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Adventure in Guatemala — A 7-Day Guatemala Itinerary

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One of us recently got the opportunity to spend an unplanned week in Guatemala (OK, it was me). I realized 24 hours before it was time to leave for the airport that I was suddenly available to go, so I did. A couple of friends had been planning to go for a couple of months and had invited both of us, but prior obligations and assignments prohibited us from joining. However, those plans fell through a day before they were set to leave, and they warmly invited me to come along, last minute as it was. Needless to say, we had a rad time and planned practically nothing in advance for our adventure in Guatemala. But if you’re more of a planner, here’s our 7-day Guatemala Itinerary so you can have an adventurous time in Central America, too.

Antigua, guatemala

Guatemala Itinerary Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala City, Head to Antigua

Every Guatemala itinerary must start somewhere. Ours started at the airport. As soon as you get off the plane at the Guatemala City Airport, drivers will be begging for your attention. Several companies offer shuttles to various cities. We were headed to Antigua, which was about 100 Quetzales per person (about $13). It’s a little cheaper if there are more people in the shuttle, but apparently, we were the only ones headed that way at the time. They’ll even drop you right at your hostel, which is about the only thing we booked in advance–and that was only the night before.

We stayed at Hostal Vagamundo, which was a bit of a party hostel, but cheap (about $7 per night), so no one complained.

Markets in Antigua

We arrived in Antigua in the afternoon and headed right out to find some snacks–Tacos at Ta’Cool–and have a wander. The historic city is lovely to walk through and the markets! There are fruit and veg markets, artisan markets, clothing markets, souvenir markets…you can even buy cat food by the pound. Not sure why you would, but you can.

The evening was spent meandering through the city to see ruins and ancient buildings lit up at night, eating, and attempting to plan the next few days.

Vegan brekky at Cafe Boheme

Day 2: Antigua

The next day we started adventuring in earnest. After brekky at Café Boheme (vegan dark chocolate on baguettes with fruit and jam!), we grabbed some fruit from the market and started heading toward Cerro de la Cruz, a lookout point from where you can look down on the entire town and Volcán Agua in the distance. We took a tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motorized vehicle that does not fit three people comfortably, for kicks and giggles. It dropped us near the top from where we walked out to the viewpoint, which was as impressive as promised. And if we hadn’t have brought our own snacks and water, there were several keen business people up top offering refreshments for sale.

adventure in guatemala
The view of Antigua and Volcán Agua from Cerro de la Cruz

After snapping way too many photos and wandering back down–the wrong way, I might add–we revived ourselves with smoothies from Café Estudio and enjoyed a little siesta before heading back out to get lost in the labyrinth of markets again, nosh a late lunch, and investigate the Choco Museo, where we found chocolate in just about every form you could imagine, from tea to mints to truffles, and yes, even condoms. Don’t ask. I didn’t investigate.

We also did some final research and decided to book a guided hike of Volcán de Acatenango with the company that had a booth at our hostel: CA Travelers. So we were all set to hike up a volcano and camp up top overnight in two days.

Dinner was more chatting and hanging, sipping coffee and chatting with the locals, because what’s the point of travel without community?

Guatemala itinerary day 2: Explore Antigua

Day 3: Antigua

To be honest, I’m not really sure what the heck we did on day three of our 7-day Guatemala itinerary. Mostly eating, taking one last pass through the markets to take photos, get one last beaded keychain or flag pin, and locating a few things we thought we’d need for tomorrow’s hike: namely, leggings, socks, and snacks.

Vegan Pancakes at Cafe Unión

The eating was good, though! I located vegan pancakes at Café Unión and Antigua’s only all-vegan restaurant, Wachuma, proved to be quite exceptional, as did the smoothies and falafel at Txirrinta the coffee from La Refugio. But in all honesty, we never had a bad cup of coffee in Guatemala. I mean, they grow it right there in the country, so they oughta know how to brew it, right?

hiking acatenango
The view of Fuego from Acatenango near sunset

Day 4: Acatenango

We set off at 8:00 on a shuttle with CA Travelers for our overnight hike of Volcán de Acatenango. (Read all about it here.) It was 350 Quetzales per person (about $45) and included transportation, food, and equipment. I was confident in my abilities, but the hike was waaaay harder than I anticipated. But hiking through the clouds, the views from the top, sunset over the volcanoes and spending the night watching Volcán de Fuego erupt and spew lava down the sides of the mountain was all worth it. And the camaraderie formed by the six of us from around the world that made the hike (more or less) together was inspiring.

Day 5: Acatenango to Lake Atitlán

Our adventure in Guatemala continued as we woke early (not early enough to hike in the dark to the summit of Acatenango an hour and a half away) to eat brekky around the fire and hike back down, an endeavor that took maybe half the time it took to get up, but involved slightly more slipping and falling. When we reached the bottom, we were shuttled back to Antigua where we nabbed coffee in a poor attempt to replenish our energy reserves and hopped on another shuttle to head to Panajachel on Lake Atitlán (75 quetzales/$10.50) where we had no idea where we’d be staying.

The ferry boats that usher passengers from one lakefront town to the next

But we figured it out. Once at Panajachel, we discovered Santa Cruz was the closest stop that wasn’t basically a private resort, and there were two hostels there. We opted for La Iguana Perdida, which turned out to be a good choice because the other one was basically just a free-for-all for 22-year-olds, beer pong and all. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we are not, nor have I ever been, that sort of 22-year-old. La Iguana Perdida had probably the nicest hostel grounds I’ve ever seen, though be warned: they do not have wifi. We had to order margaritas at the restaurant around the corner, Holy Tortillas, just to get the wifi password that changed daily. Boo. But they did have a few basic vegan options, including soups and guac.

But we spent the rest of the day sitting as close to the signal as possible, sharing stories, and watching the sunset over Lake Atitlán.

7-day guatemala itinerary lake atitlan
Sunset at Lake Atitlán

Day 6: Lake Atitlán

Adventure abounds around Lake Atitlán. For our only full day, we grabbed brekky at the hostel and then rented kayaks for an hour so we could get out on the lake. It was lovely, but we definitely should have ventured forth earlier in the day before the wind and waves picked up. It was choppy, but fun and beautifully sunny. Rentals cost 50 quetzales per person (about $7).

Circles Cafe in Santa Monica

Afterword, we hopped on a ferry boat to San Marcos (10 quetzales/$1.50) where we heard more markets, cafes and colorful scenery abounded. We heard right. We relaxed in the garden at Circles Cafe, had a coffee, grabbed an authentic Guatemalan lunch at Konojel (all vegetarian), and marveled at handmade jewelry, art, strange fruit (we stuffed our bags full of granadias–so good), and murals. Fun fact: this is where all of the dread-headed gap-year travelers spending a year abroad hang, which I found comically surprising.

adventure in Guatemala
Artisans in Santa Monica

After returning to the hostel, we once again bought margaritas at the restaurant up the hill for the sole purpose of getting their ever-changing wifi password so we could check flight status and let our families know we were still alive. Also, post to Instagram. Because that’s also important…

adventure in guatemala, 7-day guatemala itinerary

Day 7: Home again, home again

We woke up suuuper early in the AM to catch the first boat (6:15) from Santa Cruz to Panajachel, where a private shuttle ($20) would take us aaaaaall the way back to the airport in Guatemala City. But once there, we were still able to sample local coffee, spend the rest of our quetzales on Guatemalan trinkets and friendship bracelets, and reminisce before taking off to fly back to Houston.

A note on eating vegan in Guatemala:

It turned out to be pretty easy, especially in Antigua (San Marcos on Lake Atitlán also had several good options). Several places we ate weren’t even on Happy Cow, but after asking at restaurants or coffee shops that had options, they were more than happy to point us in the direction of additional eateries. Pretty much all the nicer coffee shops had non-dairy milk, too. To make finding dining options easy, many restaurants even put their menu by the front door so you can peruse before you sit. But on multiple occasions, when one cafe didn’t have vegan options, they’d recommend one that did. Needless to say, not only did I not starve in Guatemala, I had surprisingly delicious options and was thoroughly impressed many times!

Guatemala Itinerary Trip Cost:

Somewhere in the $250-$300 range (plus a $140 flight from Houston). Yes, that’s all. What are you waiting for? Get going! And take this 7-day Guatemala itinerary with you! Have questions about what we did? Where we ate? Have your own recommendations? Share ’em! Wander on!

What are the most popular destinations in Guatemala?

Antigua, Lake Atitlán, and Volcán de Acatenango are three popular destinations within Guatemala.

What is the currency in Guatemala?

The Guatemalan currency is the Quetzal (plural quetzales).

Where should I fly into in Guatemala?

The biggest and most popular airport is the one located in Guatemala City.

What language is spoken in Guatemala?

Spanish is the official language of the country.