Tips & Advices

18 Best Things to do in Guatemala

Guatemala has been gaining worldwide consideration as a high vacationer vacation spot. If you’re in search of a visit out of the peculiar, be certain so as 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 points of interest for 2023 because of our group.

Best Things to do in Guatemala

As one of the numerous nations on this 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 very best issues to do in Guatemala to swimsuit each kind of traveler. Are you able to fall in love with this wonderful Central American nation? Let’s get began.

1. Acatenango Volcano

things to do in guatemala acetenango volcano hike
Acatenango Volcano

If you converse to anybody who has accomplished this hike, you’ll doubtless have heard some rave evaluations. Hiking the Acatenango Volcano is a hike in contrast to every other. Guatemala has 37 volcanoes and three of that are lively volcanoes. During this trek, you will note one of the 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 known as Fuego that actually 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 all the excited hikers to see. The volcano erupts roughly each 4 to five years and it was most just lately lively in December of 2022.

Several completely different tour corporations supply 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 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 direction of camp.
  • The afternoon and night are spent round a campfire ready for any clouds to half to disclose 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 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 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

things to do in guatemala antigua Guatemala

Often 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 way 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 in style vacationer hot-spot for good motive. When visiting Antigua a part of the allure is to get misplaced in its cobblestone streets as you get pleasure from historic excursions of the town, museums, buying, markets, wonderful eating places, and avenue meals.

Iglesia de La Merced interprets to the Church of Our woman of mercy was initially inbuilt 1545. However, it was destroyed by two earthquakes and was later restored within the 1700s. It is claimed to be the biggest in Central America and it’s price visiting for its Spanish baroque fashion 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 the town heart. 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 outside pool. Plus a free shuttle to Antigua Central Park. Breakfast and WIFI included.

Vibrant Culture of Guatemala

things to do in guatemala streets of antigua guaemala

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 abruptly. Walk via 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 note 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’s not 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 City or different locations within 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 every other metropolis within the close by neighborhood.

3. Chocolate museum / ChocoMuseo

No go to to Guatemala could be full with out tasting some chocolate. Learn 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 remodeling cocoa beans into scrumptious wonderful chocolate. The chocolate museum has its chocolate processing manufacturing facility the place they make chocolate from Guatemalan cocoa beans.

They additionally supply a chocolate making workshop the place you get to play, eat and study in regards to the stunning artwork of creating 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

things to do in guatemala mayan ruins of tikal
Tikal, Guatemala

Located in northern Guatemala sits what many take into account 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 supply vacationers. One motive is that the ruins are inside the protected Tikal National Park. This is a particular place full of excavated and unexcavated ruins which might be thick within 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 likely one of 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 advocate 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 way more adventurous then most different historical smash websites I’ve visited previously with most of the pyramids nonetheless buried underneath the earth.

How to Get to Tikal

things to do in guatemala tiakal temples above jungle canopy
Temple I and Temple IV Above the Jungle Canopy in Tikal, Guatemala

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 funds hostels for backpackers in addition to good waterfront inns for these in search of a bit extra luxurious.

I might advocate a information as they’ll make the expertise extra vital providing numerous info and ensuring you don’t get misplaced. It can be finest to go to Tikal early within the morning when the animals are lively. 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

things to do in Guatemala Lake Peten Itza
Sunset at 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 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 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.

Today there are some luxurious resorts on Lake Peten Itza making for an ideal cease in your Guatemalan adventures to sit down again, chill out and benefit from the surroundings.

Paseo Cayala is simply 20 minutes from Guatemala City and this small city attracts a whole lot of guests as a result of its distinctive city design. Designed to imitate European neighborhoods with numerous walkable areas, inns, 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 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 vital tropical forests outdoors 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 residence to elusive animals resembling jaguars and pumas.

Expect to see numerous howling monkeys, spiders, parrots, crocodiles, and spider monkeys. If you’re fortunate, you would possibly even come upon 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

things to do in guatemala lake atitlan
Beautiful lake Atitlán and volcanos within the highlands of Guatemala, Central America

Lake Atitlan is a novel 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 chill out for a few days.

The increased altitude of 1500m means it isn’t fairly so sweltering sizzling. It continues to be heat sufficient for a day swim within the lake although. Other in style actions across the lake embody boat excursions, kayaking, climbing, yoga lessons, 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 a number of decisions to assist get you began.

Lush Atitlan is a boutique resort in a ravishing setting with lake and volcano views. Rooms are fundamental however good worth for the cash.

8. San pedro la laguna

things to do in guatemala san pedroa la laguna on lake atitlan

The city of San Pedro is the biggest “backpacker-oriented town” with low-cost meals (numerous it), good buying, and funds locations to occasion at evening. It isn’t probably the most stress-free space however positively has a enjoyable vibe. This small city situated within the Southwest of Lake Atitlán has tons to supply for out of doors lovers. Take Spanish language lessons or a cooking class in a locals residence.

Take a horseback trip 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 within the sights and sounds of the Lake.

This holiday home has an ideal location on the lake and inside strolling distance to eating places and outlets. Newly renovated condo with non-public balcony and shared kitchen.

9. Towns Around Lake Atitlán

things to do in guatemala lake atitlan towns

San Marcos can be situated. on Lake Atitlan and is in style with vacationers however is far smaller than San Pedro and extra relaxed. San Marcos is often referred to as the “hippie town” which has attracted many yoga-enthusiast ex-pats.

The different 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 go to Santiago Atitlén and San Antonio which you’ll be able to go to by boat.

Getting Around Lake Atitlan

things to do in guatemala getting around lake atitland by boat

The beauty of Lake Atitlan is that regardless 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 bounce on the boats with baskets of produce and typically stay chickens whereas vacationers lug on suitcases. The entire boat system as the principle type of public transport is a enjoyable and attention-grabbing expertise in itself.

10. San Juan La Laguna

Things to do in Guatemala lake atitlan

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 commonly described as an artsy city as its stuffed with streets with stunning artwork murals painted in hanging colours.

Lots of actions to do right here resembling; visiting Cerro de la Cruz for scenic views of the cities, having fun with domestically grown artisanal espresso, visiting the native market, searching 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 individuals. Tale a public boat throughout the lake to the colourful village of San Juan La Laguna. You’ll go to Santiago the place individuals nonetheless stay 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. Sign up for Spanish classes

Learning Spanish is likely one of the finest issues you are able to do to make your journey memorable. Having a grasp of fundamental Spanish will make your interactions with locals way more nice and simpler. There are numerous Spanish colleges for foreigners. If you need you may as well enroll and study with locals of 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’re 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 performed 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 all the way down to the waterfall, or the seaside. You may arrange camp on the grounds and sleep to the gorgeous sounds of nature.

13. Semuc Champey Natural Monument

things to do in guatemala semuch birds eye view

On the opposite aspect of the nation is the well-known National Park known as Semuc Champey. Many vacationers skip it as a result of lengthy bus trip from different locations near the Antigua space, which is a disgrace as a result of it’s unbelievable! 

Semuc Champey is an space of vibrant turquoise water which flows via a whole bunch of small waterfalls and pure swimming pools.. Between these waterfalls guests can swim in pure swimming pools, bounce off waterfalls, slide down them, or discover small caves. There can be a brief one-hour lengthy hike to a viewpoint in regards to the swimming swimming pools providing some superior picture alternatives.

One of the nice issues about Semuc Champey is that it could simply be loved on a tour or independently. Tours run from inns, hostels, or the closest city of Lanquin.

Information and Costs for the Park

things to doi n guatemala waterfalls

Tours supply transport to the park, a information to discover the falls, a information for the hike, and a caving expertise. They are fairly reasonably priced at $25 USD for a full day journey. However, for these on a tighter funds, it’s doable 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 a number of funds 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. Here there are reasonably priced inns with swimming pools or funds 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 barely a 2 hour stroll to the summit providing 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 individuals have been identified to roast marshmallows within the steaming vents and warmed pizza on the new lava rocks.

15. Xela (Quetzaltenango)

Quetzaltenango is sometimes called Xela (pronounced Shel-ha). This is the proper 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 possibly can get pleasure from loads of out of doors markets together with Chichicastenango Market, the biggest out of doors market in Central America. Make certain to cease to see the Quetzaltenango Cathedral in Central Park (Parque Centro)

One of the preferred locations to go to in Xela is Fuentes Georginas sizzling springs situated within the city of Zunil.

16. Explore the Rio Dulce

things to do in guatemala rio dulce

In Rio dulce, you’ve got two issues. Water and an opportunity to discover native life inland. Start by visiting Castillo de san Felipe, a fortress that was constructed to guard Rio dulce towards pirates. Interact 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 often known as the candy river is thought for its calm waters and exquisite surroundings. It additionally connects Lake Izabel, the biggest lake in Guatemala to Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. Lots of birds resembling pelicans overhead as you get pleasure from a ship trip. There are additionally sizzling 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 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 Beach

If you’re in search of some seaside time in Guatemala, Monterrico Beach on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast is likely one of the hottest seaside cities within the nation.

The black sand seaside 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 special 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 inside the nation.

18. Guatemala City

best things to do in guatemala 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 within the capital metropolis earlier than taking off to discover Guatemala?

This Guatemala City tour is a highly rated tour that allows you to uncover all the highlights in a single afternoon. Explore La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, the cultural, enterprise and non secular heart 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 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 considered one of our favourite issues when touring to a brand new nation and Guatemala City has loads of points of interest which might be price seeing.

18. Ride in a hen bus

things to do in guatemala chicken bu

A go to to Guatemala is not going to be full with a trip on the hen bus. It’s straightforward to identify these buses with their loud music and vibrant colours. Also referred to as a Colectivo, for a lot of Guatemalans, that is the preferred mode of native transport. As a customer, this can be a nice method 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. Read extra: Night Bus Travel: 11 Tips for Safety, Survival and Sleep

Why Visit Guatemala

best things to do in guatemala map

From volcanoes to historical ruins to attractive 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 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 an excellent 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 wish to get off the crushed path, Guatemala is the place to journey.

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