The Ultimate Guatemala Travel Guide

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Atitlan Guatemala Logo Water Palms Wood View

Central America’s most diverse nation enthralls travelers with its exceptional landscapes and a civilization-spanning culture that stretches back centuries.

Guatemala is a very challenging land—you can experience seismic activity (earthquakes, mudslides), volcanic activity, and hurricanes. However, diverse history and the region’s natural beauty have created a destination rich in attractive and picturesque sites.

Top Attractions in Guatemala

Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo

Established by Dominican friars in 1542 CE, Santo Domingo became the richest and most significant monastery in Antigua. Following three disastrous 18th-century CE earthquakes, the buildings were pillaged for building material. The site was later acquired as a private residence in 1970 CE by a North American archaeologist, who conducted comprehensive excavations before the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel took it over. The archaeological zone has been beautifully restored as a ‘cultural route.’ 

The zone that will bless your eyes here includes:

  • The striking ruined monastery church.
  • Two mysterious underground crypts that were found during the church excavations. 
  • The adjacent cloister with a beautiful replica of the original fountain.
  • Workshops for pottery and candle makers.

Market

Some native still stroll for hours carrying their produce to reach Chichi’s market, one of Guatemala’s most extensive and a highlight of many people’s trips to the nation. It’s a vibrant mix of the native and the tourist, where local women are shopping for a new huipile rub shoulders with tourists looking for a textile memorial. Sunday is the more active of the two market days when Spanish school students and weekenders from Guatemala Town descend en masse on Chichi. Tourist-oriented handicraft stalls selling native masks, vibrant textiles, handmade pottery, and so on now hold much of the plaza and the paths to the north.

Reserva Natural Atitlán

A previous coffee plantation being reformed by natural vegetation, this park is 200m past the Hotel Atitlán on the northern outskirts of the city. It makes a great outing on foot or bicycle. You can calmly walk the central trail in an hour: it leads up over swing bridges to a waterfall, then down to a stand for seeing local spider monkeys.

Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey is famous for its incredible natural limestone bridge, 300m long, on top of which is a paced series of pools with flowing, cool river water suitable for swimming. Though this bit of paradise is hard to reach, the turquoise perfection of the pools and the beauty of its setting make it the loveliest spot in the nation.

Local Delicacies to Try in Guatemala

  • Pepián
  • Kaq Ik
  • Quichom
  • Jocom
  • Frijoles negros – stewed black beans
  • Tortillas and tortillas de harina. Maize tortillas are served with most meals.
  • Tamales — steam-cooked corn meal, with a variety of fillings, wrapped in banana leaves
  • Caldos – beef broths
  • Tapado, ceviche, and other fishmeals
  • Rice ‘n beans (Garifunafood in Puerto Barrios)
  • Churrascos

Now You Know

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