If you are traveling to Guatemala, chances are you’ll be in Guatemala City, the capital, at some point during your trip. Although, you probably won’t want to hang around the city for that long, there are several fantastic day trips from Guatemala City you won’t want to miss.
Most of these places can also be day trips from Antigua Guatemala due to the close proximity that Antigua is to Guatemala City. If you are using this guide for day trips from Antigua, just replace Antigua on this list below with a trip to El Paredon.
Embarking on these day trips open up a world of diverse experiences, ranging from ancient ruins to vibrant markets and natural wonders. In this article, I’ll go over the best day trips from Guatemala City and at the end of the post, I’ll add any necessary tips that will aid you in your trip to Guatemala.
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Below I have a listed the best Guatemala City day trips for easy viewing. If you’d like more information on a certain area/place, click on the blue links below for more details of that specific destination in Guatemala.
I’ve written entire guides on most of the places, laying out everything you might need to know before you go.
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10 Best Day Trips from Guatemala City
These are the 10 best day trips from Guatemala City. Happy travels.
By far the most popular day trip from Guatemala City is the colonial city of Antigua. Located only an hour away from the city, Antigua is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its well-preserved colonial architecture and charming cobblestone streets. Here, you can explore the historical landmarks like the Santa Catalina Arch, visit vibrant markets, and soak in the city’s cultural richness.
Plus, Antigua is a must-visit destination for all my foodies out there. Nestled among volcanoes, you can roam around ruins and stroll enchanting squares.
Vibrant colors, artisanal crafts, and the warmth of the local people make Antigua a destination where every corner exudes a unique charm. However you choose to spend your day, I have a feeling that you’ll catch yourself falling head over heels for this city, just like I did.
Pacaya Volcano (Volcan Pacaya)
Volcan Pacaya is another popular day trip from Guatemala City as it’s located only an hour and a half from the city. Pacaya Volcano offers a unique opportunity to witness the dynamic forces of nature up close.
This is a great warm up hike for hiking Acatenango if you are visiting Pacaya on a day trip from Antigua. It takes 1-2 hours to hike from the trailhead to the lava field.
The lava field is active and steamy a few meters down so a popular thing to do is roast marshmallows over the steam. There’s even a man that set up a pizza making station in the middle of the lava field who will bake you a pizza over the steam. This is more of a novelty experience as pizzas aren’t cheap.
Certain times of the year, you can see lava flowing and it’s even possible to camp here at night but if I were you, I would save my camping adventure for Acatenango Volcano.
You also can’t hike Pacaya on your own, you need to go with a guide. Many tour operators run tours to Pacaya which will only take a half a day which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. It’s also one of the cheapest tours from the city.
🥾 Read the Full Guide: Hiking Volcán Pacaya
Acatenango Overnight Trek to Watch an Active Volcano Erupt at Night
If you’ve done any other sort of research on the best things to do in Guatemala, I’m sure Acatenango Volcano and Fuego Volcano popped up a few times. This is a full day and night day trip from Guatemala City.
As adventurers ascend the steep slopes, the lush greenery gives way to volcanic landscapes. The real magic unfolds at the summit campsite, where the silhouette of neighboring active Fuego, paints the night sky with fiery eruptions.
Fuego Volcano is extremely predictable with eruptions happening every half hour or so. Therefore, those who can make the steep climb and brave the cold weather are almost guaranteed to see this volcano erupt in all its glory.
Camping under the stars provides a front-row seat to nature’s spectacular theater and I highly recommend this day trip from Guatemala City (most commonly visited on a day trip from Antigua). Make sure you check out my guide below on hiking Acatenango because there are a few things that I would do differently if I were to hike it again.
Visiting Lake Atitlán from Guatemala City is another captivating destination in Guatemala, that offers a serene escape from the urban bustle. This lake is big and beautiful and completely surrounded by volcanos.
A scenic drive through the western highlands leads to the shores of this breathtaking lake. In fact, Lake Atitlan is often described as one of the most stunning lakes in the world.
Once you arrive in Panajachel, the main town at the lake, the only way to visit the other lakeside villages is via a boat ride. The most popular towns on Lake Atitlan include San Marcos, San Juan, San Pedro and Santa Cruz.
If you have more time to spare than a day, you won’t be disappointed if you choose to spend it on the lake. There are numerous volcanos to hike, views to take in and peaceful mornings to soak up.
If you love culture, colors and chaos, then you must visit Chichicastenango on a market day. Chichi as locals and tourists lovingly call this town is a cultural odyssey into the heart of indigenous traditions and vibrant markets.
The journey from Guatemala City to Chichicastenango winds through the picturesque highlands and takes about 3 and a half hours one way. Renowned for having one of the most famous markets in Central America, travelers can explore the kaleidoscope of colors as they navigate stalls filled with traditional textiles, handicrafts, and local produce.
This day trip can only be taken on a Thursday or Sunday as those are the only two days when the market takes place. This day trip is often paired with a visit to Lake Atitlan and is a perfect destination or those seeking an authentic and colorful experience.
Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, is about a four and a half hour drive from Guatemala City. Nestled among the mountains, this is Guatemala’s second largest city known for its colonial architecture, indigenous traditions, and the gateway town to hiking Central America’s tallest peak – Tajumulco Volcano.
Quetzaltenango’s Central Park, surrounded by historic buildings, is a focal point for exploration, while nearby natural attractions like the Fuentes Georginas hot springs provide moments of relaxation. A day trip to Quetzaltenango is an adventure into the heart of the highland traditions and landscapes.
Semuc Champey is the winner for the longest day trip from Guatemala City. The drive, though long, is a scenic odyssey that immerses travelers in the country’s diverse beauty, from verdant highlands to quaint villages.
In total it will take 6+ hours to get here one way so be ready for an early wake up call or plan on staying the nigh in Lanquin or by the falls. Semuc Champey is one of Guatemala’s most beautiful natural wonders – a series of stepped, turquoise pools cradled by lush tropical forests.
The natural limestone bridge, formed by the Cahabón River, invites travelers to swim in its crystal-clear waters, hike to panoramic viewpoints, and even explore a cave. This is one of the best places to visit in Guatemala and is often visited in route to Tikal.
The tour I listed below is a 4 day tour from Guatemala City that takes you to Semuc Champey as well as Tikal and Rio Dulce. You could always find a collectivo to Coban and book a tour to Semuc Champey from Lanquin.
💦 Read Full Guide: Semuc Champey Travel Guide
For those seeking a connection with Guatemala’s ancient past, a day trip to Tikal offers a mesmerizing adventure amidst towering Mayan pyramids and lush jungle.
The awesome thing about visiting Tikal from Guatemala City is that you can fly. Tikal is a vast archaeological site located deep in the jungle. Monumental temples, such as Temple of the Great Jaguar and Temple of the Mask, rise dramatically above the treetops.
Exploring the well-preserved site with howler monkeys echoing through the trees is by far one of the best things to do in Guatemala and shouldn’t be missed. A day trip to Tikal by air from Guatemala City offers a condensed yet immersive experience.
Alternatively, you can book a flight to Flores Mundo Maya International Airport and go to Tikal from there if you are keen on spending a few more days. I spent a week exploring the area as well as 2 nights inside the park. You can read all about it in the travel guides linked below.
Auto Safari Chapin
Auto Safari Chapin is the closest Guatemala City day trip on this list, located just outside the city. The safari park offers a fun blend of adventure and nature conservation.
The attraction requires your own vehicle or rental car. As you drive through the park, you’ll encounter a diverse array of animals freely roaming in spacious enclosures. From lions and playful monkeys to giraffes and colorful birds, the park showcases a remarkable variety of wildlife.
In addition to the drive, there are also parts where you can explore on foot, with education exhibits and shows that offer insights into the conservation efforts. This is a great day trip from Guatemala City for kids and the whole family.
Our final Guatemala day trip to make the list isn’t even in Guatemala but in its neighboring country of Honduras. Located just over the border about 6-7 hours east from the city, Copán is another site in Central America known for its Mayan ruins.
The Copan ruins are not as big or vast as Tikal but it’s largely recognized as the most impressive archaeological site in Honduras. The ancient city here dates as far back as the 7th century, when the Mayans referred to it as Xukpi.
Beyond the archaeological site, the charming town of Copán Ruinas offers a welcoming atmosphere with cobblestone streets, quaint cafes, and artisan markets.
Is Guatemala City Safe for Tourists?
You may have heard the rumors and are wondering is Guatemala City safe for tourists? Well, Guatemala City, like any major urban area, has both safe and less safe areas.
While the city has a reputation for higher crime rates compared to some other parts of Guatemala, it’s essential to note that many tourists visit Guatemala City without encountering major issues.
In Guatemala City, some areas are generally considered safer for tourists. These neighborhoods often host hotels, restaurants, and popular attractions.
Zone 10, also known as “Zone Viva,” is often regarded as one of the safer and more upscale areas. Other zones that are often considered safe for tourists include Zone 9 and Zone 4.
Guatemala City Tours
If you do have plans to stick around Guatemala City for a couple days, a great way to see the city is on a guided tour. This ensures that you don’t wander into an “unsafe” neighborhood and you get to learn about the history of the city with a group of like minded travelers.
Plus it’s one of the largest cities in Central America so you may need some help to navigate.
📌 Here are some top rated Guatemala City Tours to check out:
Best Time to Visit Guatemala
The dry season, spanning from late November to early May, is generally considered the best time to visit Guatemala. During this period, you can expect pleasant weather with sunny days and lower chances of rainfall, making it ideal for hiking and exploring archaeological sites.
However, if you’re interested in experiencing the lush, green landscapes and vibrant colors of the countryside, the rainy season from June to October may be appealing. Keep in mind that heavy rainfall, especially in the form of afternoon showers, is common during this period, and some regions may be prone to flooding.
I traveled to Guatemala during the months of December and January and never had to cancel any activity due to weather. Regardless of the season, Guatemalas climate, historical sites, and natural wonders make it a captivating destination to visit year-round.
Final Thoughts on Day Trips from Guatemala
Already searching for flights to Guatemala City? Whether immersed in the colonial charm of Antigua, uncovering ancient mysteries at Tikal, enjoying the serenity of Lake Atitlan, or navigating the bustling markets of Chichicastenango, day trips from Guatemala City promise an unforgettable experience.
After spending almost 2 months exploring the country of Eternal Spring, I wrote many guides. Check them out below for more inspiration and aid in planning your trip to Guatemala.
Guatemala Travel Tips
📍Plan your Trip:
🗺 How long to travel Guatemala? 1-3 Week Guatemala Itinerary
🛺 How to Get Around:
- Guatego for shuttles throughout the country
- Uber or tuk tuks for shorter distances
🛂 Visas: Up to 90 Days on arrival for most countries.
☔️ Best Time to Visit: Dry season which typically spans from late November to early April.
💰 Average Daily Budget: Expect to pay 50-60 USD’s a day for basic accommodations, sit down meals and entrance fees.
⛺️ Guatemala Accommodation Guides:
- Watching Volcan Fuego Erupt at Night
- Eating your way through Antigua
- Roasting Marshmallows on Pacaya Volcano
- Roaming Around Tikal
- Trekking to El Mirador
- Semuc Champey
- Chichicastenango Market
- Surfing in El Paredon
- Boat Cruise along the Rio Dulce
- Soaking up Caribbean Life in Livingston
- Lake Atitlan
- Hiking the Highest Peak in Central America
- The Colonial City of Antigua
🧳 What to Pack: What to Pack for Guatemala
🎥 Watch our Guatemala Series on YouTube
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More Guatemala Travel Guides ↓
Border Crossing from Guatemala to Belize
How to Get to Flores