Guatemala has been my first travelled country in Central America and I felt for it immediately. I love colorful countries, interesting Mayan culture and tradition… All the amazing sights and places make everything even better and it does not matter if you are in Guatemala for few days or few months, you will never get bored here.
TOP things to do in Guatemala
- #1 Antigua – this adorable picturesque colonial town is amazing and some called it »Guatemalan Disneyland« as it does not look like any other town in Guatemala! It is under UNESCO protection and with its colorful houses, cobbled streets, friendly people, beautiful Spanish architecture, vibrant markets, many restaurants and its relaxed atmosphere make you want to stay here forever. Don’t miss it and just enjoy everything it offers!
- #2 Coffee farm La Azotea – If you are in Guatemala and not far from Antigua, you just have to visit a coffee farm and of course try its coffee… The coffee is amazingly good and its aroma is to die for! I loved the museum made from the owners of coffee farm La Azotea, which shows you all about coffee, its production and tradition. Not only you will become an expert for coffee after one hour long tour, you will also be able to see unique museum of Guatemalan / Mayan traditional musical instruments, artifacts and costumes.
- #3 Chicicastenango – Guatemala is well known for its local markets, but one market can beat all of them and if you are here, you will definitely want to see it. The market is called Chicicastenango or »Chici« and it is said to be the largest native market in whole Central America. If you want to see it in all its beauty visit it on the market day (Thursday or Sunday).
- #4 Hike a volcano – Guatemala has many volcanoes and some of them are very alive and active! If you like to hike, don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the real lava. Not a very hard hike is to Pacaya volcano and due to that, it is also the most visited by tourist. You can organize the hike in Antigua, with its many tourist agencies.
- #5 Lake Atitlan – I am not sure if I have ever seen such beauty, but then I came to Lake Atitlan. The lake is framed by three volcanoes and the sight on it is like being in a fairy tale. Take a boat taxi to Panajachel village, which is the most touristic one and has lots of restaurants and places to stay for all the budget style. Panajachel is good also as a starting base if you want to explore the lake villages and still see the glimpse of traditional life.
- #6 Semuc Champey – this amazing, but a little bit hard to get, national park must be on your travel plan! Reaching it by a public transport is a bit challenging, but all your effort is well worth it! Walk around the park, see the views and don’t forget to take a swim in its charming turquoise pools.
- #7 Tikal – Far north is the largest excavated Mayan site, which is probably one of the most popular among people who are interested in Mayan culture. Even if you are not so interested in the ruins, you just have to see Tikal, as it is spectacular! Visit the ruins in the morning or in the afternoon, to avoid big crowds and hike on top of the pyramid to enjoy the views and listen to the monkeys.
- #8 Rio Dulce – not really sure why, but I might say this river is my favorite place in Guatemala. While driving on it by a motor boat it’s like traveling in time… You can still see people fishing in their wooden carved canoes and the sights are just unreal. Love it!
- 9# Livingston – If you decide to travel along the River Dulce, you will not be sorry if you go all the way to Livingston. Livingston is a small town on the Caribbean coast and it is really special. Instead of Mayans, you will meet descendants of the African slaves here. You will feel like being in another country here!
- Playa Bianca / the white beach – if you are already in Livingston, don’t forget to make a day trip to one of the most beautiful beaches in Guatemala. White sand, warm sea and coconut trees… Can you ask for more? On your way back, you will even be able to drive to mangroves.
- Try traditional Guatemalan food – I love the food here, as it is colorful and good. Street tortillas filled with beans or meals in their traditional Comedores are good and very cheap. If you are at the sea side, try seafood as well.
- Take a ride with a chicken bus – these chicken buses are actually old school buses brought from North America. They are the cheapest transport option so most of the locals use them to drive around the country. They are always packed, so don’t be surprised to sit in someone’s lap.
- Hit the piñata – if you are in Guatemala, that’s almost a necessary thing to do. The best way is to be invited to a party, but if you are not, just buy it on the market and make a piñata event in the hostel or place, where you stay. It’s so much fun!
- Watch the outstanding and unique processions – there are two major processions in the town of Antigua – for the Holy Week and for the All souls day. They are well forth your planning! The locals are carrying relics threw town and the scenes are truly spectacular, even more for the Holy Week, when the streets are covered with handmade carpets, on which the processions walk on. Don’t even forget on the 1st November, when Mayans are flying giant handmade kites to the sky, as they belief the souls of the death are being taken to the sky this way.
- Be a volunteer or sign in for a Spanish language course – Due to the poverty in Guatemala, there are many volunteer organizations, who try to help. If you are hard working and ambitious to help, additional help is always wanted. You can also study Spanish there as Guatemala has one of the cheapest lessons in Latin America.
- Relax in a hammock – Central America is well known for hammocks, so don’t forget to try one and relax in it for the whole afternoon. Read a book or just sip your favorite fresh juice in it. And if you have some spare Quetzals (Guatemalan money currency) buy it as a souvenir.
Guatemala travel will definitely not disappoint you, as the country offers everything you can imagine and more. If you have not yet traveled around Central America, Guatemala is definitely a good country to start with!