How many days to spend in Guatemala

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 15.05.2024

Planning the perfect itinerary often boils down to one important question, “How many days in Guatemala would be ideal?”. Whether you have 5, 7, or 10 days to spare, each option offers ample opportunity to explore Guatemala's stunning nature, ancient ruins, and bustling local markets. In this article, we'll tell you the best ways to maximize your time, whether it's a short but enjoyable 5-day trip, an exciting 7-day adventure, or a comprehensive 10-day exploration.

So how many days in Guatemala do you need?

Choosing the number of days you dedicate to Guatemala is all about matching your travel aspirations with the experiences Guatemala has to offer. So, let's continue our conversation about finding the right balance for your trip.

To get the fullest range of experiences possible, we recommend that you allocate 10 days to your trip. This length of time will allow you to not only explore Guatemala's main attractions but also travel to remote areas such as Verapace for adventure sports and the Petén region to further explore Tikal and other Mayan sites.

With 7 days at your disposal, you can also explore the most iconic places at a somewhat relaxed pace. Visit the essentials and extend your stay in Antigua or explore the famous Chichicastenango market. Also, consider a trip to the rainforest near Tikal to discover ancient Mayan ruins.

While 5 days may not seem like enough time to visit, proper planning will allow for a culturally energizing trip. You'll have time to explore the legendary Lake Atitlan and historic Antigua, as well as immerse yourself in the culture, experience the local cuisine, and perhaps take a day hike to a nearby volcano.

Below, we'll take a closer look at each of the options and give you a plan of action depending on how many days in Guatemala you have at your disposal.

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Lake Atitlan, Guatemala @ Shutterstock

5 days in Guatemala

If you only have five days to explore Guatemala, focus on one region to deeply experience its unique cultural or natural features without traveling too far. Here are three itineraries for a 5-day trip, each tailored to specific interests:

This itinerary combines the culture and natural beauty of Guatemala. Begin your adventure in Antigua, immersing yourself in the city's rich colonial history and vibrant culture with a local culinary tour. Climb the active Pacaya Volcano for a scenic hike and unique picnic. Move on to tranquil Lake Atitlan and spend the day exploring the picturesque villages. Dedicate a day to water activities on the lake and then finish your trip with relaxing sightseeing and shopping in Antigua.

For cultural heritage and local handicrafts, choose Chichicastenango as the starting point of your 5-day trip, immersing yourself in the famous market where textiles and traditional handicrafts are sold. Take part in an authentic Mayan ceremony and visit the historic Santo Tomas Church. Head to Quetzaltenango (Xela) to soak up its cultural richness, including the striking Quetzaltenango Cathedral, and relax in the Fuentes Georginas hot springs. Before returning, mingle with local artisans at a hands-on textile workshop.

Embark on a short but intense exploration of the modern and historic Zona Viva in Guatemala City, visiting sites such as the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the lively Central Market. Fly to Flores, the gateway to the ancient wonders of Tikal. Devote a full day to exploring Tikal National Park, where vast Mayan ruins and abundant wildlife await. Finish your adventure by returning to Guatemala City and enjoy one last picturesque sunset at the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu.

Looking for more ideas? Explore our other 5 day itineraries in Guatemala.

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Antigua, Guatemala @ Shutterstock

7 days in Guatemala

With seven days at your disposal, you can enjoy a more relaxed Guatemala vacation, allowing you to explore each corner more deeply and have a richer experience. The itineraries below are designed to offer a balanced mix of culture, nature and adventure, providing a well-rounded look into the heart of Guatemala.

One option is to immerse yourself in Guatemalan culture and scenic landscapes, which begins in the charming city of Antigua. Spend two days here, with plenty of time for a coffee farm tour to learn about one of Guatemala's most famous exports. Follow to breathtaking Lake Atitlan for exploration of surrounding villages like Santiago Atitlan and Santa Catarina Palopo, as well as kayaking or hiking to San Pedro Volcano. End your trip with a visit to the famous Chichicastenango Market, timed to coincide with its bustling market days, to buy textiles and handicrafts and immerse yourself in local traditions.

If you are in search of a more active adventure, we suggest starting in Cobán. Spend the day exploring local coffee plantations or the Vivero Verapaz orchid garden. Then head to the limestone pools of Semuc Champey for two days of swimming, caving, and hiking through the lush rainforest. Move on to Quetzaltenango (Xela), where you can challenge yourself with a hike to the Santa Maria Volcano and relax in the nearby hot springs. Spend your final days participating in community tourist activities that allow you to experience the local culture in a hands-on way.

If you're more interested in immersing yourself in Guatemala's historical heritage, head to Guatemala City to visit key museums such as the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the Ixchela Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing. After a couple of days, fly to Flores and explore the grandiose Tikal National Park. Extend your archaeological journey with a day trip to the less-visited but equally fascinating Yaxha, a quieter destination with expansive views of a serene lake. Conclude your visit to Flores by enjoying a sunset boat ride on Lake Peten Itza.

For even more ways to spend a week in Guatemala, check out our other 7-day itineraries.

Mayan Pyramid in the forests of Peten, Guatemala © Shutterstock

Mayan Pyramid in the forests of Peten, Guatemala © Shutterstock

10 days in Guatemala

Ten days in Guatemala offers a comprehensive exploration of the country's diverse regions, providing a rich and fulfilling experience, immersing yourself in its culture, nature, and historical heritage. Here are three itineraries that reveal different facets of this vibrant country:

This journey will immerse you in Guatemala's cultural heritage and natural beauty. Begin your adventure in the historic city of Antigua, spending three days exploring its colonial architecture, lively markets, and nearby volcanoes. Move on to Lake Atitlan for three days of boat tours, village visits, and activities such as paddleboarding. Visit the bustling Chichicastenango Market for textiles and handicrafts. Head east to the Caribbean coast and spend your final days in Livingstone, where you'll experience the unique Garifuna culture and tropical beaches.

Adventure lovers and supporters of eco-tourism should go to Flores. Here you will spend two days exploring the huge Tikal National Park. Next, proceed to Semuc Champay for three days of natural pools, caves, and hiking. Travel to Rio Dulce and spend time kayaking, exploring the lush river surroundings, and visiting local communities. At the end of your trip, relax in the hot springs or birdwatch in this ecological paradise.

Embark on a historical and archaeological journey, beginning in remote El Mirador, where you'll spend three days hiking and camping with guides as you discover one of the largest Mayan cities. Continue to Tikal for an in-depth exploration of its impressive ruins. Visit Yaxha for a quieter but more in-depth archaeological exploration. Finish with a visit to Quirigua, known for its intricate stelae and zoomorphic sculptures, offering a unique glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization.

Discover even more 10-day itineraries in Guatemala.

Planning your trip to Guatemala

Planning a trip to Guatemala can be quite a daunting endeavor. Luckily we know how to help you - just contact our local experts and they will find a Guatemala itinerary tailored to your needs.

And for an insight into what Guatemala has to offer in terms of weather, read our guide to the best time to visit Guatemala.

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 15.05.2024

Online editor at Rough Guides, specialising in travel content. Passionate about creating compelling stories and inspiring others to explore the world.

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