10 places to visit in Guatemala

Guatemala sights, 10 most interesting places

Guatemala sights, top 10 places to see

Guatemala is one of the most interesting countries for tourism in Central America due to the great variety of unique places to visit. Guatemala is located in the heart of the Mayan world. Here you can visit the ancient cities of the Maya and Olmec civilizations, hundreds of pyramids, including the highest in the world. It is from the territory of modern Guatemala Maya and Olmec culture spread to neighboring countries.

Guatemala is a land of volcanoes. On its territory there are about 288 volcanic structures, of which 32 are active or extinct volcanoes. 8 of these have been active in the recent scientific observation period and 3 volcanoes are the most active now.

Despite its small size, Guatemala has a great diversity of ecosystems, due to its geographic location between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and the variations in altitude from sea level to 4,220 meters.

Guatemala has all areas of the tropical belt, from the mangrove swamps of the Pacific coast to the humid tropical highland forests. Here you can visit the pyramids of the Maya civilization, climb an active volcano, swim in a natural pool surrounded by jungle, admire the beauty of mountain lakes surrounded by volcanoes, and enjoy recreation on the shores of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

In Guatemala, not only the natural wonders of the tropical climate, along with the Mayan ruins, you can visit the colonial cities, numerous markets and immerse yourself in the local customs, try the local cuisine. All this has turned Guatemala into one of the fashionable places to travel in recent years.

So, what to visit in this Central American country during your tour to Guatemala? Our top 10 most interesting places to visit in Guatemala.

1. Tikal National Park, Guatemala

Guatemala sights, top 10 places to see

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal National Park is one of the best archaeological sites in the world and the main attraction in Guatemala. Located in the middle of the jungle and abandoned by the Maya more than 1,000 years ago, it has long remained hidden to European colonizers, which has helped keep it from destruction and looting.

The settlement of Tikal was one of the largest Mayan civilizations and served as the capital of the Mutul state. In the center of Tikal there are 6 huge stepped pyramids, with temples on top of them, climbing up which in the evening you can see the stunning sunset over the jungle. There are also many smaller pyramids in Tikal National Park.

Antigua, Guatemala

The UNESCO World Heritage City of Antigua is one of the most beautiful places in the country and a must-see on your tour to Guatemala.

This old capital of Guatemala charms with its stone streets, beautiful pastel colored facades of colonial houses, old churches and monasteries, and the fact that it is surrounded by three impressive volcanoes that give Antigua unique and unforgettable angles. Just a find for photo lovers!

In addition, the city has a very welcoming atmosphere for tourists. There are many cozy cafes, craft shops, local markets, and excellent gastronomy.

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3. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Guatemala sights, top 10 places to see

Lake Atitlán, more than 1,500 meters above sea level and surrounded by the volcanoes Atitlán, Tolimán and San Pedro, is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Guatemala.

On the shores of the lake, which is one of the most beautiful in the world, are located several towns that still adhere to the traditions and culture of the Maya. Fans of esotericism regard it as one of the important places of power, so there are many meditation centers, yoga, massages and various occult practices. And following these offerings, good-quality restaurants offering healthy and vegetarian food have also stepped up.

4. Semuc Champey – a lost paradise in Guatemala

Set far away from civilization and amid dense jungle, the Semuc Champey Natural Park is one of the most authentic places in Guatemala. The main attraction that attracts tourists is the natural pools of turquoise-green water, which were formed thanks to the waterfalls of the river. Thanks to them, Semuc Champey is recognized as one of the most beautiful places of the country. Do not miss the opportunity to visit it during your tour in Guatemala.

5. Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala

Chichicastenango hosts the most important indigenous market in Central America every Thursday and Sunday and is one of the places you must visit during your best tour in Guatemala.

Located in front of the church of Santo Tomas, the Chichicastenango market spreads out not only throughout the main town square but also through the surrounding streets, forming rivers of tourists and locals who from early morning until sunset mix in all kinds of goods, from beautiful crafts and souvenirs to vegetables, fruits, incense, seafood and traditional textiles, bringing a certain flavor to the overall market palette.

6. Yaxha-Nacum-Naranjo National Park, Guatemala

Guatemala sights, top 10 places to see

Yaxha is an urban Mayan center, one of the lesser-known gems of the Mayan civilization and one of the important sights to visit in Guatemala.

This archaeological site with its large buildings and pyramids, located in the middle of the jungle and on the bank of the Yaxha lagoon, does not have the same fame as Tikal, which allows you to enjoy a walk through its ruins almost alone, without the crowds of tourists.

Some of its most interesting sites are the Playground, La Calzada de las Canteras, the Great Astronomical Complex or Plaza F, the impressive North Acropolis Square and Yaxha’s most important structure, the Temple of the Red Hands, which offers a unique 360 degree panorama of all of Yaxha.

You can visit the ruins of the Mayan civilization in the Yaxha-Nacum-Naranjo National Park on our Guatemala tour.

7. Livingston, Guatemala

When you arrive by boat in Livingstone (there is no other way to get to this city), located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, it feels like you have left Guatemala and are in another country. Livingstone is the cradle of the Garifuna culture, which was formed by the mixing of the Indians of this area and the African slaves who settled here after a shipwreck in the Caribbean Sea.

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Walking the streets of Livingston, you’ll feel a little bit like you’re in Africa. Here you can enjoy the unique Garifuna culture, full of music, tradition and gastronomy.

8. Kirigua – City of the Mayan Civilization, Guatemala

Quirigua is a Mayan archaeological site that, together with Antigua and Tikal, forms the Golden Triangle of World Heritage Sites in Guatemala. It is also one of the important places to visit on your best tour in Guatemala.

Once an influential city of the ancient Mayan civilization, today it is an archaeological site and covers an area of about 3 km2. In the ceremonial part of Quirigua there are incredible stone stelae 4 to 10 meters high with inscriptions, symbols and the calendar of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. In addition to the stelae, it is also worth visiting the Acropolis to see several zoomorphic figures depicting various animals, both mythical and real, carved from stone blocks with incredible precision

9. Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Guatemala sights, top 10 places to see

This place on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala has been popular with tourists for about 100 years. The peak began when the film “The New Adventures of Tarzan” was released in Guatemala in 1935. By the time the movie came out, the Rio Dulce region already had a well-developed tourist infrastructure, including one of the best railroads on the continent.

It is still popular with tourists traveling through Guatemala today because of its magnificent aquatic ecosystem. The Rio Dulce boat route leads to canyons with limestone walls up to 150 meters high, covered with dense tropical vegetation. The views are breathtaking. The river is also home to manatees, an endangered mammal species, and crocodiles.

Guatemala sights, top 10 places to see

At the mouth of the Rio Dulce is the old Spanish fortress of San Felipe, built during the conquest to protect against robbery by pirates and corsairs. This is another important place not to be missed on your tour to Guatemala.

10. Church of San Andrés in Totonicapan, Guatemala

This is probably the most picturesque and cheerful Christian church in the whole world. Therefore, it is a must visit, during your tour in Guatemala.

There is a legend that this Catholic church was without a prior for many years and the locals, following Mayan traditions, painted the facade of the cathedral in bright mustard yellow, the color of corn, the main product of the Mayan cuisine, and the main hero of this people.

In addition, the colorful dome and figures of angels in boots and stockings make the church unique and attractive to tourists.

15 Best Sights in Guatemala

Guatemala is a find-country that offers travel for all tastes. Everyone will love it here, whether you’re an adventurer, a connoisseur of historical heritage, or someone who just wants to lounge on the beach.

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Who should go to Guatemala and why

The country has long been recognized as one of the most important cultural monuments in Central America. Everything here, from the colonial architecture and stone-paved streets of Antigua Guatemala to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, is extraordinary to the tourist.

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Small towns in the highlands and on the shores of picturesque Lake Atitlan offer cultural and recreational activities for all tastes. Impassable jungle, rainforest, active volcanoes, lakes hidden deep in the mountains, thick forests, buried in a haze of mist, and coral reefs will appeal to nature lovers.

Those who dare to go down to the coast, will get acquainted with the snow-white beaches and fishing villages of Guatemala. Here, away from civilization, you can retreat in a hammock or bungalow to rest your body and soul.

In every corner of the country you can find stalls with locally produced goods. Especially appreciated by visitors are textiles. However, the outlets are open only on certain days of the week.

Cultural and Historical Sights

Antigua

antigua

Antigua was once the capital city of Guatemala, until a major earthquake destroyed it in 1773. Locals were ordered to abandon their homes and leave. Since then the lively metropolitan city has become a provincial quiet place.

Antigua is a charming gem in Guatemala, known for its Spanish architecture, old-style palaces, cathedrals, universities and hermitages. The city is a popular tourist attraction especially during Holy Week. Pilgrims arrange entire parades and performances here, lining the streets with carpets of flowers.

Popol Vuh

popol vuh

This is one of the world’s leading Mayan art museums, housing a valuable collection of artifacts from the pre-colonial past. On display are masks, ceramics, gems, tools and sculptures.

Mayan Costume Museum

musei koscumov

For an overview of traditional Guatemalan costumes, from ceremonial items to ordinary garments, you can visit the Ishel Mayan Costume Museum. It is located in the Francisco Marroquin University campus.

In the building is an extensive collection of textiles that were made in the late 19th century in 120 Guatemalan communities. A collection of paintings illustrating regional costumes completes the exhibit. The museum is named after the Mayan goddess of fertility and weaving.

Livingston

lingviston

This small town with brightly painted wooden houses on the Caribbean coast. Enclosed on one side by jungle and coconut groves, on the other it stretches along the entire Guatemalan coast.

Livingston is more a part of the Caribbean Sea than a part of the city. Livingston is the starting point for boat trips to Rio Queueche and Rio Cocoli, where tourists can fish or scuba dive underwater.

Here live mostly Garifuna, descendants of escaped slaves and the indigenous Mayan people. They have created their own culture and language. In May, the locals hold chants and many pilgrims come to town to participate in colorful processions and masquerades. The celebrations during Easter week and on December 12 (Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe) are also colorful events.

yaxha

It is not as famous as the famous Tikal, but it is home to the third largest Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Yaxha was the ceremonial center of the pre-Columbian Maya kingdom. From the local vernacular, the name translates as “blue-green water,” which is understandable given that Yaxha overlooks a lake.

In the northern settlement of Guatemala, about 500 structures remain, including 13 altars and nine temple pyramids. It is a must to climb to the top of Temple 216 for views of the lakes and jungle.

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Nature Reserves and Parks

Quezaltenango

kesalmatango

Central Park is the heart of the city of Quetzaltenango. Located between three massive volcanoes, it is a harmonious fusion of natural and cultural attractions. Locals call it Shela for short. Fuentes Georginas, the natural sulfur springs, were once discovered here.

There are plenty of opportunities for tourists to explore the rarities of the local Mayan people in the park. There are also excursions from here to Laguna Chicabal, a sacred lake deep in the forest. There visitors have a unique chance to see the Quetzal bird in the wild.

Semuk Champi.

semuk shampi

The limestone pools of Semuk Champi were once an isolated, tranquil area. Today, however, for many tourists they are not a discovery. Interestingly, it is the Semuc Champi that is considered “the most beautiful place in Guatemala”.

At the top of the ridge are small pools that are filled with the cool waters of the river flowing nearby. Although it’s not easy to get to this paradise, its beauty draws the eye.

Lankin Caves

peshera lankin

Located northeast of Koban, the caves are vast limestone structures with a surprisingly turquoise-colored underground river running beneath them. The locals consider them sacred. The best time to come here is in the evening, so you can watch hundreds of bats going out to hunt.

Tourists can admire the beautiful lagoons and unique rock formations. You can also take a trip through a cave, some of the rapids of the river inside of which are extremely turbulent.

Lago de Atitlan

lago de atitlan

Lake Atitlan was described in his works as far back as Aldous Huxley. The writer acknowledged that “it is one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world. It is located in the Guatemalan highlands.

You can get to the lake through the town of Panajachel, which is also a fusion of the unique culture of the Maya and other ancient peoples. It is a beautiful area with many tourist attractions, opportunities for exploration, scuba diving and learning Spanish.

Pacaya Volcano

vulcan pakya

An active volcano is located near the capital of Guatemala. Pacaya last spewed lava and ash less than a decade ago, in May 2010. There are hiking trails at the foot of the volcano, and walking is not prohibited, but the trails are not very popular.

You need to have strong nerves to walk near an active volcano. If the desire to climb the volcano Pacaya does overpower you, you are waiting for the magnificent views that open from its slopes. But you should set aside at least a day for this walk.

Monterrico

montericco

Monterrico is a lost picturesque beach covered in volcanic sand. People are seldom here, nature is preserved in its pristine state, and the Pacific Ocean is unusually clean.

You will not find a better place for those who want to escape from reality. When swimming you should be careful – the water in this place is choppy, the current can twist even an experienced swimmer. Therefore, it is forbidden to dive to depth here. A rare exception is made for professionals.

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Those who are not strangers to environmental protection should take part in the rescue of sea turtles, visiting one of the nearby seasonal reserves.

Tikal

tikal

Located in the lowland rainforest of northern Guatemala, Tikal is one of the main tourist attractions of this country. It is beautiful and mysterious. The name Tikal translates as “Place of Voices” (sometimes “Place of Tongues”).

Today all that remains of this ancient metropolis is a large number of ruins of Mayan structures. The city itself is surrounded by a large wildlife sanctuary full of monkeys, parrots, deer, and other exotic birds and animals.

Interesting places

El Mirador

el mirador

El Mirador was a major Mayan city that flourished from about the 6th century B.C. and was abandoned at the end of the 9th century A.D. The ruins of El Mirador were discovered in 1926, but they received little attention because of their remoteness (they are deep in the jungle of northern Guatemala). Today there is little left of the former city – it has been swallowed up by the tropical jungle.

A visit to El Mirador is an exciting adventure. The village of Carmelita is the closest point to the ruins, which can be reached by car. From there you will have to walk for about five days. Do not forget that on the way you can meet different animals, so it is worth preparing for such a route in advance and take a guide.

Flores

flores

Flores is often used to name not only the island village, but also its mainland sister, Santa Elena. The area is picturesque, and tourists can easily navigate – it is impossible to get lost here. There is also a place to stay – the village is dotted with charming hotels.

There is no other city like it in Guatemala. Authentic, quiet, this small secluded island deserves attention and time to stroll through it, enjoying the views of the local lake, sunrise or sunset.

Rio Dulce.

rio dulse

The Rio Dulce or Sweet River is popular with boaters. It flows from Lake Isabal, which is located next to Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, an old Spanish colonial fort built to keep Caribbean pirates off the river.

Today, Rio Dulce boasts one of the largest bridges in Central America. On one side of it is the town of Frontera, famous for its vegetable market – buyers come here by canoe. On the way to the Caribbean Sea, the riverbed leads through an impressive gorge with high escarpments.

Guatemala City

gvatemala city

Guatemala City is the largest city not only in the country, but in all of Central America. Guatemala City has a population of three million people. The place is as crowded and built-up as any metropolis, but extremely unique.

The fact is that Guatemala has a wonderful climate and beautiful scenery. The locals simply call this area “Gwatem. It is located at an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level.

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