Guatemala is full of captivating contrasts. Discover ancient ruins among verdant rainforests, villages in the foothills of volcanoes and long-standing Mayan customs. Find rugged mountains that descend down into jungles and pristine beaches. Guatemala is the westernmost country of Central America. As well as Spanish, hear the languages of over different 20 ethnic groups being spoken.
Start your visit in Antigua, the former capital set amid three volcanoes. Explore a city of colonial landmarks, tropical gardens and cobblestone streets lined with colorful houses. The nation’s capital, Guatemala City, is famous for its galleries, museums and nightlife. Visit Flores, an island village full of craft stores and cafés, located in the middle of Lake Peten Itza. Sample some of Guatemala’s best coffee in Cobán.
Mayan culture originated in Guatemala and its traditions continue to thrive. In the western highlands, Quetzaltenango is the heart of Mayan life and a gateway to interesting market towns such as Panajachel. Chichicastenango is famous for its embroidery. Explore the ruins of monumental pyramids in Quiriguá or head north to admire the spectacular temple ruins of Tikal and El Mirador.
There’s plenty to see in Guatemala’s wild scenery. Scuba dive in beautiful Lake Atitlan, framed by quaint villages such as San Pedro de la Laguna and Santa Cruz de la Laguna. Walk to picture-perfect waterfalls and try caving or tubing at Semuc Champey. Hike to the crater of the active Volcan Pacaya. Walk around lakes and spot monkeys, jaguars and birds in jungle-clad Parque Nacional Laguna Lachúa.
Along the Pacific Coast, explore the black-sand beaches of Monterrico on horseback and see nesting sea turtles. Experience Guatemala’s surf culture at Paredón and the laid-back charm of Livingston, on the Caribbean coast. Despite its turbulent history, today Guatemala is friendly and hospitable. You should, however, visit areas off the tourist trail with caution. Reach Guatemala by flying to Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport and explore this enticing country via affordable, efficient buses.