Combining Guatemala and Belize in a single trip is an unparalleled experience for travellers who want the best of five worlds. Culture, cuisine, heritage, underwater exploration, and blissful beach chilling - it’s a bona fide case of having your cake, eating it, and bringing plenty back to savour for years to come.
To kick things off in style, you could base yourself in a boutique hotel in the vicinity of Guatemala City. With its elegant interiors, garden courtyard, roof terrace and pool, El Convento in historic Antigua is a great option. What’s more, this UNESCO designated town offers easy access to a host of attractions - museums, volcano hikes, coffee plantations and world-class restaurants. Featuring several pyramid temples, palaces and two ballcourts, Iximché, capital of the late Mayan kingdom from 1470, is an absolute must-visit.
After checking out of your boutique bolthole, head to Chichicastenango in the Guatemalan Highlands. Just a few hours south of Antigua, it’s the perfect place to pick up locally-made gifts, with its sprawling market a trove of textiles, masks, crafts and pottery. It’s also a paradise for foodies, with opportunities to taste traditional Mayan dishes at interactive culinary demonstrations. Known for its Mayan communities, and circled by lush volcanic hills on the shores of Lake Atitlán, further cultural experiences (weaving traditions and Tz’utuhil shamanism) can be found around Panajachel.
Next up, you could take a short flight from Guatemala City to Flores to visit Tikal National Park. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was one of the largest cities in the Mayan Kingdom. Top tip - it’s worth timing your visit to catch the sunset. Witnessing the golden hour surrounded by tropical forests, with the calls of howler monkeys and parrots ringing across the canopy is utter magic. The same is true of visiting El Mirador, a Mayan settlement set deep in the rainforest that’s only accessible by air - arrange a helicopter trip for the ultimate awe-inspiring adventure.
As a contrast to the epic rainforests and archaeological attractions you’ve visited in Guatemala, fly from Flores to Belize City. Then take a local flight to Placencia to board a boat to handsome Hatchet Caye. Here you can snorkel in the company of loggerhead turtles, eagle rays, stingrays, countless tropical fish, and nurse sharks, or simply soak up the sun on the Caribbean shores of this luxurious private island.