Tours, Activities, and Day Trips in Guatemala
Guatemala, a Central American country south of Mexico, is home to volcanoes, rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. Mysterious and often challenging, Central America's most diverse country offers landscapes and experiences that have been captivating travelers for centuries.
From Antigua's ruins to the stately cathedral in Guatemala City's central plaza, there are plenty of opportunities to get snap-happy. The capital, Guatemala City, features the stately National Palace of Culture and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Antigua, west of the capital, contains preserved Spanish colonial buildings. Antigua is often regarded as the travelers hub, a crumbling, picture-perfect Central American town ringed by volcanoes. From here you can take a hike up Volcano Pacaya, take a bus to the bustling market of Chichicastenango, or simply sip some coffee in a street-side cafe and watch the world go by.
Lake Atitlan, formed in a massive volcanic crater, is surrounded by coffee fields and villages. In even the smallest towns you can find picturesque buildings - the small coastal town of Retalhuleu, for instance, has a charming central plaza - while larger coffee-boom towns such as Coban and Quetzaltenango maintain vestiges of their glory days in their cathedrals, town halls and other public buildings.
Flores in Guatemala's wild north is a tourist friendly island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza. From here you can take a bus ride to one of best preserved Mayan ruins in the world, Tikal. Howler monkeys and dense jungle make walking around the ruins an adventure in itself.
Semuc Champey, Lanquin, near Coban, Alta Verapaz. Semuc Champey is a cascade of turquoise limestone pools created by the river plunging below ground for a stretch before rushing back out through a spectacular waterfall. Definitely worth making the trip to Lanquin for as well as the beautiful lodges that have sprung up from the captivating hilly landscape.
The Rio Dulce is a majestic emerald river, sandwiched between Belize & Honduras, which sweeps out to the Caribbean. The Rio Dulce area consists of two towns on either side of one of the largest bridges in Central America, Fronteras & El Relleno. Rio Dulce is a haven for Sailors and Backpackers alike, with plenty to do and to see. Finca Paraiso is a hot springs waterfall which is like having a spa day in the jungle; Castillo San Felipe de Lara is a historical fort site and an inexpensive way to spend the afternoon touring the castle and swimming in Lake Izabal. The many species of Birds & Animals makes Rio Dulce a great spot for birdwatchers, animal lovers, and fishing fans.
Maya culture and ruins are the key attractions in the country. If you're interested in archaeology, the must-see sites include El Mirdor Tikal, Copan (in Honduras), and Guatemala City's superb selection of museums. Living Maya culture can be witnessed in its 'pure' form in towns such as Rabinal and sacred sites such as Laguna Chicabal. And you can even find the Maya themselves almost everywhere. But the most traditional villages are in the highlands - the Ixil Triangle is a good place to start.
Adventure awaits in Guatemala for thrill seekers. Active souls tend to find their agenda very full once they get to Guatemala. Stunning trekking routes through the jungles and up volcanoes, world-class white-water rafting, miles of caves to explore, and what seems like a zip line strung between every two trees in the country are just the beginning. Like to take things up a notch? How about paragliding into a volcanic crater at Lago de Atitlan? Or scuba diving in the same place? You might even luck onto some good swell on the Pacific coast. Or you could just find a hammock and languidly consider your options. Your options are limitless.
Wherever you go in the country, make sure to have your camera ready. With not even 2% of its landmass urbanized, it's not surprising that Guatemala offers some superb natural scenery. National parks are few but impressive, particularly in the Peten region, and the lush canyons of the Rio Dulce make for an unforgettable boat ride. The natural beauty of the volcano-ringed Lago de Atitlan has been captivating travelers for centuries, while the Verapaces are riddled with more caves than a spelunker could explore in a lifetime, and the swimming hole that launched a thousand postcards, Semuc Champey, just has to be seen to be believed. Guatemala has several volcanoes, many of which are over 3,000 meters high and all of which make amazing scenic landscapes. There's so much to see and do here that whatever you choose to do, you're sure to have the time of your life and make memories you'll never forget.