Visit Guatemala

A guide for first-time visitors to Guatemala

tikal temple guatemala
Tikal tours: follow in the footsteps of ancient Mayans at this Guatemala landmark Credit: Getty
, a travel company that leads several tours to Guatemala each year.

Rich culture: a cemetery in the idyllic town of Chichicastenango Credit: Getty

Dive into the history and culture

Guatemala’s traceable history dates back four thousand years, and the country excels at weaving its past and present together in a rich tapestry. One way to immerse yourself in a purely Guatemalan experience is to visit during one of the many festivals or holidays – Warneke recommends Holy Week (Semana Santa), one of the oldest traditions from the Spanish.

“One can witness spectacular processions through the streets of Antigua, with men dressed in purple robes carrying a float on their backs,” she says. “Families create alfombras, or carpets, on the cobblestoned streets, which resemble Persian rugs but are actually made of dyed sand, sawdust and organics. It's quite a spectacle.”

People interested in Mayan culture should include one of the ancient ruins sites on the itinerary. Tikal is the most famous, and accessible with flights straight into Flores. If you go during high season you may want to skip the crowds at Tikal and head to Yaxha instead. Many praise its setting between two lakes as the most beautiful.

Get in touch with nature

Guatemala is one of 19 “mega-diversity” countries that are home to more than 70 per cent of all known species on earth, so if wildlife is your thing you’ve come to the right place. It’s a favourite destination for birdwatchers particularly, with more than 750 species including the national bird, the quetzal, perhaps one of the most beautiful on earth. All this wildlife can be found in the elaborate jungles, cloud forests, lakes and volcanic regions that make up the ecosystems here.

Welcome to the jungle: enjoy activities such as abseiling, rock climbing and zip lining Credit: Getty

There are seemingly endless options for experiencing Guatemala’s natural resources, from climbing a volcano or zip lining through the rainforest, to exploring caves and cenotes or relaxing in natural hot springs.

Guatemala has so much to offer throughout its seven diverse regions, that it truly has something for everyone – and it’s the rare traveller who leaves without completely falling under its spell.

Captivating Guatemala

One of Central America’s best-kept secrets, Guatemala captivates travellers with its extraordinary history, culture and landscapes. Boasting awe-inspiring landmarks, beguiling cities and artisanal traditions that date back to the ancient Mayans, this country may be small, but it delivers big on amazing experiences.

Whether you’re a first time visitor or are heading back for a second stay, discover why Guatemala is considered one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.

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