Guatemala, one of the least visited countries in Latin America, might not come to mind when you think of beautiful places around the world. It’s true. Guatemala doesn’t have the typical standard of beauty. There are no luxurious hotels, immaculate medieval buildings, or historic castles. However, if your definition of beauty is stunning natural landscapes, restored colonial buildings, and experiencing the heritage of a country, then Guatemala might just be the perfect destination for you. Below I’ve chosen 15 of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Guatemala…
1. Volcano Acatenango – of the most stunning places to explore in Guatemala
Hiking Volcano Acatenango is arguably the top thing to do in Guatemala, that is if you have the physical capabilities. The 2-day-1-night hike takes you to the peak of Volcano Acatenango at nearly 4000 meters above sea level, where you will have views of the lush regions of Guatemala. However, the thrill isn’t simply from summitting to the top.
The main reason why travelers hike Volcano Acatenango is to see Volcano Fuego, an active volcano that erupted regularly on the daily. Yes, you heard that right. ERUPT! When you are near the top of volcano Acatenango, you have unobstructed views of Volcano Fuego. Only a few kilometers away, you can see the lava spewing out from the crater and then rolling down its sides. Don’t worry if you can’t see it, you will certainly hear it loud and clear! Make sure you include some proper hiking gear on your Guatemala packing list, the Volcano Acatenango hike is no joke!
2. Flores – a beautiful and unique place to visit in Guatemala
Flores is one of the most visited towns in Guatemala and it is not difficult to see why. With only a small bridge connecting to the mainland, Flores feels like a tropical island. The beautiful Lake Peten Itza is the perfect spot to just go for a swim or lounge in the sun. When you are done enjoying the lake, stroll around the small island and admire the beautiful colonial-style buildings and dine on some yummy Guatemala cuisine. Better yet, try some of Guatemala street foods such as tamales and pupusas!
Up in the highlands of Guatemala, not only will you find majestic volcanoes, but a Hobbit-themed lodge called Hobbitenango. This totally out-of-place lodge features two hobbit holes where guests can spend the night, albeit a little pricey for Guatemala. If you do not wish to spend the night, visit on a day trip from Antigua. The lodging grounds are filled with areas to relax in, games such as archery and cornhole, and some of the best views in Guatemala.
4. La Esquina Antigua
To put it in simple terms, La Esquina is a food court in Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala.In a city filled with ruins and old cobblestone streets, stepping inside La Esquina is like stepping into a teleportation device. Immediately, you will notice the splashes of yellow, pink, and purple hues everywhere, artistic lights that belong in a pop-up in New York City, and much more.
The whole place is the perfect mixture of a food court, playground, and an artist’s studio. The food will certainly sweep you away if the artistic decor has not. If you are looking for the perfect Instagram photo in Guatemala, La Esquina is the place to visit.
5. Semuc Champey
Known for its turquoise pools nestled in the lush Guatemala jungles, Semuc Champey is stunning beyond comprehension. Though an 8-hour journey from both the touristy towns of Flores and Antigua, it is not stopping travelers from visiting this natural paradise.
Once you arrive at Semuc Champey, hike up to the nearby mountain for a stunning bird’s-eye view of the natural pools. Afterward, descend through the lush jungle to arrive at the numerous pristine pools. The refreshing water at Semuc Champey is the perfect escape from the scorching Guatemalan sun.
6. Lake Atitlan
Any list on the most beautiful places to visit in Guatemala would not be complete without mentioning Lake Atitlan, the massive volcanic crater lake surrounded by stunning peaks.
While Guatemala lacks any stunning beaches (sorry El Paredon), it makes up for it with Lake Atitlan. Water sport activities are undeniably the best things to do in Lake Atitlan, and the one you must do is village-hopping on a kayak! Lake Atitlan is home to 11 ethnic villages, all slightly different and filled with culture.
If you prefer to just relax, many high-end hotels are situated along the cliffs of the lake. They are the perfect place to chill out with a cocktail and admire the several volcanoes that surround the lake!
7. Tikal Mayan Ruins
The Tikal Mayan Ruins were once the beating heart of the Mayan civilization, dominating in wealth, trade, and power. After their mysterious disappearance, many of their empires were left to ruin, such as Tikal.
Nestled in the rainforest region of Guatemala, Tikal ruins look like they are straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. To fully admire its massive grounds and stunning temples, we highly recommend you to do a sunrise tour of Tikal Ruins. It allows you to enter the park before dawn, hike up to one of its magnificent temples, and enjoy a surreal sunrise!
Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is exactly what a historical town should look like. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and you will inevitably fall in love with the charming colonial houses, historic churches, and local street vendors. Antigua was Guatemala’s capital for over 200 years, but it was moved to Guatemala City after a series of devastating earthquakes in the 1700s. Many of its iconic structures can still be seen, such as the Arch of Santa Catalina and Iglesias de la Merced.
9. Chichicastenango Market
If beauty to you means heritage and culture, then you will find Chichicastenango one of the most stunning places in Guatemala. Chichicastenango is one of the biggest outdoor markets in Central America. Locals from the surrounding area bring their products here to sell on Sunday, and the place becomes a massive labyrinth. Here you will find traditional handicrafts, local produce, textiles, and things that you didn’t know you needed.
Stroll around and you will get a good grasp of traditional Guatemalan life, something that is becoming rarer and rarer.
10. Volcano Pacaya
Out of the numerous volcanoes in Guatemala, the Volcano Pacaya is one of the most unique. Near the top of the volcano, visitors are able to melt their own marshmallows using lava below the ground. If you bring some graham crackers and chocolate, you can make your own s’mores!
This active volcano won’t provide you with much of an eruption like Volcano Fuego, but you are able to get much closer to the summit. This unique experience includes a short 2-hour hike, where hikers are reward with beautiful views of the volcano and its surrounding landscapes.
11. Arco de Santa Catalina
Arco de Santa Catalina (Arch of Santa Catalina) is the most iconic landmark in Antigua, Guatemala. Originally built in the 17th century as a passageway for nuns, the Arco de Santa Catalina is now one of the most photographed locations in Antigua, Guatemala.
As the center for activity in Antigua, there isn’t ever a dull moment at the Arco de Santa Catalina. People from indigenous villages can be seen selling their handicrafts and produce near the arch, making the experience much more authentic.
12. Cerro de la Cruz
Every town needs a vantage point where the entirety of the town can be seen. Cerro de la Cruz is that place in Antigua. Located a short 15-minute walk from the center of town, the Cerro de la Cruz offers breathtaking views of Antigua and the surrounding region. On a cloudless day, visitors have the chance to see Volcano Agua in the distance, towering over the small city of Antigua.
13. Indian Nose
Indian Nose, one of the mountains surrounding Lake Atitlan, is the best viewpoint to see Lake Atitlan in its entirety. The vantage point allows the visitor to see the many villages that surround the lake and the 3 towering volcanoes in the distance. Though Indian Nose is a popular day hike, most visitors opt to do it for the mesmerizing sunrise.
As you hike towards the vantage point, you are alone with the bright stars and the mysterious moon. Once you reach the summit (only a 30-minute hike), the sun will slowly rise before you. Starting with the volcanoes, then the villages, one by one they will illuminate in front of your eyes. It is one of the most magical moments in Guatemala.
14. Laguna Chicabal
Laguna Chicabal, or Lake Chicabal, is the crater lake of the inactive Chicabal Volcano. The 2720-meter high volcano is a popular day hike from the nearby city of Quetzaltenango. What makes Laguna Chicabal such a beautiful place in Guatemala is its sacredness. Indigenous people believe that Lake Chicabal is a sacred place, and visitors can often time see offerings floating on the lake.
When hiking to the Laguna Chicabal, it is not uncommon to hear chanting from the religious ceremonies. With the thick fog that rolls in regularly, it can be a little creepy. However, we travel for experiences like this where we get to see cultures from a different country!
15. Cooperación Española
Surprisingly, the Cooperación Española (or Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation in English) is situated in one of the most beautiful historic buildings in Antigua. This hidden gem in Antigua is not a popular attraction in Antigua, which makes it even better.
Visitors can stroll around its beautiful garden in peace, admiring at the architecture of the restored buildings. When you are tired, enjoy a cup of coffee (Guatemala coffee is some of the best in the world) at their on-site cafe. Cooperación Española also contains art and photography exhibits for visitors to learn more bout Guatemalan heritage.
Here are the 15 most beautiful places to visit in Guatemala. Which one will you visit first on your next Guatemala trip? Volcano Aaatenango? Lake Atitlan?
Let us know in the comments!
Hey, I am Sean of LivingOutLau. Since 2018, I have been on a journey to experience the world through different heritages. With my words and photography, I hope to inspire my readers to travel more and enjoy diversity in cultures. On LivingOutLau, you will find carefully curated travel guides, tips, and photos that will help plan your next trip!