Wonders of Guatemala and Belize Vacation: Mayan Ruins, Jungles, Volcanoes, Beaches & More

A 9 day trip to Belize & Guatemala 
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Discover natural wonders and experience the dreamlike qualities of your customized vacation in Guatemala and Belize.  The beauty of Guatemala and Belize is limitless, immersing you in images of picture-perfect beaches and captivating volcanic peaks. Steam rises from the heated lunar landscape of the mountainside; parrotfish add a rainbow of color to the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. Pastel painted buildings frame the antique cobblestone streets of a preserved Spanish colonial city as great stone pyramids rise above the jungle canopy, revealing the ingenuity and strength of an ancient Mesoamerican civilization. 

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Lounge chairs on beautiful beach in Belize.
Ambergris house on the ocean in Belize
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Pacaya Volcano, Antigua, Guatemala City, Flores, Tikal, Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hol Chan, Shark Alley, Barrier Reef, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Antigua – Arrive in the Colonial City of Antigua, the Former Spanish Capital

Verdant mountains surround Guatemala City, encircling the urban streets with rolling peaks draped in jungle trees. Your flight descends into La Aurora International Airport, and you can see the towering mountaintops, which are active volcanoes. Skyscrapers rise to meet the natural towering slopes along the sides of the city in impressive fashion. The Museo Ixchel, named for the Mayan Moon Goddess, displays photographs and impressive exhibits of indigenous costumes, along with the richness of traditional arts form the towns along the highlands. Your private transfer meets you at baggage claim and welcomes you to Guatemala.

Pass through the heart of the city and venture along the switchback roads of the foothills; small restaurants and shops positioned on natural outcroppings overlook the cityscape. Your private transfer takes you to Antigua, a vibrant city brimming with colonial relics as you travel along old cobblestone roads between colorfully painted buildings with tile roofs. More volcanoes outline the edges of the city, separating the dynamic, colorful culture from the coffee plantations and indigenous communities of the upper-mountains. Enjoy an introductory stroll along the historic streets and visit the Choco Museo, located near the central square. Travel through time and flavor with a summary of chocolate in the Americas, followed by a tasting of the variety of treats on display and on offer, from chocolate coffee to chocolate tea, and even a workshop on how to make the enticing delicacy.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, dinner

Day 2: Antigua – Enjoy a Half-Day Guided Tour of the Preserved Colonial City

The morning sun peels above the volcanic peaks, slowly bathing the city in light. The pastel facades shine with staggering life, drawing you into the indelible charm of Antigua. At breakfast, the city fills with the savory aroma of freshly made tortillas and the scent of sweet pineapple. Your guide meets you in the lobby of the hotel, eager to show you the splendor of Antigua, from its past conception to its current preservation. The Spanish founded the city in the 16th century and acted as the third capital of Guatemala until the 18th century. The architecture has a distinctly European ambiance.

The gateway to the historical city center arches over the main road; the main cathedral was erected in the 16th century and crowns the Plaza Mayor. The church maintains a sliver of its former grandiosity after the city suffered a devastating earthquake in the 1770s. The ruins create a unique ambiance embodying much of Antigua, a hauntingly beautiful place with historic connections. Brick archways connect to remaining stone pillars, vegetation sprouts through the cracks in the walls. Intricate figures and delicate moldings decorate the archways as impressive spiritual works are propped against the backdrop of antique ruins. 

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, dinner, tour

Day 3: Flores – Full Day Trek along the Trails of the Active Pacaya Volcano

A thin veil of haze travels along the cobblestone avenues in the morning, dissipating with the sunrise. The aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans drifts out of the cafes and homes of the city. Much of Antigua’s character emanates from the three volcanoes framing the city, however, to truly appreciate Antigua and Guatemala you must get close to the craters shaping the country. After breakfast, your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you out of the city to the foothills of Pacaya Volcano. The peak rises to a height of 8,373 feet above sea level and has erupted continuously since the 1960s; trek up the hillside, following your guide’s footsteps.

The trees lining the trails turn sparse as you climb higher up the mountain. The landscape becomes lunar, craggy and barren; steam rises from beneath the rocks. Feel the heat emanating from the earth’s surface as a small opening glows with liquid hot magma. People stand at the edge, as if on a riverbank. Pull out a bag of marshmallows and begin to roast them in the natural heat emanating from the lava. The outer layer quickly cooks and leaves the inside gooey.  Look around at your surroundings and appreciate the uniqueness of standing atop a live volcano, roasting marshmallows near a leaking crater.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, tour

Day 4: Flores – Venture into the Jungle to Tour the Mayan City of Tikal

Wake up on the beautiful island of Flores, located in Santa Elena. Taxi boats ferry locals between the island and mainland shores, traveling along the emerald waters of Lago de Peten Itza. The relaxed pace of the locals provides a quiet morning to enjoy the image of cubist houses flowing to the central plaza. Rooftop terraces offer a gorgeous view of the landscape and the promenade surrounding the town. Your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you along the road leading to Tikal National Park as sparse towns sprout up alongside the route.

Water brushes against the banks of the western edges of Lago de Peten Itza, shining the same jade as the surrounding jungle canopy. Enter Tikal National Park and immediately spot a gang of turkeys in the underbrush. Disembark your private transfer to find spider monkeys leaping between tree branches; the leaves rustle and the branches spring back to their original position as the monkeys scamper deeper into the jungle. The trail leads you past some distinctive trees, including the combo-limbo, locally known as the tourist tree, due to its red bark peeling to show a white under-layer.

Tikal covers 222 square miles with 3,000 buildings. Archeologists believe the city was founded in 900 BC. At the core of the city stands the Great Plaza; two stunning temple-pyramids flank the square, bordered by a north and south acropolis. The Great Jaguar Temple stands 154 feet tall and fills you with awe, only surpassed by the view from atop the acropolises. As the sun sets over the jungle-clad city, make your way to the top of Temple IV to watch the sunset fade behind the treetops.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, dinner, tour

Day 5: San Pedro – Fly to Belize City and Continue to the Waters of Ambergris Caye

The gentle wake on the lake laps against the promenade walls of Flores; the scent of roasting coffee beans overtakes the aroma of the freshwater surrounding the island. After breakfast, your private transfer escorts you to the Mundo Maya International Airport for your flight to Belize City. The brief journey takes you above the jade canopy of the surrounding jungle in view of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport.  Disembark the plane, and board your cozy flight for the 15-minute ride to San Pedro Airport on Ambergris Caye.

It feels more like a scenic flight than a transfer as outside of your window the shimmering water turns three different shades of blue. Narrow islands and small sandbars speckle the distance between Ambergris Caye and mainland Belize. Once in San Pedro, your private transfer escorts you to your beachside resort where your room overlooks the water. The scent of coconut is never far away, soft waves brush against the powdery sand, reminding you of the sound the lake made when tapping against the walls of Flores. You were just in Guatemala this morning, but it already feels like days away.  Look out at the immaculate beaches and remarkable sea as you easily settle into the relaxed pace of island life.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, transfer

Day 6: San Pedro – Delight in a Half-Day Snorkeling Tour along the Barrier Reef

In the morning, visitors and locals alike venture out into the gentle current of the sea with paddleboards, standing on their boards and propelling themselves along the water, enjoying a private moment staring into the horizon. Make your way to the pier and board a boat eager to embark on your half-day snorkel tour. The Barrier Reef is the second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and is the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere. The wind blows through your hair as you travel through the water.

Refreshing mist sprays intermittently from the front of the boat as your guide explains the reason for the different shades of blue in the sea before you reach the entrance to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. A park ranger glides to the edges of your boat and welcomes you into the park and you are given a brief tutorial before jumping into the water. Put on your mask, and follow your guide around a portion of the three square miles designated to protect the natural marine life of the region.

The reserve centers on an area 75 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The water feels refreshingly warm on your skin; hard coral sprouts from the seafloor and twists and turns as it rises. Fish swim against the current, and some come close to your arms, curious about your presence. Your guide points down towards sea grass to a large manta ray swimming near the sand; their fluid movement makes them look as though they hover in the water. Their wingspan can grow to an impressive length of 23 feet.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, dinner, tour

Day 7: San Pedro – Visit the Island of Caye Caulker to Explore the Mangrove Forest

Quiet mornings are some of your most cherished moments on Ambergris Caye as you  look out onto the horizon and watch as the sunlight spreads across the glasslike water, reflecting on the turquoise surface.  At breakfast, relish the aroma of coffee, coconut, and the salty scent of the Caribbean Sea. Board your small catamaran and set sail across the glassy water, enjoying the spectacular seascape. Sit back in the first-class comfort and enjoy the rushing breeze.

The panorama shows you unspoiled water and untouched shores. Sail to the nearby island of Caye Caulker and immerse yourself in the relaxed pace and welcoming ambiance along the sandy main street of town. Pastel homes are elevated to protect the structure and the locals from water during wet season. The aromas of freshly grilled fish and coconut drift through the streets as your guide leads you to the nethermost reaches of the island. One hundred acres of trees and protected wildlife constitutes the Caye Caulker Forest Reserve for your exploration.

Tri-colored Heron steps through the marshy shoreline, their slender, long, bill and graceful neck shape an image of elegance during their long stride. Boa constrictors blend into the trees, winding their long bodies around the branches.  Find the intricacies of the mangrove root system on display, the trees’ bases reach into the saltwater canals providing support to both land and sea dwelling creatures. Anemones latch to the submerged tree bark as scaly-tailed iguanas clasp the stump rising above the sand.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, tour

Day 8: San Pedro – Relish a Day at Leisure on Ambergris Caye to Enjoy Island Life

In the morning, make your way to a small café on the main road to enjoy a freshly baked cinnamon roll and French press coffee. Take your treasures and go, stepping onto the sand to relish the flavor of your pastry and the movement of the waves. Today you have Ambergris Caye and Belize at your leisure, allowing you to discover the pleasures of the warm sand beneath your toes or the enticing relaxation that comes with a full body massage. Return to the sea on a snorkel expedition in search of hawksbill turtles and hammerhead sharks or stroll through San Pedro Town following the aromas of local specialties.

For a unique look at Belize’s diversity, make your way to the mainland to visit Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, home to 275 different bird species. Creeks wind through the wilderness connecting interspersed lagoons; the water edges savannah grass and logwood thickets. The sanctuary encompasses more than 16,000 acres of land and is home to some of the world’s most rare bird species, including the Jabiru Stork, the largest flying bird in the Americas. The stork can grow to a height of 55 inches with a wingspan as long as nine feet across. The black plumage along its face and neck contrasts its white and red-feathered body. Crocodiles linger on the lagoon shores, their eyes poking out of the water with their bodies lying still resembling fallen logs. 

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 9: San Pedro – Depart for Home

The aroma of fresh pupusas fills the streets, emanating from simple stands occupied by women whipping up the tasty meal. The welcoming atmosphere of San Pedro Town stems from the swaying coconut palms and cooling trade winds. You are never far away from a view of the water as locals carve wooden statues depicting turtles, whales, and Garifuna idols. Fishing boats return to shore as fishermen sell their catch of the day to the local restaurants to ensure the freshest ingredients, including decadent lobster.

Locals and visitors enter San Pedro Library, where they sell paperback books for a dollar, and people are allowed to check out a book for free without a library card. You could see yourself someday settling down on the quiet island life of San Pedro as your private transfer meets you at the hotel to escort you to San Pedro Airport.  After your brief flight to Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City, board your flight as you head home.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

Price

Starting Price 

$3,145
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.