Maya ruins and culture, historical architecture, verdant rainforests and volcanoes define the diverse landscape of Guatemala – a paradise for nature lovers in Central America.
The high-altitude Guatemala City is the capital of the country and has a deep Maya history. Plaza de la Constitución, National Palace of Culture and National Museum of Archeology and Ethnology are the capital’s highlights along with a few Maya sites. The hiking trails in the south of Guatemala City will take you to the top of the active Pacaya Volcano.
Guatemala’s most popular destination and its former capital, Antigua, is ringed by volcanoes and has charming Spanish-era architecture which includes churches, squares and markets. This UNESCO world heritage city is popular for the Santa Catalina Arch, Iglesia de la Merced, Convento Capuchinas, Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and Central Park. To capture the most beautiful panoramic shot of Antigua with Volcan de Agua in the backdrop, head over to Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) – located north of the city.
From Antigua, you can arrange a trip to the deepest lake in Central America – Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes, mountains and traditional Maya villages. One of the villages is Chichicastenango, a hub of Maya culture and known for its craft market. Other notable towns include Panajachel, Santa Cruz, Jaibalito and San Pedro La Laguna. Atitlan Nature Reserve near Lake Atitlan offers some great hiking and cycling trails. While you can go paragliding around Atitlan, the lake itself is great for scuba diving.
Guatemala’s second-largest city – Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela) is a high altitude city surrounded by volcanoes. People often visit the city on a three-day trek from Lake Atitlan. From Quetzaltenango, you can go on another notable two-day hike to the highest point in Central America – Volcan Tajumulco.
Not an easy destination to reach, Semuc Champey in central Guatemala is a natural monument hidden in the lush mountainous jungles 11 km from the town of Lanquin. It is renowned for its natural limestone bridge, and a series of pools where you can enjoy swimming.
Rio Dulce in eastern Guatemala is a great destination for cruises and boat rides and the surrounding area is teeming with lush canyons, hot springs and waterfalls which makes for some great hiking.
In northern Guatemala lies one of the world’s largest Maya ruins – Tikal. Dating back to the 1st-century AD, Tikal’s impressive forest covered ruins are a delight to explore. The nearby El Mirador houses one of the biggest Maya pyramids and a cluster of other ancient Maya buildings.
From extensive Maya sites to volcanic mountains – Guatemala demands exploration. It is a hotspot for nature lovers, history buffs and adventure seekers. Keep in mind that Guatemala is a Spanish-speaking nation and learning a few basic Spanish terms would come handy as most people don’t speak or understand English.
Tikal in north Guatemala is one of the world’s largest Maya ruins.