Guatemala and Belize are two neighbouring countries, located in Central America, that are often visited on the same trip. In Guatemala, you can explore the ruins of Tikal, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world. You can also visit the city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And if you’re looking for some relaxation, you can take a day trip to Lake Atitlán, a beautiful lake surrounded by volcanoes. In Belize you can find archaeological sites, caves and some of the most beautiful beaches.
This blog post will outline a two and a half week itinerary that will take you to some of the best that Guatemala and Belize have to offer. Whether you’re interested in Mayan culture, natural beauty, or relaxing beach days, this itinerary has something for everyone.
This itinerary starts and ends in Guatemala City. However, if you have the chance to fly back from Belize City instead, then you can plan this out much more conveniently. Rather than make your way back by land, you could of course also fly from Belize City back to Guatemala City.
This is the exact itinerary I followed during my trip to Guatemala and Belize. And while I know there is quite a bit of travelling from place to place involved, I also know that it is totally doable.
But before we start, here is a quick summary of my Guatemala and Belize itinerary
- Day 1: Arrival in Guatemala City
- Day 2-4: Discover Panajachel, Lake Atitlán
- Day 4-6: Relax in Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlán
- Day 6-10: Antigua and hiking volcano Acatenango
- Day 10: Take the night bus to Flores
- Day 11 Spend the day in Flores
- Day 12-15 Relax on Caye Caulker, Belize
- Day 16: San Ignacio, Belize
- Day 16-18 Tikal Tour and Flores
- Day 18: One last day in Guatemala City
- Day 19: Fly back home
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City
Like you have probably heard beforehand, Guatemala City is not the safest city, and you are best off not spending more time here than necessary. However, if you are flying to Guatemala from Europe, chances are that you arrive in Guatemala City late in the evening.
And while it is certainly possible to Uber to Antigua as it is only an hour away, if you want to have a night of rest first before your next leg of travel, I’d recommend just spending one night in Guatemala City, close to the airport. You can then continue your trip in the morning.
I had stayed at Hostal Villa Toscana, just a 5-minute Uber ride away from the airport.
Of course, if you arrive earlier, then just skip this night in Guatemala City and move on to your next destination a day earlier.
Discover the beautiful Lake Atitlan
Day 2: Take a shuttle to Panajachel and get a first glimse of the lake
There are 3 shuttles a day going from Guatemala City to Panajachel. They will pick you up right from your hotel, so you don’t need to worry about having to go to the bus station in Guatemala City.
The trip to Panajachel takes about 5 hours and could be that you need to switch shuttles in Antigua quickly, but there is barely any waiting time involved.
Take the rest of the day to check out Panajachel, the markets, the food and of course, the stunning views of Lake Atitlán.
Day 3: Discover the different towns around lake Atitlan
While Panajachel is the most visited, and busiest town around the lake, there are several other towns that are worth visiting, and each of them has a completely different vibe to it. This day would be the perfect day to discover some different towns, such as San Pedro, San Juan or San Marco.
Just head to the water terminal and take one of the public water taxis. If you aren’t sure which boat to take, just ask someone at the terminal and they will point you to the correct boat. You will figure out the different routes in no time.
Day 4: Nature Reserve and move to Santa Cruz La Laguna
About a 10-minute Tuk-Tuk ride from the centre of Panajachel, you can find the Nature Reserve. Here you can find some hiking trails with stunning views of the lake, a butterfly enclosure, hanging bridges, a waterfall and beautiful nature. There are also opportunities to do some ziplining. And the highlight: coatis and monkeys!
After some time in nature at the Nature Reserve, pick up your luggage and take a water taxi to Santa Cruz La Laguna and check in at the Free Cerveza Hostel.
This hostel is located right by the lake, with some incredible views, some nice areas to relax, and a communal dinner, so you can mingle and meet some other travellers.
Book your stay at the Free Cerveza Hostel now!
Day 5: Relaxing day by the lake
As tomorrow will be another travel day, take this last full day by the lake to maybe rent a SUP-board or a kayak and have some more quality time by the lake. Or if you still want to check out another town along the lake, then today would also be one of the last opportunities to do so.
The incredible city of Antigua and climbing a volcano
Day 6: Travel to Antigua
When you want to travel from Santa Cruz La Laguna to Antigua, you first need to take a water taxi back to Panajachel, from there you can take an easy 3-hour shuttle to Antigua. After, you’ll still have a bit of time to discover the city.
Wondering if it is safe to travel to Guatemala as a solo female traveller? Read all about my experience!
Day 7: Full day in Antigua
Antigua is a city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. With its stunning landscapes, incredible architecture, and delicious cuisine, this city is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Guatemala.
Spent the day wandering around Antigua, but also make sure to take it easy as you will want some rest before the hike the next day.
Day 8: Overnight Hike to Volcano Acatenango
For many, the hike to the Acatenango volcano is the highlight of their trip to Guatemala. I have even met people saying that this was the best day in their entire life.
During the hike you will reach heights up to 3,976 m above sea level, with the highlight of overseeing the active Fuego volcano. The hike is demanding, you might have to battle some altitude sickness, and deal with freezing temperatures at night, but it most likely will also be one of the most incredible experiences.
Disclaimer: I have not actually done the hike, as I got quite sick in Antigua. I had it booked, but needed to cancel two days in a row because of being quite ill. I’m still quite upset about it, as this was what I was most excited about.
Day 9: Arrive back from the Volcano, rest
After waking up on the top of a volcano, you probably want to participate in the sunrise hike before everyone starts making their way down the volcano once again. Then you will probably arrive back at your accommodation in Antigua around noon and after a much-needed shower want to spend the rest of the day napping and resting.
Planning a trip to Guatemala?
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Day 10: Day trip from Antigua, night bus to the North of Guatemala
Today maybe you are either still recovering from the volcano hike, want to spend another day just hanging around Antigua, or want to embark on a day trip near Antigua, such as the Hobbitenango attraction park. The choice is yours!
In the evening, start travelling to Flores. Therefore, you first need to take a shuttle to the bus stop in Guatemala City and from there the night bus will take you all the way to Flores in about 10 hours.
Day 11: One day in Flores, sort out your Tikal tour
You always think that when you arrive early in the morning at a new destination, that you will have the whole day to discover your new city, and it will be super amazing since you’ve been awake so early already. At least that is what I always think!
And then in the end you’ll just spend the entire day exhausted! When you arrive with the night bus from Guatemala City, take a 5-minute Tuk-Tuk from the bus station to your accommodation on the island of Flores.
If you have a dorm booked, they probably won’t let you check in earlier, but maybe if you book a single room you can be lucky and already enter your room earlier.
You can use this day to sort out some shuttles and tours for the upcoming days and wander around Flores. The island of Flores itself is very small and can be seen within an hour or so. But beware, it is pretty hot in Flores, so you might not feel like walking around the entire day anyway.
Relax on the beautiful island of Caye Caulker Belize
Day 12: It’s time for Belize! Cross the border and travel to Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. This Caribbean island, just an hour off Belize city, is a must-see destination in Central America.
Snorkel with sharks and sting rays, enjoy some cocktails by the sea and just enjoy the island vibes. There is no way you won’t fall in love with this island.
It isn’t the biggest island, so accommodation is limited and books out very early in advance. So, if there is one place in this Guatemala/Belize itinerary that you should book in advance, then that would be Caye Caulker.
Just as easily as you can travel with shuttles throughout Guatemala, you can travel with these shuttles between countries in Central America. If you want to travel to Caye Caulker, you will need to take an early 6am shuttle from Flores which will bring you all the way to the ferry terminal in Belize City.
From there, you will need to purchase a $21 US ferry ticket ($37 US return) and hop on the next available boat to Caye Caulker. The conversion rate between the Belize dollar and the USD is pretty simple, 2 Belize dollars equal 1USD. You can pay with both Belize dollar and USD!
Day 13-14 Relax on Caye Caulker
One of the most popular things to do in Caye Caulker is to go on a snorkelling tour. You will find plenty of tour offices in pretty much every corner of the island offering full day and half day snorkelling tours.
There are also options to go scuba diving. Or if you are willing to spend the money on it, take a helicopter ride over the famous blue hole, which is supposed to be one of the most incredible experiences.
A quick stopover in San Ignacio
Day 15: Travel to San Ignacio
After some relaxing time on the beautiful island of Caye Caulker, it sadly is time to leave paradise and go back to the main land of Belize. Take the ferry back to Belize City and from there hop on a shuttle to San Ignacio.
San Ignacio is a small town close to the Guatemalan border, which is known for multiple Mayan ruins that you can visit in the area, beautiful nature, caves and the Iguana rescue centre.
Where to stay in San Ignacio? I stayed at the Old town hostel in San Ignacio which I enjoyed a lot. (They also have the cutest hostel cat and dog!)
Day 16: Go to the Iguana Rescue Centre and travel back to Flores
If you manage to get up early, there are quite some tours you can do in and around San Ignacio. Depending on, of course, also when your shuttle back to Flores is leaving. Similar to Flores, it gets incredible hot in San Ignacio, so don’t expect to be going on hour long walks.
However, if you rather do something not too time-consuming, I’d recommend going to the Iguana Rescue Center, just a couple of minutes walk from the city centre. It is located in the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, and you will just need to walk up to the reception, book the tour, which is 15USD per person, and an employee from the Rescue Center will come up and take you to the back.
Here, you will learn about Iguanas and why they are endangered, and get to ask any questions you have. I even had a tour by myself, as I was the only one that had come to the rescue centre at that time, which was also nice.
The famous Mayan Ruins of Tikal
Day 17: Tikal Tour and night bus back to Guatemala City
A trip to the North of Guatemala isn’t complete without a visit to the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. While it might get fewer visitors than the archaeological site of Chichen Itza in Mexico, a lot of people I met actually seem to prefer Tikal. I have visited both, and I can see why that would be the case.
The different temples are deep in the jungle, and you actually have to do a bit of hiking to get from one place to another. But it’s all worth it, as the ruins are truly impressive. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some howler monkeys, parrots or toucans in the trees.
I recommend taking the sunrise tour. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it to see the park before the crowds arrive. You’ll also get to experience the magic of waking up in the jungle, surrounded by the sounds of nature. (But be prepared to wake up at 3am for this)
Once you’ve finished exploring Tikal, you will head back to Flores. Spend the rest of the day relaxing, enjoying some delicious food, and doing some souvenir shopping, before taking the night bus back to Guatemala City in the evening.
Where to stay in Flores? I stayed at the Los Amigos Hostel, probably one of my favourite hostels!
The end of your two and a half week Guatemala and Belize itinerary
Day 18 One day in Guatemala City
The night bus is scheduled to arrive at the bus terminal in Zona 1 in Guatemala City at 8am, but it could also be the case that you already arrive at 6am. It isn’t the safest area, so best to quickly call an Uber to your accommodation.
Best to email the accommodation beforehand to see if there is the possibility to pay for an extra half a night and check in already once you arrive.
Now, if you are brave enough, you can do some sightseeing in Guatemala City during the day. But instead, I would recommend to just Uber to a safe place where you can spend some hours and hopefully get some food as well, such as Oakland mall (which is what I did) or the zoo.
If you have a flight in the evening rather than the next day, and you don’t have any accommodation booked, then it’s probably best to head straight to the airport. Maybe there is an opportunity to leave your luggage there for a bit while discovering another part of the city, otherwise you can just spend the day at the airport waiting for your flight back as well.
Day 19: Fly back home in the morning
And it’s time to say goodbye to Guatemala and fly home or to your next destination.
Now, this completed my 19-day Guatemala and Belize itinerary. Or more like 17 day-Guatemala/Belize itinerary, if we don’t count the late-arrival and early morning leaving day.
While I think it would have been nice to have a couple of days more to also see more of Belize, I believe, I managed to fit as much as possible in this Guatemala and Belize itinerary. Unfortunately, I got quite ill on my first night in Antigua, so I didn’t get to do all the activities I was planning on doing. And while you can certainly spend many more days in Guatemala alone, it is small enough to see a lot in a short amount of time. And the same is true for Belize, of course!
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