Guatemala has been gaining worldwide consideration as a high vacationer vacation spot. If you might be in search of a visit out of the peculiar, make certain 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 sights for 2023 thanks to our crew.
Best Things to do in Guatemala
As one of the crucial numerous nations in the world with 37 volcanoes, 360 microclimates, lakes, seashores, and land on each the pacific ocean and the Caribbean Sea, how are you going to not go to Guatemala? These are the perfect issues to do in Guatemala to swimsuit each sort of traveler. Are you prepared to fall in love with this superb Central American nation? Let’s get began.
1. Acatenango Volcano
If you converse to anybody who has accomplished this hike, you’ll probably have heard some rave critiques. Hiking the Acatenango Volcano is a hike in contrast to some other. Guatemala has 37 volcanoes and three of that are energetic volcanoes. During this trek, you will notice one of the crucial spectacular.
It entails 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 referred to as Fuego that basically makes the general expertise.
Fuego is a really energetic volcano that sits parallel to the camps on Acatenango. It erupts each jiffy, placing on a present of exploding lava for the entire excited hikers to see. The volcano erupts roughly each 4 to 5 years and it was most lately energetic in December of 2022.
Several completely different tour corporations provide two-day excursions from Antigua for as little as $90 USD together with tenting tools, meals, and a information. This extremely rated in a single day tour enables you to observe dawn and sundown from Acatenango the place you’ll sleep at Basecamp in entrance of Fuego Volcano
Breakdown of Trip
Day one consists of a brief 1-2 hour drive to the bottom of Acatenango adopted by 4-6 hours of climbing up in the direction of camp. The afternoon and night are spent round a campfire ready for any clouds to half to reveal Fuego’s unimaginable present. The following 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 approach to the bottom of Acatenango. The brief length, low-cost worth, and excursions together with all tools make the Acatenangovolcano hike a greatl exercise for many vacationers.
I might charge the Acatenango Volcano hike as one of the crucial thrilling and distinctive journey experiences I’ve ever had. For extra details about reserving and making ready for the Acatenango Volcano hike take a look at our weblog right here.
2. Antigua Guatemala
Often referred to as merely Antigua, Antigua Guatemala might be one of many first stops you’ll make in the nation. Most vacationers are attracted to Antigua Guatemala as it’s the metropolis the place Acatenango Volcano excursions begin, however it’s far more than that. This colonial metropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the previous capital metropolis of Guatemala.
Antigua Guatemala means Old Guatemala and as we speak, it’s a well-liked vacationer hot-spot for good purpose. 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, buying, markets, superb eating places, and avenue meals.
Iglesia de La Merced interprets to the Church of Our woman of mercy was initially constructed in 1545. However, it was destroyed by two earthquakes and was later restored in the 1700s. It is claimed to be the biggest in Central America and it’s price visiting for its Spanish baroque type structure with its lovely yellow and white facades.
Where to Stay in Antigua
Luxury: Hotel Museo Spa Casa Santa Domingo is simply 10 minutes stroll from the town middle. With 5-star luxurious, it has a pool, spa and health club. Mid-Range: Hotel Soleil La Antigua is simply minutes from Antigua Guatemala Cathedral. There is a spa, free parking and an out of doors pool. Plus a free shuttle to Antigua Central Park. Breakfast and WIFI included.
Vibrant Culture of Guatemala
A good way to immerse in the tradition of Guatemala is thru meals. This half day cultural tour takes you on a gastronomy and historical past tour unexpectedly. Walk by way of its cobblestone streets as you admire its colonial structure. You will then go to a meals market earlier than tasting native dishes and as you find out about Guatemala’s delicacies. Other sights you will notice on this tour embrace the Santa Catalina Arch, and the Baroque Church, La Merced Church, one of the crucial recognizable buildings in Antigua.
Antigua has turn into very touristy, however that isn’t a nasty factor, the excessive quantity of vacationers has made the town a lot wealthier, and subsequently safer, than the likes of Guatemala City or different locations in the nation.
How to Get to Antigua
Antigua is only one.5 hours from Guatemala City and there are even frequent Collectivos from the Guatemala City worldwide airport to Antigua. Because Antigua is such a preferred 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 some other metropolis in the close by neighborhood.
3. Chocolate museum / ChocoMuseo
No go to to Guatemala could be full with out tasting some chocolate. Learn concerning the historical past and cultural facets of chocolate on the ChocoMuseo positioned in Colonial Antigua . A enjoyable interactive hands-on expertise that takes you thru the method of reworking cocoa beans into scrumptious superb chocolate. The chocolate museum has its chocolate processing manufacturing facility the place they make chocolate from Guatemalan cocoa beans.
They additionally provide a chocolate making workshop the place you get to play, eat and study concerning the lovely artwork of constructing chocolate. Taste 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
Located in northern Guatemala sits what many contemplate to be the “best Mayan Ruins in the world.” I do know we did! This is attention-grabbing contemplating Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins are only some 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 provide vacationers. One purpose is that the ruins are throughout the protected Tikal National Park. This is a particular place stuffed with excavated and unexcavated ruins which are thick in the jungle. Because it’s inside a protected space, there are many animals roaming round.
But the temples themselves are astounding. The North Acropolis 1 is the very best and most spectacular, whereas the Plaza of the Seven Temples is without doubt one of the largest plazas in Tikal courting again to 600 and 900 AD.
People are additionally allowed to climb nearly the entire ruins and we extremely suggest going up for dawn to pay attention to the sounds of howler monkeys roaring in the mist. The views are spectacular from above the jungle cover. The entire expertise feels genuine and is far more adventurous then most different historic smash websites I’ve visited in the previous with lots of the pyramids nonetheless buried underneath the earth.
How to Get to Tikal
Tikal is positioned 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 lodges for these in search of a bit extra luxurious.
I might suggest a information as they may make the expertise extra vital providing a number of data and ensuring you don’t get misplaced. It can also be finest to go to Tikal early in the morning when the animals are energetic. When I used to be 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 City making it straightforward to get to.
5. Lake Peten Itza
Located close to Tikal is Lago Peten Itza (Lake Peten Itza), a scenic lake positioned 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. When we visited Guatemala, we appeared to spend numerous time in this laid-back city of cobblestone streets and pastel buildings. There are seashores and different Maya ruins positioned alongside its shores.
Today there are some luxurious resorts on Lake Peten Itza making for an important cease in your Guatemalan adventures to sit again, loosen up and benefit from the surroundings.
Paseo Cayala is simply 20 minutes from Guatemala City and this small city attracts numerous guests due to its distinctive city design. Designed to mimic European neighborhoods with a number of walkable areas, lodges, lodges, and different residential services. Paseo Cayala is trendy, cozy, and secure always. You can spend an entire day strolling round. Lots of 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 positioned throughout the large reserve. This reserve is without doubt one of the most essential tropical forests outdoors the Amazon.
It consists of 4 nationwide parks and three wildlife reserves. There is just one approach to describe the reserve – nature at its finest. Spanning greater than 2.5 million acres, it’s residence to elusive animals similar to jaguars and pumas.
Expect to see a number of howling monkeys, spiders, parrots, crocodiles, and spider monkeys. If you’re fortunate, you may even bump into a jaguar. Set apart 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. This can also be one of the simplest ways 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 is actually an enormous lake surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Small cities are positioned alongside its shores, making for a chilled-out space for vacationers to loosen up for a few days.
The greater altitude of 1500m means it isn’t fairly so sweltering sizzling. It remains to be heat sufficient for a day swim in the lake although. Other well-liked actions across the lake embrace boat excursions, kayaking, climbing, yoga lessons, watching sunsets, and guided tuk-tuk excursions.
Where to Stay at Lake Atitlan
There are loads of villages positioned alongside Lake Atitlán and they’re straightforward to journey inside. Here are just a few selections to assist get you began.
Lush Atitlan is a boutique resort in a stupendous setting with lake and volcano views. Rooms are primary however good worth for the cash.
8. San pedro la laguna
The city of San Pedro is the biggest “backpacker-oriented town” with low-cost meals (a number of it), good buying, 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 positioned in the Southwest of Lake Atitlán has tons to provide for out of doors fans. Take Spanish language lessons or a cooking class in a locals residence.
Take a horseback experience as you discover espresso plantations, or take the Indian Nose hike for scenic views of Lake Atitlán, and store at native markets for recent produce or handcrafted souvenirs. Spend a full day exploring and taking in the sights and sounds of the Lake.
This vacation residence has an important location on the lake and inside strolling distance to eating places and outlets. Newly renovated house with personal balcony and shared kitchen.
9. Towns Around Lake Atitlán
San Marcos can also be positioned. on Lake Atitlan and is well-liked with vacationers however is far smaller than San Pedro and extra relaxed. San Marcos is usually generally known as the “hippie town” which has attracted many yoga-enthusiast ex-pats.
The different much less frequent 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 provide vacationers. You may go to Santiago Atitlén and San Antonio which you’ll be able to go to by boat.
Getting Around Lake Atitlan
The wonderful thing about Lake Atitlan is that regardless of the place you select to keep, it’s straightforward and cheap to get across the lake. Transport across the lake is for locals and vacationers alike in the type of boats that function very like public buses in cities.
There are set fares from one vacation spot to the following and set schedules. Locals leap on the boats with baskets of produce and generally dwell 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 far-off from San Pedro is San Juan La Laguna additionally positioned Southwest of Lake Atitlán. This charming city is price a go to when in Guatemala. San Juan La Laguna is usually described as an artsy city as its stuffed with streets with lovely artwork murals painted in putting colours.
Lots of actions to do right here similar to; visiting Cerro de la Cruz for scenic views of the cities, having fun with regionally grown artisanal espresso, visiting the native market, searching for textiles, cooking lessons, and visiting different native communities round Lake Atitlán.
You can guide this extremely rated tour to go to the mountain villages and the villages of Guatemala’s indigenous folks. Tale a public boat throughout the lake to the colourful village of San Juan La Laguna. You’ll go to Santiago the place folks nonetheless dwell the Mayan tradition and life-style dressed in 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. Sign up for Spanish classes
Learning Spanish is without doubt one of the finest issues you’ll be able to do to make your journey memorable. Having a grasp of primary Spanish will make your interactions with locals far more nice and simpler. There are a number of Spanish colleges for foreigners. If you need you too can enroll and study with locals in their houses. Besides, understanding Spanish is step one to understanding Mayan tradition.
Popular 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 might be there.
12. Atitlan Nature Reserve
Located simply outdoors Panajachel is the Atitlan Nature Reserve, a sanctuary was constructed to assist unfold consciousness and lift help for the conservation work being finished by scientists and college students.
Outdoor lovers will take pleasure in ziplining over waterfalls and occasional plantations. There is a butterfly dome for nature lovers. The strolling trails are straightforward, well-maintained, and really enjoyable. Walk down to the waterfall, or the seashore. You may arrange camp on the grounds and sleep to the attractive sounds of nature.
13. Semuc Champey Natural Monument
On the opposite aspect of the nation is the well-known National Park referred to as Semuc Champey. Many vacationers skip it due to the lengthy bus experience from different locations shut to 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 lots of of small waterfalls and pure swimming pools.. Between these waterfalls guests can swim in pure swimming pools, leap off waterfalls, slide down them, or discover small caves. There can also be a brief one-hour lengthy hike to a viewpoint concerning the swimming swimming pools providing some superior photograph alternatives.
One of the good issues about Semuc Champey is that it could actually simply be loved on a tour or independently. Tours run from lodges, hostels, or the closest city of Lanquin.
Information and Costs for the Park
Tours provide transport to the park, a information to discover the falls, a information for the hike, and a caving expertise. They are fairly inexpensive at $25 USD for a full day journey. However, 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.
Accommodation choices close to the park additionally make for an thrilling expertise. There are just a few 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 keep in a city, the city referred to as Lanquin is simply over an hour’s drive from the park. Here there are inexpensive lodges with swimming pools or finances backpacker lodging. For extra data on visiting Semuc Champey take a look at our weblog right here.
14. Pacaya Volcano
Pacaya Volcano is one other energetic volcano that isn’t fairly as tough because the Acatenango hike, and also you don’t want to keep in a single day on the mountain. It is just a 2 hour stroll to the summit providing you with lovely views of the volcanoes, Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango, the pacific lowlands, and even neighboring El Salvador. You may even see small eruptions and even flowing lava.
Some folks have been identified to roast marshmallows in the steaming vents and warmed pizza on the new lava rocks.
15. Xela (Quetzaltenango)
Quetzaltenango is usually referred to as Xela (pronounced Shel-ha). This is the right place to get off the crushed path and discover the Guatemalan Highlands. There are loads of volcano hikes right here together with the Tajumulco Volcano which is the very best peak in Central America.
The metropolis itself is the second largest metropolis in Guatemala after Guatemala City the place you’ll be able to take pleasure in loads of out of doors markets together with Chichicastenango Market, the biggest out of doors market in Central America. Make positive to cease to see the Quetzaltenango Cathedral in Central Park (Parque Centro)
One of the most well-liked locations to go to in Xela is Fuentes Georginas sizzling springs positioned in the city of Zunil.
16. Explore the Rio Dulce
In Rio dulce, you may have two issues. Water and an opportunity to discover native life inland. Start by visiting Castillo de san Felipe, a fortress that was constructed to defend Rio dulce in opposition to pirates. Interact with locals, study concerning the native tradition, and admire the wildlife and city earlier than heading out to the river.
The river Rio Dulce often known as the candy river is thought for its calm waters and delightful surroundings. It additionally connects Lake Izabel, the biggest lake in Guatemala to Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. Lots of birds similar to pelicans overhead as you take pleasure in a ship experience. There are additionally sizzling springs contained in the caves close by. Rio Dulce must be on high of your record when visiting Guatemala.
The finest approach to expertise Rio Dulce is to guide a hut on the river. Boutique Hotel is a resort and marina positioned on the river with water sports activities, and jungle actions. There’s a terrace and bar and rooms vary from personal tree tents to jungle view rooms.
17. Monterrico Beach
If you might be in search of some seashore time in Guatemala, Monterrico Beach on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast is without doubt one of the hottest seashore cities in the nation.
The black sand seashore makes for an important change of tempo from exploring the highlands. You can 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 distinct vibe from the Caribbean Sea that’s extra wild and never precisely nice for swimming. But it’s a good escape from the rugged volcanoes and treks you’ll be used to throughout the nation.
18. Guatemala City
Lots of people don’t put Guatemala City on their finest issues to-do lists, however likelihood is you’ll be flying into Guatemala City, so why not spend a day or two in the capital metropolis earlier than taking off to discover Guatemala?
This Guatemala City tour is a extremely rated tour that allows you to uncover the entire highlights in one afternoon. Explore La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, the cultural, enterprise and spiritual middle of Guatemala. Your information will take you thru the colonial structure blended with its trendy constructing. There are loads of 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. More trendy buildings embrace the Supreme Court, City Hall and the Bank of Guatemala.
Other stops embrace National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, Centenarian Park,, Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Central Market.
Spending time doing metropolis excursions is considered one of our favourite issues when touring to a brand new nation and Guatemala City has loads of sights which are price seeing.
18. Ride in a hen bus
A go to to Guatemala is not going to be full with a experience on the hen bus. It’s straightforward to spot these buses with their loud music and vivid colours. Also generally known as a Colectivo, for a lot of Guatemalans, that is the most well-liked mode of native transport. As a customer, this can be a good way to expertise modern-day Mayan tradition.
The buses are identified by foreigners as hen buses as they usually carry hen as a part of their cargo. Read extra: Night Bus Travel: 11 Tips for Safety, Survival and Sleep
Why Visit 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 turning into a preferred journey spot.
I liked my time spent in Guatemala and can encourage anyone who’s contemplating a visit to Latin America to plan for a superb period of time in Guatemala. It remains to be a vacation spot that feels untouched and also you’ll have many genuine experiences. If you need to get off the crushed path, Guatemala is the place to journey.