You’ll probably land in Guatemala City, the country’s capital, but it’s not tourist-friendly and not worth visiting – so hop on a shuttle for about 10 euros and go check out Antigua.
Antigua was the capital of Guatemala until 1773 when it was destroyed by an intense earthquake. Today, it’s the most beautiful city in the country and is a cultural and culinary hotspot.
The picturesque old town, which you can easily explore on foot, is characterized by imposing, reconstructed Renaissance buildings, richly decorated facades, and baroque churches and cathedrals. There are also many museums, parks, traditional restaurants, and cozy cafes around the Plaza Mayor.
Don’t forget to visit La Bodegona supermarket, which is quite popular among backpackers, where you can try bread, nuts, whiskey, cheese, and countless other treats. This supermarket also offers the craziest promotions – one day you could buy a bottle of rum get offered toilet cleaner for free!
Want more adventure? Then be sure to check out the nearby (active!) Pacaya volcano.
Stay in the historic center of Antigua for 10 euros a night in a four-bed dorm.
Santa Cruz La Laguna
Next, go to Santa Cruz La Laguna by bus for about 25 euros.
This peaceful Mayan village is located on Lake Atitlán, the second largest lake in Guatemala. The German scientist Alexander von Humboldt described it as “the most beautiful lake in the world,” and at 1,500 meters above sea level surrounded by three volcanoes, it’s probably the most spectacular natural wonder of Guatemala and offers incredible panoramic views.
Charming, authentic Santa Cruz is the perfect base for excursions. Take a hike or mountain bike tour and explore the spectacular, serene landscape with its grass-green terraces and hills surrounding the lake. Go kayaking, swim in azure-blue waters, and discover hidden bays. You can even go diving through underwater houses that have been flooded by the lake’s rising water levels.
Pay 6 euros to stay the night in Santa Cruz in an eight-bed dorm.
For around 45 euros, a shuttle will take you further inland to one of the country's most popular attractions, Semuc Champey, which means “where the water hides” in the Mayan Q'eqchi' language.
This stunning natural monument lies right in the middle of the rainforest and is famed for its tiered, turquoise pools, up to three meters deep, formed by the underground Río Cahabón. Swimming in the natural pools is the perfect opportunity to cool down from the jungle’s hot temperatures. If you go late in the afternoon, you’ll have the place almost all to yourself to relax and watch the cyan-colored water shimmer in the evening light.
The nearby village of Lanquín is a great starting point to explore the surrounding area and its other cave systems, underground waterfalls, and rivers where you can go tubing.
Spend the night nearby for 11 euros in a seven-bed dorm.
Your last stop is Flores, in northern Guatemala – get there by shuttle for about 22 euros.
Flores is located on an island on Lake Petén Itzá and is connected to the mainland by a small dam. This tiny town is usually the point of departure for tours to Tikal and its towering temples. Tikal, the legendary 2,000-year-old Mayan city deep in the rainforest, should be at the top of your list of things to do in Flores.
With its relaxing atmosphere, colorful colonial houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and cozy restaurants, the island city is a small and peaceful oasis. Take a refreshing swim in the lake or a stroll along the promenade with a cold drink in your hand and enjoy breathtaking sunsets over the water.
For no more than some pocket change, you can go to the mainland by boat and hike to various lookout points for a wonderful view of Lake Petén Itzá and Flores Island.
An overnight stay in a hostel costs 10 euros for a four-bed dorm.
From the nearby Mundo Maya International Airport, you can catch a flight back to
Guatemala City starting from 90. After two unforgettable weeks in Guatemala, you’ll make the journey home.