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Heart of Guatemala

From gorgeous Antigua, take a trip to the Guatemalan Highlands, away from the tourist crowds of Central America and experience authentic modern Mayan culture. With a mix of colonial influences, Catholicism and traditional Mayan practices, this place is a feast for the senses. Experience small, regional markets then hit the likes of Almolonga – famed for its giant vegetables – and Chichicastenango – the country's most popular and colourful market full of homemade wares and medicinal plants. Depart the highlands and head for Lake Atitlan, surrounded by mountainous volcanoes. Take a scenic boat road to the shamans that guard the shrine of Maximon and share in some spirits while they tell you stories of local life and why this culture holds the chain-smoking deity in such high regard.

6 days, from


per person


16 people max


Trip code: QBSG
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer


Countries Visited:  Guatemala
Accommodation: Hotel (5 nights)
Transportation: Private vehicle , Shared boat
Included Meals:

  • 5 breakfasts
  • 1 lunches

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 16

  • Visit San Andres Itazapa and see the shamanic ceremonies devoted to San Simon, a popular chain-smoking saint that has stolen the hearts of the Mayan people.

  • Soak the day away in the volcanic hot springs in Xela, surrounded by lush, green ferns, volcanic landscape and rainforest trails.

  • Take an elaborately decorated chicken bus to a local market and witness the larger-than-life vegetables this region’s known for – decide for yourself whether it’s the result of the fertilizer or the blessings from God.

  • Visit Chichicastenango market – known as Chichi for short – and pick up your very own huipils (a traditional Mayan garment worn by women and girls) or some handmade jade jewellery.

  • Take a scenic boat ride on Lake Atitlan to Santiago Atitlan, with 95% of the population of Mayan descent, and meet the shamanic keepers of Maximon and share a bottle of local spirits with them as they tell you stories of local life.

  • By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, Eden Reforestation Projects. Donations help them provide local employment opportunities and tackle climate change one tree at a time as they restore forests across 10 different countries.


Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Antigua

Welcome to Guatemala! Your trip starts in the colonial city of Antigua – surrounded by volcanos, the views from this city are all you need to make the trip. Antigua is known for its Spanish buildings, many restored after the 1773 earthquake that ended Antigua’s status as Guatemala’s capital. Your trip starts with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, followed by an optional group dinner.

Day 2: San Andres Itazapa / Quetzaltenango

This morning after breakfast, travel to San Andres Itazapa in Chimaltenango. The Guatemalan Highlands are the best place to see the result of Mayan culture and Catholic religion coming together. Witness the unique culture firsthand with a shamanic ceremony at the Temple of San Simon. San Simon, the chain-smoking saint also known as Maximon, is a somewhat morally ambiguous deity. As few Mayan gods survived Spanish colonialism, scholars now think that San Simon is a symbol of numerous lost deities. After leaving your rum or tobacco offering (which can be purchased at the on-site liquor store), you’ll stop for a group lunch, before heading to Las Fuentes Georginas – volcanically heated hot springs in Xela. Surrounded by ferns, these luxurious hot springs are also the entrance to the forest reserve, with trails to the Zunil volcano. When you start to prune, you’ll carry on Quetzaltenango, where you spend the night.

Day 3: Quetzaltenango

This morning after breakfast, you’ll hop on a chicken bus – a truly local experience, chicken buses are a source of national and personal pride. This popular transport option unique to Guatemala has little to do with actual chickens – they are old American school busses passed down to new owners who decked them out in bright colours and decorations. Each bus is unique to the independent driver, many of whom have made this their sole business. The chicken bus will take you to a local market – Almolonga – famed for its giant vegetables, which some believe were blessed by God. Whether you believe the vegetables are a gift from above or due to the high amounts of fertiliser used by locals, this colourful market is a great place to rub shoulders with the locals and maybe pick up a giant carrot.

Day 4: Chichicastenango Market / Panajachel

As Guatemala is home to many markets, today’s adventure is a great contrast to yesterday’s Almolonga. After breakfast, you’ll head to Chichicastenango market (nicknamed Chichi), home to textiles, wooden handicrafts and jade jewellery. This is one of the largest outdoor markets in Latin America and Guatemala’s most historic. Surrounded by mountains, you’ll explore the market with an expert local leader who knows all the best spots and walk among thousands of locals and tourists who hit these stalls weekly. Maybe grab some souvenirs or a huipils for yourself – a traditional garment worn by the Indigenous girls and women of the area. You can also pick up some handmade jewellery, pottery, incense, tablecloths, a ceremonial mask used in traditional Mayan dances or some leather goods. Tonight, spend the night in Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where you’ll have a free evening for dinner.

Day 5: Santiago Atitlan / Antigua

This morning after breakfast, head for hop on a boat (called a lancha) on Lake Atitlan – surrounded by volcanoes, rolling hills and Mayan villages, this is definitely one of the most beautiful lakes in the world (as said by Aldous Huxley). Take the scenic ride to Santiago Atitlan, taking in the sweeping views from the water. Although this is the largest town on the lake, it sees far fewer tourists, making it the perfect spot to find authentic Guatemalan people, culture and activities. Here, you’ll visit the current shrine of Maximon (San Simon), where the local shamans keep watch. Your group will bring a gift of local spirits to share with the shamans, and while you drink, you’ll discuss the holy shrine, the perplexing deity and local life on the lake. Tonight, take a minibus back to Antigua.

Day 6: Antigua

Your trip comes to an end today. If you’d like to stay in Antigua for longer, there are many volcano hikes on offer, just speak to your trip leader before you leave. If you need to book extra accommodation, just speak to your booking agent.