Mayan Temples of Gran Plaza at Tikal National Park, Guatemala

Things to do in  Guatemala

Where cultures collide

Once the epicenter of the Maya civilization, Guatemala with its culture, cuisine, festivals, and landscapes—from colorful villages around Lake Atitlan to the towering jungle-claimed temples of Tikal in the tropical north—is still steeped in rich history and tradition. While some of the best things to do in Guatemala focus more on its natural wonders—including camping under the stars on an active volcano or candle-lit water cave tours in Semuc Champey—there’s plenty of cosmopolitan charm to soak up, too, especially around Antigua and Flores.

Top 15 attractions in Guatemala

Acatenango

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The 13,045-foot (3,976-meter Acatenango volcano towers over the colonial city of Antigua. While many travelers opt for the more-gentle ascent of the Pacaya Volcano, this twin-peaked volcano offers incredible views of its nearest volcanic neighbor, Fuego, which regularly spits out plumes of gas, ash, and hot lava. More

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

National Palace

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Situated in the heart of Guatemala City, the National Palace (Palacio Nacional de la Cultura) showcases the country's rich political past and cultural heritage. With its stunning neoclassical facade, impressive interiors, and earthquake-resistant foundation, the grand building stands as a testament to the nation's history and fortitude.More

Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)

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Cerro de la Cruz is a lush hill on the northern edge of Antigua marked by a massive stone cross. From a scenic overlook, enjoy expansive views of the city’s grid of pretty terracotta rooftops laid out at the base of the magnificent Volcán de Agua.More

Plaza de la Constitución (Parque Central)

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Guatemala City’s huge central plaza is a hive of activity, with people and pigeons milling about. Surrounded by important historical buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana and the National Palace, the square is the focal point of the city, and is frequently the setting for demonstrations and celebrations.More

Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

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Overlooking Plaza de la Constitución in the center of Guatemala City is the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral. Though several devastating earthquakes have rambled through the city, the blue-domed Neoclassical-Baroque structure stands strong as the city’s main house of worship. Pass through the 12-pillar entrance to admire the massive interior, austere though wonderfully embellished with religious paintings, carvings, and sparkling gold altars.More

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

Santa Catalina Arch (Arco de Santa Catalina)

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One of Antigua’s most photographed structures, the saffron-coloredxa0 Santa Catalina Arch was built in 1694 to connect two convents to a school outside their confines, to protect them from entering the outside world on their way to teach there. Safe from breaking their vow of seclusion, they passed through a hidden passageway inside the arch.More

La Merced Church (Iglesia de la Merced)

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Canary yellow with white trim, the baroque La Merced Church (Iglesia de la Merced) is one of Antigua’s few colonial churches to survive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Inside its thick walls are notable artworks such as a sculpture of Jesus carrying a golden cross, which is paraded through the streets on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.More

Antigua Central Park (Parque Central)

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Antigua Central Park (Parque Central) is considered one of the most beautiful parks in Guatemala. It’s the main outdoor area in town and where people go to sit, stroll, or meet up for an afternoon of relaxation and nice weather. From Central Park you have a superb view of the Agua Volcano, which towers over Antigua.More

Tikal National Park (Parque Nacional Tikal)

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Once a powerful seat of the Mayan empire, the Tikal ruins are now the most famous archeological site in Guatemala and one of the most-visited sets of Mayan ruins in all of Latin America. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of temples, plazas, and pyramids, was first settled around 700 BC, and modern visitors still get swept away by their beauty and powerful aura.More

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

Jade Factory and Museum (Jade Maya)

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This small museum is devoted to jade, the precious green gemstone that has been mined and revered in Mesoamerica since ancient times. Exhibits provide information on ancient mining of the mineral and include pre-Hispanic jade pieces. It also encompasses a workshop where jade jewelry and decorative objects are created and sold.More

Volcán San Pedro

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Casting its imposing shadow over the western shoreline of Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlán, this dormant 9,908-foot (3,020-meter volcano beckons adventure-hungry travelers. The volcano is one of the most accessible in the region, with the route up to its summit leading through corn fields, coffee plantations, and cloud forests.More

Mixco Viejo

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Set on an elevated ravine-surrounded site, this Maya city was built with defense in mind, with its inhabitants—the Chajoma people—having battled against neighboring Maya groups before finally succumbing to Spanish forces. As well as being of historical interest, Mixco Viejo also offers spectacular views of the surrounding valleys.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Guatemala

Private Shuttle in Guatemala

Private Shuttle in Guatemala

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$15.00
Antigua ATV Sunset Tour

Antigua ATV Sunset Tour

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$65.00
Antigua ATV Coffee Tour

Antigua ATV Coffee Tour

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$50.00
Lake Atitlan Day Tour From Antigua
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Antigua ATV Mountain Adventure

Antigua ATV Mountain Adventure

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$69.00
Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Workshop in ChocoMuseo Antigua
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The Antigua Foodie Tour

The Antigua Foodie Tour

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$130.00
Tikal From Guatemala

Tikal From Guatemala

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$397.97
Guatemala City Tour

Guatemala City Tour

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$60.00
Carve your own jade piece in Antigua!
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All about Guatemala

When to visit

Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Guatemala is a warm, welcoming country to visit year-round, although there are two distinct seasons: the wet and the dry. Most travelers visit between November’s All Saint’s Day and Easter, with Holy Week one of the most popular times of year to visit, along with Christmas and New Year’s. July and August are also popular with travelers looking to catch the sun before the heavier rains come in September and October.

Getting around

Buses are a great way to get around Guatemala, with both the colorful local chicken bus (United States school buses that used to commonly transport farm animals and now carry people) and comfortable tourist shuttles running regular routes around the country.

Taxis and private cars (with drivers) are also good options, as are multi-day tours that include transportation so you can focus on having fun. Travelers who are visiting Tikal National Park can also fly from Guatemala City to Flores to save time—it’s a 45-minute flight as opposed to a 9-plus hour drive.

Traveler tips

Guatemala’s Mayan culture runs deep, and it’s merged with colonial influences to create a Maya-Catholic fusion. Festival highlights include Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Antigua and in Santiago Atitlán, where an effigy of the chain-smoking, womanizing Maximón is paraded through the streets. Others not-to-miss include All Saints’ Day, celebrated with Drunken Horse Racing (Skach Koyl) in Huehuetenango, the Kite Festival in Santiago Sacatepéquez, and December’s Fiesta de Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango.

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People Also Ask

What is Guatemala known for?

This vibrant Central American country is known for its volcanoes, Maya ruins, coffee, and colonial architecture. With an abundance of historical and natural attractions, there are plenty of things to do in Guatemala that everyone can enjoy. Major tourist destinations, like Lake Atitlán, Antigua, Tikal, and Flores, are easily accessible by organized tours.

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What is the most visited place in Guatemala?

Antigua is Guatemala’s most popular tourist destination. Just a 1-hour shuttle ride from La Aurora International Airport, the colonial city is also a great starting point for day trips to Chichicastenango Market, Pacaya Volcano, and Lake Atitlán. Travelers with more than a few days in Guatemala often visit Semuc Champey, Tikal, or Quetzaltenango (Xela).

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How many days do you need in Guatemala?

Budget at least one week of vacation time in Guatemala if you want to visit multiple cities, complete (and recover from) a multi-day trek, or explore the country’s many ruins. When creating your itinerary, keep in mind that, due to unpredictable traffic and construction, travel between cities can be time-consuming. Maximize your limited vacation time with organized tours.

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What activities do people in Guatemala do?

Budget at least one week of vacation time in Guatemala if you want to visit multiple cities, complete (and recover from) a multi-day trek, or explore the country’s many ruins. When creating your itinerary, keep in mind that, due to unpredictable traffic and construction, travel between cities can be time-consuming. Maximize your limited vacation time with organized tours.

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What food should I try in Guatemala?

Essential Guatemalan bites include tostadas Guatemaltecas and tamales wrapped in plantain leaves or corn husks, which are easily found on street corners throughout the country. Meat lovers must try caldo de res, a beef-based soup filled with vegetables, including chayote squash. Satisfy your sweet tooth with mole de plátano or atole de elote.

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Is Guatemala safe for visitors?

Yes, Guatemala is safe for visitors. While certain Guatemala City districts have high crime rates, you can feel at ease in tourist areas such as Tikal, Antigua, and Lake Atitlán. Still, it’s best to avoid traveling at night and displaying signs of wealth and to always remain aware of your surroundings.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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