Acatenango and Fuego volcano tops covered by clouds, Guatemala

Things to do in  Western Highlands

A cultural kaleidoscope

Vibrant indigenous culture, volcanic landscapes, and ancient traditions converge in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Nestled among the peaks and lush valleys of the Sierra Madre mountain range, this region is a hit with adventurers, culture enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike. The line-up of things to do in the Western Highlands includes browsing the colorful textiles of Chichicastenango Market; exploring the cloud forests of Quetzaltenango; and taking a rejuvenating dip in the Fuentes Georginas hot springs.

Top 8 attractions in Western Highlands

Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlán)

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

Volcán San Pedro

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

Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs

The Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs are a natural gem nestled in the heart of Guatemala’s Western Highlands. Known for their therapeutic waters, the hot springs offer a rejuvenating experience surrounded by lush tropical landscapes. They’re the perfect place to relax between hiking or sightseeing.More


With quaint valleys, red-roofed houses, and cobblestone lanes in the highlands of Guatemala, Chichicastenango is perhaps best known for its enormous Thursday and Sunday market. You’ll find handmade pottery, medicinal plants, machetes, traditional clothing, and other items that pay homage to the area’s rich culture.More

Atitlan Nature Reserve (Reserva Natural Atitlán)

The Atitlan Nature Reserve (Reserva Natural Atitlan) is situated on Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan in the tiny village of Panajachel. Between its diverse wildlife, spectacular natural scenery, and outdoor activity opportunities, the enchanting reserve presents an immersive experience for families, nature enthusiasts, and adventure seekers alike.More

Xocomil Water Park (Parque Acuático Xocomil)

Xocomil Water Park is the largest and most visited water park in Guatemala, and is designed around the recreation of a Mayan pyramid. The world-class, award-winning park has 14 different water slides, four pools and two wave pools, one for adults, and one designed for children.More

Xetulul Theme Park (Gran Parque de Diversiones Xetulul)

Tucked away in the northeastern department of Retalhuleu, the award-winning Xetulul Theme Park is the third largest amusement park in Latin America, featuring roller coasters, an enormous waterpark, a spa and a clutch of luxury hotels. One of the most visited tourist sites of Guatemala, the park welcomes over one million visitors annually.More

Santo Tomas Church (Iglesia de Santo Tomás)

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

All about Western Highlands

When to visit

Experience the Western Highlands in its full glory during the dry season from November through April. This period offers pleasant weather, clear skies, and ideal conditions for outdoor activities and cultural celebrations. For fewer crowds and lush landscapes, consider visiting during the rainy season from May to October. If you prefer to witness traditional ceremonies, plan your visit during major festivals such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) in April or the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in November.

Getting around

Because of road conditions, getting around the Western Highlands can be time-consuming—but it’s always well worth the scenic journey. “Chicken buses” are the primary mode of transportation for locals. These colorful buses provide an authentic and affordable way to travel between towns. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your belongings. Alternatively, private shuttles and taxis are available between major tourist destinations for added convenience, comfort, and security.

Traveler tips

During your adventure in the Western Highlands, don’t miss the opportunity to engage with the local Mayan communities. You can participate in workshops or cultural exchanges to learn about traditional weaving techniques, pottery making, coffee harvesting, or cooking methods. If possible, experience a traditional Mayan ceremony, like fire cleansing, at Lake Atitlan. These rituals and spiritual practices offer an immersive glimpse into the region’s indigenous cultures.


People Also Ask

Is it safe to travel to the Western Highlands of Guatemala?

Yes, the Western Highlands of Guatemala are generally safe for travelers. However, it is advisable to take common safety precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings, avoiding isolated areas at night, and keeping your belongings secure. Speak to locals, tour guides, and hotel staff for city-specific safety tips.

What is the weather like in the Western Highlands of Guatemala?

The Western Highlands have a mild climate throughout the year, with cool evenings and pleasant daytime temperatures. However, it's important to note that temperatures can vary depending on the altitude, so it's advisable to pack a few warm layers and have a refillable water bottle on hand.

What are the top attractions in the Western Highlands of Guatemala?

The Western Highlands of Guatemala boast a wealth of attractions to satisfy any traveler. Natural attractions include Lake Atitlan, the natural hot springs at Fuentes Georginas, and the sacred Chicabal Lake. For a taste of the vibrant Maya culture, there’s the Chichicastenango Market and the quaint city of Quetzaltenango (Xela).

Is Lake Atitlan worth visiting?

Yes, absolutely. Lake Atitlan is perhaps the most popular attraction in the Western Highlands and for good reason. Its deep blue waters, surrounded by volcanoes and vibrant indigenous communities, are serene and perfect for swimming. Stay in a lakefront village such as San Marcos, Panajachel, or San Pedro for a relaxing experience.

How many days do I need to explore the Western Highlands?

To fully appreciate the Western Highlands of Guatemala, it’s recommended to spend at least 5-7 days in the region. This allows time to visit different towns, hike a volcano or two, and immerse yourself in Maya culture. When planning, take into account that travel time between destinations can be unpredictable.

Can I climb the volcanoes in the Western Highlands?

Yes, you can climb several volcanoes in the Western Highlands’ Sierra Madre mountain range. The Santa Maria, Cerro Quemado, and San Pedro volcanoes are popular choices for treks of varying difficulty levels, and let you witness panoramic views from their summits. Many travelers take a guided hiking tour to ensure an enriching, secure, and stress-free experience.

Frequently Asked Questions
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