Destinations in Guatemala
Regions in Guatemala
- Central Highlands
This region is home to the capital of Guatemala and at least one active volcano.
- Western Highlands
This region is by far the most beautiful part of Guatemala and includes many indigenous Mayan villages. Lake Atitlan is also in this region, as are at least two active volcanoes.
- Eastern Guatemala
An arid region on the roads to Honduras and El Salvador, with a predominantly Hispanic population devoted to cattle ranching.
- Caribbean coast
This coast has many beaches.
- Northern Lowlands
This region has a very dense tropical forest and amazing Mayan ruins, including Tikal.
- Pacific lowlands
These are the gentle foothills of the Sierra Madre, stretching across the vast Pacific plain to beautiful beaches.
Cities in Guatemala
- Guatemala City – capital and largest city with many amenities.
- Antigua Guatemala – Spanish colonial capital of Central America, World Heritage Site and the most popular with tourists.
- Flores – The island capital of Petén, a good starting point for access to the Mayan ruins of Tikal.
- Melchor de Mencos – border town that is the main crossing point to Belize.
- Panajachel – gateway to Lake Atitlán, a beautiful and popular tourist area.
- Puerto Barrios – Caribbean seaport with fast boats to and from Belize.
- Puerto San José – Pacific Seaport
- Quetzaltenango – Second largest city in the western highlands. Popularly called “Xela”.
- Sayaxché – River gate in Petén
Other destinations in Guatemala
- Lake Atitlan – A beautiful lake region in the mountains, surrounded by many picturesque villages and volcanoes, which is increasingly being developed for tourism.
- Monterrico – The closest beach to Guatemala City and Antigua, volcanic sand.
- Rio Dulce – Known as a “unique ecological and cultural heritage for humanity” and home to one of the largest bridges in Central America, the area surrounding this emerald green “sweet river” offers many sights and activities. From jungle walks to hot spring waterfalls (Finca Paraiso is located on the Rio Dulce), a visit to Castillo San Felipe de Lara, sailing and water sports, exploring the colourful and inviting villages and landscapes of the area, to a lancha drive through the majestic Livingston Canyon. There are a variety of places to stay, including some beautiful waterfront spots. The Rio Dulce is also a great access point not only to places in Guatemala such as Antigua, Tikal, Cobán, Semuc Champey and many others, but also to surrounding countries: Belize, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Mayan ruins in Guatemala
- El Mirador – a massive site of the early Maya, perhaps the cradle of Maya civilisation. As it is still being discovered and explored, it is less accessible to visitors than the other major Maya sites.
- Tikal – long considered the largest of the Maya ruins (although ongoing research at El Mirador may challenge this claim), this vast and impressive ancient Maya site is probably worth the trip to Guatemala alone. Stay overnight in the park or in the nearby town of Flores for an early morning excursion to Tikal to see the sunrise over the ruins. Excursions from the surrounding area are easy to arrange.
- Aguateca – some of the best preserved Mayan ruins in Guatemala, where you are more likely to find archaeologists at work than tourists with cameras.
- El Peru (Waká) – a three-day hike or boat trip from Flores, identified as the source of many looted Maya artefacts.
- Iximche – ruins in the central highlands, an easy day trip from Guatemala City or Antigua.
- Nakúm – an impressive classic Maya site
- Yaxhá – ruins with more than 500 structures, between Flores and Melchor de Mencos.