transport will be a private van, which is typical for most of the trip 🚐.
When we arrive in Rio Dulce, we will take a 5-minute boat-shuttle or water taxi across the water to the cabin-style accommodation 🛥️.
Rio Dulce (also known as Fronteras) is a town built at the intersection of the Rio Dulce river that leads to the Caribbean Sea and Lake Izabal on the other side of the bridge 🌊.
Overnight at Tijax, Eco-Hacienda, Rio Dulce.
Day 6: Morning activities in Rio Dulce
We have a relaxed morning to enjoy our surroundings at Lake Izabel/the beginning of Rio Dulce. If you'd like, you can go for a sunrise kayak to the nearby Mangroves and spot Howler monkeys roaming in the trees 🐒 (30 minutes to get there by kayak and 20 minutes back due to the currents).
At around 9.30 am, we'll take a private motor boat to cruise along the river, hoping to spot a variety of bird-life such as herons, pelicans, and cormorants as we pass by Mangroves and water lilies 🐦.
We will then visit a Maya communities project located alongside the river. First, we'll receive a welcome reception by the community with traditional Marimba music 🎶, followed by some walks on nearby trails where we'll visit the ceremonial site and Educative center of the Ak'Tenemet community. Here, we'll learn about the background of the rural community tourism project, a non-profit focused on sustainability, preservation of Mayan traditions, literacy and numeracy, and much more. Our visit helps fund their education and has a positive social impact. We'll also learn how to cook traditional food and make tortillas at a gastronomy workshop and be greeted by local dancers (some of the students).
Finally, we'll try the local lunch, Pescado Pachay 🍽️.
We'll then arrive at the Garifuna fishing town of Livingston, a mix of different cultures including Afro-Caribbean 🌴.
Livingston has laundry facilities, so we'll have our clothes washed one of the two days we're here.
Overnight at Hotel Casa Rosada.
Day 7: Day Trip to Beach and Iconic Rock Pools
🚣♀️Join us on a day trip by boat along the Caribbean coast! We'll start by visiting the famous "Cascades," a series of over a half-dozen swimming pools known as the "7 alters."
🏖️Next up is Playa Blanca, widely considered one of the best beaches on the Caribbean side of Guatemala. From here, you'll get stunning views of the coast-line of Belize! Feel free to bring your lunch and enjoy a day of playing volleyball, swimming, or simply swinging in the sun.
💃After a day of fun and relaxation, we'll return to Livingston for another night. And for those interested, don't miss the chance to see some traditional Garifuna dancing and drumming.
Overnight: Casa Rosada, Livingston
Day 8 - Travel Day: Guatemala-Honduras Border Crossing, Continue to Pico Bonito Reserve
🛣️ Get your passport ready, as we embark on one of the longest travel days of the trip!
Our local driver in Honduras (Daniel) has comfortable vans (for 15 people) for all of our private journeys on the West side of Honduras. In the morning, we'll cross to the port of Puerto Barrios in around 30 minutes, and then it's a 1-hour drive to the border and a further 5 hours to La Ceiba town. Finally, we'll enter the beautiful Pico Bonito Park and National Reserve and arrive at our stunning Ecolodge around 3:30 PM.
🌳At the Ecolodge, we'll have 2 full days to discover all the amazing activities the park has to offer.
Day 9: Cayo Cochinas Beach Islands and Garifuna Fisherman Communities Excursion
Join us for a full day excursion to the stunning Cayo Cochinas beach islands and Garifuna fisherman communities. This archipelago consists of 16 reef islands and 2 volcanic islands, providing a unique opportunity to explore and discover the beauty of this natural marine monument.
Note: This is a suggested itinerary, timings and descriptions are there to give an idea only.
The tour to Cayos Cochinos begins departing from La Ceiba to the Sambo Creek Tourist Center in the Garífuna community of Sambo Creek (distance 20 km from La Ceiba).
Boarding duly equipped boats with 2 engines, hoods for sun protection, seats with backrests. Captains and certified guides will direct us to Cayos Cochinos.
During the boat trip we make our first stop at Cayo Bolaños, a fishing station, here you can enjoy the palm trees, white sand beaches and bathe in crystal clear turquoise waters around this key. Here we begin by seeing some of the 69 species of birds that live there, of which 14 are residents and 55 are migratory, including pelicans and the magnificent frigate-bird.
We continue with our tour where we can see the solitary tree that is found in Cayo Menor where the Scientific Station is located. There we offer a brief talk and an informative video about the natural marine monument of Cayos Cochinos and we can enjoy the presence of the endemic black jamos of the area, of which there are about 1,400 specimens.
We go around Cayo Menor until we reach Cayo Mayor where we find some spectacular beaches. Here we can snorkel, being able to observe some of the 226 species of fish between diurnal and nocturnal and 128 species of coral being one of the most diverse places in species in the world. Then our adventure begins on a walk along a path in search of the Boa Rosada endemic species of Cayos Cochinos, of which we have about 1,500 specimens. With luck, we can see some of the 11 registered mammals and 22 species of reptiles, as well as enjoy its varied vegetation.
We sail past Cayo Chachahuate 2 to make our stop at Cayo Chachahuate 1. According to history, this key is where the Garífuna ethnic group has settled since 1965. This community offers us its gastronomy, accommodation, handicrafts, Garífuna dances (with prior request and additional cost).
Note: In order to support the Garífuna community, you can eat a delicious lunch by paying directly to them for lunches from around L. 200.00 ($10 USD). After enjoying their gastronomy, you can take a walking tour among the houses of the Garífuna inhabitants and interact with their culture.
Departure back to the Sambo Creek Tourist Center.
Tour ends back at Sambo Creek + a 45-minute transfer back to the Omega Ecolodge.
Day 10 - Optional Excursions with Pico Bonito National Park and Reserve
Today, we offer you the opportunity to explore the stunning natural beauty of Pico Bonito National Park and Reserve with a variety of optional excursions. 🌳 You can choose to go trekking to a waterfall, take a rafting or kayaking trip along the Rio Cangrejal, or visit the nearby villages. The amount you want to explore nature and adventure in this jungle forest is up to you!
Overnight stay at Omega Ecolodge
Day 11 - Travel Day: Transfer by Road to Copan
We have another exciting day ahead of us as we embark on a 7.5-hour drive to Copan. We will leave after an early breakfast, so we can arrive by early afternoon (around 2pm) and enjoy a visit to the ruins of Copan from 3-5pm. 🌅 During the visit, you can witness the magnificent Stelae (towering sculpted statues) and a UNESCO world heritage site. The cost for entry is included, but tour guides can be hired at the entrance if desired.
Overnight stay at the eco-sustainable hotel, Mary 3*+
Day 12 - Free Day in Copan
Today, we offer various options for you to choose from and explore the beautiful city of Copan at your leisure. 🚶 You can visit the “Macaw Mountain Eco-reserve” to see the birdlife radiant with Scarlet Macaws, a bird ‘rehabilitation and release’ center (entry fee: $10 USD). You can also opt for horse-riding trips (prices depending on numbers), visit the Mayan village of ‘La Pintada’, or explore local walks along the river and to the mysterious ‘los sapos’ site - ancient rocks carved into frogs. Another option is to visit the Mayan Sculpture museum.
Take your pick of things to do or just relax and unwind in Copan.
In the evening, we recommend visiting the Luna Jaguar hot-springs and SPA, where you can enjoy a wellness center that has been developed under a concept of Mayan spirituality. 🌟 You can experience the sacred rituals of the Mayan rulers of Copan, take a tour of trails in the middle of the forest, and be in direct contact with the natural elements of the site, taking advantage of the therapeutic benefits of mineral thermal waters. The service philosophy is: Whoever makes the journey will no longer be the same person, will be reborn as a new person.
Overnight stay at 3+*** Mary, Copan
Day 13 - Transfer to the Border, Continue to Guatemala City/Airport
In the morning, we will head to the border (30 minutes) and continue for 4.5 hours to Guatemala City. For those with an evening flight, you can continue home. For those who need more time or an early morning connection, we recommend taking a hotel near the airport at an additional cost.
Before our departure, we can return for lunch in town and decide on the best plan for the day.