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Best Places to Go in Guatemala
This post is all about the top places to go in Guatemala.
Guatemala is one of my favorite countries. In total I have spent over two months traveling there. It’s a country with so much to see and do, and in my opinion, one of the best in Central America.
If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, here are the places you cannot miss.
No trip to Guatemala is complete without visiting the colorful colonial town of Antigua.
Just one hour from the Guatemala City airport, this beautiful town surrounded by volcanoes is usually the first stop for travelers in Guatemala. It’s a great place to spend several days – or several weeks, if you want to take Spanish lessons in Antigua like I did.
Antigua is known for being a great place to learn Spanish, with extremely affordable private lessons available in more than a dozen Spanish schools around the town.
There are also plenty of delicious restaurants and cute rooftops to enjoy in Antigua. And my personal favorite, some truly stunning church and convent ruins to explore!
Antigua is probably the most popular place to go in Guatemala, and for good reason. It’s easily accessible from the airport, it’s full of things to do, and it’s a unique and beautiful town.
Where to stay in Antigua:
While in Antigua, one thing you can’t miss is hiking the Acatenango volcano.
This volcano is about an hour from Antigua, and on a clear day it’s visible from most places around town. Hiking Acatenango is a popular overnight activity from Antigua.
The coolest thing about Acatenango is the views of the constantly-erupting Fuego volcano right next to it. (For a really extreme adventure, you can actually continue hiking on to Fuego!)
I highly recommend going on a guided hike. For less than $60, you will get transportation to and from Acatenango, a guide, camping equipment, porters to carry the camping equipment, and three meals.
You can read more about Acatenango in my guide below.
3. Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is by far one of the most beautiful parts of Guatemala.
This clear blue lake is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, making for dramatic scenery. I have heard it compared to Lake Como in Italy, and I would say that is an apt comparison.
While the scenery is similar, the vibe is very different. Lake Como is known for its glitz and glamour, but Lake Atitlan is very laidback and affordable. Each small town is unique, and the culture on the lake is heavily influenced by the local indigenous Mayan people.
Only about 2.5 hours from Antigua by car, Lake Atitlan is easily accessible and should not be missed! This is one of the most naturally beautiful parts of Guatemala.
Where to stay at Lake Atitlan:
Located in the northern part of Guatemala closer to the border with Mexico and Belize, you will find the spectacular Mayan ruins of Tikal. This ancient city was the largest and most powerful in the entire Mayan civilization. Abandoned for nearly 1,000 years, the ruins are still impressive today.
Located in the middle of the jungle, these ruins are truly a special sight to behold.
The best place to stay to visit Tikal is Jungle Lodge. This hotel is located within the national park, and is just a five-minute walk to the entrance of the ruins.
If you are visiting Tikal, you will most likely stop in Flores first. This city is about an hour and a half from Tikal itself. While many people just visit Tikal as a day trip from Flores, I recommend staying in Tikal itself for at least one night (as mentioned above) and also spending one night in Flores.
The cute, colorful touristy area of Flores is located on a small island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza. There’s not a ton to do, but I recommend spending one day in Flores taking a boat around the lake and enjoying dinner at a rooftop restaurant, before going to Tikal.
Where to stay in Flores:
6. Semuc Champey
Although this destination is VERY remote and hard to reach, it’s 100% worth it.
You may have seen photos of the stunning turquoise limestone pools of Semuc Champey. I know I had, and this is one of those places to totally lived up to the photos for me.
There’s nothing like going for a swim in the clear pools, tubing in the river, exploring the caves, or jumping off cliffs at the waterfalls while visiting Semuc Champey.
Where to stay in Semuc Champey:
Quetzaltenango, better known as Xela, is a large city in Guatemala’s Western Highlands.
Located four to five hours from the capital and Antigua, this city is not on the itinerary for most travelers in Guatemala. However, if you have plenty of time and aren’t in a rush (or if you want to improve your Spanish skills!) I highly recommend visiting Xela.
Aside from Antigua and Lake Atitlan, Xela is a place where you can learn Spanish in Guatemala.
There are plenty of Spanish schools to choose from and they are CHEAP compared to the already affordable prices of Spanish schools in Antigua and Lake Atitlan.
Xela is also located close to the Fuentes Georginas hot springs, and several volcanoes you can hike (including Tajumulco, the tallest volcano in Central America!)
The best stay to stay in Xela is Mucha Arte Hostal. I spent two weeks there and loved it!
8. El Paredon
Guatemala is not well-known for its beaches like other countries in Central America, but it does have both a Pacific and Caribbean coast with some hidden gems.
El Paredon is a tiny beach town on the Pacific side known for its surfing and laidback atmosphere.
If you want to go to the beach in Guatemala, this is where I would recommend. It’s only about 2.5 by car from Antigua, and there are lots of cool and affordable places to stay.
Where to stay:
Top 8 Places to Go in Guatemala
This post showed you the best places to go in Guatemala.
There are still many places in Guatemala I haven’t big to (my biggest oversights probably being the Rio Dulce region and Guatemala City itself) but that’s just a reason to go back again one day!
Guatemala truly has something for everyone, and these are some of the top places to go that will show you many different sides to this amazing country.
For more posts about Guatemala, be sure to check out the following…
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