Guatemala is one of those under-assuming, over-performing countries. You know the type. It’s never quite on your radar and you don’t really know why. But once you get there, it becomes one of those places you can never forget. I quickly discovered that Guatemala is beautiful and rich in culture and history. There is something to see for everyone, no matter what your interests are.
You don’t have to travel far outside the capital for beautiful or scenic nature views. About an hour outside of Guatemala City is one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes. Despite its very steep hills, it’s worth the climb to the top to see. If you aren’t able to climb, locals walk alongside visitors with horses to rent for 100 Quetzales (about $13) each way.
A little further outside the city is Antigua, one of Guatemala’s brightest shining stars. About 45 minutes from Guatemala City without traffic, tourists flock to Antigua because its quaint small-town feel, selection of bars, restaurants, and clubs, and its historic value. Antigua also one of the top places in the world to celebrate Semana Santa, or Holy Week, because of their elaborate processions that occur almost daily.
Antigua serves as a gateway for visiting other areas of the country, including Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful lakes you’ll ever see. It also happens to be the deepest lake in all of Central America. When visiting the Lake, a tour of surrounding villages is an absolute must to experience local and native culture.
Head to Semuc Champey if natural water pools interest you. It’s a collection of tiered pools in Guatemala’s jungles. Semuc Champey is about a 5-hour drive from Guatemala City or 4-hour drive from Antigua.
If you have the time, visit Tikal. Many visitors to Guatemala don’t put Tikal on their to-do list, which is a big mistake. Tikal was one of the most powerful kingdoms in ancient Maya. It’s a city full of beautiful ruins and definitely worth a visit. The quickest way there would be to take an hour-long flight from Guatemala City. Want to spend more time there? You can stay on nearby island, Flores.
Whether your interests include history, nature, hiking, eating, or drinking, Guatemala is full of cultural experiences just waiting for you to explore. And with only a 3 hour flight from Atlanta, what’s stopping you? Meet me there and come explore this beautifully diverse country for yourself.