Traveling in Guatemala
There are a number of reasons why Guatemala is such a well-known vacation destination. One big reason is its combination of new and traditional cultures. Here, you can learn how the native Mayan and Spanish people both lived, which is quite integral to get a good picture of what it means to be Guatemalan.
On a trip to Guatemala you can really vary your experiences by switching from natural exploration to historical and even archeological. It´s anything but uniform as a country and you can enjoy the best of what the human and wildlife worlds have to offer.
108,889 km2 / 42,042 sq mi
- Guatemala City (capital; approx. pop. 1,110,100)
- Flores (approx. pop. 13,700)
- Panajachel (approx. pop. 11,142)
- San Pedro de la Laguna (approx. pop. 9,034)
- Chichicastenango (approx. pop. 107,193)
Some great photos of Guatemala.
Guatemala City is the largest, as well the capital of the country. You won´t probably be left with ample free time as there are plenty of museums, cultural centers, churches, and parks where all the family can enjoy a wonderful afternoon under the shade of the trees. Also, there are several modern malls including the popular Museo Miraflores and Oakland Mall. The kids will love the Museo de los NIños and La Aurora Zoo.
Zona Viva If you´re looking for a place to unwind or just stroll with family and friends, 6th Avenue is almost perfect. This is because it has been transformed in recent times and is presently completely pedestrianized. This means that there aren´t any street vendors and you can check out the many coffee shops and restaurants at your own leisure.
Archaeology and Ethnology Museum If you don´t know too much about the Mayan culture, this is one of the best places to start your journey of education. There are so many archeological artifacts that are just waiting to be seen, including the world famous Tikal Mask.
Popol Vuh Museum Popol Vuh Museum is easy to find as it is situated at the University of Francisco Marroquin. It´s a great place to visit if you are a history buff or just appreciate admiring artifacts from the ancient world. Here, you can find items from before the Spanish started spreading throughout the ¨New World.”
Jardines Botánico As a matter of fact, this was the first botanical garden in Central America. As such, you can find a rather extensive collection of indigenous and exotic vegetation. Afterwards you can also check out the adjoining Museum of Natural History.
Aurora Zoo Kids or all ages are sure to enjoy paying a visit to this zoo as they can differentiate the local animals from the exotic ones. This is also a popular place to listen to songbirds.
Ixchel Museum of traditional costumes At the Ixchel Museum of Traditional Costumes you can really learn in depth, not only about the traditional costumes of the region, but also the techniques employed to make them, including dying and weaving techniques. The museum serves as wonderful opportunity to delve into indigenous culture in an educational way. You´ll get a sense for the chronological history of costumes. Also it is a great opportunity to shop for Guatemalan arts and crafts as well as books.
Hotel La Inmaculada For people looking for a relaxing place to retire to after a long day of sightseeing, the relaxing accommodations at La Inmaculada may be ideal. The hotel´s common areas are also comfortable and include a small business area near the garden where breakfast is served daily.
Real InterContinental Guatemala The main reason people choose Real InterContinental Guatemala is because of its recent renovations that have given this establishment a very pleasing appearance. The guest rooms are very tastefully set up and the service is quite satisfactory all around. Tourists will surely appreciate its convenient location in respects to attractions, and busy business people can enjoy the comfort of the modernized bar and restaurants which make great settings for meetings.
Posada Belen Museo Inn Posada Belen Museo Inn isn´t your normal hotel as it is actually quite rooted in tradition. The house itself is more than 140 years old and displays lovely old architecture. It is also a kind of museum as there are various antique items that are set up throughout to be appreciate by guests. Travelers also appreciate the personalized service, relaxing atmosphere and delicious food that keeps them coming back.
Hotel Colonial Hotel Colonial was actually converted from a big old house, which makes a lot of sense when you look at it today as it features some quite spacious common areas and exhibits an impressive colonial theme.
Hotel Spring By the appearance of Hotel Spring it is safe to assume that it is designed with the leisure traveler in mind. For starters, it boasts a lovely courtyard and maintains a positive decor throughout. You can choose a room with a sunny patio, however, most offer plenty of space and high ceilings.
Tamarindos A restaurant like this one is quite unique and almost merits a special occasion as it has one of the most well-known chefs in the country, who serves up enticing fusion cooking. Another great thing is that Tamarindos features a very extensive menu that will ensure that everyone in your party leaves satisfied.
Ambia Although this restaurant may be a little difficult to find, it is anything but ordinary. For one, it is very much influenced by Asian cuisine and hence serves up many fusion dishes. Some popular items include the steaks and dishes with lamb.
Kacao If you´d like to savor some traditional Guatemalan cuisine, but would appreciate a modern take on them, Kacao is sure to not disappoint. Here, you can enjoy well known dishes from all around the country, but with delicious differences, or innovations.
Guatemalan Adventures Guatemalan adventures offers tour packages to the most popular attractions near the city. They will have it all planned for you as they feature pricey tours and packages to the Mayan Ruins and the most popular towns in the country.
This city is situated alongside Lake Peten Itza and near twin town San Benito and Santa Elena. It’s an interesting place with an interesting history as this is where the last independent Mayan State held out against the Spanish forces. There´s plenty of history abound. As you walk around you´ll encounter colonial buildings, cobbled streets, a historic church and many hotels and restaurants.
The Lake The lake serves as the perfect opportunity to go on a boat tour. They usually last between 1 and 3 hours and include at least one stop at La Guitarra Island which is a great place for families and groups of friends as it offers swimming, picnicking areas and the ruins of Tayasal.
El Mirador Located alongside the lake, El Mirador is a ceremonial city that serves as an idyllic photo opportunity. From here, you can behold wonderful views of Flores as well as the city´s various ruins. The most visited is La Danta, a pyramid that is 250 feet in height.
Aktun Kan (Cave of the Serpent) Known traditionally as the cave of the serpent, this spacious cavern is located outside of Santa Elena and offers a spooky excursion opportunity.
El Zotz El Zotz is only 15 miles away from the famous Tikal and is a somewhat unexcavated Mayan site. Zotz translates to bat, and if you visit in person you will probably find out why. Each night thousands of bats fly out from numerous caves around sunset to feed.
Hotel Isla de Flores If you´d like to make the most out of your vacation, you can´t go wrong with this hotel which is situated in downtown Flores. It´s also anything but ordinary as it has lovely architecture as well as tasteful decor that include both contemporary and colonial themes.
Hotel Petén You certainly can´t judge Hotel Petén by its cover as when you enter you will see that it has been very lovingly been set up and is anything but modest, like the exterior might have you believe. It features a small courtyard with tropical vegetation, an indoor pool and plenty of brick and stucco.
La Casona de la Isla La Casona is an L shape hotel that was built around a stone terrace and features a clean cut design throughout as well as lush gardens. It comes complete with a small swimming pool with a waterfall as well as a Jacuzzi. An on-site restaurant serves up delicious Guatemalan and international food options.
Capitán Tortuga The name translates into Captain Turtle, but it isn´t just a place for kids. In fact, this is one of the most popular dining establishments in the city and offers a varied menu that ranges from freshly baked pizzas to barbecue and vegetarian kebobs. You don´t need a big appetite to come here, however, as there are all kinds of desserts and ice creams as well as many coffee drinks.
Restaurant El Tucán It helps to come to this place quite hungry as this restaurant is well known for its portions, of Mexican food that is. You can order truly fresh fish, wild game and an enticing selection of vegetarian dishes. If you can, seat yourself in the open-air dining area as it faces the lake and will become a welcomed view after filling up on deliciousness.
Visitors who are eager to find a place with a view should seriously consider heading out to Panananjachel which offers perfect photographing opportunities of surrounding volcanoes as well as the gorgeous lake Atitlan. Even at night it is a real treat in terms of landscape. There are also plenty of nightlife options, restaurants and museums.
Jenna's River Bed and Breakfast If it´s relaxation that you´re after, you may find that this bed and breakfast is right up your alley. First of all, it tries to veer away from the hotel experience by offering personalized service within a homey environment. Couples appreciate the balcony area which is the perfect place to enjoy a nice glass of wine after a long day. There is also a delicious breakfast that´s prepared fresh each morning.
Villas Balam Ya One thing that makes this hotel quite special is how it adjoins beautiful Lake Atitlan. Despite being a small hotel, Villas Balam Ya is very well run by the owners who also run a few restaurants. The attention to detail is quite nice, and hence the 4 villas each make a welcomed place to rest after a long day.
Posada de los Volcanes Posada de los Volcanes is very conveniently located in relation to the main street of Panajachel and, although it isn´t luxurious, it is comfortable and well worth the price. The service is also top-notch.
Hotel Utz Jay Hotel Utz Jay isn´t just meant to be a place to hang your hat and catch some needed sleep. It also serves as a wonderfully located retreat that is anything but hard to reach. Because of this, it´s very helpful staff have plentiful experience in guiding tourists in the right direction.
Hotel Atitlan In terms of class, this hotel really has the rest in the area beat. From its refined wooden furnishings to a very elegant restaurant that is ideal for a date, Hotel Atitlan is all about tastefulness. Its outdoor areas are splendid, some offer beautiful views of the lake and local volcanoes.
Café Loco Don´t let the very reasonable prices of Cafe Loco dissuade you, the coffee here is excellent. Groups who just want to hang out come here for the music, friendly and efficient service and of course, the freshest coffee.
Restaurante Hana Many people come to Restaurante Hana on a special night, because they know that they will enjoy a delicious meal that utilizes the best ingredients. This is mainly because the owner is the head chef, and she makes sure that everything is tip top. The atmosphere is also quite pleasant and features Asian influences.
Tusacan This isn´t the place to head to for authentic Guatemalan cuisine, but it is nonetheless a great place to dine. Almost everything on the menu is recommended, including pizzas with abundant vegetables. Pastas are a common favorite as well, and the margaritas are a real treat after a day of sightseeing.
San Pedro de La Laguna When you make your way to San Pedro de la Laguna, you will probably notice that everything is winding down, and this is why many tourists like coming here. It is authentically peaceful, and doesn´t have the hustle and bustle many touristy hot spots have. You can stroll through the market and take in the colorful wares that are on display.
San Pedro de la Laguna
Lake Atitlan Lake Atitlan is one of the main attractions in the area, but not just because of its immense beauty, but also because of its water activities. These include swimming, kayaking and canoeing, which locals truly enjoy in the warmer seasons.
San Pedro Volcano It takes about 4 hours to hike to the top of this volcano, or less if you ride on horse for some of it. However, for many the trek is very much worth it in order to gaze the awe-inspiring views from 3,000 feet up.
San Pedro’s thermal pools Two dollars and fifty cents is all it costs to ease into these volcano-heated pools. It´s a great opportunity to take a break and let your worries dissipate in the hot water.
Ventana Blue The biggest reason for the food being very good at Ventana Blue restaurant is that the chef, who runs the kitchen, knows what he is doing. Everything here is well prepared and along with the beer and wine, the prices are quite reasonable.
Art Café El Colibri If you´re looking for a place to enjoy a nice cup of coffee while digging into a good book, Art Cafe may be quite ideal for you. The coffee is quite fresh and it features a beautifully landscaped garden area. As an extra treat, you should also taste the crepes which the Cafe specializes in.
El Jardin This restaurant isn´t exactly modest. As a matter of fact, it´s ideal for traveling groups who are looking for a place to swap stories. Private tables are features along trees that allow for plenty of privacy. The food may be a bit pricey for some, but it includes tasty fish dishes and many find themselves coming back just for their salads. Desserts here are also quite enticing and many utilize chocolate in great ways.
La Casa de Cafe Atitlan La Casa is a great place to go to just to converse with a drink in hand. It´s self-proclaimed ¨Canadian Style¨ house and serves as a very neat setting for reminiscing about travel. The Wi-Fi service is excellent and their coffee and breakfast is quite good too.
The most popular place to go to in this town is the market. You don´t have to spend a lot of money to purchase treasures at this popular and busy market. Many tourists find themselves drawn by its colorful disposition and then blindsided by its popularity. You can find textiles, clothes and all sorts of artistic items.
The Market If you want to see a lot of what Chichi has to offer you should visit on Thursdays and Sundays as these are the market days. Maya craft workers come in droves and set up all kinds of booths. There are all kinds of hand-made wares that range from hand-carved wooden masks to ceramics. Many people come for the native textiles that they´d like to bring back home.
Iglesia de Santo Tomás Finding out that this church was built more than 450 years ago, adds a lot to perspective. It used to be a Mayan worship site and now-a-days it’s considered the heart of Chichicastenango. This is a spiritual place which has various connections to the Mayan calendar.
Antigua was the capital of Guatemala until the year 1773, when the city was destroyed by a huge earthquake. After that, it became a more relaxed and provincial place that no longer came to be seen as the crowning jewel of the country. It still draws in plenty of people during special events like Holy week which is celebrated with parades and countless flowers lining the streets. Today, this city is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and is beloved for its cobble streets and 17th to 18th century colonial influences that extend to elements such as building´s baroque styles.
To take a step back in time you can visit a very popular ¨place of voices.¨ Situated in northern Guatemala, this former ancient metropolis is a reminder of the lives that people led in this lowland rainforest. There are a number of Mayan ruins to check out, as well as abundant wildlife as the city is surrounded by a huge wildlife preserve.
If you´d like to examine evidence of Maya´s greatness, El Mirador is sure to not disappoint you. Around the 6th century, it was a productive, bustling place, but 3 centuries later it was abandoned. It´s nestled in a remote location, but the trip is definitely worth it to admire huge ruins with your own eyes.
Parque Central Quetzaltenango
Parque Central Quetzaltenango is the best place to start your tour if you´re a first time visitor to Quetzaltenango. A big reason for this is its centralized location which over the years has attracted many people. It has evolved over the years and now is a town favorite for things concerning culture.
Some travelers truly appreciate finding that place that leaves them removed from modern civilization. It´s not hard to understand as some people would just like some peace of mind, and a somewhat remote place like Monterrico may be just the ticket. It´s unique because of its black, volcanic beaches which are loved by experienced swimmers. It also has a sea turtle sanctuary which you can help out in if you visit during the right season.
You don´t have to be a climbing enthusiast to appreciate Pacaya Volcano, but it certainly helps. This is because this is the most climbed volcano in the whole country and serves visitors as a very fun thrill. There are also plenty of guide services that are as helpful as informative. You can also enjoy panoramic views of Lake Atitlan as well as surrounding mountains.
Located in the Guatemalan Highlands, spacious Lake Atitlan is one of the deepest lakes in all of Central America. In person you´ll encounter a dramatic scene as the lake is surrounded by volcanoes. You can also appreciate how it was used heavily by the Mayan people. In the present, extensive coffee and corn agriculture depends on it and you can even visit some of the numerous surrounding villages where Mayan culture is still big.
Guatemala Travel Links
Here are some links that we've found useful in planning our travels in Guatemala.