Often referred to as the ‘Land of the Eternal Spring,’ Guatemala is often overlooked in favor of its flashier neighbors like Belize or Costa Rica. But a visit to this Central American country is well worth it. Home to 30 active volcanoes and one of the deepest lakes on the continent, there’s plenty to do, see, and experience here.
Guatemala Travel Logistics
Traveling to Guatemala is fairly simple: you can fly nonstop to Guatemala City (GUA), the country’s capital from hubs like Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas (DFW), New York (JFK), Miami (MIA), and others. Full-fare carriers like Delta or American offer nonstop options, as well as low-cost airlines such as Spirit or Frontier.
It’s best to settle your car rental or airport transportation ahead of time before arrival. The country’s currency is the Quetzal (also the national bird), and it’s best to have some on hand. While there are many languages spoken in Guatemala, it’s best to brush up on your Spanish. In more touristy areas, you can expect locals will speak some English. Take a look at some of these great hotels to stay at across Guatemala.
Without further ado, here are six reasons why Guatemala needs to be added to your bucket list.
Most travelers tend to choose the jungles of Costa Rica, Belize’s beautiful beaches, or Nicaragua’s surf scene over Guatemala. But this country has a number of stunning attractions to see from volcanos to Mayan ruins to rainforests.
It’s also an affordable country, ensuring you’re able to experience more for less. Although we’ll include some of the more popular areas to visit below, it’s easy to get off the beaten path and explore, especially if you head to the lesser-visited marshes, waterfalls, and white-sand beaches of the northeastern coast.
It’s One of Central America’s More Affordable Destinations
Guatemala has it all: luxury, budget, and everything in between. It’s easy to get a budget hotel or rental for as low as $30 per night. Or, you can splurge on a fancier spot for a few hundred per night depending on your exact destination. Food is cheap, and you may only spend $30-$40 on a nice meal for two. Generally, you’ll spend much less on accommodation, activities, and dining than you would in other more popular Central American countries.
It’s Typically Safe
Of course, there are areas to avoid in Guatemala City, but Guatemala is a relatively safe spot for visitors. You won’t have to worry about visiting popular tourist spots like Lake Atitlán or Antigua. Just adhere to all the basic rules you would when traveling anywhere: don’t walk around late at night, especially alone. Don’t flash around expensive jewelry or cash.
Be as vigilant as you would when traveling to any other destination and you’ll have a wonderful trip. That being said, it’s best to review advice from the US Department of State and avoid any areas they deem unsafe.
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Its Landscapes are Vast, Unique, and Beautiful
Lake Atitlán is one of the most picturesque landscapes in the country. Situated in a volcanic crater, there are many tiny villages scattered around the lake. All are charming and relaxing places to explore and stay.
Antigua is another hotspot, a colorful town with a vast colonial history. We’ve already mentioned the Mayan ruins dotted throughout the country, a number of which are located in the northern jungles of biosphere reserve Tikal National Park. Besides the volcanos, the Western coast of the country has many black sand beaches, and inland, mountains and rolling hills.
Sip on Wine, Beer, and Coffee
We’re not going to say that Guatemala is a wine country, but there are both vineyards and breweries where you can experience tours and tastings. Most are within easy reach of Antigua, like the Chateau DeFay, whose original vines came from Washington.
Beer lovers should enjoy sipping Antigua Beers around Antigua and beyond, or visiting microbrewery Antigua Brewery for a tour and tasting.
And for those who love a good cuppa’ joe, there are coffee plantations around the western highlands of the country. Our favorite is Filadelfia Coffee Resort, where you can spend the night, tour the plantation, enjoy a meal and participate in other outdoor activities.
It’s Home to Plenty of Colorful Culture
Guatemala isn’t just a sum of its beautiful landscapes and attractions. With over 20 different languages spoken and a number of colorful historical towns and villages, there’s much to explore when it comes to quaint cobblestone streets, food markets, museums, and more.
Obviously, Antigua is one of the country’s most famous colonial spots. But there are enclaves of colors and culture even in bustling Guatemala City. For example, Zone 4 has spots reminiscent of some areas of Paris. In Zone 1 you can find some great market stalls for shopping. The capital city is also full of museums, many of which are dedicated to showcasing the broad indigenous cultures the country is known for.