17+ Things to Do in Guatemala: Best Sites to Visit, Places to Go & More

Summary:

Looking for the best things to do in Guatemala? This guide is packed with things to see and places to visit, from nature to culture to food and more.

If you’re planning a trip to the Central American country of Guatemala, you’re probably wondering what the top things to do in Guatemala include. You can spend countless days here and still find new activities in Guatemala to take part in. From volcanic lakes to ancient ruins and everything in between, you’ll never run out of things to discover visiting Guatemala. To make things easy on you, we’ve compiled a list of the top Guatemala sights. Good luck!

1. Explore Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlan is one of the best things to see in Guatemala
Taken by M. Harpur via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

What to see in Guatemala? First and foremost, it’s Lake Atitlán, a body of water made in a volcanic crater, located in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands. It is often referred to as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Along the perimeter of the lake are traditional Mayan villages and volcanoes. It’s truthfully one of the most beautiful places to see in Guatemala. When you visit, you’ll see lots of kayakers, as it’s one of the most popular ways to explore the lake. You can also try your hand at paddleboarding on the lake, too.

2. Explore Lake Atitlán’s Villages

San Pedro La Laguna at Night has some of the best nightlife in Guatemala
San Pedro La Laguna, on the shores of the Lake Atitlán, has some great nightlife. Taken by R. Berkovich via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

We just talked about how Lake Atitlán is surrounded by traditional Mayan villages, and if you’re in the area exploring the lake, you should take a day to visit a traditional village. This activity is among the top free things to do in Guatemala, and they are definitely worth visiting. Each of the villages is known for its different vibes. For example, Santa Cruz has a wide variety of sights to see. San Marcos is known for its hipster culture, and San Pedro La Laguna is known for its partying ways. Be sure to ask around before you travel to pick a village that’s right for you.

3. Hike Indian Nose for the Sunrise

There’s nothing more beautiful than sitting atop a peak and watching the sunrise. If you’re only in Guatemala for a short time and are looking to make the most of your stay, you should put taking a sunrise hike at Indian Nose at the top of your list what to do in Guatemala. It’s recommended that you do the hike with a tour company for as much protection from local crime as possible, but the hike is short and the views are extremely rewarding.

4. Hike San Pedro Volcano

If you’re visiting a Central American country, your stay won’t be complete without taking a hike up a volcano. One of the most popular spots to do a hike like this is on the San Pedro volcano. It’s about 10,000 feet, so you should prepare to have this be your only activity for the day should you decide to go visit it. 

5. Go to Santiago to Offer a Blessing to Maximon

The Mayan God Maximon is known for loving to have a good time. One fun thing to do to immerse yourself in the local culture is to present Maximon with an offering. Tradition has said that he loves to smoke and drink, so if you do plan on making an offering, it’s wise to consider bringing him rum or a cigar.

6. Witness Volcán de Fuego Erupting

Acatenango and Agua volcanoes seen from Pacaya Guatemala best things to do
Acatenango and Agua volcanoes seen from the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala; if you climb Acatenango, you’ll have a great view of Fuego erupting, when it happens. Taken by C. Crouzet via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

One of the best things to do in Guatemala is to hike Volcan Acatenango so that you can safely watch Volcán de Fuego erupt. Make sure to book a hiking tour before you go to ensure your safety while you hike. The hike is about 13,000 feet in total, but the views are worth it when you finally arrive on top. You can camp out on the volcano, sip hot cocoa and watch Volcán de Fuego erupt. It’s truly a must-see Guatemala sight.

7. Roast Marshmallows Over Lava

People having a picnic on Pacaya volcano with lava flowing nearby is one of the coolest things to do in Guatemala
People having a picnic on Pacaya volcano with lava flowing nearby has to be one of the coolest things to do in Guatemala, right? Taken by D. B. via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

One unique thing that you can do that’s a once-in-a-lifetime event in Guatemala is to hike Volcan Pacaya. It’s not a particularly easy hike to do, but it can easily be completed in a day. Probably the best experience you’ll be rewarded with after your hike is that you get to roast marshmallows over the volcano’s lava and make s’mores!

8. Sample the Local Fare

shopping the local markets is one of the best things to do in Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala market with fruits for sale. Taken by A. Rivera via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Central America is known for its coffee and chocolate. As such, it would be horrible to go to this part of the world and not try some local coffee and chocolate during your stay. One thing to note is that many different local shops allow you to get a good cup of joe or hot chocolate and take in the scenery, too. Also, check out the local markets for fresh fruits and to sample some great street food and Guatemalan cuisine!

9. Take a Multi-day Trek

Quetzaltenango is a pretty little town in Guatemala
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Taken by L. Lopez via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

If you’re someone who’s looking for adventurous things to do in Guatemala, you should strongly consider going on a 3-day hike through villages and farmlands from Quetzaltenango to Lake Atitlán. The hiking path follows the trail that the ancient Mayan civilizations followed. You’ll get to see all the different ways of living life and it’s truly amazing. For your safety, be sure to book your trek with a reputable tour company.

10. Visit La Iglesia de San Andres de Xecul

Church of San Andrés Xecul is one of the most interesting things to see in Guatemala
Taken by Wikimedia Commons user Chensiyuan. [CC BY-SA 2.0].

Catholicism is the predominant religion in Guatemala, which is similar to many of its other neighboring countries. In Guatemala, though, Catholicism is blended with rich Mayan traditions. This makes for a unique experience, which can be seen upon your arrival to La Iglesia de San Andres de Xecul. Unlike traditional European basilicas and Catholic churches, the Guatemalan church is bright and vibrant. Be sure to visit this during your trip to Guatemala.

11. Climb to the Top of Central America’s Highest Peak

You’re probably already aware that Guatemala and Central America are homes to some of the world’s tallest volcanoes. Guatemala specifically is home to the tallest peak in all of Central America – Tajumulco – one of the most wonderful places to go in Guatemala. Sitting at 13,845 feet, Tajmuluco is something to conquer. To hike this volcano, you’ll embark on a two-day trip, camping on the volcano overnight and watching the sunrise in the morning.

12. Take a Dip in Fuentes Georgina Hot Springs

If you’re looking for relaxing things to do while traveling to Guatemala, a trip to the hot springs in Fuentes Georgina fits the bill. Lounge in the calming waters of the hot springs and take in the beautiful scenery around you. It’s a popular attraction so be sure to expect a crowd when you go!

13. Go Cave Exploring in Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey is one of the top things to do in Guatemala
Semuc Champey, located within a Guatemalan jungle near the town of Lanquin, is famous for its turquoise pools made of limestone. Taken by C. Crouzet via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Still not sure where to go in Guatemala? OK, we have something special! It’s not every vacation that you’re presented with the opportunity to take a candlelit cave tour. This activity isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s pretty demanding physically, but if you’re up for the challenge and aren’t claustrophobic, you’re sure to have a great time.

Semuc Champey, Lanquín, Guatemala
Semuc Champey, Lanquín, Guatemala. Taken by A. Schimmeck via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

If you’ve got a day to spare, you should for sure spend it soaking in Semuc Champey’s limestone pools. Many of the area’s tours include the cave exploring tour, a hike and then a trip to the pools for some relaxation. It’s definitely a recommended activity!

14.  Check Out the Maya Biosphere Reserve

blue jay and nature is best things to see in guatemala
Blue jay on top of the Maya pyramid in El Tintal, Reserva de la Biosfera Maya, Guatemala. Taken by D. B. via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

The Reserva de la Biosfera Maya, or the Maya Biosphere Reserve, is a nature reserve located in El Petén, Guatemala. The park sits on about 21,602 sq. km. (8,340 sq. mi.), and it is full of an incredible amount of flora and fauna alike. It is so large that Tikal, the famous ancient Maya city, is located within.

15. Visit Tikal

Templo I, Tikal, Petén Department, Guatemala things to do
Templo I, known as the “Temple of the Great Jaguar” in Tikal, Petén Department, Guatemala. Taken by J. Baum via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Tikal is an ancient Mayan village that is still mostly covered in grass—only 15% has been estimated to have been excavated. It can be found in the middle of the jungle in Flores, Petén Department, and it’s amazing to surround yourself with the scenery and see how people of the Maya civilization lived back in the day.

16. Hit the Beach!

going to Santa Rosa beach is one of the best things to do in Guatemala
Santa Rosa beach, in Monterrico, Guatemala. Taken by L. Estrada via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

If you’re looking for something to do in Guatemala that’s just relaxing and enjoyable, the entire southern border of the country is located right on a prime area of the Pacific Ocean. On top of that (literally and figuratively), a portion of the northern border is made up of the Gulf of Honduras and the Caribbean Sea.

Check Out the Town of Flores

Flores and Lake Peten Itza is one of the most picturesque places to see in Guatemala
Taken by M. Ton via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Flores, located in El Petén, is a cute little town in north-central Guatemala. Once the site for the Maya city of Nojpetén, today it is a vibrant and colorful town with an old section and a newer section. The old town is located on an island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza, and it is connected to the rest of the town by a causeway.

Summary

There are so many different things to do in Guatemala—this list is just the very beginning! Be sure to do your research and book only reputable tour companies to help keep safety a top of mind concern when you travel to Guatemala.

Got any questions, feedback, or more great Guatemala activities or places to see? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Sonia Novakivska
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Sonia Novakivska
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