Guatemala has been gaining worldwide consideration as a high vacationer vacation spot. If you’re in search of a visit out of the strange, be certain to add this stunning nation in Central America to your checklist.
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 staff.
Best Things to do in Guatemala
As one of the various 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 very best issues to do in Guatemala to swimsuit each kind 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 doubtless have heard some rave critiques. Hiking the Acatenango Volcano is a hike in contrast to every other. Guatemala has 37 volcanoes and three of that are energetic volcanoes. During this trek, you will notice one of the spectacular.
It entails climbing for 4-6 hours to a base camp on one facet 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 all the excited hikers to see. The volcano erupts roughly each 4 to 5 years and it was most not too long ago energetic in December of 2022.
Several totally different tour firms 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 method to the bottom of Acatenango. The brief period, low cost value, and excursions together with all tools make the Acatenangovolcano hike a greatl exercise for many vacationers.
I’d fee the Acatenango Volcano hike as one of the thrilling and distinctive journey experiences I’ve ever had. For extra details about reserving and getting ready for the Acatenango Volcano hike try 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 rather 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 right now, it’s a standard vacationer hot-spot for good purpose. When visiting Antigua a part of the appeal is to get misplaced in its cobblestone streets as you get pleasure from historic excursions of town, museums, purchasing, markets, superb eating places, and road 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 alleged to be the biggest in Central America and it’s price visiting for its Spanish baroque model structure with its stunning yellow and white facades.
Where to Stay in Antigua
Luxury: Hotel Museo Spa Casa Santa Domingo is simply 10 minutes stroll from 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 . Walk by 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 study Guatemala’s delicacies. Other sights you will notice on this tour embody the Santa Catalina Arch, and the Baroque Church, La Merced Church, one of the recognizable buildings in Antigua.
Antigua has change into very touristy, however that isn’t a nasty factor, the excessive quantity of vacationers has made 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 just 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 town from just about every 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 situated in Colonial Antigua . A enjoyable interactive hands-on expertise that takes you thru the method of remodeling cocoa beans into scrumptious superb chocolate. The chocolate museum has its chocolate processing manufacturing unit 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 stunning 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 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 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 can be 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 best and most spectacular, whereas the Plaza of the Seven Temples is among the largest plazas in Tikal courting again to 600 and 900 AD.
People are additionally allowed to climb nearly all the 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 complete expertise feels genuine and is rather more adventurous then most different historic break websites I’ve visited in the previous with most of the pyramids nonetheless buried below the earth.
How to Get to Tikal
Tikal is situated solely about an hour’s drive from the vacationer city of Flores and might 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 motels for these in search of a bit extra luxurious.
I’d suggest a information as they are going to make the expertise extra important providing plenty of data and ensuring you don’t get misplaced. It can 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 situated in Northern Guatemala. Its most well-known for town of Flores which is an effective jumping-off level to discover the Mayan ruins of Tikal. When we visited Guatemala, we appeared to spend quite a lot of time in this laid-back city of cobblestone streets and pastel buildings. There are seashores and different Maya ruins situated alongside its shores.
Today there are some luxurious resorts on Lake Peten Itza making for an ideal 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 quite a lot of guests due to its distinctive city design. Designed to mimic European neighborhoods with plenty of walkable areas, motels, lodges, and different residential amenities. Paseo Cayala is trendy, cozy, and secure always. You can spend a complete day strolling round. Lots of eateries to select from all serving totally 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 throughout the huge reserve. This reserve is among the most necessary tropical forests exterior the Amazon.
It consists of 4 nationwide parks and three wildlife reserves. There is just one method to describe the reserve – nature at its finest. Spanning greater than 2.5 million acres, it’s house to elusive animals equivalent to jaguars and pumas.
Expect to see plenty of howling monkeys, spiders, parrots, crocodiles, and spider monkeys. If you’re fortunate, you may even encounter 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 be one of the best ways to make sure you don’t miss out on the dawn hike to the temple.
7. Lake Atitlán
Lake Atitlan is a singular spot in Guatemala. It is 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 loosen up for a few days.
The increased altitude of 1500m means it isn’t fairly so sweltering scorching. It continues to be heat sufficient for a day swim in the lake although. Other standard actions across the lake embody boat excursions, kayaking, climbing, yoga courses, watching sunsets, and guided tuk-tuk excursions.
Where to Stay at Lake Atitlan
There are loads of villages situated alongside Lake Atitlán and they’re straightforward to journey inside. Here are just a few decisions to assist get you began.
Lush Atitlan is a boutique resort in a wonderful 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 (plenty of it), good purchasing, and finances locations to celebration at night time. It isn’t essentially the most stress-free space however positively has a enjoyable vibe. This small city situated in the Southwest of Lake Atitlán has heaps to provide for outside fans. Take Spanish language courses or a cooking class in a locals house.
Take a horseback journey 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 house has an ideal location on the lake and inside strolling distance to eating places and outlets. Newly renovated residence with personal balcony and shared kitchen.
9. Towns Around Lake Atitlán
San Marcos can be situated. on Lake Atitlan and is standard with vacationers however is far smaller than San Pedro and extra relaxed. San Marcos is usually referred to as the “hippie town” which has attracted many yoga-enthusiast ex-pats.
The different much less frequent choices are Santa Cruz, which is principally inhabited by locals with solely a few lodging choices or eating places, or Panajachel which is the most important metropolis with out an excessive amount of to provide vacationers. You also can go to Santiago Atitlén and San Antonio which you’ll 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 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 typically stay chickens whereas vacationers lug on suitcases. The complete boat system as the principle 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 situated 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 stunning artwork murals painted in placing colours.
Lots of actions to do right here equivalent to; visiting Cerro de la Cruz for scenic views of the cities, having fun with domestically grown artisanal espresso, visiting the native market, purchasing for textiles, cooking courses, and visiting different native communities round Lake Atitlán.
You can ebook 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 stay 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 among 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 rather more nice and simpler. There are plenty of Spanish colleges for foreigners. If you need you too can join and study with locals in their properties. Besides, understanding Spanish is step one to understanding Mayan tradition.
Popular locations to take Spanish courses 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
Located simply exterior 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 get pleasure from ziplining over waterfalls and occasional plantations. There is a butterfly dome for nature lovers. The strolling trails are straightforward, well-maintained, and really stress-free. Walk down to the waterfall, or the seashore. You also can arrange camp on the grounds and sleep to the attractive sounds of nature.
13. Semuc Champey Natural Monument
On the opposite facet of the nation is the well-known National Park referred to as Semuc Champey. Many vacationers skip it due to the lengthy bus journey 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 vibrant turquoise water which flows by 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 can be a brief one-hour lengthy hike to a viewpoint concerning the swimming swimming pools providing some superior picture alternatives.
One of the good issues about Semuc Champey is that it will probably simply be loved on a tour or independently. Tours run from motels, 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 doable to get public transport to the park for $2 and pay the doorway price of $7.
The park is simple 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 motels with swimming pools or finances backpacker lodging. For extra data on visiting Semuc Champey try 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 barely a 2 hour stroll to the summit supplying you with stunning 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 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 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 get pleasure from loads of outside markets together with Chichicastenango Market, the biggest outside market in Central America. Make certain 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 scorching springs situated in the city of Zunil.
16. Explore the Rio Dulce
In Rio dulce, you could 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 shield 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 also referred to 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 equivalent to pelicans overhead as you get pleasure from a ship journey. There are additionally scorching springs contained in the caves close by. Rio Dulce needs to be on high of your checklist when visiting Guatemala.
The finest method to expertise Rio Dulce is to ebook 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 personal tree tents to jungle view rooms.
17. Monterrico Beach
If you’re in search of some seashore time in Guatemala, Monterrico Beach on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast is among the hottest seashore cities in the nation.
The black sand seashore makes for an ideal 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 unique 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 chances are high 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 permits you to uncover all the highlights in one afternoon. Explore La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, the cultural, enterprise and non secular middle of Guatemala. Your information will take you thru the colonial structure combined 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 embody the Supreme Court, City Hall and the Bank of Guatemala.
Other stops embody National 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 City has loads of sights which can be price seeing.
18. Ride in a hen bus
A go to to Guatemala is not going to be full with a journey on the hen bus. It’s straightforward to spot these buses with their loud music and vibrant colours. Also referred to as a Colectivo, for a lot of Guatemalans, that is the most well-liked mode of native transport. As a customer, it is a wonderful means 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 attractive cities, Guatemala is essentially the most various nation in Central America with one thing to please everybody. I can see why it’s changing into a preferred journey spot.
I cherished 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 continues 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.