Mayan Cultural Immersion Volunteer Project in Guatemala
Interested in a Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteer experience in Guatemala? International Volunteer HQ’s Mayan project is an exciting chance for volunteers to join an indigenous Kaqchikel family in rural Guatemala and assist them with business enterprises, domestic tasks and community responsibilities that help them maintain their authentic way of life. Volunteers will live with the family, work with them in the fields and learn to cook traditional Mayan food while getting a rich and rewarding cultural experience and making a meaningful contribution to the community.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from AU$773 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Live, work, eat and socialize with a traditional Kaqchikel family
Explore remote and beautiful parts of Guatemala
Get out of your comfort zone by staying in a Mayan village
This program is ideal for:
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
The Kaqchikel people are one of Guatemala’s indigenous Mayan groups and strive to keep their traditional way of life and culture alive. The aim of the Mayan Cultural Immersion project is for volunteers to share in everyday life with a local host family and their community.
As a Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteer you will live, work and eat with the family and assist them with business enterprises, domestic tasks and community responsibilities. It will be a rich and rewarding cultural immersion experience that will take you outside your comfort zone while you make a meaningful contribution to the community.
Volunteer activities on this project vary greatly, but can include:
- Working alongside the family in the fields
- Assisting with daily chores
- Making textiles and hand-woven crafts
- Helping families to learn English in an informal setting
- Learning to cook Guatemalan dishes from scratch
Why do Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteering in Guatemala with IVHQ?
When you volunteer in a Mayan community in Guatemala you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Supporting indigenous people to maintain their traditional way of life
- Gaining a range of authentic and unique Guatemalan experiences
- Living with a local family in a farming community
- Practicing your Spanish
- Learning the Kaqchikel language
- Developing your cross-cultural communication skills
- Immersing yourself in Mayan culture
- Discovering Guatemala off the beaten track
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.
All volunteers are required to speak fluent English, have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ before departure.
Guatemala photo gallery
Academic course credit
Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!Learn about course credit
Read reviews from Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteers in Guatemala
”My name is Bailey, and I left my home country (United States) for the first time ever with IVHQ. It was incredible!! It's really hard sometimes, but it's such a learning experience and I feel so confident and excited and refreshed after finishing my program! I met some of the coolest people in the world, tried so many new things, and learned how to handle hard situations and challenges. I feel like I can take on the world now and I couldn't be more excited to take another trip!”
Read reviews from Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteers in Guatemala
Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteers will be based in a rural village 30 minutes outside of Antigua and an hour from Guatemala City. It is a remote location in a farming community where living conditions are basic. The village is known for its hand-woven crafts made from reeds from a local lake.
Arrival and orientation
The program orientation begins every Monday and volunteers need to arrive in Guatemala City on the day before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the La Aurora International Airport (GUA) in Guatemala City. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee. We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Antigua. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are travelling in Guatemala prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up in Antigua on the day before your program orientation.
Orientation is hosted by our local team at their office in Antigua. Orientation begins on Monday morning and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Guatemala – an introduction to Guatemala, Guatemalan customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Guatemala, and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.
Volunteer schedule example
Due to the immersive nature of this project, volunteers should be flexible and fit in with the daily rhythms of their host family and village.
A typical day might look like this:
|6:00 AM||Breakfast with your host family and travel to the farm where you will spend the morning|
|7:00 AM||Volunter work begins. You may be planting and harvesting sweet potatoes, peanuts, beans, and corn, or assisting with farm animals|
|11:00 AM||Travel back to your homestay and help with lunch preparation|
|12:00 PM||Lunch with your host family and take a break|
|3:00 PM||Volunteer work continues. You may learn how to weave traditional textiles and teach English to community members|
|6:00 PM||Dinner at your homestay|
Accommodation and WiFi
You’ll be living with a local family in a rural farming village, approximately 1 hour from Antigua. You can expect accommodations to be very basic with flush toilets and cold showers. Bedding is provided but you will need to bring your own towel and toiletries. Bedrooms in the homestays have single and bunk beds and can typically fit up to 4 volunteers. As the villages are in rural areas where roads are not always paved, this can sometimes result in added dirt/dust in the accommodation which the host family will do their best to keep clean.
Although WiFi is available at the village, it may not always have a reliable and strong signal. Volunteers will still be able to contact their family back home, and get assistance from the local team if needed.
Due to the immersive nature of this project, volunteers may be able to help prepare and cook meals with their host family. It’s a great way to discover traditional Guatemalan food and learn to cook dishes from scratch. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided each day and food usually includes: rice, beans, eggs, fruit, vegetables, tortillas, and meat.
The water on this project is safe to drink.
Volunteers with dietary requirements may be better suited to another project.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||AU$773 Equivalent to AU$110/day|
|2 weeks||AU$1324 Equivalent to AU$95/day|
|3 weeks||AU$1776 Equivalent to AU$85/day|
|4 weeks||AU$2221 Equivalent to AU$79/day|
|5 weeks||AU$2665 Equivalent to AU$76/day|
|6 weeks||AU$3109 Equivalent to AU$74/day|
|8 weeks||AU$3998 Equivalent to AU$71/day|
|10 weeks||AU$4886 Equivalent to AU$70/day|
|12 weeks||AU$5775 Equivalent to AU$69/day|
|16 weeks||AU$7551 Equivalent to AU$67/day|
|20 weeks||AU$9328 Equivalent to AU$67/day|
|24 weeks||AU$11105 Equivalent to AU$66/day|
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
- Certificate of International Volunteer Service
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately AU$541) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in AUD.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Guatemala generally find US$100 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches (except for Beach and Turtle Conservation and Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteers), in-country tours, and Spanish language lessons.
Recommended activities and tour add-ons
We believe that no volunteer adventure would be complete without experiencing the natural wonders of your host country. That’s why we offer volcano and coffee farm tours, surfing lessons and mini adventures, exclusively available to IVHQ volunteers in Guatemala as affordable add-ons.
Please note that volunteers on the Beach & Turtle Conservation, Mayan Cultural Immersion and Eco-Agriculture projects are only able to do the following add ons before or after their program, not during.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to book or get more information about any of the following activities and tours.
This incredible historic site is located 60 minutes from Antigua. The tour is available at 2 different times each day, either 8 AM or 1 PM, and lasts approximately 6 hours. You will be picked up and dropped off at the local team’s office. Bilingual guide and entrance tickets are included
Sample local fresh fruits while you visit the famous Central Market and Market El Carmen. Continue your tour with a visit to Museo San Francisco and Casa Santo Domingo.
Walking tour of Antigua with special visits to sample 4 local cuisines
Experience fantastic views of the Panchoy Valley and roast marshmallows on hot lava rocks! At sunset, participants get to enjoy wine/beer or non-alcoholic beverages accompanied by a cheese, grapes, and nuts plate. Bilingual guide and entrance tickets included.
Learn about ancient Mayan customs and traditions, including cooking, dance, costumes, and weaving. A traditional lunch is included.
Explore the grounds of the eco-village, enjoy any of their restaurants, and have access to play the different games that have been set up for guests to unwind and have some fun.
Participants will have the chance to see diverse wildlife, and potentially even some animal births while there! Every safari adventure is a new experience, giving visitors a unique opportunity to see the different species of flora and fauna from the region. The tour is by car and boat ride. Please note, this tour is only available Thursday to Sunday each week.
Participants take in the beautiful sights of the Santo Tomás church and stroll Santander Street. Participants eat lunch on their own in the market or at local restaurants. Bilingual guide and entrance tickets included.
Monterrico is a beautiful black sand beach that is situated on the Guatemalan Pacific ocean. On arrival at the Pacific Coast you will take a mangrove tour by boat. During your tour of the mangroves you will see many different seabirds that are endemic to Guatemala, like pelicans, herons, kingfishers.
Visit the coastal town of El Paredon on the Pacific Coast. Kayak or paddleboard along the mangroves, where you will see many different seabirds that are endemic to Guatemala, like pelicans, herons, and kingfishers. After the tour, your driver will take you to the beachfront hotel where you can enjoy the facilities during the day. You can swim in their pool, use the yoga deck or just enjoy the beach breeze while you have a bite to eat. Transport and guided kayak/paddleboard tour included.
Participants visit the pueblos of San Juan and Santiago around Lake Atitlan by private boat. You will immerse in the traditional market in Chichicastenango, and spend the night in Panajechel. Hotel accommodation, breakfast, bilingual guide and entrance tickets included.
Learn how to surf at a local Surf School in El Zonte, El Salvador - a charming coastal community that is popular amongst surfers. Just a short journey from your volunteer placement in Antigua, you won’t want to miss out on this surfers paradise. Transport, accommodation in dormitory-style housing, expert surf instructors, and surfboard included.
Visit a lush, tropical park known for its jungle views, numerous caves & swimming holes You will depart in the morning for a full day’s drive to Lanquin, where you can enjoy some relaxing time for the evening. On the second day, you will leave in a 4X4 ride for the Semuc Champey National Park. There you will enjoy a hike to “El Mirador”; Visit the Sumidero (where the river flows under the ground and back into the open), the Natural turquoise pools; an awesome tour of the Kamba caves; and tubing in the Cahabon river. On day three, you will return to Antigua early in the morning, with a stop at a Coffee Farm in Coban, before your return to Antigua.
Learn the history of the region by visiting the Copán Archaeological Park, one of the most important sites in Mayan history and UNESCO World Heritage Site. After exploring the secrets of the Mayan culture, you’ll visit Macaw Mountain, an impressive bird park working towards bird rehabilitation, breeding, and protection against poaching. Return transport Antigua - Copan Ruinas, and hotel accommodation included.
Your half-day Volcano Tour will take you to Pacaya Volcano, an active volcano within a national park with exciting thermal activity and stunning scenic views. Enjoy taking amazing photos and even roasting marshmallows over warm lava rocks.
Want to make sure you tick off all the must-see sites in Guatemala? The Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots in Guatemala into a 1-week excursion that can be added at the beginning or end of your volunteer program. You will be accompanied by a certified, bilingual tour guide for each trip, using Antigua as your home base between tours. The 6-day adventure complements your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning! It will begin on Sunday and finish the following Saturday morning, and accommodation is included from the Saturday before your adventure begins. Please note that your meals are not included on this trip.
The Mini Adventure includes:
PACAYA VOLCANO Set out on a half-day hike to climb Pacaya Volcano, a fully-active volcano and one of Guatemala’s best national parks. Take amazing photos and roast marshmallows over hot magma.
YALU COFEE FARM Start the day with an exhilarating zipline tour through the trees! Next, learn how the people of Yalu produce their rich and flavorful coffee. Choose two more activities to round out your day—pick fresh blackberries, walk the eco-trails, go horseback riding, catch some fish, or help milk the cows! End the day with a cup of Yalu’s finest coffee.
SURF SCHOOL Leave the town of Antigua and head over to the village of El Zonte in El Salvador. Enjoy your stay at a local surf hostel, and 2 days of private surf lessons with certified surfing instructors. Relax on the beach, try body boarding, and explore nearby caves and waterfalls. The hostel has a great ocean view, a nice pool, and hammocks for relaxing. Based on field conditions and logistics, surf school may be moved to Guatemala’s well-known Playa Hawaii surf destination.
TIKAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE Take a short flight from Guatemala City to Santa Elena, where you meet your guide and travel to Tikal National Park. Explore the “City of Voices” and learn about Mayan civilization and history. The next day you have an early breakfast and visit the Temple of the Jaguar, the Great Plaza, the Lost World, and you climb Temple IV. In the afternoon you fly back to Guatemala City.
If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your trip, you can arrange this directly with your Program Manager once you are registered for the program.
Enjoy a challenging 2-day trek and camping adventure on the active Acatangego Volcano. You’ll hike 11 miles (8 kms) round-trip up this active volcano with an elevation gain of 5,150 ft (1,500 metress). Be sure to pack your camera to capture the stunning views with neighboring volcanoes spewing lava while camping at 13,000 ft (3,963 metress).
Spend a full day trekking up Acatenango Volcano, an active volcano in Guatemala with stunning views of neighboring volcanoes.
Enjoy a half-day tour of the Yalu Coffee Farm or Philadelphia Coffee Plantation, both working coffee farms, led by your own expert guide. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the coffee production from plant to cup, and enjoy a coffee tasting at the end of your tour.
How to book IVHQ’s recommended add-ons:
When you apply for an IVHQ volunteer program, make a note of which tours and add-ons you’re interested in on your application form so we can check availability and prices for you.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on the tour(s) you have chosen and help you organize your trip.
Affordable Spanish language lessons
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Guatemala program, however on certain projects volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Guatemala. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the IVHQ Program Manager prior to departure. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers. These lessons are not available for volunteers during the Beach and Turtle Conservation project, Mayan Cultural Immersion project, Eco-Agriculture project or Holiday Experience project due to the remoteness of these project locations. Volunteers on these projects can arrange lessons before or after their projects if they wish to stay longer in Antigua.
- 2-hour Small Group Classes: from AU$106 per week
- 1-hour Private Classes: from AU$115 per week
- 2-hour Private Classes: from AU$230 per week
How to book IVHQ’s language lessons: When you apply for your IVHQ volunteer program, make a note in your application of the language classes you’re interested in.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on your chosen language classes.
Check what's required to visit Guatemala
Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Essential country information
|Currency||Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ)|
Weather and climate: Guatemala has a range of micro climates and the high altitude of Guatemala City results in a subtropical highland climate in this region. There aren’t distinct seasons in Guatemala and the temperature is typically mild year round. Temperatures range from 22°C to 28°C (72°F to 82°F) during the day, and 12°C to 17°C (54°F to 63°F) at night. The country attracts winds and rain during the months of May to October with the hottest month being April.