Guatemala and Belize are perfect countries to combine in an itinerary of about 3 to 4 weeks. They are also two very different countries with very different cultures and nature reserves. From the majestic temples of Tikal in Guatemala to the paradise island of Caye Caulker in Belize. With this itinerary you will travel past all the special highlights that both countries have to offer. I tell you exactly how best to travel through both countries.
In this article:
Guatemala and Belize itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks
Antigua ➤ (El Paredon) ➤ Lake Atitlan ➤ (Lanquin/Semuc Champey) ➤ Flores ➤ San Ignacio ➤ Caye Caulker ➤ Hopkins ➤ Placencia ➤ Livingston ➤ Rio Dulce ➤ Antigua
Guatemala (1,5 – 2 weken)
This itinerary starts in Guatemala, but basically you are making a round trip, so you can also start in Belize. The first destination in Guatemala is Antigua, a charming colonial town surrounded by volcanoes. Here you can explore historic architecture, stroll through cobblestone streets and climb the nearly 4,000-foot Acatenango volcano!
From Antigua you can continue by bus to El Paredon, a laid-back surf destination on the southern coast. But you can also travel directly by bus to the impressive Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes. Here you can explore the various villages in a relaxed manner, enjoy nature and the fantastic views from various viewpoints.
From Lake Atitlan you can choose to travel directly to Flores, or also include Semuc Champey. On the map, it may look like a nice stopover, but you end up spending extra time traveling. The bus trip to Semuc Champey takes about 10 hours. Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful natural sites in Guatemala. Located in the Alta Verapaz region, this hidden paradise offers multiple turquoise-colored natural pools surrounded by verdant jungle.
From Lake Atitlan, it is a hefty journey to Flores by night bus of about 12 hours, or 9 hours from Semuc Champey. Flores is known for its magnificent Mayan ruins, the most famous of which is Tikal, located some 60 km from the city. The old center is located on an island in Lake Peten Itza and you can enjoy beautiful green views and warm sunsets.
Traveling from Guatemala to Belize
From Flores you can easily travel across the border into Belize. I arranged my trip with GetAway travels in Flores. This travel company provides you with all the necessary information and helps you get your documents in order.
A trip from Flores to San Ignacio takes only 3 hours and costs about 125Q. You could also travel directly from Flores to Belize City in 5 hours for 150Q, or to Caye Caulker for 275Q including water cab.
Belize (1 – 1,5 week)
San Ignacio is a small village, near the border with Guatemala, that is surrounded by lush jungle. It has a relaxed atmosphere and is a paradise for nature lovers. You can explore caves and tubing on the river and, above all, unwind with the sounds of the jungle.
From San Ignacio, continue your journey via Belize City to the tropical island of Caye Caulker in the middle of the Belize Barrier Reef. Caye Caulker is a very relaxing island with nice restaurants and hidden gems, such as a beach where stingrays swim right up to your feet.
From Caye Caulker you can travel back to Belize City and from there take the bus to the fishing village of Hopkins. But what’s even cooler is a three-day sail across the Belize Barrier Reef to the village of Dangria, then travel to Hopkins. Hopkins is a small village where you can explore the beaches, as well as several national parks such as the Mayflower Bocawina National Park.
Traveling further south, you will arrive in Placencia which is known for its beautiful beaches. It has numerous nice bars and restaurants and, with luck, you can spot many special wildlife such as whale sharks and manatees.
Traveling from Belize to Guatemala
To travel from Placencia further south you will first have to go to Independence. To do this, you can take the Hokey Pokey watertaxi that leaves at least 7 times a day from a small port in Placencia. Once you arrive by boat, you can walk or take a cab to the James Bus Company Terminal. A friendly local showed me the way on foot while enjoying his life story.
At the terminal you can catch a bus to Punta Gorda, all the way in southern Belize. You buy tickets on the bus from the driver for 10 BZD and it’s about a 2-hour ride.
Punta Gorda ➤ Livingston
From Punta Gorda in Belize you can travel to Livingston in Guatemala. Boats from Punta Gorda leave at 9:00 and 14:00 Monday through Friday. The 9:00 am boat costs 81 BZD and the 2:00 pm boat is 100 BZD. Good to know: there are no boats on weekends.
Tickets for the boat can be purchased at a small office about a 2-minute walk from immigration in Punta Gorda. Once you buy your boat ticket, walk to the immigration office where you fill out a form and pay the exit fee of 40 BZD.
If you want to exchange your extra Belize Dollars for Guatemalan Quetzal, do so before paying the exit fee at the immigration office. When I was there, there was a man inside the immigration gate exchanging money. The exchange rate here should be better than in Guatemala.
Boats always sail first to Livingston and then to Puerto Barrios. The crossing takes about 15 minutes in a speedboat that fits 20-30 people.
Livingston is a small town with a mix of Mayan, Latino and Garifuna culture. Once you arrive at the pier, you must get your own passport stamp at an immigration office in town. Walk slightly up the hill and follow the signs that say “migración.” A few minutes later everything is taken care of and you can explore the city.
Livingston ➤ Rio Dulce
You can choose to spend a night in Livingston, or you can continue the same day by boat to Rio Dulce if you took the early 9:00 a.m. boat from Punta Gorda.
The boats from Livingston take a scenic route down the Rio Dulce River and go every day of the week at 9:30 and 14:30. Tickets can be purchased at the same pier for 125 Q. It’s about an hour boat ride to the end of the Rio Dulce River, but you can also get off earlier. In fact, there are several accommodations along the river and it is definitely worth staying here for 1 night. Give the boatman a call and tell them your accommodation.
If you choose to travel not to Livingston, but to Puerto Barrios, then from Puerto Barrios you can continue by bus to Rio Dulce or to Antigua. These minibuses are just not super comfortable and the boat ride from Livingston to Rio Dulce is many times more scenic.
Can I travel from Placencia to Rio Dulce in 1 day?
This is something I wanted to try during my Guatemala and Belize itinerary. But unfortunately, it’s not possible to travel from Placencia (in Belize) to Rio Dulce (in Guatemala) in one trip. To make the trip from Belize to Guatemala, you will have to spend a night in Punta Gorda so that you can take the boat at 9:30 a.m. to Livingston and then the boat at 2:30 p.m. to Rio Dulce. Or you will be able to stay a night in Livingston if you take the 14:30 boat from Punta Gorda.
I can recommend spending the night in Livingston since there is practically nothing to do in Punta Gorda. In addition, I found it a bit shady at night with drunk men on the streets. So I would try to travel directly to Livingston or stay there for 1 night at most so you can take the boat the next day. Livingston is a lot nicer to stay in.
Can I travel this route in reverse?
It’s also possible to travel from Livingston to Punta Gorda. To do so, first go to the immigration office in Livingston where you will get your exit stamp for Guatemala and have to show it at the boat. For the boat from Livingston to Punta Gorda you pay 300 Q. In Punta Gorda you arrive right at the immigration office where you have to fill out a form and get your stamp for Belize.
Best time to travel Guatemala en Belize
In Belize, the dry season is from January to April and in Guatemala from November to April. So the best time to plan this Guatemala and Belize itinerary is approximately January through April if you want to avoid the rain.
The dry season is also the high season, so it is definitely advisable to book some accommodations in advance.
How many weeks for this itinerary?
For a Guatemala and Belize itinerary, you will need to calculate at least 3 weeks. Keep in mind that 3 weeks is quite tight for ALL the places mentioned above. You will have to make choices as to which places you will skip.
If you would like to visit all the mentioned destinations in Guatemala and Belize or if you just prefer to take it a bit slower, then I can definitely recommend 4 weeks for this itinerary.