Guatemala is famous for its ancient ruins, lively fiestas, and the marimba music which is played on an instrument like a xylophone. About half of its population are direct descendants of the ancient Mayan civilization and are more skilled in farming and agricultural work. Most other Guatemalans are called Ladinos (a mix of Native American and Spanish).
Guatemala is also famous for having the biggest population along Central America, the largest city (Guatemala City), and the highest peak (Volcan Tajumulco). Tropical rain forests lie on the Northern part of this mountainous country and cool highlands can be found on its central region. Be sure to check out these top ten not to be missed places in Guatemala.
If you want to learn the secrets of making chocolate ChocoMuseo offers demonstrations during which you can yourself make chocolates. The experience is both entertaining and rewarding. In this place you have a wide choice of various types of homemade chocolate and even an infusion of chocolate mixed with tea. The Mayan-style hot chocolate (with chili) is very good. In the showroom you can learn about the history and culture that revolves around the cacao. The visit can be done alone or with a tour guide. After the visit you can purchase a wide variety of products made from cocoa, as well as souvenirs. The staff is very friendly and the idea of making your own chocolate is very clever. The place is a must for chocolate lovers.
The Church of San Francisco in Antigua is a beautiful church that is worth visiting because it has the remains of Santo Hermano Pedro. The church is very beautiful and has a large complex of ruins and religious museum. Believers and religious people come from Central America, Mexico, and all over the world looking for a miracle from him. Visit the ruins of the church which was destroyed by an earthquake. The museum chronicles the life of Saint San Pedro. The Baroque style church withstood five centuries of existence and is considered the religious Mecca of the Guatemalans.
The Arco de Santa Catalina is the symbol of the colonial city located in the center of town. It can be found in a pedestrian street connecting Merced to Parque Central. Do not forget your camera when you visit this old town, it has the ideal view of the famous Volcan Tajumulco.
The Plaza (Parque Central) is the best benchmark and above all the foremost concentration of entertainment in Antigua. In this central park you can find numerous coffee shops, bars, restaurants, banks and especially the local people who are always ready to help you and answer your questions. The Plaza is the point of departure or arrival of many visits.
Wherever you go in Antigua, everything revolves around the central park that is landmark in the city (where the street names are poorly indicated or may be sometimes confusing for some tourists). There is Wi-Fi. It gets livelier at night with street vendors, cultural shows and events, and lots of tourist who stroll and spend time admiring the lively atmosphere of the place once the sun sets down.
Guatemala City (Capital City)
The Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena is a textile museum that can be found inside the university campus. The exhibition is beautifully done and you learn a lot about the different types of manufacturing materials for clothes and national costumes and the textiles with which they were stained. The variety of costumes is amazing. The details that are ethnic Mayan and other emblems of their ancient civilization applied on the textiles provides a good place to learn about their colorful and historical past. The museum is well organized, bright and with explanations in Spanish and English. The historical tour begins with the evolution of the dress of the Maya, from the influences brought by Europeans, and ends with how they dress nowadays. There is a great exhibition of costumes that were designs by early known artists and painters in Guatemala.
The Zoologico Nacional La Aurora contains a representative sample of all kinds of animals that can be found in Central America and the world. The zoo designed a habitat per animal according to its kind. The animals well cared for, and the zoo is sponsored by private corporations and businesses in Guatemala. The new attraction called The Humbolt Penguins are very cute!
It is a place where you can spend all day, walk a lot, watching and waiting for something to happen to the animals, learn about their natural habitat, and to take pictures all you want. The top favorites that appeal to the young and old are; Giraffes, Kangaroos, zebras, flamingos, toucan, macaws, hippopotamus, camel, and the elephant.
The Atitlan Nature Reserve is a good place to get away from everyday life. It is a very calm place and filled with sounds that can relax your mind. It is a slice of heaven on earth where you can see various animals in their natural environment and a number of different plants. Inside you can also find a coffee beanery and a butterfly garden where you can learn a lot about butterflies and the history of every famous attraction that can be found in the city. The natural attraction can be reached by a tuk tuk ride (tricycle) which is not that far from the center of the town. The climb through the forest, waterfall, streams, etc., offers a pleasant drive.
For people who appreciate the flora, particularly medicinal plants, as well as pollinators and butterflies, The Maya Traditions Medicinal Herbal Garden is a very quiet place with very nice employees. The tour is also very educational. It is located at the other side of the bridge between Panajachel and the neighborhood called Jucanya. It can be easily reached by walking or taking a tuk-tuk that brings visitors to the office or the garden.
The Santa Maria Volcano and the adjacent smaller volcano on her or his side is the real attraction. And how! On a path north around the top end of road leads from one to one and a half hours to a lookout point which is just above eye level not even a mile from the active crater (this is also parasitic craters). If you arrive at 6:30 to 7:00, its activity is strongest, without having to worry that it comes to a crashing explosion. Instead, it is about a smaller volcano blowing out an endless cloud of steam up to many hundreds of meters high. The climb is super light and the view of the mountains, especially the view of the smaller volcano still spewing ash is impressive.
Upon descent from the volcano, you will pass by the Laguna Chicobal. It is a picturesque lake, surrounded by many mystical and sacred places. Enjoy the breath of fresh air and the view of the lagoon which is amazing. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places you can find in the Quetzaltenango city. From charming bungalows to the beautiful view on the lookout, it is a hiking adventure that is worth doing. The hike is approximately two hours and the degree of difficulty is low so no need to worry about whether it will be difficult.
The Ixpanpajul Nature Park is certainly one of the most affordable options when visiting Northern Guatemala. It is a rewarding experience to see the rain from a stunning viewpoint on the circuit or the imposing Skyway Bridge (Suspension Bridge). You can not leave without seeing or hearing the performances at the Night Safari. It is a unique experience where you must turn off the lights and vehicles to give you the opportunity to hear the sounds of the jungle.
It is definitely one of the best parks in Central America. The whole surrounding is like a scene from a famous movie with lots of rain forests, canopy, bridges, and the wildlife animals.
San Pedro La Laguna City
The Volcan San Pedro is perfect for those who enjoy walking in the mountains. They are little more than 3 hours away in the middle of cornfields and coffee plantations to reach the top and have the view of the lake and other volcanoes. San Pedro is the most visited tourist place by foreigners, as it has a variety of real and luxurious hotels. The route starts at around 1700mt above sea level and reaches the summit at 2900mt where there is a breathtaking view of the lake. The path passes through all the corn and coffee plantations and then continues up to the woods and to the summit.
Bring at least 1.5 liters of water in your backpack and something to eat. Preferably, take a guide for the safety of your hike. It is a steep climb but it’s all worth it.
San Marcos City
The ascent to the Volcano Tajamulco consists of a wide road but with a significant slope. It starts on a wide dirt road and the climb begins and passes through meadows and pine forests down to the hard part … its cone! The cone of the volcano is a technical climb of about 3 km but in the end, the summit is the reward!
You can see the Pacific Ocean, the mountains of El Salvador and several major volcanoes across Guatemala! For those who like to practice hiking, this is an excellent choice!
A visit to the Biotopo de Quetzal is a must to learn all the possible ways that the people of Guatemala are doing to preserve the species of their national bird. Inside these facilities the beautiful green colored bird is being studied and educating the people in every community of the need to protect and increase the species of this endangered bird.
The quetzal, with its spectacular green and scarlet plumage symbolizes strength and power according to the Mayan tradition. Because of its treasured feather that can grow up to three feet long and the careless hunting of the locals the bird is now declared extremely rare.
The Seven Altars is a beautiful place surrounded by the jungle. It has a nice walk through the fast-flowing river that has seven waterfalls falling down. It is a succession of small natural pools with fresh and clear water. Los Altares Sietes are a series of natural pools created by a beautiful stream, which can be accessed through a path that is sometimes a bit slippery which runs along the stream and sometimes through it. It is a very special place, which can be reached either by boat or by walking along the seashore.
The Playa Blanca is one of the few beach places in Guatemala where you can enjoy white sand beaches, fun rest and relaxation. You can lie down on the sand and swim quietly without facing the big waves of the Pacific Ocean. It is ideal for camping and recreation. The white sand, shallow water and few people, this is the perfect and ideal vacation scene. There are no bars, pubs, diners and restaurants but only a few people selling food and drinks with prices ranging from $ 5 to $ 10.
For a really impressive adventure visit the Yaxha Peten Pyramid and marvel at what the Mayans did. As you visit the famous site of Tikal, you must take time to go through Yaxhá, it really is a site not to be missed because of its beautiful and spectacular views of the nearby town. And above all, it is a place where you can go without finding many people.
Its beauty is unique and unparalleled, but you have to see it to believe. It is an interesting archeological site on the shores of Lake Yaxha. The trails, vegetation and the lake are astonishing. Crocodiles and other species of animals coexist in this area and you can hear the tweets of various kinds of birds as well as admire the surroundings and its natural beauty.