Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary

This is a one-month Guatemala itinerary complete with all the places you should visit, points of interest and natural wonders, onward travel options, and my accommodation recommendation. The only one-month Guatemala itinerary you will ever need.


If you are planning on travelling across Guatemala for a month (or more), this is the best itinerary. It covers all the must-see places and leaves some wiggle room for additional trips and rest days.

This is the so-called backpackers’ trail itinerary. This means that all the places are well-visited by both backpackers and tourists. You don’t have to be a backpacker to travel this route, but choosing a backpacker trail gives you a list of destinations that are mostly safe for travellers, and gives you the opportunity to meet other people and have a great time! Especially if you are travelling solo.

Nevertheless, if you are travelling as a couple, family, group of friends, you name it – I believe that by following this route you will make the most of your wonderful travels in Guatemala.

Guatemala is an absolutely stunning country packed full of natural wonders, rivers, volcanoes Unesco heritage sites and charming towns. Most importantly it’s a country of rich culture, friendly and warm people and an endless list of adventures. What can I say, I love Guatemala!

So if you chose this country as your next travel destination – well done! You will love it!

Please note – this Guatemala itinerary is completely customisable and depending on how long you are planning to travel for, you can always skip some locations, or stay in some places for a little longer.

So without further ado let’s get to planning your Guatenmala trip:

In short, your one-month Guatemala itinerary should cover these destinations:

  • Guatemala City – 2 Nights
  • Rio Dukce – 3 Nights
  • Livingston – 2 Nights
  • Flores + Tikak – 4 Nights
  • Semuc Champey – 3 Nights 
  • Antigua – 5 Nights
  • El Paredon – 3 Nights
  • Lake Atitlan – 5 Nights
  • Xela – 2 Nights

How to Use This One-month Guatemala Itinerary

Customise

This itinerary is completely customizable. I will give you some options for a starting and ending point depending on where you are travelling before and after your Guatemala trip.

You can stay longer in any of the suggested places, but for the best experience I recommend staying at least the number of nights I suggest. Of course, you can also skip one of the locations or cut out any part of the route. This Guatemala itinerary is meant to help you and provide you with as much information as possible so you can make your Guatemala trip awesome!

Choose Your Starting and Ending Point

If you are flying to Guatemala and don’t continue your trip by bus to one of the neighbouring countries, your starting and ending point will be Guatemala City. In this case, I recommend a slightly controversial start to the journey but hear me out.

This is how I did it, and I think it was the best option.

After you arrive in Guatemala City and get some rest, I recommend heading straight to Rio Dulce. If you plan to see this part of the country, it’s best to start from there and slowly head back towards Guatemala City or Atitlan, depending on what are your travel plans after Guatemala.

This way, you will not have to go back on yourself and take all the long and tiring journeys only once.

Of course, if you are arriving in Guatemala by bus from Belize or Honduras, naturally Rio Dulce is going to be your starting point anyway.

However, if you are coming from San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico, then just take this route in the opposite direction. Then if you want to go to Belize or Honduras, go towards Rio Dulce. And if you fly back by plane, you can take a bus to Guatemala City from there.

In this one-month Guatemala itinerary, I list all the places you should stop at, all the reasons why, things to do, how to get there and where to stay.

Let’s GO!

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary

One Month Guatemala Itinerary

Guatemala City – 2 Nights

I recommend staying in Guatemala City only as long as you need to heal your jet lag, get a sim card, organize/withdraw some money, get a good night’s sleep, and spend a day exploring the old city.

Some of the travellers I met spent a little more time in Guatemala City and enjoyed it, but most of them were meeting friends there or were travelling in a group. Especially for solo travellers, starting your trip in Guatemala City can feel a bit overwhelming. Be sure to book your hostel or room in a safe area near the historic part of the city and the bus station.

I enjoyed the couple of days I spent there, but after exploring the historic part of the city and doing all the necessary shopping, I was ready to move on.

How long in Guatemala City:

I recommend 2 nights as you will want to have one full day to get over the jetlag and maybe get a few things organised. It’s a big city so if you want to do some shopping, get a sim card or visit a bank – this is the place to do it. Also, it’s worth spending some time exploring the historical part of Guatemala City. After you took a whole day getting yourself refreshed you will be ready for an early bus ride the next day.

Ps. I might be totally wrong here and I accept it. I admit I took very little time exploring this metropolis and given the majority of travellers do the same it could be that this city has a lot to offer that no one is talking about. I might fix this one day 🙂

Things to do in Guatemala City:

  • Visit museums such as Casa Mima (free), Museo Ixchel or the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum.
  • Stroll around Parque Central – the main plaza of the city.
  • Shop at Mercado Central or Fontabella Plaza.
  • Relax and rest your feet in Parque Minerva
  • Take a walking tour – this is always the best and safest way to explore any new city while gaining valuable insight into its history and some travel tips from a local guide. Check out this walking tour of Guatemala City.
  • If you are in Guatemala City on Sunday, take a walk towards Avenida La Reforma and Avenida Las Américas. On this day, both streets are closed to traffic to allow pedestrians and cyclists to take over the space. You will also find many artists and street performers there.

Where to stay in Guatemala City:

Book your room in Zona 1 if you want to explore the Centro Historico and stay near the bus terminals for your onward journey. Mini Loft 1 en El Circulo offers cute little loft apartments in Zona 1 for a very good price! Casa Carmel Bed & Breakfast is a bit more bouji option for the historic centre. 

Zona 13 is great if you want to stay near the airport. Choose Zona 13 only if you are staying just for one night and need easy access to the airport. If you are looking for a good and affordable hostel near the airport to stay the night after you arrive look no further than Hostal Guatefriends or Los Lagos Inn Hostel.

For affordable private rooms near the airport, both Mariana’s Petit Hotel and Mi Casa, Tu Casa are highly recommended. If you prefer to stay the night in a hotel room before your flight, take a look at Suites Terraza Imperial which is only 1km away from the airport.

If you dont mind spending a bit more cash on a hotel consider Zona 10 where you will find some upmarket hotels and a cluster of restaurants and bars. But you will find a couple of hostels there as well. I recommend Comfort Hostel which offers a nice private room, and free breakfast and is located in the popular Zona 10. Hyatt Centric Guatemala City offers a bit more luxurious stay in the Zona 10.

Complete guide to solo female travel in Guatemala. Is Guatemala safe for solo female travellers?

Rio Dulce – 3 Nights

It sounds daunting to embark on a long bus trip from Guatemala City all the way to Rio Dulce just days after landing in Guatemala. But there is a method to this madness.

Once you get here, you can spend the time chilling and exploring the area and take a 2 days trip to Livingston, after which you’ll slowly make your way through the country.

I think you should put this part of the country on your Guatemala itinerary. It’s different from colonial Antigua and breathtaking Atitlan. But beautifully different.

Rio Dulce is a town and a beautiful river in the department of Izabal in Guatemala that connects Lake Izabal (the largest lake in Guatemala) to the Caribbean Sea.
This part of Guatemala is a bit different from what most travellers associate the country with. For this reason, I think you can get a full picture of Guatemala unless you venture to Rio Dulce.

The river meanders for 43 kilometres, surrounded by cliffs and jungle. It has a deep green colour and its banks are often dotted with lonely waterfront homes, random local restaurants, jungle hostels and rural communities. You will pass locals selling fish and langoustines from their boats, a few travellers in kayaks, but mostly the vastness of the river, which becomes more and more overwhelming the closer you get to Lake Izabal.

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

The town itself is very interesting with its bustling town centre, a mostly very chaotic main street with tuk-tuks, tracks and buses passing through, locals shopping at numerous stalls and markets, and travellers (fewer than in other parts of the country) looking sometimes a bit lost, sometimes overwhelmed, and sometimes awestruck.

But on the banks of the river, you will find surprisingly good restaurants where you can eat well and watch the sailors from all over the world coming into the marina to spend a few days relaxing.

There are also a few great things to do around Rio Dulce and some incredible jungle hostels where you should definitely stay.

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)
Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

How to get to Rio Dulce from Guatemala City:

There is a direct public bus from Guatemala City to Rio Dulce which is a big, airconditioned and comfortable bus. FDN company operates this route and the bus leaves every 4 hours. The journey will last between 6 and 8 hours depending on traffic or roadworks.

Things to do:

  • Dive into the hectic streets of the town centre and shop at the local market
  • Take a boat tour to Castillo de San Felipe and watch the sunset from there
  • Rent a kayak
  • Hike to Finca Paraiso and enjoy the hot and cold waterfall
  • Take a boat or kayak trip to The Boqueron.
  • Visit Quirigua Mayan ruins

Where to stay in Rio Dulce:

While in Rio Dulce I highly recommend you stay in one of the jungle hotels on the water. This is one-of-a-kind experience. Some travellers make those a destination on their own as you can stay there, chill, get fed and be provided with experiences or activities. The best are Hotelito Perdido, Casa Perico and Boatique Hotel and Marina.

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Livingston – 2 Nights

From Rio Dulce, you can take a lancha (boat) and travel to Livingston where I recommend you stay for at least a couple of nights. After that stay you can come back to Rio Dulce and continue travelling towards Flores and Tikal.

I spent a month in Livingston as a volunteer in a hostel, and this town was an introduction to Guatemala for me. Not typical, but definitely fascinating. I have heard many different opinions about Livingston and I am glad I had an opportunity to make up my own mind.

The travellers I met there also had very divided opinions. Some loved it, and some hated it and ran away the next day. This town is real and for real travellers. Unpolished, raw, rough around the edges, strangely magical. 

You should visit Livingston if you are looking to experience a different face of Guatemala. It is the only place in Guatemala where you can experience the Garifuna culture and fascinating town dynamics between the Garifunas, Mayas and Ladinos. You can take some awesome trips from Livingston and visit natural wonders and Caribbean beaches, eat delicious food and stay in one of the beautiful hotels on the water.

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)
Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

How to get to Livingston from Rio Dulce (and back)

To get to Livingston from Rio Dulce, you will have to take a boat from Melle de Rio Dulce directly to Livingston for the price of Q100. The journey lasts a little under half an hour.

Things to do in Livingston:

  • Walk to Siete Altares – a series of freshwater pools
  • Take a boat trip to Playa Blanca
  • Experience the Garifuna culture.
  • Eat Tapado – the best seafood dish ever!

Where to stay in Livingston:

One of the best things about Livingston is Hotel Casa Rosada. And I am not saying that only because I have spent a month volunteering there. I truly mean it. This hotel is special. Spectacularly set on the bank of the river boasting a great water deck, loft dorms with a view, hammocks and incredible sunrise.

Suppose you are looking for an authentic and Garifuna-owned hotel – Garifuna Hotel was highly recommended to me. Conveniently located in the heart of the town, offering air-conditioned rooms and great WiFi. Check it out!

There are a few other popular lodging options in Livingston like Casa Nostra or Casa de la Iguana – but as I am usually careful with strong hotel recommendations, this time I am telling you (LOL) – book a loft dorm in Casa Rosada, and you will not regret it!

Flores + Tikal – 4 nights

A lot of people would visit Flores with the primary intention of touring Tikal National Park. And although Tikal is a must-do, Flores itself has so much to offer that you should definitely spend some time exploring it.

Flores is an island located on the third biggest lake in Guatemala, Lake Peten Itza. It is one of the most colourful and charming towns in Guatemala and offers a large concentration of great hostels, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops but most importantly, it is surrounded by stunning Guatemalan nature. It is a very colourful and vibrant town, yet it retained its chilled atmosphere even though it is now a very popular backpackers’ destination.

I recommend spending at least 3 full days (4 nights) in Flores so you can dedicate a whole day to the Tikal trip but also spend a couple of days exploring what the town of Flores has to offer. And it offers a lot.

HOW TO SPEND 3 FANTASTIC DAYS IN FLORES, GUATEMALA / FULL ITINERARY AND THINGS TO DO IN FLORES

While in Flores, you can visit two different Maya Ruins – the famous Tikal but also Uaxactún. The lake is an attraction in itself where you can enjoy kayaking, boat trips or simply taking walks along the Malecon.

You can take half-day trips to the pueblo of San Miguel located on the other bank of the lake and take a pleasant hike to Playa El Chechenal. It’s a stunning lake beach definitely worth visiting while in Flores. You can also spend a day at Jorge’s Swing Rope or simply wander around the town and explore multiple craft and souvenir shops, colourful cafes or bars overlooking the lake. Flores is a wonderful town to stay in for a few days.

One of the very popular things to do in Flores is a five-day trek to El Mirador. It is a 40km hike through the Guatemalan jungle. Hiking to El Mirador is an incredible adventure, and in the end, you will discover one of the largest and oldest Mayan cities in the world. Of course for this activity, you would have to dedicate a few more days but I wanted to mention it as it’s worth considering if you love jungle hikes.

How to get to Flores from Rio Dulce

It is very straightforward to get to Flores from Rio Dulce. You will just need to book a shuttle from Rio Dulce (between Q175), and around 5 hours later, it will drop you right in front of your hotel in Flores. The easiest way to book a shuttle is to visit Adrenalina Tours or Happy Fish Travel websites and book it online.

For the best piece pop into Things to do in Flores:

  • Tikal National Park tour which can be done independently or by taking an organized tour
  • Rent a kayak and explore Lake Peten Itzal
  • Explore the town and take tonnes of pictures
  • Take a trip to the Playa El Chechenal
  • Explore the pueblo of San Miguel
  • Walk to Mirador Rey Canek
  • Spend a day at Jorge’s Swing Rope
  • Hike to El Mirador

Where to stay in Flores:

Los Amigos Hostel is undoubtedly the best place to stay while in Flores, Guatemala. It is a true secret garden of Flores and one of the best hostels I stayed in during my trip to the country.

They have a great choice of dorms and private rooms, one of the best kitchens I have seen and the general vibe is wonderful. It is a great place to meet other travellers as well. This is my personal recommendation. 

Other popular lodging choices in Flores include Hotel Peten Express, which has both dorms and private rooms and a swimming pool. La Terrazza Hostel also has good reviews, but I personally don’t know anyone who stayed there, nor have I seen the hostel myself.

HOW TO SPEND 3 FANTASTIC DAYS IN FLORES, GUATEMALA / FULL ITINERARY AND THINGS TO DO IN FLORES

El Remate (optional) – 1 Night

On the other side of Peten Lake sits a small charming town of El Remate which you could easily visit while in Flores. Given there are only 2 buses a day in this direction I actually suggest spending a night in El Remate. 

El Remate is a small village picturesquely located by the lake which is very laid back and offers a stunning lake beach where you can swim and enjoy the surroundings.  If you would rather stay closer to Tikal and crave tranquillity – El Remate might be a better choice than Flores.

I have not ventured to El remate although I originally had plans to. I very much regret not doing it so If you have a spare day, I think it’s worth visiting.

Where to stay in El Remate:

Hotel Gringo Perdido is very highly recommended but not the cheapest option. Alice Guesthouse offers much more affordable rooms and dorm beds and it has a real rustic jungle feel to it.

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I hope to see you there! Pati

Semuc Champey – 3 Nights

I dreamed of Semuc Champey from the moment I decided to go to Guatemala. That day, I saw pictures and videos of this magical place and I decided that whatever happens, I will make it to Semuc.

And I did. I wasn’t disappointed.

Not every traveller makes it to Semuc Champey. It’s hard to get there and it’s a gruelling journey. But I guess one doesn’t just arrive in paradise without working for it. I came across travellers who said it was not worth it. I think they are nuts. Joke! But on a serious note, everyone has a right to their own opinion.

Lanquin is a small remote village in the midst of rural Guatemala. But what all travellers come here for is the natural wonder of Semuc Champey.

Semuc Champey is a set of around 18 perfectly turquoise river pools and limestone bridges naturally formed over the Cahabón River. The river flows into the deep gorge of the jungle, and the best way to get a perfect view is to climb up to the famous Mirador. The water in the pools is of perfect temperature and dreamy colour. A true paradise on earth.

You need at least 3 days in Semuc. If you go on a quick, one-night trip and don’t give yourself enough time to rest and enjoy and just choose to go on a one-day ‘do-it-all’ tour – you might as well leave disappointed. If you have only one day, I would say: don’t go to Semuc Champey. It is not worth it.

How to get to Lanquin/Semuc Champey from Flores:

The best way to get to Semuc Champey from Flores is by shuttle.

First of all – don’t just book any shuttle. Go with GuateGo. It is the most respectable shuttle company, their cars are airconditioned and semi-comfortable given it is not a big luxurious coach. Let’s be honest. The journey is long, uncomfortable, bumpy and tiring. You don’t want to end up in a dodgy car that will make you sit there with no air con or break halfway through. Book a shuttle with a respectable and well-known company – ask your hostel for the best recommendation.

I went to Semuc from Flores and booked my shuttle with Los Amigos Hostel. The price was Q175.

The journey from Flores to Semuc is an adventure in itself and you are bound to make friends on the way. Sharing this experience gets people closer. Hahaha. Intrigued yet? Give it a go!

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

Things to do in Lanquin:

  • Vitis Semuc Champey (Duh!)
  • Enjoy River tubing (more than once)
  • Tour Grutas de Lanquín with its thousand bats
  • Explore the town of Lanquin

Where to stay in Lanquin/Semuc Champey:

When looking for a hostel to stay in when visiting Semuc Champey, you’ll have to decide whether you’d rather stay in the town of Lanquin or a jungle lodge nearer the Semuc. Both options have their pros and cons. 

You can stay in one of the incredible jungle eco-lodges like Utopia Eco Hotel or Ch’i Bocol Community Hostel which will give you an incredible experience, you will be much closer to Semuc and in some cases, you will be even able to walk there. But you will be away from town and all the amenities that come with it. You will also have to dine on-site which can prove pricy.

On the other hand, staying in Lanquin town will allow you to eat in local restaurants and access a few local shops and markets. There is also a bank and an ATM in Lanquin as well as a few tour agencies. You will, however, have to take a ‘taxi’ or organized tour to get to Semuc Champey Park unless you don’t mind a 2-hour hike. The best accommodation options in lanquin include El Retiro, Hostal Oasis Where I stayed), Vista Verde (where I also stayed) and the trendy Zephyr River Lodge. All those hostels offer dorm beds as well as private rooms.

Antigua + Volcano Hike – 5 nights

I don’t think you can say you have really been to Guatemala if you didn’t visit Antigua. There are a few staple stops on this Guatemala itinerary that put together will paint a fuller picture of the country. And Antigua Guatemala is one of them.

Antigua is a destination in itself and is very popular among tourists and travellers. It has also a growing community of ex-pats.

Although I don’t think this former capital of Guatemala is a comprehensive representation of the whole of the country, but not seeing Antigua would make your Guatemala itinerary incomplete.

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

Antigua is a beautiful city, a Unesco World Heritage Site where the time has been preserved within its colonial walls and buildings. It is fully packed with great things to do, fascinating architecture and history, and surrounded by spectacular nature and volcanoes. It is also a foodie paradise!

One of the best things to do while in Antigua is an Acatenango overnight hike.  Doing it at night will allow you to see the incredible spectacle of erupting lava! It’s a must-do along with many other incredible activities in Antigua.

For this reason, you should definitely reserve at least 4 nights for Antigua and 5 nights if you are planning on doing a volcano hike. A volcano hike is tiring and you will want to have a day to rest.

How to Visit Antigua Guatemala on a Budget

How to get to Antigua from Semuc Champey/Lanquin:

Here again – the best way to get from Lanquin to Antigua is by private shared shuttle which can be booked from your accommodation in Lanquin.

There is no real public transport alternative. I mean there is. You could look to go to Coban first and then take a bus from there to Guatemala City and then to Antigua but it would take much longer and I am not certain if it’s worth the money saved.

When I did this route I paid Q220 (with a cheeky discount) for the shuttle ticket. I heard prices were going as high as Q320 but I believe if you ask around (in other hostels) you will get a better price.

Things to do in Antigua:

  • Exploring the town and dive into its food scene
  • Indulge in the best chocolate in the world (personal opinion)
  • Visit local markets
  • Visit Hotel Museum Casa Santo Domingo
  • Take A Hike To Cerro De La Cruz For The Best Panoramic Views
  • Take a day trip to the Chichicastenango market
  • Hike the Acatenango or Pacaya Volcano
  • Visit Hobbitenango

Where to stay in Antigua:

Antigua Guatemala is abundant in incredible hotels, hostels and any type of accommodation you might dream of.

If like me you are a budget traveller – you will have plenty of hostels to choose from.

I stayed in the Somos hostel, and I really liked it. The dorm beds were super comfy! Although breakfast wasn’t included, there was a morning coffee, free water refill and a great kitchen with a terrace overlooking the volcanos. Great wifi too!

Other highly recommended and good value hostels in Antigua Guatemala are Maya Papaya (not the cheapest but highly rated and with good breakfast included), Tropicana Hostel (great price, garden and pool!) and The Purpose Hostel offering great roof terrace and filtered water, coffee and tea available all day.

For a mid-range yet high-quality stay I recommend Casa Bella Boutique Hotel or the stunning Hotel y Arte Antigua.

If you are looking for a more luxurious stay then look no further than Meson Panza Verde or Hotel Museo Casa Santo Domingo. And if you are looking for an incredible stay and dont mind splurging – Posada del Angel is a place you should look into.

El Paredon Or /And Monterrico – 3 Nights

No itinerary is complete without some time spent on the beach, isn’t it? And that’s also true for this Guatemala itinerary.

Guatemala is not a country one goes to for beaches and turquoise seas. It’s a country of lush jungles, rivers and lakes, spectacular nature and impressive volcanoes. But surprisingly, there are a couple of beach towns that you can visit if you are into surfing or just want to lounge in a hammock in a small beach town.

El Paredon is a small seaside town where you can quench your beach thirst. Head to El Paredon if you are looking for great and affordable surf lessons away from the crowds of Costa Rica. But if surfing isn’t your thing, El Paredon also has some great hostels with pools, a charming little town, surprisingly good restaurants and a unique atmosphere. It’s also a good party town.

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

Monterricco is an off-beaten-path beach town in Guatemala and you can actually take a local bus from El Paredon to Monterricco, so you can see both places in a few days.

Montericco is a small town with just a few things to do, but that’s what beach towns are supposed to be like. At least that’s what I think. In both towns, you can take part in the release of baby sea turtles, which is a great experience. The beaches on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala are black due to their volcanic origin and are great for surfing.

You can also join one of the mangrove tours, where you can observe the wildlife at very early times of the morning.

How to get from Antigua to El Paredon and Montericco:

There are numerous shared shuttle buses that run from Antigua to both towns. If you want to see both El Paredon and Montericco, I recommend heading to Montericco first, then to El Paredon and finally to Xela, the last stop on our Guatemala itinerary.

Where to stay in El Paredon or Montericco:

There are quite a few good hostels in El Paredonand given the growing popularity of the town, new ones are emerging quite often.

The Driftwood Surfer has been a popular backpacker hostel in El Paredon for several years now. It is considered a party hostel, which is something to consider before booking. An equally awesome but slightly more chilled alternative is Mellow Hostel El Paredon. A new kid on the block but has already made some waves.

If you dont fancy a hostel and would rather rent a small cabana for yourself, Calypso Cabanas is a super cool idea.
For a more ‘comfortable’ option in El Paredon, you could book a gorgeous room with a terrace at Casa Zala or a quirky and stylish room at Swell.

In Montericco, it’s harder to find good and affordable accommodation. So if you are on a budget, stick to El Paredon and maybe take a day trip to Montericco instead. If budget isn’t so much of an issue and there are more of you, rent an entire house or apartment like Casa Pierre or Casa Familiar. The rooms at Marbella Eco Lodge are comfortable and right on the beach!

Lake Atitlan – 5 nights (or a whole life)

I am sorry but this is one place you just cannot delete from your Guatemala itinerary, You just can’t!

Lake Atitlan is my favourite place in Guatemala. I loved it so much that if I didn’t have to go back to Europe, I would probably settle there for much longer. I  the end I spent 10 glorious days there!

Lake Atitlán is considered one of the most beautiful and unique places in the world. This deepest lake in Central America, located at 1500 m above sea level, has a length of 18 kilometres and a depth of up to 341 meters. It is surrounded by many volcanoes and offers what, for me – is a perfect climate.

Lake Atitlan’s shore is dotted with numerous indigenous villages, with the Maya people of Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel making up over 90% of the local population.

Each of Lake Atitlan’s villages and towns is unique and known for something different like ceramics, textiles or holistic retreats. So make sure that you visit at least three or four of them! This is why I recommend staying at least 5 nights here.

You will not want to leave!

It’s a truly magical place it stole my heart forever.

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)
Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

How to get to Lake Atitlan fro El Paredon (or Antigua):

If you travel from El Paredon directly to Lake Atitlan, there is a direct shuttle bus that will take you to Panajachel. You can book your stay in Pana.

If you are staying in any of the other towns on Lake Atitlan, you will need to take a lancha from Pana and make sure you arrive before dark to catch the public one. The private boat will cost you legs and arm.

You can also head back to Antigua and travel to Lake Atitlan from there.
From Antigua, you have the choice of going to either Panajachel or San Pedro La Laguna. Many guides will advise you to go to Panajachel, but San Pedro is just as easy to get to. There is no public transportation to San Pedro, therefore, you will have to take a private shuttle.

There is a local bus from Antigua to Pana. If you are heading to San Pedro and use public transportation, you have to go to Panajachel first and then take a lancha (boat) to San Pedro.

Complete One Month Guatemala Itinerary (Guatemala Backpackers Trail)

Things to do at Lake Atitlan:

Too many to mention here – read my Atitlan guide instead.

Where to stay at Lake Atitlan:

Lake Atitlan is home to some of the most legendary hostels in Guatemala

La Iguana Perdida, one of the cool Santa Cruz hostels, is beautifully located and famous for its Saturday party. Tranquil, as it is, Santa Cruz is home to yet another party hostel – Free Cerveza, one of the most recommended hostels around Lake Atitlan. 

Eco-Hostel Mayachik in San Juan has fantastic reviews – stay there if you don’t care for the parties but rather for the authentic vibe and charming, artsy town.

Eagle’s Nest in San Marcos is one of the most famous hotels around Lake Atitlan, primarily for spectacular views and excellent yoga facilities, free morning yoga classes and other activities. It is on the pricier side, though.

If you prefer to stay in Panajachel, there is Selina, and there is not much introduction needed there. Dreamboat Hostel has a pool and great reviews so if Selina isn’t your thing, try this one. 

In San Pedro, Mandala Hostel has fantastic reviews. I also stayed in the Pinocchio Hotel – great rooms for an excellent price, yet it seems like you cannot book the rooms online. I recommend it!

Quetzaltenango (Xela) – 2 nights

Here we are – Xela is the last stop on our Guatemala itinerary.

Xela is Guatemala’s second-largest city and is still slightly off the beaten path although is definitely worth visiting. The population of the town consists mostly of indigenous Maya so Xela has a much more traditional feel. Not as touristy as Antigua, Xela is a great city to come to if you want to see the real Guatemala.

It’s also a great town to learn some Spanish as there are many excellent Spanish schools and the Spanish teaching industry has grown massively here. Accommodation is pretty affordable here as well and you will have great hiking opportunities including some volcano hikes. Quetzaltenango’s colonial architecture and vibrant Maya culture make it a great place to stay for much longer than just a few days.

If you continue onward to Mexico over the land you can get a shuttle from Xela or like me you can travel from Panajachel directly to San Cristobal de las Casas.

How to get to Quetzaltenango from Lake Atitlan:

There is a direct chicken bus from Panajachel to Quetzaltenango. As far as I know, there are 2 of those direct buses per day – one early in the morning and one at 1 pm, but please double check as this might have changed since. You will want to make it for a direct chicken bus, otherwise, you will have to change at Los Encuentros.

You can of course opt for a private shared shuttle which you can book from your hostel or any of the tourist agencies in Panajachel.

Things to do in Xela:

  • Hike to the Laguna Chicaba or to Volcano Santa Maria or Tajumulco.
  • Take a walk around Quetzaltenango cemetery
  • Visit Las Fuentes Giorginas hot springs
  • Take an easy hike to the Cerro Quemado
  • Witness the chaos of Minerva Terminal Market
  • Walk to Parque Centro and visit Quetzaltenango Cathedral

Where to stay in Xela:

Kasa Kiwi Hostel & Travel Agency has very affordable private rooms and nice dorms and is located right in the historic centre. They have a huge roof terrace too! Casa Seibel and Casa I’X are also great options for budget travellers! For a super-budget private room check out Hotel Ideal Quetzaltenango.

Some of the best midrange options in Xela include Hotel Muchá.

For a very comfortable stay in a hotel with a pool and fitness centre, consider LATAM HOTEL Plaza Pradera Quetzaltenango. If you like to stay in a boutique hotel, look no further than Casa Morasan Hotel-Boutique or Hotel Vintage Rialto.

So this is it folks! My complete one-month Guatemala itinerary. I tried to include as much information as I could to make the planning much easier for you!

If you decide to take this route let me know how it went!

Until then, happy travels my friends!

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Pati! thank you for the thoughtful and informative resource. I am curious about your experience with accommodation availability. I plan on going for the month of April. Usually, I’m not particularly eager to pre-book too much as I prefer some flexibility in my travel plans. However, it seems that post-pandemic, many places are busier. Did you pre-book most stays? I really appreciate any help you can provide.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jasmine! I didn’t really plan too much ahead of time as my plans were changing often and I most of the time extended my stay. I did book my most immediate destination though. For example, once I knew I would be heading to Lake Atitlan I booked the first 2 or 3 nights stay there. It’s good to have a bed lined up in a new place. It really depends if saving money on accommodation is important for you as well. The best and cheapest options will get booked up quicker. I would suggest finding a balance between spontaneity and prebooking 🙂 Also, some locations get booked up quicker than others, but some towns have more accommodation options. What I usually do, I research the options on booking platforms and see what’s the availability. If I find an option I like and it says, ‘2 beds/one room’ left, for example then this gives me a hint that this location or place is hot and I book it early. If I see many options in my price range still, then I don’t bother until a few days before. Mind you, I am an organisational/research freak hahaha! I hope this helps, enjoy Guatemala!

  2. Hi Pati! Thanks for sharing your one-month itinerary 🙂 If you don’t mind me asking, I was wondering how much you ended up spending in this one month? Thanks!

    1. Hello Rachel! I have spent my first month volunteering in Livingston so this month I haven’t spent much but the following month I have travelled all around Guatemala and spent in total around $1000. This includes accommodation, transportation and experiences. I could have done it cheaper but also I believe its not a bad result for a whole month of travel. I have used mostly local transportation as well as shuttle buses, took no flights and half of the time I stayed in hostels. Also please keep in mind that this year prices went up especially for shuttle transportation but I believe it is still possible to do it on under $1000. I hope this helps!

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