Guatemala Travel Guides
Super useful & totally free Guatemala travel guides, written by experts who love Guatemala
Why We Love Guatemala: Guatemala is a small, but vibrant country bursting at the seams with lush, dramatic landscapes and unforgettable things to do. The people of Guatemala are friendly and the towns are colorful with a blend of Mayan and Spanish Colonial architecture. Outdoor adventurers will especially fall in love with the lively but relaxing atmosphere of Guatemala. Popular destinations like Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Tikal National Park, and so many others offer a rich blend of nature, history, and cultural experiences. Guatemala is located in Central America and is bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Best of Guatemala
Guatemala has a diverse, beautiful range of destinations, from mountains and lakes to sparkling beaches. Guatemala City is the country’s capital, but these places are the most popular:
- Antigua – A colorful colonial city just outside of Guatemala City and a gateway to other destinations. A UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Tikal National Park – A national park in northern Guatemala made up of jungle and ancient Mayan ruins. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Lake Atitlan – A huge crater lake in the southwestern highlands of Guatemala. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by small villages and towns.
- Chichicastenango – A northwestern highlands town known for its preservation of Mayan culture and the Chichicastenango market.
- Semuc Champey – A nature preserve in northern Guatemala made up of jungle and natural river pools.
✨ Things to Do
Many of the best things to do in Guatemala are centered around experiences rather than specific attractions. These are some of the best things to do in Guatemala:
- Experience Local Culture – Guatemala has a rich, blended culture of Mayan, Spanish, and other influences. Immerse yourself in Guatemalan culture by talking to locals, visiting markets, and more.
- Hike Acatenango – A difficult, but once-in-a-lifetime trek that takes you to the summit of Volcano Acatenango and near Volcano Fuego.
- Learn Spanish – Guatemala is full of Spanish schools. This is a great opportunity for people of all abilities to learn Spanish in a local setting.
- See Mayan Ruins – Many Mayan ruins like Tikal, Iximché, Yaxhá, and many others can be found throughout Guatemala.
- Eat and Drink – Guatemala has a unique cuisine from its blended cultural influences. Drinking coffee is also a must when visiting Guatemala.
🗺️ Where to Stay
Deciding where to stay in Guatemala has a lot to do with accessing nearby nature and experiences. These towns and cities are all gateways to the best of Guatemala:
- Antigua – This is most travelers’ first stop in Guatemala. People stay in Antigua to do the Acatenango Volcano hike and other activities.
- Panajachel – The main town on Lake Atitlan. Panajachel is a great base for exploring all the lake has to offer.
- Flores – Flores is south of Tikal National Park and along Lake Petén Itzá. This is where most visitors stay to see the Mayan ruins.
- San Agustín Lanquín – Lanquín is the most popular place to stay when visiting Semuc Champey.
- Guatemala City – The capital of Guatemala. Many people stay in Guatemala City for a short visit upon arrival or departure.
🛎️ Best Hotels
Guatemala is home to some truly unique hotels. These standout accommodations offer a blend of Mayan and colonial architecture, scenery, and local touches.
- Hotel Casa Santo Domingo – A historic Antigua hotel that’s part hotel, part spa, part museum.
- Hotel La Casa del Mundo – A Lake Atitlan hotel with unbeatable lake views, a charming atmosphere, and Guatemalan decor.
- Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo Antigua – A colonial house hotel in the heart of Antigua. Good for couples and families.
- Villa Maya – A peaceful hotel located just outside of Flores on Lake Patenchel. Villa Maya is surrounded by nature and is great for couples.
- Zephyr River Lodge – A vibrant hostel near Semuc Champey with stunning mountain views.
⛰️ Best Hikes
Hiking is one of the best things to do in Guatemala. Many popular hikes are volcano treks. However, there are a variety of hiking trails to enjoy.
- Acatenango Volcano – One of the most popular hiking treks in Central America. You can see volcano eruptions and reach a summit that’s 13,041 feet above sea level.
- Pacaya Volcano – An active volcano outside of Antigua. This hike is somewhat difficult but easier than hiking Acatenango.
- San Pedro Volcano – This volcano towers over Lake Atitlan. San Pedro Volcano is a relatively difficult, out-and-back hike that’s about 5 miles in total.
- Tajumulco Volcano – The highest volcano in Central America with two summits in Western Guatemala.
- Tikal National Park – Tikal National Park involves less “hiking” and more walking to explore the Mayan ruins, jungle, and wildlife.
👜 Best Markets
The markets in Guatemala are unmatched. Visiting local markets is the best way to shop in Guatemala and a great way to support local makers.
- Chichicastenango Market – One of the biggest markets in Central America. Chichicastenango Market is near Lake Atitlan and operates on Thursdays and Sundays.
- Mercado Central Antigua – A gigantic market in Antigua selling everything from souvenirs to produce. This market caters to locals and visitors and is open every day.
- Solola Market – Two markets take place near each other outside of Lake Atitlan. Tuesdays and Fridays are the big days.
- Nim P’ot – A market in the heart of Antigua specializing in textiles, masks, and other artisan products. Open every day.
- San Juan Comalapa Market – A less touristy market outside of Antigua. Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays are market days.
Guatemala Travel Advice
🗓️ Best Time to Visit
Guatemala is known as the “Land of Eternal Spring.” This is due to the country’s varied tropical climate and geography. Visiting in the dry season (November – April) is recommended.
- 🍂 Fall – Late fall (November) is one of Guatemala’s “high seasons.” This time of year kicks off the dry season with less rain and more sunshine.
- ❄️ Winter – Winter is another popular time to visit because it’s in the middle of the dry season. Popular destinations get busy because of holidays.
- 🌼 Spring – Spring is also a “high season” in Guatemala because the weather is pleasant with minimal rains.
- 🌞 Summer – April through October is known as Guatemala’s rainy season. Summer brings more rain, but it’s still a decent time to visit.
🚌 Getting In & Around
Getting around Guatemala truly depends on where you are. Forms of public transportation like shuttles are the most common way to get around.
- ✈️ Airports – La Aurora International Airport is Guatemala’s main airport in Guatemala City.
- 🚗 Driving – Driving in Guatemala is possible, but not the most popular way for tourists to get around.
- 🚇 Public Transit – Shuttles are one of the most popular ways to get around Guatemala. Tuk tuks are also available.
- 🚌 Chicken Bus – Chicken buses are how many locals get around. However, these aren’t the safest or most reliable transportation methods.
- 📲 RideShare – Taxis are widely available in Guatemala and Uber is, too.
- 🚶♀️ Walking – Walking is one of the best ways to get around the towns and cities in Guatemala.
- 🚤 Boats – Boats or “lanchas” are one of the main methods of transportation in lake areas like Lake Atitlan.
👉 Tips & Things to Know
- 🌧️ – Weather Constantly Changes – Weather in Guatemala constantly changes, especially during the rainy season. Temperatures can vary with elevation. Pack layers to be prepared.
- 💵 – Bring Cash – Many businesses in larger towns like Antigua accept credit cards, but carrying cash is always a safer bet. It’s preferred most of the time.
- 🔌 – You (Probably) Won’t Need a Converter – Travelers coming from the United States won’t need a converter. Guatemala uses the same 2 pronged outlets and 110 volt, 60 Hz electricity.
- 🗣️ – Know Some Spanish – Knowing Spanish isn’t necessary for getting around Guatemala, but it’s very helpful. Learn some basic Spanish before you arrive.
- ⛰️ – Book Hikes Through Local Tour Companies – Many of the hikes (especially the volcano treks) in Guatemala are difficult. Booking through local tour companies and hiking with local guides is recommended.
- ☔ – Rain Jacket – You’ll want to pack a rain jacket or poncho, especially if you visit during the rainy season (May – October). An umbrella is also a good idea.
- 🥾 – Outdoor Shoes – You’ll likely be walking over cobblestone streets and doing some hikes in Guatemala. Outdoor shoes like hiking boots and outdoor sandals are recommended.
- 🚰 – Water Bottle – Tap water isn’t safe to drink in Guatemala. However, most accommodations offer filtered water. Bring a water bottle to reduce waste and stay hydrated.
- 🎒 – Backpack – Using a backpack over a rolling suitcase is smart because of Guatemala’s cobbled streets and outdoor recreation.
- 🦟 – Insect Repellent – Guatemala has a tropical climate and insects are common. Protect yourself with insect repellent.
👉 For more, see our full Guatemala packing checklist.
🤓 Facts & Info
- Language – Spanish
- Currency – Quetzales
- Population – 17.11 million (2021)
- Capital – Guatemala City
- Largest Metro Areas – Guatemala City, Villa Nueva, Mixco
- Time Zone – Central Standard Time (UTC-6 year-round)
- Airports – La Aurora International Airport (GUA)
- Nickname – “Land of Eternal Spring”
- Demonynm – Guatemalan, chapines (for men), chapinas (for women)
- USPS Abbreviation – GT
- President – Alejandro Giammattei
💵 Costs & Budgeting
- MERIC Cost of Living Country Rank – #99 out of 195 countries
- 3 Star Hotel Room – $30-$75/night
- 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $30-$75/night
- Rental Car – $20-$50/day
- Public Transit Ticket – $1-$5
- Take Out Meal for Two – $10-$20
- Sit Down Dinner for Two – $15-$30
- Draft Beer – $2-$5
FAQs About Visiting Guatemala
Is Guatemala safe for tourists?
Guatemala is safe for tourists despite the narrative of it being a dangerous country. Crime, poverty, and corruption are realities, but Guatemala can be visited and enjoyed safely.
Can you drink the water in Guatemala?
You cannot drink tap water in Guatemala. Drinking and using bottled water is recommended.
What is Guatemala best known for?
Guatemala is best known for its rich culture and beautiful and dramatic natural beauty.
How expensive is Guatemala?
Guatemala is a relatively cheap country to visit. However, certain areas like Antigua are more expensive than other Central American destinations.
Meet Our Guatemala Travel Expert
Lea Rose Allbaugh
Lea Rose Allbaugh is a freelance writer from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. She’s currently based in Chicago (except for when she’s on a traveling stint) and is obsessed with all things travel. She caught the travel bug back in 2015 during an exchange to the Netherlands and has been traveling ever since. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire others to get up and go experience the world. Aside from travel, she loves reading, writing, and anything creative. She writes on her website Written World.
📰 Guatemala Travel Guides
Looking for more on Guatemala? Check out our guides on some of the best things to do, places to stay, and popular Guatemalan attractions. Plus, we’ve got you covered with guides to Mexico, Costa Rica, and other nearby countries, too!
- Guatemala Packing List (27 Things You Might Forget to Bring)
- Where to Stay in Lake Atitlan (Best Places & Areas in 2023)
- Where to Stay in Antigua (Best Places & Areas in 2023)
- 27 Best Things to Do in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (in 2023)
- La Casa del Mundo (A Review of Lake Atitlan’s Unique Hotel)
- Acatenango Volcano Hike (Ultimate Guide & Best Tour in 2023)
- 27 Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala (in 2023)