Trip and Wellness

12 Top Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in the Guatemala

Beautiful bay of Lake Atitlan with view to Volcano San Pedro

Travel to the captivating country of Guatemala and immerse yourself in its rich history and ancient wonders. Guatemala, a land rich in ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, beckons with its scattered ruins, majestic stone temples, and timeless villages.

When embarking on a journey to Guatemala, travelers are drawn not only to the abundance of archaeological sites but also to the breathtaking landscapes and captivating natural attractions that the country has to offer. Experience the allure of Guatemala’s black sand beaches, witness the power of molten volcanoes, and immerse yourself in the lush, tree-lined jungles. Prepare to be captivated by the wide array of activities that await you in this enchanting destination.

When traveling to this country, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in its rich and distinctive culture, which is a beautiful blend of influences from Spain and the native Maya people. Prepare to be amazed by the top tourist attractions in Guatemala, whether you have a passion for history or a thirst for outdoor adventure.

1. Tikal

Maya Pyramid in Tikal
Source: istockphoto

One of the most significant travel destinations in Guatemala is the archaeological site of Tikal. Located in the heart of the Mayan Kingdom, Tikal stands as a testament to the power and influence of this ancient civilization. For more than seven centuries, Tikal reigned supreme, leaving an indelible mark on the region. The majestic buildings that grace its landscape are a window into the past, with origins dating back to the 4th century BC.

During your travel, you will have the opportunity to explore numerous towering temples, massive royal palaces, and limestone pyramids that make up the landscape. The North Acropolis and Plaza of Seven Temples are two must-visit attractions for travelers exploring the site. While exploring the magnificent city of Tikal, make sure to include a visit to Tikal Temple I. This awe-inspiring structure served as the final resting place for the esteemed King Jasaw Chan Kʼawiil I.

2. Chichicastenango Market

Guatemalan Market
Source: istockphoto

Every Thursday and Sunday, travelers can experience the vibrant atmosphere of Guatemala’s largest market, which is renowned as the most impressive in all of Central America. Situated in the vibrant Chichicastenango, this bustling market is the ultimate destination for all your shopping desires.

Nestled side by side are numerous market stalls showcasing a variety of Mayan handicrafts, including vibrant textiles, intricately carved wooden pieces, exquisite leather goods, and an array of delightful souvenirs. While traveling, you can also discover a wide range of snacks, and fresh produce, and even encounter livestock. When traveling, it is crucial to hone your bargaining skills and ensure that you never pay more than 50% of the initial asking price.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Chichicastenango: Best Areas & Hotels

3. Rio Dulce

Waterlily covered Rio Dulce river
Source: istockphoto

One of the most cherished travel destinations in Guatemala is the Rio Dulce. Lake Izabal is a stunning destination for travelers, known for its picturesque river that gracefully emerges from its waters. One of the notable attractions in this area is the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, a historic Spanish colonial fort constructed in 1644. This magnificent structure was strategically built to safeguard the river from the notorious Caribbean pirates, adding an intriguing element to the region’s rich history.

Today, travelers can marvel at one of the largest bridges in Central America that spans across the magnificent river. Located on one side of the bridge lies Frontera, a captivating travel destination renowned for its vibrant vegetable market, attracting numerous enthusiastic shoppers who arrive in traditional dugout canoes. During its voyage to the Caribbean, the river meanders through a breathtaking gorge adorned with towering walls. The river flows into Livingston, a charming Garifuna village that can only be accessed by boat.

4. Pacaya Volcano

Eruption in volcano Pacaya in Guatemala
Source: istockphoto

Guatemala boasts the Pacaya Volcano, a must-see natural wonder for adventure seekers. After traveling through a 70-year dormant period, the volcano has been embarking on a continuous eruption journey since the early 1960s, reaching its pinnacle with a grand eruption in 2014. Despite the perceived risks, it continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Guatemala.

Embarking on a thrilling adventure, a journey to the summit of the volcano awaits, promising a captivating experience that spans approximately two hours. Along the way, one can relish the breathtaking panoramas that unveil the vast expanse of the surrounding region. While traveling, you may come across food stands offering marshmallows that can be roasted using the heat of volcanic rock.

5. Lake Atitlán

Landscape of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala
Source: istockphoto

Aldous Huxley once described Lake Atitlán as the most stunning lake on Earth. Nestled in the heart of the Guatemalan highlands, this picturesque lake showcases the breathtaking beauty of nature and presents a myriad of exciting outdoor activities to indulge in.

Embark on a thrilling adventure by renting a boat and navigating the vast expanse of the deepest lake in Central America. Alternatively, put on your trusty hiking boots and venture onto the trails, immersing yourself in the captivating beauty of the surrounding terrain. For a thrilling travel experience, you can also embark on a breathtaking paragliding adventure, soaring high above the picturesque lake and valleys as you take off from the majestic mountain cliffs.

The lake is conveniently located close to various charming rural villages, such as San Pedro and San Juan. Make a detour for a delightful lunch or to immerse yourself in the company of amiable locals.

6. Monterrico

Sunset at Beach with Black Sand in Monterrico
Source: istockphoto

Monterrico in Guatemala stands out as a destination that defies the country’s reputation for lacking sun-soaked beaches. This serene destination is globally recognized for its striking black volcanic sand beaches.

If you decide to travel to Monterrico between June and December, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to observe sea turtles as they migrate to the beaches for breeding and egg-laying purposes. While exploring the beautiful destination of Monterrico, make sure to include a visit to Tortugario Monterrico. This remarkable turtle conservation center offers an incredible opportunity to witness the newly hatched baby turtles up close and personal. Every evening, just before sunset, you have the incredible opportunity to witness the mesmerizing sight of Tortugario Monterrico setting free the turtles into the vast ocean.

7. Lívingston

Moored boats, Rio Dulce, Livingston
Source: istockphoto

Lívingston, a vibrant coastal town, offers the ideal getaway for those seeking a tranquil escape. Lívingston stands out from other destinations in Guatemala due to its relaxed tropical ambiance, evoking the charm of a Caribbean village.

In addition to indulging in the warmth of the sun on sandy shores, you will have the opportunity to embark on a captivating journey through the vast expanse of the great outdoors during your stay. Embark on an exciting adventure through the vibrant rainforests along the picturesque Rio Dulce, indulge in refreshing dips in the enchanting emerald pools of the Los Siete Altares waterfalls, or immerse yourself in the mesmerizing underwater world while snorkeling in the captivating turquoise waters of Zapotillo Cayes.

Ensure to allocate some time exploring the town itself, where you can savor delectable seafood and immerse yourself in the captivating fusion of these two distinct cultures.

8. Semuc Champey

Beautiful scenery of Rio Semuc Champey
Source: istockphoto

Nestled amidst the towering limestone mountains and lush foliage lies a mesmerizing gem that is sure to captivate any traveler – Semuc Champey, a must-see destination in Guatemala. Nestled in the heart of the lush jungle, Semuc Champey beckons with its mesmerizing turquoise pools, hidden underground caves, and enchanting waterfalls, creating a true haven for travelers seeking a slice of paradise.

Traveling to Semuc Champey can pose some challenges. Starting from the charming town of Lanquin, you have two options to reach the entrance of the falls: a leisurely 2.5-hour walk or a thrilling 4×4 taxi drive. When packing for your travel, remember to include a pair of sturdy shoes to navigate the rugged and slippery terrain of the destination.

9. Antigua Guatemala

Santa catalina arch in antigua downtown
Source: istockphoto

Antigua, nestled amidst mountains, beckons travelers with its captivating Spanish Baroque buildings and vibrant colonial churches, making it a highly sought-after destination in Guatemala. Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of The Catedral de Santiago, explore the vibrant Handicrafts Market, or immerse yourself in the local culture by spending time in Parque Central.

Antigua, a former capital city of Guatemala, holds a rich history. However, in 1773, a devastating earthquake struck, leaving the town in ruins. In the year 1776, a decision was made to leave behind this bustling and lively capital city, transforming it into a serene provincial town.

Don’t forget to capture some pictures of the famous el Arco de Santa Catarina during your travels. In the realm of travel, one can discover a striking yellow edifice that dates back to the 17th century. This remarkable structure served as a means for nuns to traverse the street without venturing outdoors. Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Guatemala, the cloud-covered mountains serve as a captivating backdrop to one of the country’s most iconic landmarks.

10. Flores

Flores island in Guatemala
Source: istockphoto

The vibrant island of Flores is characterized by its vivid red roofs, charming cobblestone streets, and stunning colonial architecture. Located in Lago Petén Itzá, this travel destination can be easily accessed via the connecting road adjacent to Santa Elena and San Benito.

In just 20-30 minutes, you can explore the entire island on foot. However, many travelers opt to enhance their experience by renting a bike or canoe to discover the surrounding area. While exploring the enchanting city, make sure to visit the magnificent Catedral Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios y San Pablo Itzá, where you can marvel at its historic architecture. The stunning white cathedral stands out as the main attraction on the island.

11. Quetzaltenango

Beautiful view of the Central Park of Quetzaltenango
Source: istockphoto

Quetzaltenango stands as the vibrant commercial hub of the region. More commonly known as Xela, this charming town is renowned for its major attractions such as the Parque Centro América and the stunning Neoclassical architecture that adorns the surrounding buildings. The majority of these structures, with the exception of the cathedral, originate from the 19th century when Xela thrived as a prominent hub for trade and artistry.

Quetzaltenango is a fantastic destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the local culture while exploring the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding mountains. With its vibrant Spanish language schools and abundant hiking opportunities, it offers an unforgettable travel experience. Embarking on a thrilling journey up Volcan Tajumulco, the towering pinnacle of Central America, is an exhilarating choice for the adventurous traveler.

When traveling to Quetzaltenango, you will be pleased to discover that it is a remarkably clean and safe city. Moreover, its elevated location at 2,333 meters guarantees pleasant weather with warm days, refreshing nights, and a reduced presence of mosquitoes. The city is a great starting point for exploring the numerous nearby villages famous for their hot springs and local crafts.

12. Semana Santa

Holy Week carpet, Antigua
Source: istockphoto

Traveling to Guatemala during Semana Santa is an incredible experience, as it is one of the most vibrant and festive times of the year. Renowned as Holy Week, Semana Santa is widely celebrated across Latin America; nevertheless, the grandest festivities unfold in the heart of Antigua.

The destination is transformed by vibrant decorations, lively melodies, and an abundance of delectable cuisine and beverages. The highlight of the travel experience is the vibrant Palm Sunday parade. While exploring the vibrant streets, you will come across a multitude of captivating parade floats adorned with intricate designs. Additionally, you will encounter individuals donning elegant purple robes complemented by stylish white waistbands.


Q: Is Guatemala safe for tourists?

A: Guatemala is generally safe for tourists, but it’s essential to stay informed about local conditions and take standard safety precautions.

Q: What is the best time to visit Guatemala?

A: The dry season, from November to April, is the best time to visit for pleasant weather.

Q: Do I need a visa to visit Guatemala?

A: Most visitors do not require a visa for short stays, but it’s essential to check the specific requirements based on your nationality.

Q: What is the local cuisine like in Guatemala?

A: Guatemalan cuisine is diverse, with influences from Mayan, Spanish, and Garifuna cultures. Don’t miss trying dishes like tamales, pupusas, and atol.

Q: Are there any vaccination requirements for Guatemala?

A: It’s recommended to be up-to-date on routine vaccines and consider vaccinations for diseases like typhoid and hepatitis A, depending on your travel plans.