Best Things To Do In Guatemala - Updated 2021

best things to do in guatemala
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Guatemala’s variety of landscape and villages has much to offer to visitors. It strikes the right balance between providing sufficient accommodation to fulfil the needs of tourists, while still maintaining much of the natural beauty that the land has to offer. With some locations designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you can be sure that Guatemala’s rich history has many stories behind the places you visit. And if you choose to visit, accommodation is easy to find, whether you’re looking for the best Airbnbs in Guatemala City or Airbnbs in Jalapa. With your lodging sorted, you can proceed with exploring the best sights of the country. Check out these best things to do in Guatemala.

1. Ruins of Tikal

The Ruins of Tikal
Source: Pixabay

There are many ruins to see in Central America but if you want the most grandiose, then Tikal is the place. One of the best things to see in Guatemala are the ruins of Tikal. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in the northern region of Guatemala. Depending on where you are, it may even make more sense to visit by crossing the border from Belize or Mexico. If you are stationed in the heart of Guatemala, like Antigua, you can easily book tour there. If you can forego sleep, book the sunrise tour, which, as with most popular locations, is the best time to view the monument.

Tikal

Address: Reserva de Biosfera Maya, Tikal, Guatemala

Price: Adults 150 GTQ (20 USD) Sunrise tour 250 GTQ (34 USD) Children under 12 are free

Opening Hours: 6am - 5pm. Daily.

Access: Closest Airport is in Flores, Guatemala about 90-minutes away. Belize City Airport is about 3 hours away. Guatemala City Airport is 8 hours away.

Contact: +502 2290 2800

Website: Tikal National Park

2. Visit a volcano

Volcán Pacaya 2009-11-28
Source: Photo by user Librex used under CC BY 2.0

There are three volcanoes surrounding Antigua, alone and there is a trek for all skill levels. If you want an easy one-day hike, take the tour to Volcán Pacaya which is just a 3.5 km (2 mile) hike. The more adventurous can camp overnight at Volcan Acatenago, with the highest peak at 3,880 meters (12,730 feet) and it joins the Volcán de Fuego. From just about everywhere in town you can see Volcán de Agua, but it may be the least accessible - it takes about eight hours to ascend, fortunately, it is easy to admire from anywhere in town. These volcanoes may not be the easiest to get to alone, so it is best to book a tour with one of the many tour groups.

Rainbow Travel Center

Address: 7th Avenida Sur No. 8. La Antigua Guatemala

Opening Hours: Monday through Friday, 9am - 6pm; Saturday, 9am - 5pm; closed for lunch 1 - 2pm

Contact: +502 79 31 7878

Near by Food: Rainbow Cafe

Website: Rainbow Travel Center

3. Lago de Atitlán

Lago de Atitlán en Guatemala
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user LarissaGomez used under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you prefer the water over the hills, then head to Lago de Atitlán. This is a massive lake in the crater of Volcan de Atitlan. There you will find Mayan villages selling local food and textiles. This is an ideal place to just lay on the beach or kayak in the lake.

Tropical Travel Association

Address: Centro Commercial El Patio #5 • Calle Santander, Panajachel, Solola, Guatemala C.A.

Contact: +502 7762 6169 / +502 5583 8328

Email: [email protected]

Website: Lago de Atitlán

4. Arts and crafts at Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango market 2009
Source: Photo by user chensiyuan used under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you love to shop, then the place for you is Chichicastenango. With their open-air craft market, you can do a lot of your gift shopping, here. Beware, you will likely find some mass produced stuff as well. Beyond shopping, they also have an archeological museum, Mayan shrines, and churches for people interested in delving deep into the local culture.

5. Cruise down the Rio Dulce (from USD 9)

Guatemala Rio Dulce hut kekchi indianen
Source: Photo by user Strikjes used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the cool things to do in Guatemala is cruising down Rio Dulce. Along the way, you may find islands where birds are nesting or thick patches of lily pads. There are native Kekchi people living along the river and Garifuna culture in the nearby fishing town of Livingston. If you book a stay at Hotel Finca Tatin, they will pick you up on their boat from Livingston and take you to their remote retreat. You can swim in natural pools or kayak in the river.


Finca Tatin

Address: Rio Tatin, Barra Lampara Livingston. Izabal

Restaurant Facilities for disabled guests Use of cleaning chemicals that are effective against Coronavirus Safety deposit box Guest accommodation is disinfected between stays Hot spring bath Currency exchange Designated smoking area

6. Visit ancient churches

Antigua guatemala church ruins
Source: Photo by user chensiyuan used under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’re wondering what to see in Guatemala, then there are several ancient churches for you to explore here. While the ruins of Tikal are in a remote location, you can easily get to Antigua with about a one hour drive from Guatemala City Airport. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can find the ruins of many ancient buildings that have survived earthquakes, throughout the years. Some of the most well known are the Iglesia de San Francisco el Grande, Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas, El Carmen, and Antiguo Colegio de la Compañía de Jesús. In addition to the ancient churches, the city is full of culture and cuisine. Being in the heart of Guatemala, it is also a good starting point from which you can explore all the other interesting places Guatemala has to offer.

Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas

Price: 20-40 GTQ (3-5 USD)

Opening Hours: 9am - 5pm.

Access: 3A Avenida Norte at 3A Calle Oriente

Contact: +502 7832 0184

7. Explore Natural Monument Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Christopher Crouzet used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the must-visit sites in Guatemala is Natural Monument Semuc Champey. Acres of lush vegetation and dramatic scenery populate this nature reserve. But the highlight for all visitors are the series of picturesque stepped pools over Cahabón River that are ideal for swimming. You can also enjoy tubing on the river, explore a cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites or simply take in all the scenic beauty. Even though it is slightly difficult to access, do make it a point to visit Natural Monument Semuc Champey during your visit to Guatemala.

Natural Monument Semuc Champey

Address: San Agustín Lanquín, Guatemala

Price: 6.5 USD

8. Castillo de San Felipe

9. Have fun at Xetulul Theme Park

Xetulul El Gran Jaguar, la Réplica
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Fernando Reyes Pa... used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Guatemala is also home to theme parks, the most popular of which is Xetulul Theme Park. It is said to be one of the largest theme parks in Latin America. The park is divided into different themed areas, each representing a different country or culture. The most iconic area is Mayan Plaza that has a giant replica of a typical Mayan pyramid. Other interesting recreations here are that of Trevi Fountain in Italy Plaza, Moulin Rouge theater in France Plaza, San Felipe fortress in Caribbean Town and more. There are restaurants, a kids’ area, roller coasters, thrilling rides and other fun things to do in Xetulul Theme Park.

Xetulul Theme Park

Address: Km. 180.5 Carretera a Quetzaltenango por la Costa Sur, Retalhuleu 11001 Guatemala

Opening hours: Thu: 10am - 5pm; Fri: 10am - 6pm; Sat: 10am - 8pm; Sun: 10am - 6pm (closed on Mon, Tue & Wed)

10. Learn about Mayan art at Museo Popol Vuh

Representació del rei de Tikal sobre un recipient d'ofrena, museu Nacional d'Arqueologia i Etnologia, Guatemala
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Joanbanjo used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Museo Popol Vuh is a great place to learn about Mayan culture in Guatemala. It specialises in housing an extensive collection of Mayan art that dates back to the Pre-Colombian period. Explore exhibits showcasing figurines exquisitely carved in stone, paintings from the pre-Hispanic era, colonial artworks, fragments from ancient Mayan ruins, and more. The museum also conducts workshops where you can learn about Mayan customs, rituals, literature and culture.

Museo Popol Vuh

Address: Universidad Francisco Marroquín, 6A Calle, Cdad. de Guatemala, Guatemala

Website: Museo Popol Vuh

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 9am - 5pm; Sat: 9am - 1pm (closed on Sun)

Price: 6 USD

11. Take your kids to La Aurora Zoo (from USD 20.0)

Located in Guatemala City, La Aurora Zoo is the perfect place to spend time with your kids. Divided into three main sections, the zoo houses wildlife from Africa, Asia and South America. See tigers, lions, giraffe, zebra, tapir, marmoset, crocodile and a variety of birds and reptiles at this zoo. Learn about the natural habitats of the animals or pet sheep, goats, donkeys and pigs in the farm section.

La Aurora Zoo Admission Ticket near Guatemala City Airport

Duration: 2 to 6 hours

A natural wonder

With so much history, culture, and natural beauty, there are plenty of Guatemala activities to keep any visitor occupied for a long time and returning over and over again. These are just a few of the unique places popular with visitors, but don’t limit yourself to what you see here, and keep on trekking!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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