By Cacinda Maloney
Things to do in Guatemala
She thought about why she was going to visit Guatemala. What are the things to do in Guatemala? What was the pull, the attraction? What was it that intrigued her so much? Her heart had understood something that her brain couldn’t understand as she embarked on this journey to Central America.
You are embarking on the greatest adventure of your life – to improve you self-image, to create more meaning in your life and in the lives of others. This is your responsibility. Accept it, now! Maxwell Matlz
There are many attractions in Guatemala. Guatemala tourism (Guatemala tourismo) can range from picturesque Lake Atitlan to steaming volcanoes, Mayan ruins, Mayan towns deep in the mountains, as well as world-class marlin fishing and a picture-perfect colonial town. But it is more than that: from jungles to ancient traditions that are still intact from long before the days of Columbus, there is never a loss of things to do in Guatemala. This developing tourist destination is full of exciting and fascinating things to see and do.
If you are in the mindset to visit Guatemala, then you have chosen a country that is quite small, however one of the largest in Central America. This means you can effectively see a huge part of what the country has to offer on one trip. It is one of the most densely-packed countries of things worth doing anywhere in Latin America. The biggest problem will be trying to decide what you want to do first. The warm indigenous culture and breathtaking settings will have you coming back for more.
Things to do in Guatemala
Many of the things to do in Guatemala are close together just northwest of the capital city, Guatemala City. To get around, I had a driver and a guide that helped me get from place to place. However, I saw many backpackers loading onto the chicken buses as I arrived in the city.
Things to do in Guatemala: Marvel at Chichicastenango
#1 Marvel at Chichicastenango – Chichicastenango is an indigenous village lying on the crest of volcanoes northwest of Guatemala City. If you are anything like me, you will be enamored with the city market, the Mayan mask museum, and the cemetery. A trip to Guatemala would not be complete without spending a Thursday or Sunday in the town of Chichicastenango and marveling at its magnificent market. Here you will find the indigenous women dressed in the traditional huipiles de guatemala or common traditional garments worn by the women of Central America. In my humble opinion, it is the best thing to do in Guatemala.
Things to do in Guatemala: Gawk at Antigua
#2 Gawk at Antigua – One of the most beautiful Spanish cities in all of Guatemala, Antigua is downright magical with cobblestoned streets and pastel colored walls. It is like entering a portal into another city. With its multitudes of churches, colonial-era mansions and colors that are indigenous to the Mayan people, this place oozes Guatemalan and Spanish history. It is the prettiest town in the whole country, without a doubt and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is absolutely stunning and is one of the best things to do in Guatemala.
Things to do in Guatemala: Climb a Volcano
#3 Climb a Volcano – Did you know that Guatemala is a country full of volcanoes? Live ones at that. You can hike to the top of the Pacayan volcano at 8,373-feet or ride a horse up of you cannot make it on your own. Once there, you can see a 360 degree view of the other volcanoes in the area.The views of Lake Amatitlán below are stunning while shrouded in fog. The volcanoes have rocks (almost) hot enough to roast marshmallows! It is definitely worth the effort and a day trip from Antigua and is a fun thing to do in Guatemala.
Things to do in Guatemala: Gaze at Lake Atitlan
#4 Gaze at Lake Atitlan – An ancient Guatemala lake surrounded by three volcanoes – San Pedro, Toliman and Atitlan as well as many villages. Each village has its own distinctive atmosphere. Some are touristy, some filled with backpackers, but as you get away from the waterfront, you will be able to see the real Guatemala. Each village is busy with street markets, but the best thing about them is the view of the lake. If ever there was a more gorgeous lake setting in this world, I haven’t seen it yet. (Lake Inca in Chile may be a competitor). It is picturesque and a relaxing thing to do in Guatemala.
Things to do in Guatemala: Discover the Thrill of Marlin Fishing
#5 Discover the Thrill of Marlin Fishing – How can you go to the world’s capital of ‘catch and release’ sail fishing and not at least hire a boat to go out into the open ocean and catch a few? The Pacific Coast of Guatemala has the highest concentration of billfish found anywhere on the planet! And by law, it is catch and release, so you can enjoy the day, catch a few billfish, take photos and then release them back into the beautiful azul waters! I spent the day marlin fishing and caught a stunner! Marlin Fishing is an exciting thing to do in Guatemala.
Things to do in Guatemala: Visit the Capital City
#6 Visit Guatemala City – Most people land here and then just take off for different areas of the country. Take the time to spend a day looking at the sites of the mail square called Parque Central, some of the many churches and few of the buildings in Zone 1. Admire the Presidential Palace (Palacio Nacional de la Cultura) and the “Mapa en Relieve”, a large Guatemala Map. There is even a special church there that is not your typical colonial church, built by the Yurrita family in 1929. As large as this city is, there are plenty of things to do in Guatemala City.
There are Plenty of Things to do in Guatemala
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo (INGUAT), whose hospitality was gracious and took great care in the safety of my group. Along for the ride was travel writers Annette Slowik-White of Bucket List Journey, Jessica Kay of A Passion and a Passport, and Stephanie Be of Travel Break.