The best places to visit in Guatemala

The best places to visit in Guatemala

The epicenter of Mayan tradition in Central The usa, Guatemala is renowned for its extraordinary volcanoes, black-sand seashores, biodiverse jungles, thriving Mayan townships and the amazing ruins of Tikal.

You can find loads to see listed here. The country’s plentiful organic points of interest are topped off by the city attraction of Antigua, the country’s previous Spanish-era cash, where by guests can come across some of the finest food items and most lovely architecture in Central The usa.

A touch of the mystical operates by means of almost everything in Guatemala, from the residing Mayan society of Chichicastenango to the serene waters of Lake Atitlán with its guardian ring of volcanoes. A person trip will likely have you hooked for life, so here are the greatest locations to go to to start out the journey in Guatemala, the Land of Eternal Spring.


Very best for architecture, history and volcanoes

Just a 45-minute generate from Guatemala’s principal intercontinental airport, Antigua is most travelers’ initially and past prevent in Guatemala, and it rarely disappoints. This charming city’s cobblestone streets and vibrant homes are surrounded by towering volcanoes, the most impressive of which is El Fuego (“the hearth”), whose steep slopes are on a regular basis marked by low-degree eruptions.

Antiqua is a location to pose for selfies below the legendary Arco de Santa Catarina, shop for Mayan handicrafts, consider spectacular photographs of volcano-backed avenue scenes and colonial architecture, study for Spanish language courses, and refuel in the city’s a lot of outstanding cafes, dining places and bars.

Some of Guatemala’s best places to eat can be identified in Antigua, with superb world cuisine as perfectly as common and modern day Guatemalan fare. Consume delightful, finances-pleasant street food at the evening marketplace or splurge on somewhere sophisticated and atmospheric. Carry an urge for food to Meson Panza Verde, a cozy boutique resort wherever inventive fusion dishes are made with nearby ingredients.

For times out of city, wake up early to hike to the close by Pataya and Acatenango volcanoes, or wake up late and delight in a domestically developed brunch at Caoba Farms. There’s plenty listed here to fill quite a few days of discovering.

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Hiker looking out over the summits of volcanoes at Lake Atitlan
Volcano hikes around Lago de Atitlán offer sights of a landscape from yet another planet © Simon Dannhauer / Shutterstock

Lago de Atitlán

Finest for chilling out amidst volcanic surroundings

Tucked absent deep in the western highlands and framed by three towering volcanoes, Lago de Atitlán is viewed as by some to be the most impressive lake in the environment. The waters of this deep and mysterious crater lake switch turquoise to deep green to dark blue as the mild alterations with the time of day and time. Because of its exclusive magnificence, tourists have been recognised to get trapped here for months, months or even decades.

Small villages with distinctively various moods surround the lake. Bash people must head to San Pedro La Laguna, even though individuals intrigued in meditation and yoga will appreciate quieter San Marcos La Laguna. Spanish courses are widely readily available, but the principal purchase of the working day is simply just chilling by the lakeside and marveling at the miracles of mom mother nature. Additional energetic things to do for those who basically cannot sit nevertheless include paragliding, paddle boarding and mountaineering Volcán San Pedro.


Very best for residing Mayan society

Chichicastenango, aka “Chichi,” not only hosts the most outstanding Maya sector in the state, but it also has deep historic importance. The city served as the major trading center for the Quiché area ahead of the conquistadors arrived, and the custom of people today coming from hill villages to trade carries on to this working day.

Nestled amidst lush inexperienced mountains in the Guatemalan highlands, this sprawling market place city fills with traders every single Sunday and Thursday, when site visitors surge in on day excursions from Lago de Atitlán. You’ll uncover a labyrinth of stalls entire of area solutions, carved masks and attractive textiles, together with the traditional huipil blouses that indigenous ladies weave and use. Each and every area has a various design and style of huipil, and the intricate styles of organic styles and summary symbols can consider anyplace from a few months to a yr to weave.

Other items offered in this atmospheric current market consist of wood carvings, leather-based merchandise, pottery and jade, silver and gold jewelry. When you are in Chichicastenango, drop into the little archeological museum, the museum of ceremonial Mayan masks and spend some time individuals-observing on the incense-cloaked actions of Iglesia de Santo Tomás.

Mayan traders gather on the steps of Iglesia de Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango
Mayan traders gather on the measures of Iglesia de Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango © nobito / Shutterstock

Río Dulce and Livingston

Greatest for river adventures

The largest lake in Guatemala, Lago Izabal is regarded for its geothermally heated waterfalls and fringing mangroves teeming with wildlife. The lake empties into the Río Dulce, which runs specifically to the town of Lívingston, a fast paced hub for Garifuna people today positioned on the Caribbean coast. Lots of vacationers cease right here en route to the coastline and retain the services of a boat to acquire them down the river.

Río Dulce is sizzling, humid and lush, and the vibe is incredibly global, thanks to a string of marinas, restaurants and bars alongside the river that cater to visiting sailors. Stay at the superb Tortugal, a boutique guesthouse positioned on a marina, and permit the drinking water lull you to slumber, or take a pickup to keep at just one of the additional remote, riverside jungle hostels – Hotelito Perdido is a top rated alternative.

El Petén and Tikal

Ideal for Mayan ruins in the rainforest

The Guatemalan department (province) of El Petén is a single of the most biodiverse locations in Central The us, and this is also where the towering Mayan temples of Tikal are identified. The ruins of this historical town, which rose to the top of its power in the 7th century, are buried deep in the jungle, frequented consistently by howler monkeys, coatis, agoutis and tropical birds and cloaked in lush vegetation. It’s value paying a number of days below exploring the region around stunning, deep inexperienced Lago Petén Itzá.

Several little communities line the water’s edge. The island town of Flores is in which most folks stay although going to Tikal, with a great collection of hostels and motels, pleasurable-loaded nightlife and excellent amenities. Having said that, the normally-ignored village of El Remate is another superb option for individuals wanting for a a lot more tranquil vibe.

El Remate is tiny, but it has a handful of hostels and it’s on a substantially far better stretch of the lakeshore for swimming. As an added reward, the village is situated nearer to Tikal, indicating a more quickly journey to the ruins. Look at out the extended-founded Mon Ami hostel and cafe for lakeside accommodations and lake-fish lunches, and Las Orquideas for scrumptious Italian food stuff.

Lesser recognised than Tikal, but equally worthy of a go to, are the ruins of Yahxa, a smaller ceremonial internet site found amongst two lakes, which is famed for its epic sunsets. For the extra adventurous, five-day jungle treks to El Mirador, the premier Mayan web page in Central The us, can be arranged via local clothes shop Carmelita Tours.

The towering steps of Temple V in Tikal
Cloaked by jungle, Tikal is the most outstanding web page in the Mayan globe © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Earth

Nebaj and the Ixil Triangle

Greatest for uncrowded hiking trails

The isolated township of Nebaj is found in the distant highlands of the Cuchumatanes Mountains, a area referred to as the Ixil Triangle. It truly is an outstanding hub for climbing off the vacationer path. Site visitors can trek as a result of the tallest mountain chain in Central The usa, traversing verdant peaks and valleys that alternate among subtropical forests and sweeping shrublands.

It is feasible to hike from the Ixil triangle to Todos Santos, a modest city famed for its Day of the Useless celebrations just about every November. Starting from Nebaj, hikes are run twice a thirty day period by the outstanding Quetzaltrekkers, based out of Quetzaltenango. 

Semuc Champey and Lanquín

Most effective for splashing in jungle pools

With its serene turquoise swimming pools and all-natural limestone bridge, the national park of Semuc Champey is 1 of the most beautiful areas in Central America. It’s a bit of a challenge to get there, but the vacation is nicely worth the hard work to swim and chill out surrounded by tranquil all-natural splendor.

The pools are pretty distant, and a lot of guests choose to keep in Lanquín, a village about a 45-minute travel from Semuc Champey, where by there are facilities and a handful of superb hostels. Look at out Zephyr Lodge, a well known get together hostel with an infinity pool and unrivaled views of the encompassing mountains.

El Retiro Lodge is more relaxed and just as rather, with simple huts positioned proper beside the river. Day excursions to the pools are arranged by both equally hostels. Alternatively, if you might be on the lookout to stay as close to the pools as feasible, Greengo’s Hotel has A-frame cabins just a 10-minute wander from the entrance to the park.

Visitors swimming in turquoise-coloured waters at Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is a person of Central America’s most attractive swimming holes © Paul Kennedy / Getty Visuals

Laguna Lachuá

Very best for escaping the tourist path

Located in the center of Parque Nacional Laguna Lachuá, in the coffee- and cardamom-increasing region of Alta Verapaz, this idyllic lagoon is swiftly getting traction as a person of the country’s ideal off-the-beaten-keep track of locations. Reached by a humid 5km (3-mile) hike, this correctly round, turquoise lake is flanked by interpretive trails, and it is really a lovely position to swim.

Website visitors can only get to the lagoon following mountaineering through dense spots of tropical rainforest, property to howler monkeys, tarantulas, colorful birds and flowers. Following functioning up a sweat on the way below, the deep, interesting lagoon is the ideal position to dive in, amazing off and unwind. The park doesn’t have any dining places, so you may need to bring your possess h2o and meals.

Monterrico and El Paredon

Finest for black sands and browsing

Monterrico is a well-known beachside getaway for Guatemalans and it features a fine expanse of black sand the place you can loosen up, swim and view the most extraordinary sunsets. By day, take a tour by the protected mangrove forest to see tropical birds and other wildlife or visit the Tortugario Monterrico nature reserve in the night to enable launch child turtles from September to January.

A two-hour drive absent, El Paredon is the more compact of the two shorelines, but it’s starting to be increasingly well known thanks to its respectable surf breaks and the emergence of some great areas to continue to be, like hippy-chic Swell. Head to this chilled-out seashore for a backpacker vibe, straightforward-heading Spanish classes, browsing classes and socializing at the Driftwood Surfer hostel, which always has a little something going on just about every evening of the week.

People walking along the beach in Monterrico, Guatemala, at sunset
The black sands at Monterrico are Guatemala’s beloved beach escape © SL-Photography / Shutterstock


Best for relaxing in the highlands

Quetzaltenango, or Xela (pronounced shay-la) as almost all people calls it, is a position to linger. A significant town with a smaller-town vibe, Quetzaltenango has rather cobblestone streets, crumbling colonial properties and a central park bookended by an ornate cathedral that provides to the romance of the historic centre. A lot of website visitors come here to analyze Spanish, volunteer, or get some critical hikes in the western highlands.

With the large elevation, count on pleasantly neat evenings that are perfect for sitting out in candle-lit bars and dining places. Spanish college students mingle with NGO volunteers and chatty regional residents are delighted to help out with verb conjugations. Examine out Mandarina on Calle 13-21 for the finest lattes and salads in city. Will not leave with out striving shecas, a area sweet bread stuffed with both beans, cheese or jam, normally consumed with afternoon espresso.

Sights value viewing just exterior the metropolis involve the warm springs tucked into the forest at Fuentes Georginas, the mystical Laguna Chicabal – a sacred lake that is generally shrouded in mist, reached via a 5-hour tramp up a volcano – and the twin volcanoes of Volcáns Santa Maria and Volcán Santiaguito, which can equally be visited on a satisfying day hike.

Guatemala City 

Finest for neighborhood checking out

Guatemala Town is Central America’s largest metropolis, and how you encounter the city will depend on exactly where you commit your time. For these searching for a delicate place to land, Zone 10 is the upscale neighborhood of the city, with vast, tree-lined boulevards entire of higher-conclusion restaurants, accommodations and stylish retailers. This is also exactly where you will come across Museo Ixchel, an fantastic museum centered on Mayan textiles and weaving.

For a much more historic vibe, head to Zone 1, where you will find the Parque Central and the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, when the dwelling of dictator General Jorge Ubico. The park is well-liked for road foodstuff and occasional reside new music, or just as a put to sit for a while and view the city going about its organization.

Heading south from Zone 1 is Paseo de la Sexta, a pedestrian-only space studded with cafes, restaurants and outlets. Below you may locate the popular Hotel Pan American, preferred with revolutionaries, artists and writers due to the fact its construction far more than 70 yrs back. Across the street from the hotel is the equally renowned Portalito, the bar apparently frequented by Che Guevera when he frequented Guatemala.

Zone 4 has been reworked from a dicey neighborhood entire of deserted factories into a fashionable place with a article-industrial vibe. This part of the metropolis is excellent for digital nomads wanting for a hip place to do the job and the once dilapidated streets are now alive with colourful avenue art, art galleries, craft breweries and cafes serving up community beans that have till not too long ago been reserved for export.

Genie Mathena

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