Top 5 Highlights of Guatemala

With ancient ruins and natural wonders scattered periodically throughout its mountainous landscape, Guatemala is, without a doubt, a top destination for anyone looking to get a real taste of Mayan history and culture. The country has a fascinating mix of urban centres and rural villages nestled into rocky cliff faces, as well as a curious blend of modernity and antiquity as many of those who live in this prospering country have chosen to maintain their traditional dress. Women sport full-length skirts made from brightly coloured fabrics while both men and women wear the woven blouse known as the huipil. Doused in mystery, Guatemala is well-worth a visit so here are our top 5 suggestions for how to make the most of your trip.

San Francisco Church in Antigua
San Francisco Church in Antigua with a volcano as its backdrop

1. Antigua

With a beautiful 17th century cathedral as its centrepiece, Antigua is probably the most beautiful town in all of Guatemala. The roads are cobbled and brimming with street vendors who hawk their wares outside fancy boutiques and gourmet eateries, all of which sit in front of a spectacular backdrop of towering volcanoes. Set a few steps outside of the centre of the town is the sprawling market, which sells virtually anything you could imagine. Clothes, spices, electronics, cosmetics, hammocks – they have it all here.

Pacaya volcano in Guatemala
Smoke rises from the active Pacaya volcano

2. Pacaya

Towering over the region is the dramatic Pacaya Volcano that rises up over 2500 metres and has had a rather turbulent past, erupting dozens of times over the last few centuries. It is a relatively easy climb and the views from the top are seriously outstanding, especially on a clear day. One thing that makes this volcano a bit unique is the fact that in some places the volcanic rocks are so hot you can actually toast marshmallows on it. Most guides will come equipped with a bag of the sweet treats for your toasting pleasure.

Semuc Champey a highlight of Guatemala
The stunning green and turquoise pools of Semuc Champey

3. Semuc Champey

It is essentially futile to try and sum up the sheer beauty of Semuc Champey with mere words but, in an effort to do so, picture several glistening pools of turquoise water flowing down one into the other. Now imagine that surrounded by dense swathes of vivid green jungle. Visitors to the site often climb to the popular viewpoint to take in this natural wonder in all its glory or take a tour through the caves for a bit of adventure. Others just like to swim in the crystal clear water and sunbathe on the smooth rocks that surround the pools. If heaven was a place on earth it would be here.

Flores town is a highlight of Guatemala
A view of Flores town across Lake Petén Itzá

4. Flores

Charming and colourful, Flores is sure to captivate you with its quaint streets and stunning waterfront location. Located on an island in the middle of the Lago Petén Itzá, this town is quiet but vibrant and gives weary travellers the chance to relax by the water. Boat trips around the lake are very popular, as is a trip to the rope swing on the north shore of the lake. Flores is also the perfect base for those planning on exploring the fascinating ruins of Tikal, which brings us to the final instalment of the list…

The ruins of Tikal are a highlight of Guatemala
The sun illuminates the El Gran Jaguar pyramid in Tikal

5. Tikal

Last, but certainly not least, is Tikal, an ancient archaeological site filled with mystical temples and palaces. The best time to explore this site is at sunrise or sunset. Tour guides will lead visitors to the top of the highest structure to witness the stunning spectacle as the sun rises or sinks behind the endless jungle that surrounds the ruins. There are dozens of different buildings to explore here, each with their own story to tell.

Fancy checking out these incredible destinations for yourself? Check out our range of tours to Guatemala or if you think we’ve missed anything of the list, let us know in the comments section below. 

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