Guatemala is teeming with a rich cultural history, delectable cuisine, and natural wonders. From its ancient Mayan ruins and the colonial architecture of Antigua Guatemala to the lively markets and beautifully handcrafted items, Guatemala has something to offer everyone.
This guide explores nine of the top tourist attractions in Guatemala to visit while you’re there.
1. Antigua Guatemala
Featuring dozens of colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, beautiful Baroque architecture, and scenic views, Antigua Guatemala is a must-see on your Guatemalan bucket list. This beautiful city was once the colonial Spanish capital of Central America, originally known as Santiago de Guatemala.
Hike the Acatenango Volcano or stroll the markets to find intricate, handcrafted textiles. Whether you prefer invigorating adventures or pure relaxation, there are plenty of tourist attractions in Antigua Guatemala for everyone.
2. Tikal National Park
Located in northern Guatemala, Tikal National Park is another worthwhile stop on your visit. This park was declared a national monument in 1931, eventually becoming one of Guatemala’s first protected areas and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It’s home to immense history, boasting the ancient remains of the Mayan civilization, who inhabited this area from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. These remnants are still standing, from the ceremonial center featuring temples and palaces to public squares and dwellings scattered throughout the countryside.
Take a guided tour through this historic landscape or enjoy the sights through self-exploration. Keep an eye out for tropical birds flitting through the jungle as you traverse the park.
3. Lake Atitlan
The vast cerulean expanse of Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes and tiny towns, is a phenomenal place to stop as you travel through Guatemala. This lake is among the most-visited tourist attractions in the country and for a good reason. It’s considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, featuring a hue that varies from deep blue to green.
The lake is surrounded by dense forests that feature numerous hiking and birdwatching opportunities. The villages flanking the lake are much smaller than the chaotic expanse of larger towns, making them a peaceful change of scenery.
4. Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is a hidden gem concealed by a lush, mountainous jungle far off the beaten path most tourists travel. The closest town, Lanquin, is about 45 miles away, but for many, the beauty is well worth the trip.
It boasts clear, turquoise pools, limestone bridges, and fascinating caves. It’s an excellent option for hikers, cave explorers, and adventurers alike, offering a remote paradise with stunning views.
5. Chichicastenango Market
Two days a week, the village of Chichicastenango is transformed into a sprawling market teeming with handcrafted items, including hand-thrown pottery, vibrant textiles, incense, hand-carved wooden masks, flowers, and more.
It’s one of the largest open-air markets in Guatemala, housing thousands of items every Tuesday and Sunday. If you visit the market, be prepared to bargain with vendors about their prices, as they’re known to upsell items by 30 to 50% for tourists.
6. Pacaya Volcano
The Pacaya Volcano is one of Guatemala’s youngest and most active volcanoes. While lava has ceased flowing and the last ash emissions ended in November 2021, the volcano is still considered an active volcano.
Visitors can hike to the summit and take in spectacular views, perhaps even volcanic activity, if they visit at the right time. If you travel to the area during volcanic activity, ensure you check safety guidelines and abide by any restrictions. Stay away from flowing lava and remain a safe distance from any spewing ash.
7. Rio Dulce and Livingston
The Rio Dulce and Livingston area boasts lush river landscapes and hot springs, perfect for relaxation. Enjoy various tours, including boat tours down the river and wildlife spotting. If you’re feeling adventurous, book a stay in one of the jungle lodges nestled alongside the Rio Dulce.
Immerse yourself in Garifuna culture, as Livingston is home to the Garifuna ethnic group. This group is of African and Caribbean descent and has its own language, cuisine, and music.
8. Quirigua Archaeological Park
Guatemala is home to another UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Quirigua Archaeological Park. This park contains the lesser-known ruins of the Mayan civilization, featuring various monuments, carved stelae, and sculpted calendars, each offering a glimpse into the past.
While you’re in the area, visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, an old castle boasting a rich history. Visit the Seven Altars, a set of stunning waterfalls with glistening turquoise pools.
9. Food and Cuisine
Trying Guatemalan cuisine is a must during your journey throughout the country – it’s among the top tourist attractions in Guatemala City and everywhere else. Guatemala has much to offer, from street food and market experiences to restaurants and cafes. Sample traditional Guatemalan cuisine, like a delectable toastada topped with fresh guacamole, tomato sala, beans, and vegetables.
Enjoy a tamale, a common dish of many Latin American countries, or caldo de res, a beef broth served with rice, fresh corn tortillas, and fresh avocado.
Practical Travel Tips
Before you start galavanting through Guatemala and exploring its offerings, there are a few things you should know. Here are a few travel tips to prepare for your upcoming trip:
Research entry requirements: U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to visit Guatemala, but they do need a U.S. passport. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, research the requirements for entry before going.
Think about currency: The Guatemalan Quetzal is the official currency of Guatemala, but the US dollar is widely accepted. However, it’s best to carry the official currency with you.
Safety considerations: As you travel through the country, remain aware of your surroundings. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or expensive clothes that indicate wealth.
Learn about transportation options: Before you go, research transportation options in the area you’re staying. Buses, shuttles, and taxis are usually available, but it doesn’t hurt to learn more about these options before you set foot in Guatemala.
Learn how to communicate: Learning a few Spanish phrases can help you navigate the country more easily, so prepare for your trip by learning a few simple words and common responses.
Enjoy the Beauty of Guatemala in a Guided Tour
Guatemala has much to offer, from its delectable traditional cuisine and market experiences to jaw-dropping views and ruins of ancient civilizations. There’s so much to do; picking the best places to go can be overwhelming! That’s where we come in.
At Caravan, we offer guided tours through Guatemala, hitting all of the best spots along the way to maximize your time in the country. Take your pick from two Guatemalan tours based on the places you want to visit! Ready to book a trip? Call us today at 1-800-CARAVAN or +1-312-321-9800.