Average cost p/day: $US30
Time frame: 2-3 weeks, more if you want to learn Spanish
Guatemala is a diverse, lively and beautiful country. It’s filled with jungles, mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, ancient ruins and the most lovely people you could possibly imagine. The markets are the best you will find in Central America, so stock up on all those beautifully colourful clothes and bags and whatever else takes your fancy.
WHERE TO GO
Spend a few days wandering around this quaint Colonial town, where colourful buildings and ancient ruins line the cobble stoned streets. Take a short walk up Cerro De La Cruz for a view over the town – best to go during the day and ideally with a friend, as it can be a hot spot for crime. Go to the Museo de Choco to learn about the history of chocolate and even make some of your own! Hike a volcano. Acetanango is the most popular. This is an overnight hike where you will be able to see (and hear..and feel!) Volcan Fuego erupting all night not too far away. Another hike, for those looking for something a little less strenuous, is Volcan Pacaya. This is a short and easy hike to the base of the volcano, where you’re able to roast marshmellows using the heat coming from the lava underground. Many people stop here to learn Spanish. For more information, see my blog post about Learning Spanish in Guatemala.
Hostel recommendation – Tropicana Hostel
Lake Atitlan is a volcano crater lake – it was formed after the volcano erupted thousands of years ago. There are various towns dotted around the lake, the most popular ones for backpackers being San Pedro and San Marco. There are also fantastic markets in Panajachel and Chichicastenango that are easily accessible by boat from both towns. San Pedro is known for its nightlife and outdoor activities such as kayaking and hiking. The best hike is up Indian Nose – great spot for sunrise. San Marco is more of a ‘hippie town’ where lots of people go to detox and try out a bit of yoga.
Hostel recommendation – Hostel Fe (San Pedro)
Tikal (and Flores)
To see the ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal, most people stay in Flores which is just 60km away. Flores is an island on a lake in the middle of the country, where it’s HOT and the key attraction is the rope swing. The best time to go to Tikal is early in the morning, so that you can hear the animals waking up and beat the crowds. If you’re lucky, you might catch a good sunrise too.
Hostel recommendation – Los Amigos
While the town of Rio Dulce itself doesn’t have a lot to offer, the nearby waterfall and canyon made it worth the trip! Get a bus out of town to Agua Caliente (translates to ‘hot water’) and spend the most part of the day swimming in its pool. The water comes from a volcano, so it is very hot. You can swim underneath the waterfall and even behind it – into a little cave that feels like a sauna, thanks to all the steam coming from the falls. You can climb up the top and cover yourself in mud..apparently good for exfoliating! Further down the same road, you’ll find the canyon. Simply massive. Words cannot describe how immense it is!
Hostel recommendation – Hostel Kangaroo
Arguably the most beautiful place in Guatemala, this little haven is a neverending green river, dotted with caves and waterfalls. You can easily find a local tour guide to take you through the caves (not for the faint of heart!) up to a viewpoint (be prepared to work up a sweat!) and finally, thankfully, to the pools for a very refreshing swim. There are various spots where you can slide down or jump off the waterfalls, as well as discover tiny caves hidden beneath rocks.
Hostel recommendation – Zephyr Lodge
Related blog posts
Do you want to learn Spanish while backpacking Central America? Stop off in Guatemala to do formal lessons and stay with a local family. It’s cheap, you can immerse yourself in the culture and meet other likeminded travelers.read more
The most amazing day of waterfalls, canyons and friendly locals.read more
Read about my favourite experiences while backpacking through Central America.read more