So you’re heading to Central America and wondering how to spend 18 days in Guatemala? Keep reading!⬇️
How to spend 18 days in Guatemala (the route that we took)
If you read my how to travel Mexico in 3 weeks blog http://mypassporttohappy.com/how-to-spend-3-weeks-in-mexico/, I spoke about the fact that although on the map Central America looks relatively small it is actually so so vast and there is so much to see.
Our time in Guatemala was not always plain sailing, between protests blocking the roads and leaving us stuck in certain places for longer than we anticipated and me catching a parasite infection, our route took a couple of detours and delays.
All in all, here is how to spend 18 days in Guatemala;
📍Lake Atitlan (Panajachel & Santa Cruz)
🚐How to get to Flores?
We were traveling from Mexico, so we took a bus from Palenque which you can book online. However, it’s almost €15 more expensive to book online with some companies. We found a much cheaper company if you’re looking to book, message me on Instagram and I’ll send the what’s app number. It takes about 3 hours to get to the El Ceibo border from Palenque.
What’s the border crossing like?
Exiting Mexico is very quick. Just make sure once you arrive in Mexico to keep the entry slip that they give you. From the Mexico border it’s a 1-minute walk to the Guatemala immigration office.
Do I need a VISA to enter?
When you enter off of the four countries; Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua you’re given a 90-day VISA to be spent in the four counties together. It’s called a CA4 VISA and it’s basically to promote tourism in each country.
How long from the border to Flores?
From the border to Flores it took another 5 hours. We needed proof of vaccine and also a negative antigen or PCR within the last 3 days. (Jan 2022). Overall the bus took about 8 hours.
🛏 Where to stay in Flores?
We stayed in the Natz Hotel and honestly wouldn’t recommend it. I’m not particularly with accommodation and could fall asleep anywhere but this hostel was so noisy and the room was crawling with ants.
Los Amigos Hostel is recommended in Flores but unfortunately was booked up when we were there! https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Los-Amigos-Hostel/Flores/305386?source=ppc_gooads_nonbrand_dsk_search_pn_en_ie&network=g&campaign_id=11826316460&adgroup_id=140510864287&criteria_id=kwd-13885185605&creative_id=600375759079&location_physical_id=9047193&location_interest_id=&adposition=&uniqueclickID=5957569733200323928&sub_keyword=los%20amigos%20hostel&sub_ad=e&sub_publisher=ADW&gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=CjwKCAjw4c-ZBhAEEiwAZ105RV6Yd9YMyesDlBdZuhMe0lfm_nZ1lAc9I2pVFKnSKzhyru6-U0DQHBoCXQYQAvD_BwE
🗺 What to do in Flores?
- Tikal ruins:
The famous Tikal ruins are most definitely the main attraction for tourists in Flores. The Tikal ruins are ancient mayan ruins that are situated in the middle of the rainforests in North Guatemala. Historians believe that the more than 3,000 structures on the site are the remains of a Mayan city called Yax Mutal, which was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient empire.
Do I need a guide?
You don’t need to hire a guide, but we did. Would I recommend it? I actually would because there are 8 pyramids to see at Tikal and the guides are so knowledgeable. I don’t always hire guides but sometimes I see it as a great way to give back to poorer countries as you’re helping the locals.
What do I need to bring to the ruins?
Don’t forget ID doesn’t have to be a passport just something with a name on it!
- Watch the sunset on rooftop bars (Sky bar) or along the docks. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g562625-d4164745-Reviews-Sky_Bar-Flores_Peten_Department.html
- The cute little town with colorful buildings for walking around.
- Chill on the dock for the day.
🍽 Where to eat in Flores?
‘Al Fogón’ was good for tacos and quesadillas and had two for one on cocktails.
‘San Telmo’ for some good pancakes and smoothies in the morning.
✈️ How to get to Antigua?
From Guatemala airport or Guatemala City, you can take a shuttle bus. We were coming from Flores so we took a shuttle from here that was to take 10 hours, but with Central America being Central America it took 14 hours. The bus we got stopped at Livingston, which is a popular spot to get off as it’s near the border between Belize and Honduras.
🛌 Where to stay in Antigua?
We stayed at Purpose Hostel for €11.50 each per night for a private room and couldn’t recommend this hostel enough. It was one of our favorite hostels, the staff is so so friendly and helpful. The place is always clean and it’s in a good location too. They lock the front door so it always felt super safe. https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/The-Purpose-Hostel/Antigua/282766?source=ppc_gooads_nonbrand_dsk_dsa_pn_en_ie&network=g&campaign_id=12662089190&adgroup_id=125887318448&criteria_id=dsa-870870202058&creative_id=513739500127&location_physical_id=9047193&location_interest_id=&adposition=&uniqueclickID=4175192303948441160&sub_keyword=&sub_ad=&sub_publisher=ADW&gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=CjwKCAjw4c-ZBhAEEiwAZ105RUPwEfuHU4V5TfNl662nsKpaA3ZAh_tfQkKFIRB1zFNxdFZ0FUM6YBoCXRQQAvD_BwE
🗺 What to do in Antigua?
- Hike Acetenango (a whole other guide for this).
- Walk up to Cerro De La Cruz, which is the best viewpoint of Antigua.
- Walk through Santa Catalina Arch.
- Spend the morning at hobbitenango.
- Visit Antigua brewery.
- Take Spanish lessons.
- Take salsa lessons.
🍽 Where to eat in Antigua?
We cooked for ourselves most nights in Antigua but it’s a built-up little city with loads of American fast food diners as opposed to restaurants. There was Mc Donalds, Taco Bell, Dunkin
✅ Extra Tips for Antigua:
If you’re hiking Acetenango don’t book accommodation for that night as you’ll be camping on the mountain. Most companies let you leave your bags in their place free of charge, Tropicana is one of them.
3. Lake Atitlan
Lago de Atitlan/Lake Atitlan is surrounded by 3 volcanoes; Tolimán, San Pedro and Atitlan. There are numerous little towns you can stay on on the lake, we spent our time in Panajachel and Santa Cruz.
Check out my complete guide to Lake Atitlan here;
4. El Paredon
✈️ How to get to El Paredon?
From Panajachel or most places at Lake Atitlan, the shuttles leave at 5 am or 9 am. It takes 2 hours back to Antigua, an hour and a half wait, and then another 2 hours to El Paredon which was €28 each.
From Antigua, the shuttles leave daily at 9 am and 3 pm.
You can also take chicken buses but it takes twice as long.
🛏 Where to stay in El Paredon?
We stayed at Driftwood Surfer Hostel which was €11 each per night for a shared dorm. https://www.hostelworld.com/st/hostels/p/97985/driftwood-surfer-beach-hostel-el-paredon-guatemala/?source=ppc_gooads_nonbrand_dsk_dsa_ds_en_ie&network=g&campaign_id=12736089558&adgroup_id=121447065979&criteria_id=dsa-19959388920&creative_id=516049606979&location_physical_id=9047193&location_interest_id&adposition&uniqueclickID=17655627589409950931&sub_keyword&sub_ad&sub_publisher=ADW&gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=CjwKCAjw4c-ZBhAEEiwAZ105RUsYFgzjpn5vqwmkAvzbKw_dWS9I7qQtbNBu8o_S5Z-1ngV2pvSvzhoCf1AQAvD_BwE
This was one of my favorite hostels, not only because they have a pet boar but because the dorms are so spacious and have air-con (El Paredon gets super hot). I was super sick when I arrived here, I passed out on the reception couch and the staff there were so good to me, especially Andy. The hostel is right along the beach and they have boards to rent and provide lessons too! It was 150Q for a lesson, 240Q for a lesson and rental, 125Q for a 24-hour rental, and 300Q for 3 day rental. The hostel has a volleyball court and also does family dinners to meet other bag packers. Say hi to their pet Potato.
The Mellow hostel is also recommended here if Driftwood is full.
🗺 What to do here in El Paredon?
El Paredon beach is a black sand beach that is a quiet spot as not many tourists come here.
- The main thing to do here is surfing. If you want to surf in Guatemala we found it’s best to go early in the morning or if you’re more of a pro the waves are unreal before sunset after 5pm. It was voted as one of the top ten surfing spots in the world by the Guardian before.
- Baby turtle season: The mothers will lay their eggs between July and November each year. Then baby turtles will hatch daily between September until December.
- Watch the most incredible sunsets.
🍽 Where to eat in EL Paredon?
We mainly got the family meals and the breakfast in the hostel!
‘SoulFood Kitchen’ has the best Asian food! https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Restaurant_Review-g6554975-d12087259-Reviews-Soul_Food_Kitchen-El_Paredon_Escuintla_Department.html
Did this guide on how to spend 18 days in Guatemala help?
Let me know by sending me a DM on Instagram! I’d love to know how I can improve my guides!