10 most touristy places in Guatemala

10 touristy places in Guatemala | GuatexplorerEach country has its „must visit“ places, popular places, what we call the beaten track. Most of the visitors take those elements and then, according to the time and money, they create their experience. Here are ten places in Guatemala that are often visited, packed with tourists and definitely recommended to be seen.

Flores – Tikal

Tikal is a primary target for the visitor here in Guatemala. Famous Mayan ruins are a must-do, otherwise, you will not be able to say that you had visited Guatemala. Problem is that this area of Peten is a bit out of hand, not close to other famous tourist destinations.

Therefore a tourist has one choice: plane or overnight bus. That is why many people combine their visit to Tikal from Mexico or Belize, and never see the rest of the country.

Flores is a hub for Tikal, in fact, it is a small urban area on the island, while rest of the city is called Santa Elena. Besides Tikal ruins, the most visited place nearby is Yaxha ruins, situated between two lakes. Witnesses say it is even better than Tikal. Depends on the taste.

Tikal | Guatexplorer

Antigua Guatemala

Many people decide to choose Antigua as their Guatemalan hub. An old colonial city with cobblestone streets. I read that description zillion times. Truth is, Antigua has its charms, but the concentration of the foreigners is sometimes annoying since there are many expats who in fact chose to live here.

Antigua is not Guatemala. Or, it is, partially. Foreign restaurants, pubs, nightclubs – that is one face of Antigua. Guatemalan face exists, you have to go to the big market to see the real Guatemala. Or chose to stay in some small towns and villages around Antigua.

The natural scenery of this valley is breathtaking.

Antigua Guatemala | Guatexplorer

Guatemala City

Whenever you ask, they will tell you that you shouldn't come even close to the City, avoid it at all costs and take the nearest vehicle to take you to Antigua. Preferably, you'll have to wear a bulletproof vest because crime rate here is horrifying.

It is far from the truth. First, if you are not a gang member there is small chance that you'll be killed. There is a chance of robbery or theft, almost the same as in Antigua. And, I bet you didn't know, Guatemala City still leads by foreign visits, over Antigua. It is mainly because Guatemala City is an important business hub and largest city in Central America.

Guatemala City offers many museums, places like Sexta Avenida, main square, Relief Map of Guate, decent ZOO, botanic garden. There are parks and plant nurseries, swimming pools, places of splendid architecture. Then, when hungry, google what is a shuko.

Guatemala City | Guatexplorer

Lake Atitlan

I said Antigua is breathtaking? Now, the Lake is a stunning place that will make you nuts. Crazy. Fruitcake. Surrounded by three volcanoes, this relatively big water surface one was the crater of the supervolcano.

On the shores, there are many Mayan villages that went touristy and it looks like every single one of them specialized for something. In one village the main activity is Mayan textiles, the other place is a place of painters. In the nearby village, they offer spirituality, in other folklore. Yes, there is even a place mainly for parties. Not doing anything. Sleep – party – sleep.

Lake is recommended for longer stays, during which you can switch places according to your taste.

Lake Atitlan | Guatexplorer

Coban – Semuc Champey

This route is usually taken to see the canyon with limestone bridges called Semuc Champey. There are also many things around worth to see: caves, little towns, you can even treat yourself to a rafting.

Coban at first glance is not an irresistible place. But only there you can combine orchid nurseries and parks with Quetzal bird. Coban offers food, nice hotels, and even one large city park.

From Coban, you can plan your visits to the sacred sites of Mayan people, that include sacred caves, cenotes, lakes, and mountains. Local coffee is famous and delicious and don't be surprised to see some houses built in the Swiss style. Many European expat families live here for more than a century.

Semuc Champey | Guatexplorer

Lake Izabal – Rio Dulce - Livingston

This is also the route that is often offered to the tourists. On the way to Rio Dulce, you'll stop at the ruins of Quirigua, important for carved stones that talk about Mayan time count. It is a complicated story you have to hear on the spot. No, there will not be a doomsday anytime soon. In Rio Dulce, you'll most probably visit San Felipe fortress that looks like if it was built like a scenery for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Then, most probably next day, you'll sit into the boat and take a splendid ride through this natural park called Sweet River. There are places within the park that you can stay. In the end, Livingston, the town of Garifuna people, Guatemalan black citizens. Folks that were never slaves! Now, again you meet the Caribbean here in Guate: seafood, dreadlocks and hot climate.

Izabal and Rio Dulce | Guatexplorer

Quetzaltenango

Called also Xela, this second largest city in Guate offers some European charm. Some? Hell, a lot of it! Laid back atmosphere is a bit ruined by extensive nightlife. It is maybe the best place to come to learn the Spanish language if you're up to that.

Xela is surrounded by many interesting places. Like a place where they killed Tecun Uman. Or Fuentes Georginas, hot baths. Or volcano Santa Maria. Or volcano Chikabal in whose crater there is a turquoise sacred lake. Or Almolonga market.

You'll never be bored in Xela. If you do, visit some of the dairy farms and kill your boredom with cheese. Local bakeries have also some specialties in store.

Quetzaltenango | Guatexplorer

Retalhuleu  and surroundings

Reu is one charming, typical Guatemalan town. It is not small, it is always noisy, busy, full of movement. It is agricultural and cultural.

Most important place you can visit here is called Takalik Abaj. To be precise, ruins. This very ancient town represents Mayan Pacific culture laced with many influences of other ancient peoples. Located on nine levels on the slopes of one hill, and surrounded by coffee farms Takalik is a place to be. To soak in that special atmosphere.

And then: Xetulul or Xocomil, or both. One is a cultural park with replicas of various buildings, classical amusement park constructed in a Mayan style. The second one is a waterpark with splendid attractions for a visitor – slides, waterfalls, pools. Get wrinkles there! Both parks are world class fun.

Retalhuleu | Guatexplorer

Monterrico

Popular beach town where not so many swims, some surf but many tend to have endless parties in bars and small resorts. Oh, and there are swimming pools of you would really like to swim when you are on Pacific. We have the preserve the formalities.

The problem is waves and currents. Most of the people would not like to be taken to Easter Island or Taiwan, so they stay ashore knowing that beers and cocktails can also make you wet enough. But Monterrico, as it is, offers another attraction: visit the Pantanal, a swamp very near to the shore. People who know their Guate tend to come to the boats before the dawn so they can have a sunrise in this place full of birds and other interesting animals.

Catch them when they are still drowsy after sleeping, you can make splendid photos!

Monterrico | Guatexplorer

Chichicastenango

Guatemalans claim that this is the biggest open market in Central America. Could be, for twice a week literally the whole town turns into a market.

Visiting Chichi, as we call it, is often offered as an excursion from the Lake Atitlan, or in any package that involves the famous lake. The market is very ethnic, crowded, noisy and picturesque. If at the same time you manage to encounter some procession – you can call it a bingo for a photographer. Or, just stand there and watch, then if courageous enough try some of the local dishes made by Mayan women who do not even speak Spanish.

Chichicastenango | Guatexplorer

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