Guatemala has been gaining worldwide consideration as a prime vacationer vacation spot. If you’re searching for a visit out of the unusual, make certain so as to add this lovely nation in Central America to your record.
This Guatemala journey information was initially written by Daniel of Destinationless Travel who spent a month exploring the nation. It has been up to date by The Planet D who additionally spent a month in Guatemala and we’ve added some new excursions and points of interest for 2023 due to our staff.
Finest Issues to do in Guatemala
As one of the vital numerous international locations on the planet with 37 volcanoes, 360 microclimates, lakes, seashores, and land on each the pacific ocean and the Caribbean Sea, how will you not go to Guatemala? These are the perfect issues to do in Guatemala to go well with each kind of traveler. Are you able to fall in love with this wonderful Central American nation? Let’s get began.
1. Acatenango Volcano
Should you communicate to anybody who has accomplished this hike, you’ll possible have heard some rave critiques. Mountain climbing the Acatenango Volcano is a hike in contrast to another. Guatemala has 37 volcanoes and three of that are lively volcanoes. Throughout this trek, you will note one of the vital spectacular.
It entails mountain climbing for 4-6 hours to a base camp on one aspect of the Acatenango Volcano. From this camp, it isn’t Acatenango that’s spectacular, it’s the neighboring volcano known as Fuego that basically makes the general expertise.
Fuego is a really lively volcano that sits parallel to the camps on Acatenango. It erupts each couple of minutes, placing on a present of exploding lava for the entire excited hikers to see. The volcano erupts roughly each 4 to five years and it was most not too long ago lively in December of 2022.
A number of completely different tour firms provide two-day excursions from Antigua for as little as $90 USD together with tenting tools, meals, and a information. This highly rated overnight tour enables you to observe dawn and sundown from Acatenango the place you’ll sleep at Basecamp in entrance of Fuego Volcano
Breakdown of Journey
- Day one consists of a brief 1-2 hour drive to the bottom of Acatenango adopted by 4-6 hours of mountain climbing up in the direction of camp.
- The afternoon and night are spent round a campfire ready for any clouds to half to disclose Fuego’s unbelievable present.
- The next morning begins at 4am for a hike to the height of Acatenango. From right here, the solar rises above the cloud line and the Fuego volcano continues to erupt proper in entrance of your eyes.
- Then, it’s a hike again down the identical strategy to the bottom of Acatenango. The quick length, low-cost worth, and excursions together with all tools make the Acatenangovolcano hike a greatl exercise for many vacationers.
I might fee the Acatenango Volcano hike as one of the vital thrilling and distinctive journey experiences I’ve ever had. For extra details about reserving and making ready for the Acatenango Volcano hike check out our blog here.
2. Antigua Guatemala
Also known as merely Antigua, Antigua Guatemala might be one of many first stops you’ll make within the nation. Most vacationers are interested in Antigua Guatemala as it’s the metropolis the place Acatenango Volcano excursions begin, however it’s rather more than that. This colonial metropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Web site and was the previous capital metropolis of Guatemala.
Antigua Guatemala means Previous Guatemala and right now, it’s a in style vacationer hot-spot for good cause. When visiting Antigua a part of the allure is to get misplaced in its cobblestone streets as you take pleasure in historic excursions of the town, museums, procuring, markets, wonderful eating places, and avenue meals.
Iglesia de La Merced interprets to the Church of Our woman of mercy was initially inbuilt 1545. Nonetheless, it was destroyed by two earthquakes and was later restored within the 1700s. It’s mentioned to be the biggest in Central America and it’s value visiting for its Spanish baroque model structure with its lovely yellow and white facades.
The place to Keep in Antigua
- Luxurious: Hotel Museo Spa Casa Santa Domingo is simply 10 minutes stroll from the town heart. With 5-star luxurious, it has a pool, spa and health club.
- Mid-Vary: Hotel Soleil La Antigua is simply minutes from Antigua Guatemala Cathedral. There’s a spa, free parking and an outside pool. Plus a free shuttle to Antigua Central Park. Breakfast and WIFI included.
Vibrant Tradition of Guatemala
A good way to immerse within the tradition of Guatemala is thru meals. This half day cultural tour takes you on a gastronomy and historical past tour suddenly. Stroll by way of its cobblestone streets as you admire its colonial structure. You’ll then go to a meals market earlier than tasting native dishes and as you find out about Guatemala’s delicacies. Different sights you will note on this tour embrace the Santa Catalina Arch, and the Baroque Church, La Merced Church, one of the vital recognizable buildings in Antigua.
Antigua has develop into very touristy, however that isn’t a nasty factor, the excessive quantity of vacationers has made the town a lot wealthier, and due to this fact safer, than the likes of Guatemala Metropolis or different locations within the nation.
Get to Antigua
Antigua is only one.5 hours from Guatemala Metropolis and there are even frequent Collectivos from the Guatemala Metropolis worldwide airport to Antigua. As a result of Antigua is such a well-liked vacationer vacation spot getting there may be quite simple. Colectivos in Guatemala is frequent and low-cost, permitting one to entry the town from just about another metropolis within the close by neighborhood.
3. Chocolate museum / ChocoMuseo
No go to to Guatemala can be full with out tasting some chocolate. Study in regards to the historical past and cultural facets of chocolate on the ChocoMuseo situated in Colonial Antigua . A enjoyable interactive hands-on expertise that takes you thru the method of reworking cocoa beans into scrumptious wonderful chocolate. The chocolate museum has its chocolate processing manufacturing unit the place they make chocolate from Guatemalan cocoa beans.
Additionally they provide a chocolate making workshop the place you get to play, eat and study in regards to the lovely artwork of creating chocolate. Style uncooked and roasted cocoa beans, drink chocolate tea, and different various kinds of chocolate drinks. A enjoyable expertise that the entire household will love.
4. Tikal Mayan Ruins
Positioned in northern Guatemala sits what many take into account to be the “greatest Mayan Ruins on the planet.” I do know we did! That is attention-grabbing contemplating Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins are just a few hours from Tikal and had been named one of many new Seven Wonders of the World.
After visiting Tikal and Chichen Itza, I and Dave and Deb would agree that Tikal has extra to supply vacationers. One cause is that the ruins are inside the protected Tikal Nationwide Park. It is a particular place stuffed with excavated and unexcavated ruins which are thick within the jungle. As a result of it’s inside a protected space, there are many animals roaming round.
However the temples themselves are astounding. The North Acropolis 1 is the very best and most spectacular, whereas the Plaza of the Seven Temples is likely one of the largest plazas in Tikal courting again to 600 and 900 AD.
Persons are additionally allowed to climb nearly the entire ruins and we extremely suggest going up for dawn to take heed to the sounds of howler monkeys roaring within the mist. The views are spectacular from above the jungle cover. The entire expertise feels genuine and is rather more adventurous then most different historic smash websites I’ve visited previously with lots of the pyramids nonetheless buried below the earth.
Get to Tikal
Tikal is situated solely about an hour’s drive from the vacationer city of Flores and may simply be visited on a day journey.
Day excursions are low-cost and simply organized from Flores for about $10USD. Flores has many finances hostels for backpackers in addition to good waterfront accommodations for these searching for a bit extra luxurious.
I might suggest a information as they are going to make the expertise extra vital providing plenty of info and ensuring you don’t get misplaced. Additionally it is greatest to go to Tikal early within the morning when the animals are lively. After I was there at 7am I noticed Toucans, Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, and Peacocks.
Flores is 8 hours by ;Collectivo from Laquin(Semuc Champey) or 4 hours from Belize Metropolis making it straightforward to get to.
5. Lake Peten Itza
Positioned close to Tikal is Lago Peten Itza (Lake Peten Itza), a scenic lake situated in Northern Guatemala. Its most well-known for the town of Flores which is an efficient jumping-off level to discover the Mayan ruins of Tikal. After we visited Guatemala, we appeared to spend so much of time on this laid-back city of cobblestone streets and pastel buildings. There are seashores and different Maya ruins situated alongside its shores.
Immediately there are some luxurious resorts on Lake Peten Itza making for an incredible cease in your Guatemalan adventures to take a seat again, calm down and benefit from the surroundings.
Paseo Cayala is simply 20 minutes from Guatemala Metropolis and this small city attracts loads of guests as a consequence of its distinctive city design. Designed to imitate European neighborhoods with plenty of walkable areas, accommodations, lodges, and different residential amenities. Paseo Cayala is trendy, cozy, and secure always. You may spend an entire day strolling round. Numerous eateries to select from all serving completely different cuisines.
6. Maya biosphere reserve
Maya biosphere reserve is the second-largest rainforest in Central America and the biggest in Guatemala. Tikal is situated inside the large reserve. This reserve is likely one of the most essential tropical forests exterior the Amazon.
It consists of 4 nationwide parks and three wildlife reserves. There is just one strategy to describe the reserve – nature at its greatest. Spanning greater than 2.5 million acres, it’s dwelling to elusive animals resembling jaguars and pumas.
Count on to see plenty of howling monkeys, spiders, parrots, crocodiles, and spider monkeys. Should you’re fortunate, you would possibly even come upon a jaguar. Put aside a day or two for a full expertise.
Spend an evening on the jungle lodge and sleep to the sounds of nature and howling monkeys. A really magical expertise. That is additionally the easiest way to make sure you don’t miss out on the dawn hike to the temple.
7. Lake Atitlán
Lake Atitlan is a novel spot in Guatemala. It’s actually an enormous lake surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Small cities are situated alongside its shores, making for a chilled-out space for vacationers to calm down for a few days.
The upper altitude of 1500m means it isn’t fairly so sweltering scorching. It’s nonetheless heat sufficient for a day swim within the lake although. Different in style actions across the lake embrace boat excursions, kayaking, mountain climbing, yoga lessons, watching sunsets, and guided tuk-tuk excursions.
The place to Keep at Lake Atitlan
There are many villages situated alongside Lake Atitlán and they’re straightforward to journey inside. Listed below are a number of decisions to assist get you began.
Lush Atitlan is a boutique resort in a good looking setting with lake and volcano views. Rooms are fundamental however good worth for the cash.
8. San pedro la laguna
The city of San Pedro is the biggest “backpacker-oriented city” with low-cost meals (plenty of it), good procuring, and finances locations to social gathering at night time. It isn’t probably the most enjoyable space however positively has a enjoyable vibe. This small city situated within the Southwest of Lake Atitlán has heaps to supply for out of doors fanatics. Take Spanish language lessons or a cooking class in a locals dwelling.
Take a horseback journey as you discover espresso plantations, or take the Indian Nostril hike for scenic views of Lake Atitlán, and store at native markets for contemporary produce or handcrafted souvenirs. Spend a full day exploring and taking within the sights and sounds of the Lake.
This holiday home has an incredible location on the lake and inside strolling distance to eating places and outlets. Newly renovated condominium with non-public balcony and shared kitchen.
9. Cities Round Lake Atitlán
San Marcos can also be situated. on Lake Atitlan and is in style with vacationers however is way smaller than San Pedro and extra relaxed. San Marcos is often often called the “hippie city” which has attracted many yoga-enthusiast ex-pats.
The opposite much less widespread choices are Santa Cruz, which is especially inhabited by locals with solely a few lodging choices or eating places, or Panajachel which is the largest metropolis with out an excessive amount of to supply vacationers. You may as well go to Santiago Atitlén and San Antonio which you’ll go to by boat.
Getting Round Lake Atitlan
The wonderful thing about Lake Atitlan is that irrespective of the place you select to remain, it’s straightforward and cheap to get across the lake. Transport across the lake is for locals and vacationers alike within the type of boats that function very similar to public buses in cities.
There are set fares from one vacation spot to the following and set schedules. Locals soar on the boats with baskets of produce and generally reside chickens whereas vacationers lug on suitcases. The entire boat system as the primary type of public transport is a enjoyable and attention-grabbing expertise in itself.
10. San Juan La Laguna
Not so distant from San Pedro is San Juan La Laguna additionally situated Southwest of Lake Atitlán. This charming city is value a go to when in Guatemala. San Juan La Laguna is commonly described as an artsy city as its stuffed with streets with lovely artwork murals painted in putting colours.
Numerous actions to do right here resembling; visiting Cerro de la Cruz for scenic views of the cities, having fun with regionally grown artisanal espresso, visiting the native market, looking for textiles, cooking lessons, and visiting different native communities round Lake Atitlán.
You can book this highly rated tour to go to the mountain villages and the villages of Guatemala’s indigenous folks. Story a public boat throughout the lake to the colourful village of San Juan La Laguna. You’ll go to Santiago the place folks nonetheless reside the Mayan tradition and way of life wearing conventional clothes. And the city nonetheless practices Mayan rituals. You’ll then head to Panajachel, a pre-Columbian city for lunch and extra sightseeing.
11. Join Spanish classes
Studying Spanish is likely one of the greatest issues you are able to do to make your journey memorable. Having a grasp of fundamental Spanish will make your interactions with locals rather more nice and simpler. There are many Spanish faculties for foreigners. In order for you it’s also possible to join and study with locals of their houses. Apart from, understanding Spanish is step one to understanding Mayan tradition.
Widespread locations to take Spanish lessons are in Antigua Guatemala, Lake Atitlán, and Quetzaltenango (Xela). It’s straightforward to discover a course as soon as you’re there.
12. Atitlan Nature Reserve
Positioned simply exterior Panajachel is the Atitlan Nature Reserve, a sanctuary was constructed to assist unfold consciousness and lift assist for the conservation work being completed by scientists and college students.
Outside lovers will take pleasure in ziplining over waterfalls and occasional plantations. There’s a butterfly dome for nature lovers. The strolling trails are straightforward, well-maintained, and really enjoyable. Stroll all the way down to the waterfall, or the seaside. You may as well arrange camp on the grounds and sleep to the attractive sounds of nature.
13. Semuc Champey Pure Monument
On the opposite aspect of the nation is the well-known Nationwide Park known as Semuc Champey. Many vacationers skip it as a result of lengthy bus journey from different locations near the Antigua space, which is a disgrace as a result of it’s improbable!
Semuc Champey is an space of vivid turquoise water which flows by way of a whole bunch of small waterfalls and pure swimming pools.. Between these waterfalls guests can swim in pure swimming pools, soar off waterfalls, slide down them, or discover small caves. There’s additionally a brief one-hour lengthy hike to a viewpoint in regards to the swimming swimming pools providing some superior picture alternatives.
One of many nice issues about Semuc Champey is that it could possibly simply be loved on a tour or independently. Excursions run from accommodations, hostels, or the closest city of Lanquin.
Info and Prices for the Park
Excursions provide transport to the park, a information to discover the falls, a information for the hike, and a caving expertise. They’re fairly reasonably priced at $25 USD for a full day journey. Nonetheless, for these on a tighter finances, it’s potential to get public transport to the park for $2 and pay the doorway charge of $7.
The park is straightforward to discover independently as it’s well-marked with English indicators.
Lodging choices close to the park additionally make for an thrilling expertise. There are a number of finances eco-lodge-type locations inside strolling distance of Semuc Champey.
These locations are enjoyable as they’ve little to no electrical energy and do family-style dinners and video games. For these happier to remain in a city, the city known as Lanquin is simply over an hour’s drive from the park. Right here there are reasonably priced accommodations with swimming pools or finances backpacker lodging. For extra info on visiting Semuc Champey check out our blog here.
14. Pacaya Volcano
Pacaya Volcano is one other lively volcano that isn’t fairly as tough because the Acatenango hike, and also you don’t want to remain in a single day on the mountain. It is just a 2 hour stroll to the summit supplying you with lovely views of the volcanoes, Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango, the pacific lowlands, and even neighboring El Salvador. You might even see small eruptions and even flowing lava.
Some folks have been identified to roast marshmallows within the steaming vents and warmed pizza on the new lava rocks.
15. Xela (Quetzaltenango)
Quetzaltenango is also known as Xela (pronounced Shel-ha). That is the proper place to get off the crushed path and discover the Guatemalan Highlands. There are many volcano hikes right here together with the Tajumulco Volcano which is the very best peak in Central America.
Town itself is the second largest metropolis in Guatemala after Guatemala Metropolis the place you may take pleasure in loads of out of doors markets together with Chichicastenango Market, the biggest out of doors market in Central America. Be certain that to cease to see the Quetzaltenango Cathedral in Central Park (Parque Centro)
One of the in style locations to go to in Xela is Fuentes Georginas scorching springs situated within the city of Zunil.
16. Discover the Rio Dulce
In Rio dulce, you will have two issues. Water and an opportunity to discover native life inland. Begin by visiting Castillo de san Felipe, a fortress that was constructed to guard Rio dulce in opposition to pirates. Work together with locals, study in regards to the native tradition, and admire the wildlife and city earlier than heading out to the river.
The river Rio Dulce also referred to as the candy river is understood for its calm waters and exquisite surroundings. It additionally connects Lake Izabel, the biggest lake in Guatemala to Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. Numerous birds resembling pelicans overhead as you take pleasure in a ship journey. There are additionally scorching springs contained in the caves close by. Rio Dulce needs to be on prime of your record when visiting Guatemala.
The easiest way to expertise Rio Dulce is to e-book a hut on the river. Boutique Hotel is a resort and marina situated on the river with water sports activities, and jungle actions. There’s a terrace and bar and rooms vary from non-public tree tents to jungle view rooms.
17. Monterrico Seaside
If you’re searching for some seaside time in Guatemala, Monterrico Seaside on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast is likely one of the hottest seaside cities within the nation.
The black sand seaside makes for an incredible change of tempo from exploring the highlands. You may benefit from the surf, look ahead to sea turtles or go for a paddle amongst the mangrove forest of Hawaii-Monterrico Biotopo. It’s a special vibe from the Caribbean Sea that’s extra wild and never precisely nice for swimming. However it’s a good escape from the rugged volcanoes and treks you’ll be used to inside the nation.
18. Guatemala Metropolis
Lots of people don’t put Guatemala Metropolis on their greatest issues to-do lists, however likelihood is you’ll be flying into Guatemala Metropolis, so why not spend a day or two within the capital metropolis earlier than taking off to discover Guatemala?
This Guatemala Metropolis tour is a highly rated tour that allows you to uncover the entire highlights in a single afternoon. Discover La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, the cultural, enterprise and spiritual heart of Guatemala. Your information will take you thru the colonial structure combined with its trendy constructing. There are many museums and monuments to see. As the biggest metropolis in Central America, you’ll start at Las Americas Avenue to Berlin Plaza and a view of the Pacaya volcano. Extra trendy buildings embrace the Supreme Court docket, Metropolis Corridor and the Financial institution of Guatemala.
Different stops embrace Nationwide Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, Centenarian Park,, Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Central Market.
Spending time doing metropolis excursions is one in all our favourite issues when touring to a brand new nation and Guatemala Metropolis has loads of points of interest which are value seeing.
18. Journey in a hen bus
A go to to Guatemala won’t be full with a journey on the hen bus. It’s straightforward to identify these buses with their loud music and vivid colours. Often known as a Colectivo, for a lot of Guatemalans, that is the preferred mode of native transport. As a customer, it is a nice strategy to expertise modern-day Mayan tradition.
The buses are identified by foreigners as hen buses as they typically carry hen as a part of their cargo. Learn extra: Night Bus Travel: 11 Tips for Safety, Survival and Sleep
Why Go to Guatemala
From volcanoes to historic ruins to beautiful cities, Guatemala is probably the most numerous nation in Central America with one thing to please everybody. I can see why it’s changing into a well-liked journey spot.
I beloved my time spent in Guatemala and can encourage anyone who’s contemplating a visit to Latin America to plan for a great period of time in Guatemala. It’s nonetheless a vacation spot that feels untouched and also you’ll have many genuine experiences. If you wish to get off the crushed path, Guatemala is the place to journey.