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Things to do in Guatemala

Things to do in  Guatemala

Welcome to Guatemala

Lush, mountainous, and dotted with lakes and volcanoes, Guatemala can be somewhat challenging to traverse by land, though well worth the effort. Most visitors arrive to busy Guatemala City and head for colonial Antigua, where beautifully restored churches, plazas, and archways line the cobblestone streets. Ringed by three smoldering volcanoes, Antigua is a popular place for guided treks to see the fiery craters of Pacaya or Acatenango up close. Don't worry—your guides will send a scout ahead to make sure the volcano is "feeling friendly" on the day of your trek. As an ancestral and present-day homeland of the Maya, Guatemala's greatest archaeological treasures are UNESCO-listed Tikal National Park and the Maya ceremonial site of Yaxha. Taking a guided tour is a must (literally; the government requires it), so it's ideal to book in advance. The Maya Biosphere Reserve surrounding Tikal is home to jaguars, toucans, macaws, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, and quetzals—a bird sacred to the Maya people. If you can't make it to Tikal, the Copan Maya ruins are accessible from Guatemala City, located just over the Honduran border. Farther afield, scenic Lake Atitlán, surrounded by mountains, makes a perfect base from which to explore the highlands. From the friendly town of Panajachel, take a lake cruise to visit some of the smaller villages dotting the shores, such as Santiago de Atitlán, traditional home of the Tzutujil people. If time permits, catch the colorful market in nearby Chichicastenango, to which indigenous peoples from around the region flock to buy and sell their wares.

Top 10 attractions in Guatemala

#1
Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlán)

Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlán)

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With its glistening blue waters framed by a trio of volcanic peaks and a fringe of lush greenery, Lake Atitlán (Lago de Atitlán) is surely one of Guatemala’s most stunning natural wonders. The deepest lake in Central America lies in an ancient caldera amid the mountainous landscapes of the Guatemalan Highlands.More
#2
Pacaya Volcano

Pacaya Volcano

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This 8,373-foot (2,552-meter) smoking peak is one of Guatemala’s most accessible active volcanoes. Its upper reaches feature lava formations formed by recent flows, as well as vents that puff up steaming hot air, while its summit affords spectacular views of nearby volcanoes including Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego.More
#3
Volcán San Pedro

Volcán San Pedro

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Looming above the shores of Lake Atitlan and the village of San Pedro La Laguna, Volcán San Pedro is one of the region’s most accessible for volcano trekking. The views from the top make it well worth the effort of getting there.Two routes lead to the volcano’s summit 9,908 feet (3,020 meters) above sea level. Both are strenuous, mostly uphill climbs through corn fields and coffee plantations, oak and pine forests. The volcanic soil coating the dormant peak is rich in nutrients, so many Guatemalans grow their crops along the volcanic foothills.More
#4
National Palace

National Palace

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This stoic structure in the heart of Guatemala’s capital city was built in 1939 entirely by local hands and using only local materials. As a result, the National Palace offers up an homage to Guatemalan heritage and is ranks tops among the buildings prized by locals. Its green-tinged exterior is a nod to the favorite color of the former dictator’s wife, and the result of concrete and copper used to cover the exterior to avoid painting. As a result, it’s affectionately known by some locals as 'The Big Guacamole.'An impressive bronze plate at the entrance to the Palace marks a spot known as 'Kilometer 0.' According to residents, this is the official starting point of all roads in Guatemala. Travelers will find a beautiful courtyard at the center of the five-story building, which is surrounded by five archways on every side. A touching Monument to Peace is located in the center of the palace to commemorate the end to the nation’s most recent civil war. Because the National Palace is also home to a national museum, travelers will find unique and historically significant artifacts like the first switchboard and hand painted murals depicting scenes from the nation’s past. Be sure to check out the stained-glass windows along the presidential balcony and the palace salon, used only for ceremonial events.More
#5
Plaza de la Constitución (Parque Central)

Plaza de la Constitución (Parque Central)

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Located in the Centro Historico (Zona 1) district of Guatemala City, the Plaza de la Constitución (Parque Central), is considered the best place to kick off a tour of Guatemala City. (You can translate the names as Constitution Square, Constitution Plaza, or Central Park.)A number of important sites are located around and the Parque Central, as locals refer to it, which follows the standard colonial urban-planning scheme found in the New World. The plaza's concrete “park” is always bustling with activity, especially on public holidays and Sundays. Plaza de la Constitución is also surrounded by important structures like the National Plaza of Culture, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the underground Central Market, the Portal of Commerce and Centenarian Park. The National Library and Periodicals Library and General Archive of Central America are found here too.Near the Parque Central is the pedestrian-only area of Paseo Sexta Avenida (Sixth Avenue Passage), a beloved shopping and entertainment area that is a great introduction to Guatemalan culture and habits.More
#6
Acatenango

Acatenango

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Guatemala’s Pacaya is one of the most popular volcanoes to visit, but travelers shouldn't skip its neighbor, Acatenango. Towering nearly 13,123 feet (4,000 meters), it is Guatemala’s third-tallest volcano and one of the tallest stratovolcanoes in Central America.Acatenango’s first eruption was in 1924 —relatively recent in comparison to many other volcanoes—though some evidence of its volcanic activity dates back to prehistoric times. Other eruptions occurred shortly after, but it then remained quiet until an eruption in 1972. Since then, Acatenango has been declared dormant.Acatenango is part of the Fuego-Acatenango massif, or string of volcanic vents, which includes Yepocapa, Pico Mayor de Acatenango, Meseta and Fuego. Acatenango has two main summits: Yepocapa, the northern summit at 12,565 feet (3,830 meters) and Pico Mayor, the southern and highest cone at 13,054 feet (3,976 meters). These are known as Tres Hermanas, and when joined with Fuego, the complex is collectively known as La Horqueta.Both Acatenango and its twin, Fuego, offer stunning views overlooking the city of Antigua. Ascending Acatenango takes visitors through four different temperate zones — high farmland, cloud forest, high-alpine forest and volcanic. Acatenango is the perfect spot to watch Fuego’s regular activity, which includes audible moans and groans, plumes of smoke and large lava rocks hurling into the air.More
#7
El Mirador

El Mirador

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An ancient urban center that flourished almost a thousand years before Tikal had constructed its first pyramid, El Mirador once had a population of close to 100,000 in 600 BC, making it one of the first megacities in the Americas. When it was excavated 30 years ago, the findings basically rewrote what was considered early Maya history.More
#8
La Aurora Zoo (Zoólogico la Aurora)

La Aurora Zoo (Zoólogico la Aurora)

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One of the best-maintained zoos of Central Asia, the La Aurora Zoo is located next to Guatemala City’s International Airport. Established in 1924, the zoo also houses the relics of an ancient viaduct. This zoo has three distinct areas- African, Asian and American where animals from the respective continents can be found.More
#9
Yaxhá

Yaxhá

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Yaxhá was founded circa 800 BC along the shores of Laguna Yaxhá, and was home to more than 40,000 people at its peak, around AD 250. Though overshadowed by Tikal, this ancient city is Guatemala’s third largest archaeological site. And since it’s less visited than its famous sibling, Yaxhá offers a peaceful, introspective experience—especially for birders and Maya aficionados.More
#10
Santo Tomas Church (Iglesia de Santo Tomás)

Santo Tomas Church (Iglesia de Santo Tomás)

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Built during the 1540s upon the ancient foundation of a Maya temple site, Santo Tomas Church (Iglesia de Santo Tomás) is a Roman Catholic church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. It remains a venerated holy site for people of both Catholic and Maya faiths and blends of the two. The stone stairs leading to the gleaming white Dominican church are reminiscent of those at ancient temple sites, and the steps have turned black from prayer sessions in which shamans waft copal incense and set purification fires. Inside, the church is adorned with offerings, everything from maize to liquor, and numerous candles, which have colors and patterns that correspond with those they've been lit for.More

Recent reviews from experiences in Guatemala

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A Nice Outing to the Volcano
Ben, Jul 2021
Pacaya Volcano Tour
The guide, Fausto, was friendly and spoke English.
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Wonderful Class
ChristinaP, Jul 2021
Guatemalan Cooking Class and Market Tour
We were able to see parts of the market we had missed and may not have checked out otherwise.
star-4
Good once in a lifetime trip
Keith_J, Jun 2021
Full Day at Lake Atitlan & Cultural Towns + Breakfast, Collective Tour
Great tour to see the Atitlan lake and some of the surrounding towns.
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Enjoyable Day Trip with Gustavo
Bobby_T, Jun 2021
Guatemala City Tour
Because we were a small group, he gave us a lot of latitude to create our own tour, allowing us to choose places we wanted to visit or stop at a pub to have a beverage.
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Book this tour! It will exceed your expectations :)
Nadine_B, Feb 2021
Lake Atitlán Sightseeing Cruise with Transport from Guatemala City
Activities included participating in a Mayan basket weaving activity, touring a local art gallery, visiting a coffee-bean plantation, and just cruising/shopping around the small village.
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Excellent Adventure
Robert_M, Feb 2020
Overnight Volcano Acatenango Hiking Adventure
This is one of the best activities you can do in Guatemala.
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Best Day Tour Ever
anniverysary2015, Nov 2019
Guatemala City Complete Day Private Tour
Esteban knows all the special places to visit .
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Well organised, knowledgeable guide
rvm975, May 2019
Iximché Ruins and Antigua City Tour
Excellent English, entry fees for attractions were included.
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Really great trip
KevinRaos, May 2019
Tikal Day Trip by Air from Antigua with Lunch
The guides were good and spoke English and Spanish.
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This trip was the highlight of our...
Nina J, Feb 2018
Tikal Day Trip by Air from Antigua with Lunch
I would highly recommend going to see Tikal if in Guatemala.
star-5
This is a great trip that hits all...
Rebecca O, Mar 2018
Tikal Day Trip by Air from Guatemala City with Lunch
This a truly exceptional option for someone that does not have many days in Guatemala but wants to see Tikal.
star-4
The tour guide was great and van was...
Brett C, Oct 2017
Guatemala City Afternoon Sightseeing Tour
The only difficulty was that we were with a Spanish speaking couple so everything was said in both english and Spanish back and forth the whole time.
star-4
Juan-Pablo was a great tour guide...
malich.jakub, Nov 2017
Private Tour: Guatemala City Morning or Afternoon Tour
Honestly speaking, there is not too much to see in Guatemala City, but this short tour is a great first-day orientation.
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For me, the main attractions were...
Sandor B, Nov 2017
Pacaya Volcano Day Trip from Guatemala City
For me, the main attractions were the view from Pacaya that included the Fuego Volcano producing a small eruption roughly about every half an hour, the Laguna de Calderas, and Guatemala City.
star-5
I loved my visit to Guatemala...
Pamela S, Nov 2016
8-Day Best of Guatemala Tour: Antigua, Pacaya Volcano, Lake Atitlan and Tikal Ruins
They provided ample time to visit the mayan ruins and the accommodations were great!
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Fantastic tour with very friendly...
Thomas F, Sep 2015
Private Tour: Lake Atitlan Boat Tour and Santiago Village from Guatemala City
Tour guide spoke perfect English and had lots of interesting information about Guatemala.
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This was a fantastic tour. Our guide...
JEDADIAH J, May 2014
Tikal Day Trip by Air from Guatemala City with Lunch
Our guide Manuel spoke English very well.
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Loved it!
chillychelc, Jan 2021
Visit Hobbitenango Themed Park + Antigua Guatemala
The only downfall was the weight for the hobbitenango excursion makes the trip there pointless as you wait for an hour for a short time left to actually enjoy the place, not sure how this could be fixed as it’s out of the tour guides control but overall a very eventful tour.
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Wonderful Experience
Felecia_C, Feb 2020
Pacaya Volcano Tour and Hot Springs from Antigua
Plus the lunch was good at the Hot Springs Spa.
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Amazing Personal Tour
J_H, Feb 2020
Coffee Tour & Local Villages Tour in Antigua Guatemala
By the time we reached the chocolate factory, the workers had gone home so we didn’t get to see the process, but we did taste the different varieties of chocolate they had.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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