Best Places to Visit in Guatemala
Guatemala is one of those rare finds, with a variety of travel options that will satisfy adventurers, culture seekers, beach-goers and leisure travelers. The country is a cultural hotspot in Central America, from the colonial buildings and cobbled streets of Antigua, Guatemala to the Mayan ruins of Tikal.
The highlands and small towns on the shores of the beautiful Atitlan Lake offer opportunities for unique cultural experiences. Tropical forests, active volcanoes, mountain lakes, cloud forests, coral reefs and beaches will attract nature lovers.
If you go down to the beach, you’ll come across beaches that are perfect for relaxing and finding solitude in a hammock. There are markets all over the country selling local goods, especially textiles; they only work on certain days of the week.
Explore the top tourist places in this beautiful country with our list of the Best Places to Visit in Guatemala and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Guatemala
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Guatemala:
1. Mayan Ruins of Tikal
In the moist forests of northern Guatemala, near the border with Belize, stands one of the largest archaeological sites in Central America. The well-preserved ruined city of Tikal is one of the best places to learn about Mayan culture in Guatemala.
Occupied between 600 and 900 AD, Tikal displays more than 3,000 structures, from pyramids to temples, from squares to the Acropolis. It was one of the most important Mayan urban centers for over a millennium and remains today as one of the largest surviving Maya archaeological sites of that time.
The environment enhances the experience of visiting Tikal. The steep pyramids rise above the lush canopy of the forest and are home to birds, monkeys and other wildlife. Tikal National Park, including the ruins, is a biosphere reserve that protects rainforest and wildlife habitats. Monkeys are common in Tikal. You will definitely see spider monkeys, and if you haven’t seen howler monkeys, you will definitely hear them.
2. Antigua Guatemala
If you are looking for a city to settle in, this is the place for you. Quality hotels at affordable prices, stylish restaurants serving delicious food, and plenty of activities make it easy to spend your day here.
Often referred to simply as Antigua, Antigua Guatemala is one of the highlights of Guatemala and certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Central America. Surrounded by three volcanoes, the old capital of Guatemala offers a unique perspective on a city without modern concrete buildings and tall buildings.
The cobblestone streets are lined with old colonial buildings, some of which show evidence of earthquakes that contributed to the city’s history. The old town center is full of incredible churches and monasteries.
While many buildings have been fully restored, some have cracked from past earthquakes, and others have been turned into rubble. In many cases, the ruins are creatively incorporated into recently constructed buildings, some of which are now hotels. The city has beautiful old monasteries open to tourists, as well as interesting museums to explore.
3. Lake Atitlán (Lago de Atitlán)
Often described as the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Atitlan is another destination where tourists tend to linger. Take a trip here, you won’t be disappointed. You could spend a week or more exploring the towns and villages surrounding the lake.
Lake Atitlan is located in the highlands, less than two hours from Guatemala City and less than an hour and a half from Antigua. Set within a caldera at an altitude of 1,538 metres, it is surrounded by hills and volcanoes, and many of the coastal villages can only be reached by boat.
The main entry point is the city of Panajachel. Explore the main street lined with stalls and various vendors selling blankets and wares in the alleys, before heading to the beach for a water taxi ride.
Boats line up to take passengers to San Pedro, Santiago Atitlan, San Andres Semetabai, Santa Catarina Palopo, San Lucas Toliman and more Villages, even smaller secondary villages or private hotels. Each village is known for something different, but most have markets and local crafts.
Atitlan has attracted many foreigners interested in alternative lifestyles over the years. The Spiritual or New Age Center offers everything from yoga to metaphysical pursuits. If you’re thinking of learning Spanish, there are schools to choose from and very reasonable prices.
4. Chichicastenango Market
Known locally as “Chichi,” the isolated Chichicastenango is a large town surrounded by valleys and mountains. The sleepy cobbled street comes alive on Thursdays and Sundays as it is home to one of Guatemala’s largest and busiest markets.
This is a local market selling familiar everyday items, vegetables and unique textiles. Vendors come from miles around this market, making it a great opportunity for people to watch and take pictures. Chichicastenango is a 1.5-hour bus ride from Panajachel and is an easy day trip from Lake Atitlan. About 2.5 hours from Guatemala City and 3.5 hours from Antigua.
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second largest city, is the commercial hub of southwestern Guatemala. Often referred to as Xela, the city’s main attractions are the Parque Centro América and its surrounding neoclassical buildings. With the exception of the cathedral, most of these buildings date from the 19th century, when Xela was a large trade and arts community.
The top reasons to visit Quetzaltenango include learning Spanish and hiking in the nearby mountains. One of the more adventurous options is Volcan Tajumulco, Central America’s highest peak. Located at 2,333 meters above sea level, Quetzaltenango is a relatively clean and safe city, providing warm days, cool nights and fewer mosquitoes. The city is also a starting point for visiting the many nearby villages known for their hot springs and handicrafts.
6. Monterrico and Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii (Nature Reserve)
The small seaside village of Monterrico, with its laid-back feel and stunning waterfront, will appeal to anyone who wants to spend some time at the beach and enjoy some nature. Unlike the mountainous interior, Monterrico’s surroundings are warm and tropical. The beaches here are dominated by great surf and are not always suitable for swimming, but are still beautiful.
The Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii or Monterrico Nature Reserve is a nature preserve created to protect mangroves and sea turtles. It covers both land and water and is home to a variety of birds and aquatic life, including leatherback turtles and Camp’s Ridley turtles. Boat tours, especially in the morning, offer a great opportunity to take a trip through the swamp and see the birds and wildlife.
7. Livingston, Caribbean Coast
This brightly colored wooden cottage town is nestled among coconut groves in the jungle on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. Livingston feels more Caribbean-like than the rest of Guatemala because of the Garifuna, a descendant of runaway slaves and native Mayans.
They have created a unique culture and language. Rhythms abound in the Caribbean, and they increase with the Garifuna pilgrimage during the month of May. Easter week and December 12 (Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) festivities are also colorful.
Livingston is the starting point for boat trips to Río Quehueche and Río Cocoli or Cayos Sapodillas for snorkeling and fishing. The best beaches are just outside the city and easily accessible by taxi.
8. Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, Guatemala City
Visit the Ixchel Maya Costume Museum to learn about traditional Guatemalan costumes, from ceremonial to traditional. The museum is located on the campus of Francisco Marroquin University.
An extensive textile collection dates back to the late 19th century and originates from 120 Guatemalan communities. A series of paintings depicting regional costumes complement the exhibitions. The museum is named after the Maya goddess of fertility and weaving.
Address: 6A Calle 6, Guatemala City
Official website: https://museoixchel.org/home
9. Grutas de Lanquín
Located northeast of Cobain, the Lanquín Caves are deep limestone caves with an underground river, various lagoons, and unique rock formations. You can tour part of the cave, which has some challenging walking paths and dim lighting.
Thousands of bats settle here and leave the cave in flocks each night, making it an interesting sight to feed in the nearby forest. If you are interested in visiting this unique attraction, plan to visit the caves in the afternoon and hang out here until sunset.
There is also a religious mausoleum considered sacred by the local natives inside the cave.
10. Pacaya Volcano, Antigua
Pacaya Volcano, which is over 2,550 meters above sea level, offers the opportunity to witness volcanic activity firsthand. Located near Antigua, the volcano has been active since 1975 and eruptions of lava constantly change its appearance.
Organized tours offer guided volcano hikes and the chance to roast marshmallows in the heat from the hotspot. It should be noted that as an active volcano, hiking here carries some risks. Horses are available if you want to get to the top with less effort.
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Guatemala. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Guatemala, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.