10 Best Places to Visit in Guatemala

Travel enthusiasts are always looking for a new country to travel to and explore its every corner. With that in mind, if you still haven't been to Guatemala, it's high time you added it to your bucket list. This country is a true paradise for nature lovers while it also offers several interesting cities for you to roam through. Moreover, you can also familiarize yourself with the unique Mayan culture while there.

Home to the two highest volcanoes in Guatemala, Tajumulco (4,220 m) and Tacaná (4,093 m) and border with Mexico, San Marcos has valuable ecotourism destinations. San Marcos also offers the beaches of the Suchiate and Naranjo rivers, the Ixiama, Shula, Mopa and Cabuz rivers, with places authorized for hunting and fishing.

You can visit the waterfalls and caves of La Castalia. In the municipality of Río Blanco are Los Tres Chorros and the Tibia Water Falls. In Tacaná there is La Cueva del Negro, the Piedra Movediza and the volcano that bears the same name.

places to visit in Guatemala

Without any further ado, here are the best places you should visit when you go to Guatemala.

1. Visit Tikal National Park

When you see postcards, commercials or commercials referring to Guatemala, at some point you will have to run into the famous Tikal ruins. Every traveler who goes to Guatemala and leaves the country without having visited them is like saying that they have not seen Guatemala at all.

While you will probably look for accommodation in Guatemala City once you first arrive in the country, you can start your adventure by visiting Tikal National Park, located some 303 kilometers from the capital. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the largest ruins of the pre-Columbian Maya and once one of the most powerful Mayan cities called Yax Mutal.

Even though only a small part of this 60-square-kilometer area has been excavated, it’s easy to see what life was like in this city. You can certainly spend a day or two here, exploring the ruins and trails and encountering the wildlife that resides in these parts. The North Acropolis, The Plaza of Seven Temples, and Tikal Temple I are some of the best attractions you don't want to miss out on.

2. Go hiking at Semuc Champey

If you're looking for a nice hike, visit one of the most beautiful natural wonders of Guatemala – Semuc Champey. As this spot is located deep in the jungle, it can be a bit difficult to reach but the effort will be worth it when you see the brightly colored pools that cascade down until they reach the Cahabón River.

In addition to hiking and exploring the area, you can also take a dip in the pools of Semuc Champey. Some are even deep enough for diving so feel free to jump off a cliff for a memory you will never forget. Hike to El Mirador to stand in awe of the pools, mountains, and green rainforests below you and take some stunning photos.

3. Swim in Laguna Lachua

You can also go swimming in Laguna Lachua. This lake is located in the middle of Laguna Lachua National Park and a four-kilometer-long path is the only way to reach it. During the hour it will probably take you to reach it, you can enjoy the flora and fauna you spot along the way. Swimming in the bright turquoise lake is a great way to relax and take your mind off other things.

Keep in mind that you can’t use soaps, shampoos, and other liquids here in order to preserve the lake.

4. Witness the majestic Acatenango Volcano

Guatemala is home to 37 volcanoes, four of which are active. If you’d like to see them in person, plan a trip to Fuego, Pacaya, Tacaná, and Santiaguito. However, you can also hike to the top of Volcano Acatenango and enjoy the sunrise over Volcano Fuego. Although Acatenango is one of the most popular to climb, it's also quite tough due to its steepness so remember to be careful.

5. Explore the caves of El Boqueron Canyon

Many individuals prefer off-the-beaten-path spots and if you’re one of them, put a trip to El Boqueron Canyon on your itinerary. An hour from Rio Dulce, this canyon is an impressive sight with its 180-meter steep limestone cliffs. Seeing as how it's not quite popular with tourists, you might have it all to yourself during your visit.

You can go on a boat tour offered by the locals but you can also swim through the shallow waters to experience it in a unique way. Be mindful of rocks and currents, however. Moreover, you can also explore the caves around the area and see some impressive stalagmites and stalactites.

6. Relax on the beaches of Monterrico and Paredon

In case you’re combining your travels to Guatemala with your trip to Mexico, make sure you save some space for Guatemalan beaches as well. For example, you can head to Monterrico, a beach on the Pacific coast. Just two hours away from the capital, you will enjoy the lapping ocean waves made for surfing and relaxing on the black sand.

Moreover, you can also go to Paredon, north of Monterrico. If you choose to surf in Paredon, keep in mind that it's not the best option for complete beginners.

7. See the authentic Guatemala in Quetzaltenango (Xela)

Quetzaltenango, also known for its Mayan name Xela, is the second-largest city in the country but it feels much more quiet and authentic than the capital. This city located high in the Sierra Madres is the perfect place if you want to interact with lovely and lively locals, eat some delicious local dishes, and go to street fairs.

It's also more affordable than the cities further south. Moreover, it is a bit cooler due to its 2,300-meters altitude but it also means that you can enjoy multi-day treks and hot springs.

8. Volunteer in Antigua Guatemala

Another city you should visit while in Guatemala is Antigua. This Spanish colonial town is full of Baroque architecture that will leave you speechless. As a matter of fact, the entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While many consider Antigua a great place to learn Spanish, you could actually lend a helping hand yourself.

For example, you could volunteer with children and teach them English. Opportunities to volunteer in Guatemala abound, you just need to know where to look.

9. Atitlán Lake

A trip to Guatemala must include a stay of several days in Atitlán Lake. Located 4 hours by bus from the capital, Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. In the morning, the immense volcanoes are reflected in its blue waters. Its reputation as the most beautiful lake in the world is well deserved.

10. Shop at Chichicastenango Market

If you're looking for some souvenirs or gifts to take back home, you don't want to overlook Chichicastenango and the market that occurs every Thursday and Sunday in the middle of the city center. This is actually the largest market in Central America and you can find everything from groceries to crafts and vibrant textiles.

While exploring these cobblestone streets situated high in the Guatemalan Highlands, don't skip the Chichicastenango Regional Museum and Iglesia de Santo Tomás. Don't skip the bustling Guatemala City center. Lastly, even though you will never be done exploring everything that this country has to offer, you also don't want to neglect the Guatemala City center. It is a historic part of the capital, known for its architecture.

At night, this already bustling center becomes even more hectic as you can find full cocktail bars and nightclubs. A few highlights to not overlook include Catedral Metropolitana and the Guatemalan National Theater.

If you're thinking about visiting Guatemala any time soon, make sure you plan your trip properly. There are so many interesting things to see and you don’t want to leave out anything breathtaking.

Kalyan Panja