Guatemala’s natural and cultural vastness mean that it offers something that lines up with everyone’s interests. During my visit, I was privileged to get a sampling of the country’s diverse attractions.
Pecaya Volcano is the most active volcano in all of Guatemala, and also super easy to climb. Arrange your day trip directly out of Antigua, and take off on an hour and a half ascent through lush vegetation. From the top, you will literally feel the heat of Pecaya as it glows red beneath your feet.
A somewhat terrifying, and completely awe-inspiring experience, once you get over the shock of looking into the depths of the earth, you are going to want to bear the heat for as long as possible in order to capture the memory this geologic wonder.
On the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, the marine life in bountiful. Whale watching offers tourists the chance to have an unparalleled nautical experience. On boat tours, visitors will see a wide array of sea creatures, including sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, and, of course, whales. The quaint beach town of Monterrico makes a great base for this.
Lívingston is a small town situated around the mouth of the Río Dulce, from here it is as easy as booking a tour and catching a boat at the dock. Touring the Río Dulce, or the “Sweet River,” is a tourist favorite, because of the beautiful outlooks and the relaxing experience of lazing down the river’s tranquil waters. Wind your way down the jungle-lined river, and bask in thermal pools. Views include canyons, diverse wildlife, and gorges. Most tours start out of the town Río Dulce, though visitors can also tour going the opposite direction from Lívingston to Lago Izabal. Feel free to check out various agencies, and compare number of stops and if lunch is included.
Monterrico is a quaint beach town located on a barrier island. Just over 13 and a half miles long, this once humble fishing town is now a major tourist site. Tortugario is the turtle sanctuary located on the island. It conserves and releases sea turtles, while striving to educate local and visiting populations on conservation projects, turtle reproduction, and the repopulation of endangered species. The Tortugario purchases eggs from the locals and then releases the turtles into the wild once they have hatched. Guests are invited to participate in this rewarding experience.
Picturesquely framed by the surrounding volcanoes, Lake Atitlán is oriented around a network of small villages. Come relax and recover from the pandemonium of the country’s chaotic capital, Guate, and get a taste for some more authentic aspects of Guatemalan culture. Horseback ride through the secluded hills of Santiago Atitlán, rent a kayak and cruise from pueblo to pueblo on their tranquil waters, or explore some of the local coffee fincas. Book yourself a room in Panajachel, is the lake’s largest town and central tourist hotspot, and enjoy the buzzing nightlife, beautiful backdrop, and stock up on Mayan handicrafts.
See our article on the 4 Must-Visit Mayan Ruins in Guatemala
Guatelmala is sprinkled with ancient Mayan ruins. Many of these have yet to be excavated, and many of these are only in the beginning stages of excavations. Visitors should not miss the opportunity to explore some of the numerous archeological sites throughout the country. It will give you a better understanding of the culture and heritage of modern Guatemalans. Amongst the most popular of these are Quiriguá, Yaxhá, the renowned site of Tikal, the off-the-grid site of El Mirador, and Copán, which is technically just across the border in Honduras.
What are your top outdoor activities in Guatemala? We would love to hear from you. Leave us a question or comment below!
Special thanks to the Guatemala Toursim Organization.