From towering volcanoes to lush jungles, there are few place on the planet as diverse and as beautiful as Guatemala. It really is a country that has something to offer every traveller, and picking out just five of its most stunning places was no easy task. But here we have tried to give you a spread of just a few of the places that we think should be on any visitor to Guatemala’s list. This is just a taster of the joys of this wonderful country, so hopefully it will inspire you to explore further.
- Lake Atitlan
We had to start our tour of Guatemala’s most gorgeous places with somewhere that was once described by Aldous Huxley as ‘the most beautiful lake in the world’. That is quite an accolade when you consider some of the competition (Lake Como, anyone?), but who are we to argue.
It is, as you can imagine, absolutely stunning. It was created in a massive volcanic explosion, but its violent origins make it no less peaceful today. It is surrounded by three volcanoes, and dotted with lots of little villages that have grown up on the lake shores. If you are looking for some where to meditate, practice yoga or just chill out, then San Marcos is a great choice. For something a little more lively, head to Panajachel where you will find plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars. Make sure you take the time to browse some of the Guatemalan handicrafts that you’ll find being sold on the streets there by the local Mayan people.
While we’re on the subject of the Mayans, another of Guatemala’s finest and most beautiful places to visit are the ruins of Tikal. It was once the capital of the Mayan civilisation, and it is believed to have been built sometime between AD 550 to AD 900. It is a huge and fascinating complex to explore, but it is also not just about the beautiful ruins. The buildings are set within a rich jungle habitat where you will see howler monkeys, spider monkeys and a remarkable number of stunning tropical birds. We thoroughly recommend climbing to the top of some of the pyramids here and just spending a moment taking in the incredible view. A place of both man-made and natural beauty.
A vibrant and colourful town, Antigua used to be the capital of Guatemala way back in the 16th century. That honour now goes to the slightly less beautiful Guatemala City of course, but Antigua has managed to retain much of its previous grandeur. It is a great place to try and get a sense of how this country must have looked during that period – there plenty of stunning examples of classic colonial-style architecture, and the town is famous for its lavish stucco decorations. Maybe also because of its rich past it is also a diverse and fascinating town to spend time in – it has plenty of different bars and restaurants to enjoy and a rich nightlife. The town’s grid layout makes it a very easy place to explore and you’ll also get great views of the local volcano – the Volcán de Agua.
- Monterrico, Santa Rosa
If you have never strolled along a black sand beach, you are missing a wonderful experience. This stunningly beautiful coastline around Monterrico, Santa Rosa has the many local volcanoes to thank for the spectacular colour of its beaches, and the black sand is a remarkable sign of just how active the country’s volcanoes really are. It is, as you’d expect, hugely popular with visitors and locals alike, but it also big enough to still be able to offer you a little bit of peace, in a truly beautiful environment.
5.Semuc Champey, Alta Verapaz
Our list of Guatemala’s most beautiful places wouldn’t be complete without us mentioning Semuc Champey in Alta Verapaz. It is a stunningly beautiful network of turquoise coloured pools and flowing waterfalls that are wonderful to swim in and spend in. The pools themselves are naturally stepped and are popular with visitors, but if you want to get away from the crowds then you can also visit the Lanquín Caves, which are nearby and well worth making the effort to see.