The 10 Must-See Tourist Destinations of Guatemala

Guatemala the country of eternal spring, heart of the Mayan world, but where is this heavenly destiny? Many people reading this will not know if it is an island in the Pacific or some country in Africa, but the reality is different, this beautiful country is located in the geographic region within the American continent called Central America between North and South America. Guatemala is a small country (with only 108,889 km² of surface area and an approximate population of 17, 358,245 Guatemalans) but do not be fooled by its small size, Guatemala has an exuberant natural, cultural and gastronomic beauty. Guatemala has very well earned the slogan: The country of eternal spring, due to its privileged geographical position, since it is located in a tropical zone of the planet, in the capital city (Guatemala City) the average temperature during the year is 60 ° F, Guatemala has the peculiarity of having diverse climates throughout the country, from beautiful beaches with black and white sand, magical tropical jungles and brimming with life, beautiful mountainous forests, imposing colonial constructions that resist the passing of the time, volcanoes that you can ascend and camp, to Mayan temples with centuries of history, delicious food with sacred character that you can taste and much more.
The Top Ten
1 Sipacate

If you love the sea, heat, and surf, you should visit Sipacate, the place par excellence for surfing on the Guatemalan Pacific coasts.

Located 140 km from the capital city, in the department of Escuintla, the municipality of Sipacate has beautiful black sand beaches. Do not think the sand is dirty. It is black because it is of volcanic origin. Here, you will see incredible waves, and the way the sea water mixes with the sand creates a wonderful landscape worthy of a postcard.

Among the activities you can do when visiting Sipacate are:

- Fishing offshore with a net (as the locals do).

- Strolling along the beach, feeling how the sand mixes with your feet (be careful if you have sensitivity to heat, because the sand will be hot).

- Sailing in a boat through the Chiquimulilla channel. Crossing this beautiful artificial channel, you will be able to appreciate the mangrove forests and enjoy the blue waters of this wonderful natural panorama.

- Surfing. If you are adventurous and you like adrenaline, Sipacate is the best beach in the Guatemalan Pacific Ocean to practice this sport. Its huge waves will leave you impressed.

- Practicing sport fishing. One of the best sailfish mantles is in Sipacate. You will appreciate these impressive fishes in their entire splendor. Do it while respecting them and Mother Nature.

2 Almolonga

We leave the south of the country, its beaches, and its heat to travel to the west. The landscape has changed to mountainous forests and a much colder climate. If you love macro-vegetables and 100% organic food, Almolonga will be your Eden's garden.

Located 200 km from the capital city, in the department of Quetzaltenango, the municipality of Almolonga is also known as the Hortaliza de America. This is not an exaggeration because, due to the fertility of its soils, you can find carrots up to 12 inches and more (this is a monster-carrot), and cabbages 6.5 inches in diameter, like the huge beets.

When you get to Almolonga, you can:

- Visit the market of Almolonga. Let yourself be impressed by the enormous vegetables, bewitched by the smell of freshly harvested vegetables and fresh fruits.

- Inspect the crops and see how everything is grown in an artisanal and organic way.

- Visit the Almolonga Volcano or Cerro Quemado. It is one of the 288 volcanoes that exist in the country. This is a religious center where the locals make requests and prayers to God. The view is incredible. You can see all the plots while ascending and contemplating the walls of volcanic stone sculpted for thousands of years by Mother Earth.

3 Castillo de San Felipe de Lara

In the eastern part towards the Guatemalan Atlantic, we return to the heat, but this time from the Caribbean. Located at the mouth of the Rio Dulce with Lake Izabal, in the village of Río Dulce, municipality of Livingston, department of Izabal, 215 km from the capital city, is this fortification of the Spanish colonial period in Guatemala.

At the time it was built, it had three functions: being a military fort, a prison for pirates, and a customs center. The most emblematic construction inside the castle is the Bustamante Tower. It contains 17 iron cannons and 2 bronze cannons.

In the Castillo De San Felipe De Lara, you can:

• Take a boat tour through the Castillo De San Felipe De Lara for GTQ 50 (approximately US $7).
• Enter the Castillo de San Felipe for tourists for GTQ 50 (approximately US $7), a very economical price for the fortified beauty you will visit.

4 Antigua Guatemala

Time has stopped. The facades of the houses have adopted a Spanish colonial style, the roads are made of stone, and buildings with a Spanish colonial touch populate the landscape. We have arrived in Antigua Guatemala, a place where Guatemalan legends of yesteryear come to life.

Only 39 km from the city of Guatemala, in the municipality of Antigua Guatemala, in the department of Sacatepéquez, you will be welcomed by the three imposing guardians when you arrive in the city. These guardians are the three volcanoes that crown the beautiful landscape: El Volcan de Agua, El Volcan de Fuego, and the Acatenango Volcano. Your vehicle will start jumping, but do not be scared. It's the cobblestone streets of the colonial city welcoming you. Magic reigns in Antigua Guatemala, transporting you to the colonial past of the country. It is such an emblematic place that you can get lost just by observing the details of a door carved in wood with wrought iron.

Antigua Guatemala offers many activities, from observing the famous processions during Holy Week to enjoying the nightlife in the many nightclubs that the city offers. Here is a list of some of the many activities you can do when visiting this emblematic place:

- Ascend to El Cerro De La Cruz. When you reach the top of the hill, your altitude will allow you to visualize all the splendor of the city, leaving you breathless.

- Visit the many museums that are distributed throughout the city.

- Drink a cup of locally produced coffee, or as it is popularly known, café antigüeño. You can do this in the many cafes distributed around the city. Do not forget to order your champurrada - a kind of baked cookie popularly consumed in Guatemala to accompany coffee. It is said that if you do not drink coffee with a champurrada in Antigua Guatemala, you did not truly experience Antigua Guatemala.

- Go out to enjoy the nightlife. Antigua Guatemala is very famous for its nightlife. You will find... more

5 Grutas del Rey Marcos

The magic of the Mayan worldview begins to take hold of us. Now we are in the northwestern part of the country, where cloud forests, pines, and quetzals take over the landscape. We have started the journey to the bowels of the earth.

Located 225 km from the city of Guatemala, in the municipality of San Juan Chamelco, in the department of Alta Verapaz, the aroma of pine forests is totally seductive. The scent of the beloved land is breathed in and reaches deep into our souls.

The adventure begins at the Cecilinda Spa. The entrance costs GTQ 50 (approximately US $7), where you can start the journey in the rainforest, crossing bridges and waterfalls, and increasingly entering the hill.

Remember to maintain respect when entering the caves, as this is a ceremonial and sacred place for the residents of the area. On the tour, they will give you a kit with a protective helmet, a light in the helmet, and boots that will help you not to slip inside the grottos. The experience will be totally magical. You will be able to observe inside the grottos formations as curious as the cup of the World Cup, the Virgin Mary, and many more. These were capriciously sculpted by Gea and the water that runs inside them for thousands of years. The admission per person has a cost of GTQ 60 (approximately US $8.50).

6 Monterrico

Another beautiful black sand beach is Monterrico, where everything will be peace, tranquility, and beauty.

Located 131 km from the capital city, in the department of Santa Rosa, Monterrico offers tranquility and beauty that's perfect to enjoy with a beer, alone, as a couple, or with many friends. It's a beautiful and paradisiacal place where you can detoxify yourself from the smog, stress, routine, and bustle of the city. Among the activities you can do in Monterrico are:

• Rent a house on the edge of the beach and enjoy the waves, the heat, and the sand together with your loved ones.
• Explore the Chiquimulilla channel. If you go by car, you can rent a ferry for GTQ 40 (approximately US $5.45), a very accessible price. This way, your car will temporarily become your personal boat.
• Observe and delight in the mangroves. This is part of the adventure you will experience when navigating the Chiquimulilla channel. They are beautiful and imposing, homes to hundreds of marine species, animals, and plants. When you see them, you will have the impression that they float in the water.

7 Fuentes Georginas

More to the west of the country, we find the department of Quetzaltenango. The predominant landscape invites us to imagine that we are in a land of goblins, elves, and fairies.

Located 220 km from the city of Guatemala in the municipality of Zunil, the Quetzaltenango department is home to this wonderful place of thermal and sulfuric springs. These miraculous waters are credited with healing powers, and you can even heat boiled eggs (impressively, you can take a healing bath while you eat). The name of the springs is in honor of the former President of the Republic of Guatemala, General Jorge Ubico.

The pools of natural origin total seven. At the top, you will find five, and two more on the ecological trail. You can rest in one of the nine cabins equipped with a private bathroom, two double beds, a small pool inside the cabin with thermal water, a fireplace, and wood for the night. Energy is limited, and the service is provided until 9:00 pm, but do not worry, you can relax with your partner in the light and heat of the fire in the fireplace.

The cost of admission to the Georginas springs is GTQ 50 (approximately US $7), and the cost of lodging within the cabins per night per person is GTQ 190 (approximately US $26).

We have reached the midpoint of our top 10 must-see tourist destinations of Guatemala. If these places have impressed you, read on because the remaining four will astound you.

8 Semuc Champey

If you love magical wooded places and beautiful pools of green water, this is your destination par excellence.

Located 300 km from the city of Guatemala, in the municipality of Lanquín, belonging to the department of Alta Verapaz, these natural pools are monuments to creation and nature. The Cahabón River passes through and feeds the natural landscape. It is a subtropical forest with enormous ecological wealth. The name of Semuc Champey means: where the river hides under the stones.

When you arrive, you will notice the beautiful green color of its waters. Do not think it is due to pollution, it does not exist here. The reason for the green color is due to the fact that its waters are rich in calcium bicarbonate which, when heated, produces calcium carbonate in the form of calcareous tuff. In the calcium carbonate crystals, microorganisms that live in the water adhere, which little by little become small micro crystals. These in turn produce a refractive effect that gives it that green color so characteristic of the place.

The cost to enter the national reserve is GTQ 50 (approximately US $7). We highly recommend it.

9 Tikal

We leave behind the magic of the colonial city to advance to the northern part of the country, to the emblematic jungle of Guatemala where you can become an explorer in the style of Indiana Jones.

The distance that separates Tikal from the city of Guatemala is 530 km. The Tikal National Park is located in the municipality of Flores in the Petén department. In the middle of the Petenera jungle, you can hear the howler monkeys, colloquially known as Saraguates. If you hear strange cries when arriving, do not be scared; it's the way the Saraguates welcome you to their home.

The Tikal National Park is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Mayan civilization. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. The cost to enter the park is GTQ 150 (approximately US $21).

Here you can tour the entire Mayan megalopolis with its 16 km and its 3000 buildings. Do not forget to climb the Temple IV, also known as the Temple of the Bicephalous Serpent. It will be tiring, but it will be worth it to appreciate the wonderful green ocean of trees and tropical forest in which you find yourself submerged. We guarantee that the view will take your breath away and you will feel that you are flying through the forest.

If you visit Tikal at the winter solstice, you will appreciate the celebrations that take place in the main square. We recommend you wear comfortable footwear and mosquito repellent.

10 Panajachel

We have reached number one on this list. If you have arrived here, you are an adventurous explorer at heart.

Here you will find the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Atitlan. Panajachel (or Pana as it's colloquially known) is located 140 km from Guatemala City. It is a municipality that belongs to the department of Sololá and is jealously guarded by three volcanoes: San Pedro Volcano, Toliman Volcano, and the Atitlan Volcano. Lake Atitlan was nominated to be selected as part of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Panajachel hides under the lake of Atitlan, the Mayan Atlantis known as SAMABAJ. This was a Mayan settlement on an island that existed on "the most beautiful lake in the world," discovered in the year 1996, which makes it a unique place in Mesoamerica. It was submerged approximately 2000 years ago in mysterious conditions, almost like an apocalypse.

You can do many activities in this beautiful place. Some that we recommend are:

- Visit the local market in search of handicrafts.

- Drink a delicious coffee from Atitlan. It will have a very different flavor compared to the one you will have tasted in Antigua Guatemala. Do not forget to order your champurrada.

- Go out at night to see the nightlife of Pana.

- Sail on Lake Atitlan. You can see the majestic landscape along with the volcanoes. The cost varies, ranging from small boats to a cruise.

- Visit the public beach, Cerro de Oro.

- Go up the Central American Tower, where you will find a museum and local crafts made by the women of Sololá, plus a clock that has a bell that will sound every 15 minutes.

- If you are a mountaineer, you can climb the volcanoes that are around the lake. You will need to hire a local guide.

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