Combining Mexico, Belize and Guatemala to create the ultimate Central America itinerary was the best idea we had last winter. We traveled all three countries, visiting Mayan temples, Caribean beaches, colorful cities and exotic jungle. We would make a few changes if we’d ever do this trip again, so we know exactly what would be the ultimate Mexico Belize Guatemala itinerary and will tell you everything about it in a day-by-day breakdown.
Why combine Mexico, Guatemala and Belize?
The geographical location makes up one big reason to combine the three in one trip. Belize is squeezed right between southern Mexico and Guatemala. And the three are very much connected as well. Did you know the border between Belize and Guatemala isn’t even recognized by Guatemala, as Guatemala claims Belize is part of the country? That’s why most maps use a dotted border.
Belize, Mexico and Guatemala are also the three countries that used to hold the entire Mayan population. The Mayan culture wasn’t a big centrally organised group of people, but they had smaller city-state empires like Tikal (now Guatemala) and Calakmul (Mexico) dotted around Central America. The borders nowadays are just man-made divisions between otherwise closely related areas, all filled with jungle, Mayan pyramids, charming towns and beaches.
How to plan a Mexico Belize Guatemala trip
First of all: decide how much travel time you want to spend on your trip. You could spend half a year exploring Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, but we reckon that’s not your plan.
Three weeks would be the minimum for such a trip, but you could also choose to spend those three weeks in either Mexico or in Guatemala and Belize. Two months would be the best in our experience. That’s why we won’t just give one Mexico Belize Guatemala itinerary, but two: a 3-week itinerary and an extended 2-month version.
A 2-month itinerary for Guatemala Mexico Belize
If you have 2 months for this trip, we’d choose a round trip flying and out of the same airport. Those kind of tickets are usually cheaper than one with a different point to start and end. And the geographical shape of the countries will also make this fairly easy. Choose either Guatemala City or Cancun in Mexico your starting point, as those have the biggest airports and thus the most choices for tickets. We’ll start our 2-month itinerary with Guatemala City.
You can do this trip by public transport or by rental car. As your trips starts and end in the same place, you can drop off your rental vehicle right where you picked it up.
Day 1: Guatemala City
After arriving in Guatemala City, consider spending a day here. Most travelers continue their trip straight away, considering the Guatemala capital too dangerous to visit. We decided to do otherwise and stayed for one day. We recommend you to do the same, as we think Guatemala City has plenty to offer to entertain you at least a day, while we didn’t feel safe at all. Read more about safety and the best things to do in Guatemala City.
Day 2-3: Rio Dulce and Livingston
Take the bus on day 2 to Rio Dulce in Guatemala and spend both that day and the next in the Rio Dulce area. We’d recommend you exploring the river jungle from the water and stay at a jungle boutique hotel or hostel.
Day 4-5: Punta Gorda in Belize
You’ll cross your first border early in the morning of day 4. Take the boat taxi from Livingston to Punta Gorda, or drive your rental car from Rio Dulce across the border. You’ll already leave Guatemala, but you’ll come back here the last weeks. You have day 4 and 5 to enjoy the Punta Gorda area with its waterfalls, jungle and small Mayan temples.
Day 6-8: Placencia or Hopkins
Time to hit the beach. Choose either Placencia or Hopkins for a few days at the beach. Not just for relaxing and lazing at the beach, because you don’t want to miss out on snorkeling or diving at the Great Belizean Reef. Read more about the best things to do in Hopkins, including hiking at the nearby Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve.
Day 9-13: San Ignacio
San Ignacio was our favorite destination in Belize. This jungle town combines the laidback Belize city vibe with jungle and the ancient Mayan culture. San Ignacio is your base for the famous guided tour Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM tour) visiting an ancient Mayan cave, but also for exploring the ruins of nearby Xunantunich and Cahal Pech and the remote Caracol. San Ignacio has quite some budget accommodations, but if you have the travel budget, make sure to book a bucket list stay at Ka’ana Resort.
We’d also recommend you to join a day trip tour to Tikal in Guatemala to visit one of the most famous Mayan ruins in Central America. If you have enough time and energy, you might want to make a stop along the way at the Yaxha ruins for the most magical sunset from the top of an ancient pyramid.
Day 14-17: Caye Caulker or San Pedro, Ambergris
Head to Belize City for the ferries to Caye Caulker of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, depending on your budget. Caye Caulker is the more budget-friendly island destination of Belize, but Ambergris offers the most beautiful luxury resorts which come with a price tag. Both islands are great for snorkeling and diving. Divers are highly recommended to dive in the famous Blue Hole, one of the bucket list diving trips around the world. If you’re not really a diver, you can also opt for an amazing fly-over of the Blue Hole. Read more about Caye Caulker in our blog about the best things to do on Caye Caulker, including the best spots for sunset.
Day 18-22: Bacalar and Calakmul
Take the fast ferry from either Caye Caulker or Ambergris to Mexico – or head back to Belize for your rental car and drive yourself towards the border – and head for Laguna Bacalar. This lake known as the lake with seven shades of blue is an idyllic destination in Yucatán, Mexico, known for its magical sunrises, great food in the town of Bacalar and canoeing or boat trips on the lake. Read our Bacalar guide to learn more about this bucket list Mexico destination.
Bacalar is also the perfect base for a day trip to the lost Calakmul Mayan empire. Or even better: head there late afternoon, stay close to the entrance and visit Calakmul in the early morning as we did. Calakmul has the highest pyramids in Mexico and you can actually climb them, unlike the one at Chichen Itza.
Day 23-25: Tulum
Head further up north for the famous beach town Tulum. This extremely popular Mexico destination has two faces: the resort-dotted and instagrammable Tulum beachside and downtown Tulum Pueblo with more budget-friendly accommodation and great restaurants. Both are popular with tourists and are filled with hotels, restaurants and shops. You can visit both by renting a bike, which is affordable and the best way to get around Tulum. Read more about this must-visit destination in our Tulum city guide.
Tulum will be your first chance to visit a cenote in Mexico, but there will be more stops on this itinerary close to the best cenotes in Yucatán. The Tulum cenotes are very popular, as they’re close to town and you can easily reach them with a rented bike. Another popular attraction in Tulum is the Tulum Mayan ruins, located at the coast, or make a day trip to the lesser-visited Coba temples.
Day 26-29: Cozumel, Isla Holbox or Isla Mujeres
Add one of the Yucatán islands to your Mexico Belize Guatemala Itinerary and choose either Cozumel, Isla Holbox or Isla Mujeres. All are very popular with tourists. We ourselves choose Isla Cozumel, as it’s the only island you can bring your rental car to, and conveniently located close to Tulum and extremely popular Playa del Carmen. This destination and Cancun aren’t on this itinerary, as we feel there are less crowded beach destinations in both Belize and Mexico that are much more worth visiting.
Day 30-33: Valladolid and Chichen Itza
Head to Valladolid, one of the most colorful cities in Yucatán. It’s a great base to explore the area, visiting the most beautiful cenotes and the pink lakes at the northern Mexican coast, but also the famous Mayan city Chichen Itza. You can easily organize your own trip and buy tickets in advance. Another great thing to do around Valladolid is visiting its nearby cenotes. Read our city guide on Valladolid to learn more about this charming town in Yucatán and check out our map of all cenotes in Mexico including tips on how to find one all for yourself.
Day 34-36: Mérida
One of the bigger cities in the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico is Mérida. It is one of our favorite destinations in Mexico because of its brightly colored streets with Volkswagen beetles, the equally colorful street life, free museums, the local culture and all those amazing places to eat. Stay here a few days and explore the many nearby cenotes as well. We wrote a detailed city guide about Mérida in Mexico with the best things to do and see.
Day 37-39: Campeche
Valladolid, Mérida and Campeche are all three mentioned as the most beautiful cities in the Yucatán peninsula, so make sure to add Campeche as your next stop to your itinerary. The old walled center is much smaller than the other two cities on your route, but it’s even more colorful and charming. Stay for a few days to enjoy sunsets from the Malecon, walk the old city walls, visit the botanical garden and count the many vintage Volkswagen cars in the street. Read more in our blog about the best things to do in Campeche.
Day 40-42: Palenque
It’s time to leave the Yucatán peninsula for Mexico’s jungle state Chiapas. The city of Palenque is your first stop. It’s known for the many waterfalls in the area and its ancient Mayan ruins. We wrote a blog about where to stay in Palenque and how to find the best waterfalls and one about how we were impressed by the Palenque ruins after already visiting dozens of other ruins in the week before, including many practical tips for your visit.
Day 43-45: San Cristobal
San Cristobal de las Casas is your next stop on this Belize Guatemala Mexico itinerary. It’s one of the few Mexican cities without any traffic in its city center, making the charming streets even more pleasant to explore. Strolling around the old town is one of the highlights of your visit, but you’ll want to see the cathedral and Maya markets and to book a tour to the stunning Canon del Sumidero.
Day 46-48: Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
We’re heading back to Guatemala for the last weeks of this itinerary, starting in Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela. It’s the second-largest city of Guatemala, yet few visitors add it to their trip making it a less-touristy stop on your itinerary. Xela is famous for its great hikes in the area, including one hiking to the active Santiaguito volcano or to the Tujimal, the highest volcano in Central America. You could choose a multi-day hike to your next stop, Lake Atitlan.
Day 49-51: Laguna Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala. The lake is surrounded by volcanoes and charming villages. Though the villages at Atitlan are small, they are very well discovered by tourists. They all attract a very different type of visitors though: San Pedro is popular with young partying backpackers, San Marcos is known for its yoga and hippy vibe and Panajachel is the biggest and busiest town. We loved staying in small, laidback San Marcos, visiting the other villages during the day by water taxi. Check out our San Marcos de Laguna guide for the best places to stay and eat.
Day 55-59: Antigua
We saved one of the best Central America destinations for the last days of your trip: visiting Antigua de Guatemala. It’s one of the most popular places in Guatemala, yet not overcrowded at all. The colorful cobble-stoned streets, the amazing restaurants and climbing the nearby volcanoes are the best way to end your trip.
We stayed in Antigua for over a week, enjoying the Antigua city life and camping on two Antigua volcanoes. Read our city guide for Antigua and our blogs about the volcano views and tree cabins of Earth Lodge, climbing the Acatenango volcano and camping at the active Pacaya volcano.
Day 60: Guatemala City
Head back to Guatemala City to fly back home. This is the end of your trip.
A 3-week itinerary for Mexico Belize Guatemala
If you spend three weeks exploring these countries, you’ll have to make choices. We visited many places in the two months we’ve been to Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, so we think we can make the perfect selection of destinations for you. We’d recommend you to make a route from Guatemala City to Cancun – or the other way round – to make the most of your travel time in the area.
Day 1-3: Guatemala City and Antigua
When arriving in Guatemala City, pick a public bus, taxi or Uber straight to Antigua. Go volcano hiking and stroll down the cobble-stoned streets. Read our city guide for Antigua and our blogs about the volcano views and tree cabins of Earth Lodge, climbing the Acatenango volcano and camping at the active Pacaya volcano.
Day 4-5: Laguna Atitlan
Stay at one of the Atitlan villages to enjoy Guatemala’s most beautiful lake. This popular destination is the perfect spot for luxury boutique hotels, a yoga retreat or souvenir shopping at local markets. Check out our San Marcos de Laguna guide to learn more about our favorite village at the Atitlan lake.
Dag 6-8: Flores and Tikal
Prepare yourself for a long bus drive straight to Isla de Flores, a charming small peninsula town at the Lago Petén Itzá lake. The most popular thing to do is visiting the famous Tikal pyramids on a day trip, though we’d recommend you to visit the less-visited Yaxha ruins as well.
Day 9-11: San Ignacio in Belize
San Ignacio was our favorite destination in Belize. This jungle town combines the laidback Belize city vibe with jungle and the ancient Mayan culture. Most popular is visiting an ancient Maya cave with the ATM tour (Actun Tunichil Muknal), but you can visit nearby Xunantunich and Cahal Pech and the remote Caracol as well.
Day 12-15: Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye
Choose either luxury Ambergris Caye or budget-friendly Caye Caulker for some beach days in the Caribbean. Snorkeling in the Great Belizean Reef or diving at the famous Blue Hole should be on your wish list. Read more about Caye Caulker in our blog about the best things to do on Caye Caulker.
Day 16: Laguna Bacalar
Take the speed ferry from the Belize islands to Mexico and make a first stop in Bacalar. This lake known as the lake with seven shades of blue is an idyllic destination in Yucatán, Mexico, known for its magical sunrises, great food in the town of Bacalar and canoeing or boat trips on the lake. Read our Bacalar guide to learn more about this bucket list Mexico destination.
Day 17-18: Tulum
Popular Tulum is a must-visit on any Mexico Belize Guatemala itinerary. Enjoy the tourist hotspots, white-sand beaches, magical cenotes and Tulum Mayan ruins. Read more about this must-visit destination in our Tulum city guide.
Day 19-20: Valladolid en Chichen Itza
Head to the nearby colorful Valladolid to enjoy one of Mexico’s most charming cities. It’s a great base to visit the famous Mayan city Chichen Itza and its nearby cenotes. Read our city guide on Valladolid and check out our map of all cenotes in Mexico.
Day 21: Cancún
End your stay in Cancún to fly home from its international airport. We wouldn’t recommend this touristy and over-priced destination, so don’t spend to much time here.