Step 1: Antigua
Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala and the favorite compared to Guatemala City. Moreover, if you arrive at Guatemala City airport, there are many shuttles all day to go directly to Antigua.
Antigua kept its colonial style with the colorful houses, the paved streets and the magnificent buildings. Between the churches, the main square and the Cerro del Cruz which offers a viewpoint on the city, you have enough to see for an entire day.
Outside of Antigua, there is the famous volcano El Fuego. Its particularity comes from the fact that it’s always erupted. If you book a tour, you can climb at the top of the volcano next to it (Acatenango) and watch the eruption during the night. This experience is one of the craziest things I’ve done in Guatemala and even during my travels.
In Antigua, I chose the hostel Big Foot hostel. It is in the city center and has all the facilities you need: mix or female dorms, kitchen, breakfast in option, etc. The hostel even offers tours or shuttle if you are interested. To sum up, I recommend it.
Step 2: Atitlan Lake
Atitlan Lake is the perfect place for outdoor activities, party, or just relax. Everybody will find something interesting!
San Pedro is THE city to party. Almost all hostels are party hostel with a bar to party every night. It is also here that you will find all the tourists and many travel agencies to organize the activities possible in Atitlan lake. If you’re looking for more authenticity and calm, I advise you to go to the village next to it, San Juan.
San Marcos is a small village at 10 min by boat from San Pedro. It is famous to be more calm and “hippy”. In fact, it is the main attraction: yoga class, meditation, astral travel, etc.
Santiago is one of the biggest villages of the Atitlan Lake. You mostly go there for the market and the souvenir shop. If you look for a traditional cloth or an original souvenir, you will find it here.
About the activities, there are many things to do. First, you can visit the villages around the lake. There are all different but mostly, pay attention to the traditional clothes of the women, they change from one village to another.
For me, the activity you have to do is the sunrise on Atitlan Lake. All the agencies offer this tour. You have to meet at 4.00am (yeah, it’s so early I know) then you walk around 30min to get to the top of a mountain. This mountain is called “Indian Nose” because of its shape. Then, you just enjoy the sun rising on the lake. It’s beautiful.
To visit Atitlan Lake, I decided to stay at the Fe hostel. It is a party hostel in San Pedro and it is very close to the city center. But the thing I loved the most is the bar with the view of the lake. It is also in the bar that you eat your breakfast with the perfect view. Another positive thing is that the 4th night is offered and it’s perfect if you wanna stay a long time here!
Step 3: Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey may be one of the most famous and visited place in Guatemala. These natural swimming pools in the middle of the jungle look like paradise and if you saw pictures of these, you just want to go there! Yet, to get there it’s a little complicated… There is no direct road except if you choose a travel agency. Personally, I choose local transportation and I will tell you how I did it.
I left from Xela (but the bus went through Chichicastenango if you’re here). From there, I took a bus to go to Santa Cruz Del Quiche (also called Quiche) at 8 am and arrived at 10.30am. Then, you have to change for another bus until Uspantan (left at 10.50am and arrived at 1.30pm) and change again until Coban (departure at 2.10pm, arrival at 5.30pm). I spent a night in Coban because the journey was already long and exhausting for me. But the next morning I took a bus to Lanquin (it lasted 2h30) and finally a trunk until Semuc Champey (45min)! What an adventure! This positive side is that with local transportation, the cost was dived by two compared to the prices of travel agencies. Moreover, the duration is more or less the same because the roads are bad for every bus…
Once you arrived, if you decide to visit Semuc Champey by yourself, I advise you to come early in the morning to enjoy the place. The groups who choose to visit with a travel agency arrive around 1 pm. So you will have the morning to enjoy the site almost alone and climb until the mirador quietly.
Step 4: Flores
Flores is a small city next to San Benito. It is more famous than San Benito because this city is an island itself. But the reason you want to go the Flores is Tikal. This is where you can find tours and transfers for the most famous archaeological site in Guatemala. If you have enough budget, I recommend you to visit Tikal during the sunset. You will have a view of the site from the top of a pyramid. Moreover, the sky is clearer the evening than the morning, so you have more chances to enjoy the view.
The second Maya site I saw is Yaxha. I loved this site because on the contrary to Tikal, this one is not very touristic. So you can visit it and be almost alone during the visit! Perfect, isn’t? To get to Yaxha, you leave from Flores too but this time you have to take a travel agency.
Where to eat?
There are many nice places to eat cheap local food in Guatemala. And the best way to try them is street food or the markets! But I also have some restaurants I can advise you.
Antigua: Cafe cooperacion Española: It’s not really a restaurant, more a cafe, but you can also eat there. The place is really nice because you are outside, between ruins and a garden. I went there many times just to chill or read book because it’s such a peaceful place.
Flores: Maracuya In a small and touristic city like Flores, you find tons of restaurants. You can just choose the one you prefer according to your budget or your mood. But my favorite one was this one. The food is excellent and it’s a small familial restaurant.
Guatemala is a country that fits with small budgets. You can save money easily by taking local transportation or eating in street food, etc. And for the accommodation, it is the same you can find cheap and expensive one. Thus, it was easy for me to stay below my budget even if I made some activities or tours.
Aim budget : 260 Quetzales/day/per (~31€/day/pers. in September 2019)
Real Budget : 170 Quetzales/day/pers. (~20€/day/pers. In September 2019)
This is it for my 3 weeks in Guatemala! This country is beautiful and it’s very easy to travel there! About the security, Guatemala is one of the safest countries I’ve ever traveled. Locals are very kind and curious if you talk to them. They always want to help when they can. So it’s perfect to travel and you can enjoy Guatemala 100%!