Easily one of Central America’s most diverse countries, Guatemala is a travel destination worthy of an adventure. Where the weather is consistently warm, cities are big, jungles are verdant, volcanoes soar and wildlife is abundant in one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.
Accordingly, a holiday here can take on any number of forms; wandering ancient ruins, experiencing Maya culture, sunbathing on sprawling beaches, trekking up mountains and sleeping in eco-lodges. If ever there was a country to choose your own adventure, Guatemala would be it.
With only two per cent of its land urbanised, attractions in Guatemala largely exist around the country’s historic ruins and natural landmarks. The most popular is the ancient city of Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage site housed within a national park. Tikal features thousands of ruins from the Mayan civilization, some of which date all the way back to the 6th century B.C.
Where Tikal is one of the most popular attractions in the north, Lake Atitlan is the must-visit spot in the south. The majestic lake is 340 metres deep - the deepest in Central America – and is uniquely framed by three volcanos. For some sand and sea, Guatemala enjoys both Pacific and Caribbean coastline. Some of its most popular hotspots to visit include Monterrico (Pacific Coast) and Playa Blanca in Izabal.
Eat and Drink
Thanks to its close proximity to the equator, Guatemala is a prolific producer of coffee, cocoa and bananas amongst other things. For all its produce, Guatemala does not have a national dish. Instead, most meals typically entail chicken, beef of pork served with rice and beans, and a side of fried plantains.
Popular snacks include tacos, tamales and empanadas. Fresh fruit is also plentiful. For the most authentic options, opt for meals at local food markets where locals typically enjoy their lunch. Coffee drinkers will also be in heaven here with locally produced coffee proving brews here are quite strong.
Where to Stay
Where to stay in Guatemala is a question best answered based on your itinerary. If there was one city that encompassed the country’s best hotels though, it would of course be Guatemala City, with 5-star stays including the InterContinental Real Guatemala and the Hotel Vista Real Guatemala. The country’s other tourist-friendly city is Antigua, home to a number of comfortable stays. Other areas that offer accommodation options include Lake Attitan and Tikal.
Where to Swim
Guatemala may be more known for its Maya ruins than anything else, but it’s also a fantastic place to swim. Deep in the thick jungle, nearby the town of Lanquin, lays one of the most picturesque natural swimming pools in the world – Semuc Champey. The natural wonder forms a series of turquoise pools which are easily accessible via a network of hiking trails.
Guatemala Like a Local
Mingle with the locals of Antigua amid a colourful and chaotic environment at the Antigua Market. Taking place every Monday, Thursday and Saturday next door to the city’s bus terminal, the markets are at their bustling best in the early morning.