Things to do in Guatemala

Things to do in  Guatemala

Welcome to Guatemala

Lush, mountainous, and dotted with lakes and volcanoes, Guatemala can be somewhat challenging to traverse by land, though well worth the effort. Most visitors arrive to busy Guatemala City and head for colonial Antigua, where beautifully restored churches, plazas, and archways line the cobblestone streets. Ringed by three smoldering volcanoes, Antigua is a popular place for guided treks to see the fiery craters of Pacaya or Acatenango up close. Don't worry—your guides will send a scout ahead to make sure the volcano is "feeling friendly" on the day of your trek. As an ancestral and present-day homeland of the Maya, Guatemala's greatest archaeological treasures are UNESCO-listed Tikal National Park and the Maya ceremonial site of Yaxha. Taking a guided tour is a must (literally; the government requires it), so it's ideal to book in advance. The Maya Biosphere Reserve surrounding Tikal is home to jaguars, toucans, macaws, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, and quetzals—a bird sacred to the Maya people. If you can't make it to Tikal, the Copan Maya ruins are accessible from Guatemala City, located just over the Honduran border. Farther afield, scenic Lake Atitlán, surrounded by mountains, makes a perfect base from which to explore the highlands. From the friendly town of Panajachel, take a lake cruise to visit some of the smaller villages dotting the shores, such as Santiago de Atitlán, traditional home of the Tzutujil people. If time permits, catch the colorful market in nearby Chichicastenango, to which indigenous peoples from around the region flock to buy and sell their wares.

Top 15 attractions in Guatemala

Pacaya Volcano

This 8,373-foot (2,552-meter) smoking peak is one of Guatemala’s most accessible active volcanoes. Its upper reaches feature lava formations formed by recent flows, as well as vents that puff up steaming hot air, while its summit affords spectacular views of nearby volcanoes including Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego.More


The 13,045-foot (3,976-meter Acatenango volcano towers over the colonial city of Antigua. While many travelers opt for the more-gentle ascent of the Pacaya Volcano, this twin-peaked volcano offers incredible views of its nearest volcanic neighbor, Fuego, which regularly spits out plumes of gas, ash, and hot lava. More

National Palace

This stoic structure in the heart of Guatemala’s capital city was built in 1939 entirely by local hands and using only local materials. As a result, the National Palace offers up an homage to Guatemalan heritage and is ranks tops among the buildings prized by locals. Its green-tinged exterior is a nod to the favorite color of the former dictator’s wife, and the result of concrete and copper used to cover the exterior to avoid painting. As a result, it’s affectionately known by some locals as 'The Big Guacamole.'An impressive bronze plate at the entrance to the Palace marks a spot known as 'Kilometer 0.' According to residents, this is the official starting point of all roads in Guatemala. Travelers will find a beautiful courtyard at the center of the five-story building, which is surrounded by five archways on every side. A touching Monument to Peace is located in the center of the palace to commemorate the end to the nation’s most recent civil war. Because the National Palace is also home to a national museum, travelers will find unique and historically significant artifacts like the first switchboard and hand painted murals depicting scenes from the nation’s past. Be sure to check out the stained-glass windows along the presidential balcony and the palace salon, used only for ceremonial events.More

Plaza de la Constitución (Parque Central)

Guatemala City’s huge central plaza is a hive of activity, with people and pigeons milling about. Surrounded by important historical buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana and the National Palace, the square is the focal point of the city, and is frequently the setting for demonstrations and celebrations.More

Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)

Cerro de la Cruz is a lush hill on the northern edge of Antigua marked by a massive stone cross. From a scenic overlook, enjoy expansive views of the city’s grid of pretty terracotta rooftops laid out at the base of the magnificent Volcán de Agua.More

Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

Overlooking Plaza de la Constitución in the center of Guatemala City is the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral. Though several devastating earthquakes have rambled through the city, the blue-domed Neoclassical-Baroque structure stands strong as the city’s main house of worship. Pass through the 12-pillar entrance to admire the massive interior, austere though wonderfully embellished with religious paintings, carvings, and sparkling gold altars.More

Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlán)

With its glistening blue waters framed by a trio of volcanic peaks and a fringe of lush greenery, Lake Atitlán (Lago de Atitlán) is surely one of Guatemala’s most stunning natural wonders. The deepest lake in Central America lies in an ancient caldera amid the mountainous landscapes of the Guatemalan Highlands.More

Santa Catalina Arch (Arco de Santa Catalina)

One of Antigua’s most photographed structures, the saffron-coloredxa0 Santa Catalina Arch was built in 1694 to connect two convents to a school outside their confines, to protect them from entering the outside world on their way to teach there. Safe from breaking their vow of seclusion, they passed through a hidden passageway inside the arch.More

Antigua Central Park (Parque Central)

Antigua Central Park (Parque Central) is considered one of the most beautiful parks in Guatemala. It’s the main outdoor area in town and where people go to sit, stroll, or meet up for an afternoon of relaxation and nice weather. From Central Park you have a superb view of the Agua Volcano, which towers over Antigua.More

La Merced Church (Iglesia de la Merced)

Canary yellow with white trim, the baroque La Merced Church (Iglesia de la Merced) is one of Antigua’s few colonial churches to survive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Inside its thick walls are notable artworks such as a sculpture of Jesus carrying a golden cross, which is paraded through the streets on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.More

Tikal National Park (Parque Nacional Tikal)

Once a powerful seat of the Mayan empire, the Tikal ruins are now the most famous archeological site in Guatemala and one of the most-visited sets of Mayan ruins in all of Latin America. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of temples, plazas, and pyramids, was first settled around 700 BC, and modern visitors still get swept away by their beauty and powerful aura.More

Jade Factory and Museum (Jade Maya)

This small museum is devoted to jade, the precious green gemstone that has been mined and revered in Mesoamerica since ancient times. Exhibits provide information on ancient mining of the mineral and include pre-Hispanic jade pieces. It also encompasses a workshop where jade jewelry and decorative objects are created and sold.More


Yaxhá was founded circa 800 BC along the shores of Laguna Yaxhá, and was home to more than 40,000 people at its peak, around AD 250. Though overshadowed by Tikal, this ancient city is Guatemala’s third largest archaeological site. And since it’s less visited than its famous sibling, Yaxhá offers a peaceful, introspective experience—especially for birders and Maya aficionados.More

Relief Map (Mapa en Relieve)

Constructed in 1904, long before Google Earth, this huge 3-dimensional outdoor map of Guatemala offers a grand-scale viewpoint of the mountainous country from above. A family-friendly attraction, Mapa en Relieve contains all the country’s volcanoes, rivers and lakes (some with running water), as well as its cities, roads, bridges, and railroad tracks.More

Volcán San Pedro

Casting its imposing shadow over the western shoreline of Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlán, this dormant 9,908-foot (3,020-meter volcano beckons adventure-hungry travelers. The volcano is one of the most accessible in the region, with the route up to its summit leading through corn fields, coffee plantations, and cloud forests.More

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All about Guatemala


People Also Ask

What is Guatemala known for?

Guatemala is known for its volcanoes, Maya ruins, coffee, and colonial architecture. With an abundance of historical and natural attractions, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant Central American country. Major tourist destinations, like Lake Atitlán, Antigua, Tikal, and Flores, are easily accessible by organized tours.

What is the most visited place in Guatemala?

Antigua is Guatemala’s most popular tourist destination. Just a 1-hour shuttle ride from La Aurora International Airport, the colonial city is also a great starting point for day trips to Chichicastenango Market, Pacaya Volcano, and Lake Atitlán. Travelers with more than a few days in Guatemala often visit Semuc Champey, Tikal, or Quetzaltenango (Xela).

How many days do you need in Guatemala?

Budget at least one week of vacation time in Guatemala if you want to visit multiple cities, complete (and recover from) a multi-day trek, or explore the country’s many ruins. When creating your itinerary, keep in mind that, due to unpredictable traffic and construction, travel between cities can be time-consuming. Maximize your limited vacation time with organized tours.

What activities do people in Guatemala do?

People flock to Guatemala for its multitude of hiking, sightseeing, and cultural attractions. For active travelers, the country offers volcano hikes, as well as surfing in Monterrico. If natural beauty and relaxation are more your speed, visit Lake Atitlán and Semuc Champey. Discover Guatemala’s colonial history in Antigua and its Maya lineage at Tikal.

What food should I try in Guatemala?

Essential Guatemalan bites include tostadas Guatemaltecas and tamales wrapped in plantain leaves or corn husks, which are easily found on street corners throughout the country. Meat lovers must try caldo de res, a beef-based soup filled with vegetables, including chayote squash. Satisfy your sweet tooth with mole de plátano or atole de elote.

Is Guatemala safe for visitors?

Yes, Guatemala is safe for visitors. While certain Guatemala City districts have high crime rates, you can feel at ease in tourist areas such as Tikal, Antigua, and Lake Atitlán. Still, it’s best to avoid traveling at night and displaying signs of wealth and to always remain aware of your surroundings.

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