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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
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
#2
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
#3
Yaxhá

Yaxhá

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The third-largest archaeological site in Guatemala is not well known, overshadowed by the fame of neighboring Tikal. Archaeologists are only now sorting out the secrets of this city on the northern shore of Laguna Yaxhá, named “Blue-Green Water” for the lake’s unusual color. Founded around 800 BC atop a long, limestone ridge, the city was home to more than 40,000 people at its peak, around 250 AD.Yaxhá’s sophisticated builders left behind more than 500 structures, including nine temple pyramids, two ball courts, forty unusually carved stelae, and numerous causeways. Climb to the top of Temple 216 for remarkable views over the lakes and rivers. While the city must have become quite isolated during the Mayan civilization’s (and Tikal’s) collapse between 800 and 900 AD, it continued to function well into the 1500s.Today, Yaxhá is rarely visited, and therefore offers a peaceful and introspective experience of the Mayan world. Birders and wildlife watchers will especially appreciate the solitude, as well as the numerous crocodiles in the lake.More
#4
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
#5
La Aurora Zoo (Zoólogico la Aurora)

La Aurora Zoo (Zoólogico la Aurora)

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Considered to be one of the best zoos in Central America, La Aurora Zoo (Zoólogico la Aurora) opened in 1924. This small zoo offers four permanent exhibits: Africa, Asia, Granita and American.Not only does this zoo give visitors the chance to learn more about Guatemala’s animals, it also has a large collection of Central American creatures. Experience animals including giraffes, elephants, farm animals, lions, tigers, pythons, hippos and more.The zoo does a good job living up to its mission – to educate, conserve and rehabilitate animals. It even offers lectures and other programs daily.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
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
#8
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
#9
Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

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The Metropolitan Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Guatemala City, is the main church of Guatemala City. Located in the heart of town, the main portion of it was built between 1782 and 1815. About 50 years later, the towers were finished. The impressive baroque/neo-classical building with a blue dome is earthquake proof – it’s withstood numerous quakes (it was damaged by two earthquakes and repaired).Inside there is a collection of work which was originally from the Cathedral of Antigua Guatemalan. In addition, the altars are preserved and feature images of saints and other work from the Cathedral of Antigua Guatemala as well.Be sure to take a moment and pay respect to the tragic recent history of the country at the 12 pillars, located in front of the cathedral. These pillars were resurrected to pay tribute to the murders and disappearance of thousands of people during the civil war from 1960s through 1996.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

Top activities in Guatemala


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