Guatemala: From South to North in 7 days

Guatemala, the land of so much pre-colonial history, volcanos and hidden cities in the jungle. 7 days driving in this beautiful country helped me to realize how vast it is and how much of it is not advertised anywhere and remains untold.

Road to Yaxha
Somewhere between Flores and the Maya ancient city of Yaxhá

 

Short intro into “Trip Itineraries”

 

This isn’t a secret, I love to drive, going on the road without any set schedules, able to stop whenever and wherever. All this while getting way out of your comfort zone as you drive through places you’ve never been before is something that makes me feel even more alive.

Together with my wife we’ve done many road trips across 3 continents and I plan to write about them, our itineraries and driving manners of all of them. Hopefully these blog posts can serve to you as a starting point to get out there and explore. If you have more time then you could totally do it by local transportation instead of renting a car.

 

What to do in Guatemala?

 

It was a huge task for us to decide where to go to see the most amazing places in a small amount of time. We asked around our friends who are from Guatemala, lived there and been there for useful tips. That info helped to come up with the ultimate 7-day trip from south to north of the country. Here is the route we followed:

This post is more about the itinerary than the detailed experiences of each of the places we visited, so if you want to know more about each stop just hang on, all those posts are coming up next with plenty of pictures 🙂

Read: Reaching Acatenango Volcano Summit in 1 Day

As usual, we wrote down first a list of places we wanted to see, then plan the logistics behind it, how many nights per place and driving time would take, where to drive first, where to stay, etc.

 

Runner up list of places/things we wanted to do:

  • Antigua city
  • Climb a Volcano (we didn’t know at that stage which one as there are some options)
  • Semuc Champey (cool pools and clear water hiking destination)
  • Tikal/Pyramids (Tikal was the most advertised place, if not the only one so it was the one we went for at first)
  • Visit a traditional town (no idea which one, Chichicacastenango came to our attention)

7 days to do this was insane

You may think 7 days to do all of this was crazy, well yeah it was. Having to also take into account that it is suggested to drive only during day time we had to cut down on places. After lots of thinking and about 4 itinerary variations this is the final one:

Guatemala comes from the Náhualtl word “Quauhtlemallan” = Place of many trees

Henkilön Esteban Soto (@mercurial_traveller) jakama julkaisu

 

Roadtrip: Final Draft

 

Day 1

Arrived at 9am to La Aurora International Airport, drove right away to Antigua to explore the city and spend the night.

 

Day 2

Climbed the 3,976m Acatenango Volcano in 1 day with the most amazing crew from OX Expeditions. Leaving towards the Volcano at 5am coming back to Antigua at 6pm. Spent the last night in Antigua.

 

Day 3

Transfer day. Left at 8am to Flores city (10 hour drive north), 1 night in Flores.

 

Day 4

Woke up at Flores. Visit Yaxhá’s pyramids (1.5 hour drive), left at 8am from Flores.

All day in Yaxhá until sunset. Drove up to Tikal to spend the night there.

 

Day 5

All day in Tikal. 3.45am wake up, started walking at 4am to experience the sunrise in Tikal’s temple IV. Explore, explore, explore until drop dead. Drive back to Flores in late afternoon. Slept in the Island of Flores.

 

Day 6

Transfer day. Walk around the Island of Flores after breakfast, drive down to Cobán City to spend the night. Walk around Cobán’s center in the evening.

 

Day 7

Walk around Cobán in the morning, drive back to the airport at 10am (The flight was leaving at 6pm)

 

Driving distances in hours from place to place:

Guatemala City to Antigua: 1 hour

Antigua to Flores: 9 hrs (It took us 11 hrs though because of road construction and traffic)

Flores to Yaxhá: 1.5 hrs

Yaxhá to Tikal: 1.5 hrs

Tikal to Flores: 1 hr

Flores to Cobán: 6 hrs

Cobán to Guatemala City: 5hrs

 

What was left out?

 

Lots! My wife found out about Yaxhá the day before we visited and soon after that we saw at least 3 more places besides Tikal that have amazing Maya structures and NO tourists 😉 (will write more about it in the Maya Reserve and Pyramids post!).

parade kids in Coban
Kids marching with drums and dressed up in Cobán’s parade

 

We didn’t have enough time to see Semuc Champey because that would have been at least 2-3 days more as it takes a few hours to get there and out + exploring/hiking the place. We did get a glimpse of Cobán and its traditions with great traditional food from Restaurante El Peñascal and a big street parade with drums, marches and dances from every school in town. So that was a “transfer day” that came out as a win.

restaurante el peñascal
Kaq Ik (traditional turkey soup) and cacao soup on the side

 

Before we drove from Cobán back to the airport we saw this map that gave us tons of new ideas about what to do next time in Guatemala. Check it out!

Guatemala attractions map

 

I hope this post is helpful and saves you some time when planning your next trip to Guatemala.

 

If you have any questions about the trip, advise where to stay or do feel free to email me, write a comment here or through Instagram!

 

-MT

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