Belize, Guatemala

Two weeks in Guatemala: the ultimate Belize and Guatemala itinerary

Two weeks in Guatemala is just perfect to explore its volcanoes, Maya cities, colonial villages, hippie villages, historic ruins, blue lakes and lush jungle. Guatemala is a one-of-a-kind bucketlist destination. Two – or maybe even three weeks – will give you enough time to explore this magical country and even include some of the best Caribbean beaches in Belize.

This blog will give you the perfect travel itinerary for two weeks in Guatemala, including both well-known highlights and more off-the-beaten-track destinations. Continue reading to learn about the ultimate Belize and Guatemala itinerary!

Acatenango Fuego Vulcano | Old Town Outfitters | Guatemala
Maya site Yaxha | El Sombrero Ecolodge | Guatemala |
Boatique | Rio Dulce TheOrangeBackpack
Acatenango Fuego Vulcano | Old Town Outfitters | Guatemala

How much travel time do you need for Guatemala?

You can explore Guatemala in one week. We spoke with travelers who travel throughout South and Central America in six months, while only visiting Guatemala for a week.

A week will give you enough time to explore the famous Mayan temples in Tikal, Lake Atitlan and Antigua, which are the three best places to visit in Guatemala. But Guatemala has much more to offer and if you’re traveling for three or two weeks in Guatemala, you can see more sides of this versatile country.

When planning, it is important to realize how close and how far apart the destinations in Guatemala are. The destinations in the southwest of the country are close together, so you can easily travel between them without spending a lot of time on travel days. But the famous Mayan site Tikal is in the far north of the country, so it takes quite some time to get there from other Guatemala destinations.

In addition, we highly recommend completing your Guatemala trip with some relaxing beach days. The relatively small neighboring country of Belize is easy to combine with Guatemala and has beautiful Caribbean beaches and islands. If you want to add some days in Belize to your itinerary, we recommend that you set aside at least three weeks for your Guatemala trip.

Maya site Yaxha | El Sombrero Ecolodge | Guatemala |
Antigua Guatemala | The Orange Backpack
Antigua Guatemala

How to travel around Guatemala

Guatemala has many forms of transportation for travelers. For the longer distances, we recommend the comfortable tour buses. For smaller distances you have the choice between taxis, minibuses, Uber and the local chicken bus.

A rental car is an option as well and we personally always love the freedom of having our own car. But Guatemala has so many great and affordable options for public transport, we actually never heard of someone choosing a rental car for their Guatemala trip.

We combined all types of transport to get around in Guatemala. We especially loved using the Uber. We noticed that a private ride with an Uber is not expensive at all in Guatemala. For three or more people it can even be cheaper for some journeys than other forms of public transport and much cheaper than a taxi. If you don’t have an Uber account yet, you can easily register via our link and receive a discount on your first ride.

We also traveled with minibuses for tourists. You can find them in all tourist destinations and they usually take you directly from A to B. The chicken bus, on the other hand, is less comfortable and easy, but it is cheaper and it offers a much more authentic way of getting around. These buses are a great option for short distances, as they travel very slowly and you often have to change buses several times for longer distances.

Read more: do you want to know more about the costs of transport in Guatemala? And of volcano bikes, Maya temples, places to stayand food? We wrote this blog about the cost of traveling in Guatemala.

Chicken bus | Quetzaltenango Guatemala
Chicken bus | Quetzaltenango Guatemala
Panajachel | Atitlan Guatemala | The Orange Backpack

The best time to visit Guatemala

Guatemala is great to visit all year round. The country is close to the equator, so there are no major seasonal differences. The rainy season is a possible factor that you want to take into account. That runs roughly from April to September.

For some travelers, experiencing a sunrise or sunset at a Mayan temple is also an important highlight. Then take into account the times for sunset and sunrise, so check the daylight times.

In June, the sunrise is already around 5:30 am and around that time (before the regular opening time of 6:00 am) you can only visit the Mayan city of Tikal with a fairly expensive sunrise ticket (150 quetzal). The sun also sets at 6.30 pm, so half an hour after the closing time of the Yaxha temples, for example. During our December trip, sunrise was around 6:20 am and sunset was around 5:40 pm. This allowed us to see the sunrise in Tikal within normal opening hours and a beautiful sunset from the sunset temple in Yaxha, making the winter a great season to visit Guatemala.

Read more: visiting Mayan city Yaxha, including the best place for sunset.

Maya site Yaxha | El Sombrero Ecolodge | Guatemala |
Maya site Yaxha | El Sombrero Ecolodge | Guatemala |
Maya site Yaxha | El Sombrero Ecolodge | Guatemala |

The perfect itinerary for 2-3 weeks in Guatemala

We already mentioned that 2 to 3 weeks in Guatemala allows you to visit not only the famous highlights, but also some more hidden gems. We put together the ultimate itinerary, which will bring you to majestic volcanoes, Mayan temples, colorful villages and the largest river in the country. We also give you tips to expand your itinerary to tropical Belize and some more off-the-beaten-track destinations.

Perfect itinerary Guatemala and Belize | The Orange Backpack

#1 Guatemala City (1 day)

As travelers usually arrive at the airport near capital of Guatemala, we welcome you first to Guatemala City. Most Guatemala itineraries will immediately lead away from this raw gem and send you straight to beautiful Antigua. We chose to spend a day and night in Guatemala City and can wholeheartedly recommend that. We discovered cool street art, historic buildings and hip hotspots in this underrated destination in Guatemala.

Read more: best things to do in Guatemala City.

Guatemala City is built in a grid with multiple zones. For you as a traveler, Zona 1, 4, 10 and 13 are the most interesting places to visit in Guatemala City. Zona 1 has the most historic buildings, squares and the Guatemala City cathedral.

Another attraction is the indoor local market. Are you visiting the capital to learn more about Guatemala? Then Zona 10 and 13 offer the most important museums and are also the more luxurious areas of the city.

Our favorite place to visit in Guatemala City was Zona 4. The district is often referred to as the Brooklyn of Guatemala because of its urban, industrial, artistic and upcoming vibe.

It is filled with street art and it has the highest concentration in Guatemala of trendy hotspots and restaurants. Our favorite places in Zona 4 are food court La Esquina, coffee and murals at 4 Grados Norte and coffee near Coffee District.

Guatemala City | Guatemala
Grafitti Guatemala City | Guatemala
coffee | Antigua | Guatemala

#2 Antigua (2-4 days)

Antigua is one of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in Guatemala. The colonial town is known for its small-town atmosphere, pastel-colored buildings, great restaurants and beautiful surroundings with some of the most famous volcanoes in Guatemala.

Read more: best things to do in Antigua.

The picture-perfect streets of Antigua are characterized by low-rise buildings, pastel-colored facades, cozy squares, ancient monastery ruins and small streets. Well-known and not to be missed are the much-photographed Santa Catalina Arch and the richly decorated, yellow Iglesia de la Merced.

Although the colorful city is one of the most visited highlights of Guatemala, you hardly notice this popularity in the streetscape. Although every street has at least one trendy restaurant and great hotel and many facilities are aimed at tourists, the town does not seem to be overrun by travelers.

One of the best things to do in Antigua is a day trip or multi-day excursion to the volcanoes of Antigua. The most famous volcanoes in the area are the Acatenango and Pacaya, two of Guatemala’s three active volcanoes. We recommend visiting at least one of them during your days in Antigua for an unforgettable travel experience.

Read more: the overnight hikes to the Acatenango volcano and the Pacaya volcano.

Antigua Guatemala
Acatenango Fuego Vulcano | Old Town Outfitters | Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala

#3 Lake Atitlán (2 days)

Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular places to visit in Guatemala because of the clear blue lake, surrounded by volcanoes, mountains and charming villages. This beautiful landscape offers fun activities on the lake, unique and beautiful hotels and hostels, and great places to relax by the water.

Read more: hippie village San Marcos La Laguna and the best things to do at Lake Atitlan.

As Atitlan is extremely popular with travelers, it offers many great restaurants, fun excursions on the lake and beautiful places to stay. The best things to do at Lake Atitlan include exploring the villages, hiking to beautiful viewpoints, shopping at local markets, kayaking on the lake and enjoying the great restaurant scene. The easiest and most fun way to get around is by the boat that connects most Atitlan villages like a bus would do.

Panajachel | Atitlan Guatemala | The Orange Backpack
Lake atitlan | Guatemala

#4 Optional: Quetzaltenango (1-2 days)

The city of Quetzaltenango – also called Xela – will probably rarely be included in itineraries for Guatemala. The second city of the country may not be a bustling metropolis and certainly not a tourist destination, but that is precisely why we would recommend you to visit Xela. At this off-the-beaten-track town, you can experience the more authentic city life of Guatemala, while being surrounded by beautiful landscapes for great day trips.

Read more: best things to do in Quetzaltenango.

The best thing to do in Quetzaltenango is visiting the volcanoes in the area. To us, the volcanoes are the main reason to visit Xela. The city is a great base for lovers of nature and hikes, with climbing one of Guatemala’s impressive volcanoes being the absolute highlight.

You can go on a multi-day hike to the Tujimal, the highest volcano in the country, or go camping at the top of Santa Maria. We also highly recommend the half-day trip to Santiaguito, one of Guatemala’s three still active volcanoes.

Others highlights of Quetzaltenango are the authentic city center, the volcanic hot springs, the hip hotspots, the impressive cemetery and the fun day trips in the area.

Main square | Quetzaltenango Guatemala
Cemetery | Quetzaltenango Guatemala
Santiaguito lookout hike | Monte Verde Quetzaltenango | Guatemala

#5 Optional: Semuc Champey (1-2 days)

From both Lake Atitlan and Xela it is quite a long bus ride to Tikal in the north. Champey is right in the middle of the country, making this the perfect place to visit in between if you have the time. But even without that practical location, this nature destination is one of the most beautiful sights in Guatemala because of its green surroundings with naturally formed water basins with clear blue water.

A visit to Semuc Champey revolves around the natural park where a beautiful river with clear blue water runs through. One of the literal highlights is a – fairly short, but quite steep – climb to the viewpoint over the river.

It offers that famous view over the limestone water basins of the river filled with turquoise water. The view is surrounded by lush nature, which makes this a magically beautiful picture. Be sure to descend to the limestone baths themselves as well. You can take a swim and enjoy the beautiful nature park.

Semuc Champey Guatemala
Semuc Champey Guatemala

#6 Flores and Tikal (3 days)

Pastel-colored facades, coble-stoned streets, dazzling sunsets and famous Mayan temples draw all travelers in Guatemala eventually to the Flores peninsula.

Isla de Flores is a well-known base from which to explore northern Guatemala, with the Mayan ruins of Tikal being the best-known and most popular day trip. Another more off-the-beaten-path Mayan site is also near Flores and we definitely recommend you to visit these temples of Yaxha.

Read more: best things to do in Isla de Flores.

Even though Flores is extremely popular with travelers, it is quite small and there is not that much to do on the island. But that is actually the biggest charm of this destination! There is a relaxed vibe around the peninsula and you don’t have much to do other than relax.

The best things to do in Flores – besides visiting the famous Mayan temples of Tikal of course – are wandering through the colorful streets, walking on the promenade along the water, enjoying the great restaurant scene, taking a boat trip to the viewpoint over the lake, kayaking and relaxing on the beach. Flores has the most beautiful sunsets and the atmosphere is wonderfully relaxed. It is one of those places where many travelers linger a bit longer than originally planned and you will understand that immediately after spending a few days in Flores.

Maya site sunrise | Tikal | Guatemala
Isla de Flores Guatemala
Maya site Yaxha | El Sombrero Ecolodge | Guatemala |

#7 Optional: Belize’s bounty beaches (2-7 days)

From Flores (or Tikal or Yaxha) you can easily travel to neighboring Belize, so this is the perfect moment in your travel itinerary to add some days in tropical Belize!

You can choose to visit one Caribbean beach destination in Belize, which would most likely be the island of Caye Caulker or the bounty beach of Hopkins. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, the Caribbean beaches and the impressive Great Belizean Reef where you can snorkel and dive.

Do you have more time and would you like to see more of Belize? Then plan for at least a week to explore the country.

Read more: 10 best places to visit in Belize.

There are direct buses from Guatemala to the border with Belize and you can even book a direct bus from Flores to Belize City, where you could take the ferry to Caye Caulker or the bus to any other Belize destination.

If you want to see more of the country, the jungle city of San Ignacio is a logical first stop. The town is just across the border and is known for its Mayan temples, waterfalls, lush jungle and bucketlist jungle lodges.

Then add one of Belize’s Caribbean beaches to your itinerary – Caye Caulker or Hopkins – and head south via the Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve to the jungle destination of Punta Gorda. From Punta Gorda you can cross the border with Guatemala by boat, ending up in Livingston in the Rio Dulce area.

Snorkling Hopkins | Belize The Orange Backpack
Coconut Row | Hopkins |
Plane wreck | Cockscomb Basin |

#8 Rio Dulce (2-3 days)

The beautiful area of jungle, lakes and the Rio Dulce River is a totally different side of Guatemala. Forget the colonial villages and volcanoes and spend a few days in a beautiful jungle paradise full of tropical birds and noisy howler monkeys. The tropical atmosphere and beautiful nature make this area one not to miss on your trip.

Read more: best things to do at Rio Dulce.

The highlight of the Rio Dulce region is the river of the same name. You can visit the San Felipe Castle, the Finca El Paraiso waterfalls, the Seven Altars, the hot springs Agua Caliente and Playa Blanca in the area, but in the end it’s all about the Rio Dulce River.

The best way to explore the area – and therefore also the main attractions in the region – is from the water. You can book a boat tour or arrange a private boat, but it is best to go out on the water yourself or with a guide in a kayak or canoe. We paddled through the jungle via tributaries without a guide and loved every second of it. We even spotted a pod of howler monkeys high up in the trees!

Scattered through the jungle and along the water of the river you will also find some extraordinary places to stay at Rio Dulce. Think of charming wooden cabins with thatched roofs, cabanas hidden in the lush jungle or ecolodges surrounded by howler monkeys. Some of the best places to stay are Boatique Hotel & MarinaDreamcatcher Ecolodge and Hotellito Perdido.

Rio Dulce Guatemala The Orange Backpack
Boatique | Rio Dulce TheOrangeBackpack
Boatique | Rio Dulce TheOrangeBackpack

#9 Guatemala City

After three or two weeks in Guatemala and Belize, this itinerary comes to an end. You fly back home from the international airport in Guatemala City.

Save this pin for later: