When you think of visiting Guatemala, you probably envision climbing the Mayan pyramids of Tikal. Or you think about that robust Guatemalan coffee you drink at home and wonder what those plantations are like.
Or maybe you dream about perusing markets and shopping for gorgeous, woven, colorful fabrics. You might think about shopping, period and then sitting on a veranda or beach eating local cuisine, and who could blame you?
Oh, but there’s so much more. In fact, there are so many fabulous and unforgettable things to do in Guatemala that you might have a tough time choosing.
To help give you some ideas for your travels, we’ve put together 10 of our favorite fun things to do in Guatemala. Keep reading to see which things pop out at you, and then start planning your itinerary. You may have to go back because there’s so much going on in this little gem of a country.
1. Pyramids of Tikal
Also known as the ruins of Tikal, this UNESCO world heritage site offers an impressive look at the former Mayan empire. It’s the biggest of the Mayan ruins and you can even climb up on some of them. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll definitely recognize this spot and the jungle around it.
When traveling to a new spot like this that’s full of history, take a tour with a knowledgeable tour guide to get a good overview.
We also suggest local tours in general for their knowledge of local tales. These tours also allow you to go off the beaten path or travel in luxury, depending on what you want. If you want a recommendation for a great local Guatemalan tour, you can learn more here.
2. Semuc Champey Natural Pools
The ruins of Tikal may be the most well-known and visited of Guatemala’s treasures, but this is our favorite and the most stunning. It’s off the beaten path and hard to get to, so you’ll definitely want to check in with a local tour group.
Once there, you can relax as you behold and traipse through the most gorgeous turquoise pools you’ve ever seen. Take in the lush hills and enjoy your time in one of the most beautiful natural spots in the world.
3. Chichi Markets
Chichi is the nickname for the market town of Chichicastenango. It’s famous for it’s lively and colorful Mayan markets. This is when you get to shop, yes, you do.
The markets happen twice a week, and you’re sure to find those magical woven wonders you’ve been dreaming about. The town is quintessential Guatemala and as authentic as the craftsmanship of the wares in the market.
You may need to brush up on your Spanish, but it’ll be well worth it when you can ask for a taste of some local honey.
4. Acatanenango Volcano
This is a real, active volcano that you can climb it. Again, we recommend a local tour here. It’s a beautiful spot, but you will need to be careful.
5. Lake Atitlan
This lake is pure serenity. It’s in a volcanic crater between volcanoes.
Our favorite way to see this beauty is by kayak. The water tends to get choppy in the afternoon so we recommend a morning kayak. It’s always a safe bet to take a friend with you in case you run into problems.
6. Flores Island
Located on Lake Peten, this island town is a colorful architectural gem. All the buildings and houses are painted in bright colors.
It’s true to Guatemalan culture and a great place to relax. You can swim in the lake and dine by sunset in a picturesque town. It’s a perfect way to spend your final day in the country.
7. Serenity and Yoga in San Marcos
This small town on Lake Atitlan is a yogi’s dream. Enjoy yoga and meditation classes, along with longer retreats. The restaurants, shops, and markets are full of plenty of fresh and healthy food, including vegan and vegetarian choices.
It’s a nice place to get back in touch with a more serene, spiritual experience. San Marcos is the type of city that you’ll never want to leave.
8. Small-Town Lake Atitlan
Enjoy authentic Mayan culture in the smaller towns along Lake Atitlan. They’re off the beaten tourist path, so you won’t have to deal with a bunch of other tourists. We recommend San Jose, Santa Clara, and Santiago Atitlan.
There are some nice day hikes from these towns that you can enjoy between getting a taste of true Mayan life.
9. Pacaya Volcano
Get ready for something unique here. Make sure you bring a stick and a bag of marshmallows because you can actually roast them here on the fields of lava. If you don’t have any, don’t worry: the tours supply the sticks and the marshmallows.
You could bring some chocolate and graham crackers to surprise your guides and make S’mores, although you might save that for when you’re back home camping.
10. Las Grutas de Lanquín
The caves of Lanquin are a real treat and a true experience for the adventurer in you. It’s a series of caves filled with water that you go through holding a candle in one hand and a rope in the other.
The candle is so you can see, because it’s completely dark in there, and the rope is so you keep yourself afloat. You’ll go through with a guide and there will be other people, so you get more than one candle worth of light.
Mid-cave walk, you’ll come to a small cliff. You can stop and jump off into a refreshing and deep pool of water if you like.
Things to Do in Guatemala for Your Trip
Now that you know some of our favorite things to do in Guatemala, you can start planning your trip. Did any of these adventures or spots jump out at you? Start with those.
Put them in order of what looks most fun and interesting, and do more research if you’re not sure. Then get in as much as you can.
We recommend a local tour, especially if you want to make the trip something special. They’ll provide you with all the perks and luxuries you’re looking for.
Once you’re done planning your Guatemalan adventure, be sure to check out our blog for other amazing travel destinations for.