Guatemala is a rare gem in Central America that combines tropical jungles, mountain lakes, volcanoes, and beaches with thriving Mayan culture. Discover the best places to visit in this stunning country with our list of top attractions!
Get lost among the cobblestone streets of Antigua, shop for native artisan goods in Chichicastenango, and explore ancient Mayan ruins. You can even climb Pacaya, one of the most active volcanoes in the region.
Tikal is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Guatemala. With its ancient Mayan ruins and surrounding tropical rainforest, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that can't be missed!
While the ruins of Tikal are fascinating to see, the real beauty of this site comes from its natural surroundings. The rainforests around Tikal offer an amazing opportunity to see a range of birds, monkeys and other animals.
The best time to visit Tikal is early in the morning, as this allows you to avoid some of the crowds and heat. If you're a photographer, then the sunrise is also an excellent option as you can witness the jungle awakening and wildlife coming to life.
Getting to Tikal can be a little tricky though, so it's best to make sure you have all the right information before you head down there! We've put together this ultimate guide to Tikal in Guatemala, so you can get the most out of your trip to this incredibly important UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Antigua is an amazing place to visit if you want to get a taste of Central American culture. This small and easy to walk around city is filled with history, delicious food, and friendly people.
One of the best things to do in Antigua is to go on a hike up one of the many volcanoes surrounding the city! You can easily reach the top of Volcan Pacaya in a half an hour and enjoy incredible views from the summit.
Another cool thing to do in Antigua is to check out the art gallery La Nueva Fabrica. The museum is free to enter and has a variety of exhibits about the country’s culture, history, and current political issues.
If you’re interested in trying out the local cuisine, then a cooking class is one of the best activities to do in Antigua. You’ll learn how to make various dishes using traditional Guatemalan ingredients and techniques.
3. Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is a truly magical place. The cobalt blue lake surrounded by three looming volcanoes and an abundance of activities makes this a must-visit destination.
The most popular places to visit on Lake Atitlan are Panajachel, San Pedro and San Juan. These towns are great for backpackers as they have plenty of affordable hostels and a good nightlife.
There are also a few small and more local villages that do not have a lot of tourists but offer great Spanish learning opportunities such as Santa Catarina Palopo, San Antonio and San Jorge.
The best way to get around the lake is by boat, known as a lancha, which goes from village to village. There are two options, one that cuts across the lake and another that goes along the edge past the villages of Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, Tzununa, San Marcos and San Juan before stopping in San Pedro.
Xela (Quetzaltenango) is one of the country’s most popular destinations, thanks to its stunning colonial architecture and a variety of things to do. It’s also a great place to visit for those who want to experience authentic Guatemalan life without the crowded crowds of Antigua or Flores.
- Located in the country’s dramatic highlands, Quetzaltenango is surrounded by volcanoes such as Santa Maria and Santiaguito. It’s a perfect destination for hiking, with plenty of options to suit all abilities.
- The cemetery in Quetzaltenango is one of the city’s best attractions, a place to wander among beautifully-decorated tombstones set against a gorgeous volcanic backdrop. It’s also a great place for photo opportunities, so be sure to make time to take in all its glory!
- The Xocomil Water Park is also a must-visit. The 77,300 square-meter amusement park is themed after historic places in the country, so you can experience an authentic, world-class water park without the expensive entrance fee.
5. Rio Dulce
If you are looking for something a bit more off the beaten path and less touristy in Guatemala, then Rio Dulce is definitely one of your best bets. It is a hidden gem and a wonderful place to relax and unwind, surrounded by jungle forests, and with plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting.
This Caribbean hotspot is also home to an ancient Mayan site that is a little less well known than Tikal, but has equally beautiful and intricately carved stelas. Quirigua is not a huge site, but it is still worth visiting and you should consider adding it to your itinerary during your trip to Rio Dulce.
The Rio Dulce river is the main attraction here, but there are also a number of eco-lodges to choose from on the banks of the river and you can even book your own kayaks or boats if you prefer. You can also go bird spotting or explore the national park by boat.