Best Places to Visit in Guatemala | Unique Landmarks & Attractions

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Beautiful Guatemala is a land rich in diversity and cultural heritage. Whether you hope to summit a volcano, hike through the lush jungle or explore ancient ruins, Guatemala will not disappoint.

Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip through Central America or a more extended stay, we have found some of the most memorable places to go in Guatemala.

Mayan Tikal temple in a jungle in GuatemalaTop Tourist Attractions in Guatemala

We’ve compiled a list of Guatemala’s famous landmarks and best tourist attractions. Keep reading to find out more!

Tikal National Park

Nestled deep in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle lies the remains of one of the most fascinating ancient civilisations on earth. The splendid stone city of Tikal, once swallowed by the dense jungle vegetation, towers over the treetops.

Tikal National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous places in Guatemala, and for good reason. Tikal covers an estimated 46 miles (around 74 km) and is one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in Central America. It is here, centuries ago, that the ancient Mayan civilisation flourished.

Mayan pyramid and ruins in Tikal National Park in Guatemala Visitors can wander the expansive ruins and marvel at the majestic monuments, including temples, ceremonial platforms, and ancient ball-game courts. Many of the monuments feature beautifully preserved decorated surfaces, illustrating the city’s intriguing history.

The entire experience of visiting this site is enhanced by your surroundings. The lush green jungle canopy is teeming with wildlife – exotic birds, monkeys, and wild cats. Monkeys are particularly prevalent at Tikal. While exploring the ruins, you’re sure to encounter spider monkeys, and even if you don’t see them, you’ll definitely hear the howler monkeys.

Toucan sitting in tree in Guatemalan jungle at TikalSemuc Champey

This stunning natural wonder, like many of Guatemala’s attractions, is hidden deep in the jungle. While it isn’t the easiest place to get to, it is well worth the journey.

Vibrant turquoise pools formed atop a natural limestone shelf make a perfect spot for a dip. There are numerous caves set within the limestone shelf for the more adventurous to explore, some only accessible by swimming underwater.

Aerial shot of sequence of natural turquoise pools and waterfalls in the Guatemalan jungle

Access to this site is either via a bumpy half-hour 4X4 drive or a 2.5km hike through the jungle.

Chichicastenango 

The name may be a mouthful, but don’t let that stop you from visiting this town. Located high in the Guatemalan Highlands, Chichicastenango is the perfect place to fully immerse yourself in the Mayan culture. 

“Chichi,” as it’s known by the local Mayan K’iche population, hosts the largest market in Central America. The town comes alive on Thursdays and Sundays when vendors come from surrounding areas to display their goods. The market bursts with vibrant colour and a bustling atmosphere, stocking everything from vividly-hued textiles to traditional carved wooden masks.

Brightly coloured embroidered textiles at a market in Guatemala

Antigua

Set against the picturesque backdrop of three monumental volcanoes lies the beautiful colonial town of Antigua, Guatemala (not to be confused with the Caribbean island of Antigua). 

Once the capital of the grand Spanish Empire in South America, Antigua still boasts an astounding array of well-preserved Spanish architecture and influence.

The town’s rustic cobblestone streets are lined with multi-coloured colonial buildings, some of which were severely damaged during a devastating earthquake in 1773. Nevertheless, Antigua is still filled with charm and is seen as one of the most beautiful towns in Central America.

Pastel coloured colonial buildings and cobbled streets in Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua is a popular option if you are looking for a base to settle in for a while. It offers a plethora of exciting sites and activities to enjoy and is a major centre for familiarising yourself with the Spanish language. 

Explore the town’s expansive markets, museums, and art galleries, or take advantage of the various other activities and cultural attractions on Antigua’s doorstep. Hop on a bus tour to explore some surrounding cacao plantations, coffee farms, and traditional local villages. Those brave enough can even hike one of the nearby volcanoes!

Man picking coffee berries on a coffee plantation in Guatemala

Laguna Lachua

Another one of Guatemala’s natural highlights, Laguna Lachua, is one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala. This luminescent turquoise, calcitic lake is a refreshing oasis in the middle of the steamy Guatemalan jungle. 

Clear turquoise lake reflecting clouds

Getting to this spot can be a little challenging. To reach Laguna Lachua, some hiking may be necessary (around 4 km), but the lake offers the perfect opportunity to cool off once you arrive. This is definitely one of Guatemala’s landmarks worth visiting.

Livingston

This quaint but vibrant town is tucked away on Guatemala’s Caribbean Coast. With the rainbow-coloured wooden houses and the tropical coconut groves, you may feel as if you’ve stumbled onto a Caribbean island. 

The local population of Livingston is known as the Garífuna, descendants of escaped slaves and the indigenous Mayan people. They have developed their own distinctive culture and language, and Livingston has become the hub of Garífuna culture. Visitors can sample the local cuisine and maybe even learn the Punta, a regional traditional dance with a mesmerising beat. 

Palm tree with coconuts

It is important to note that Livingstone is only reachable by boat, but fortunately, two ferries make the trip there and back daily.

Guatemala City

Guatemala City is the country’s capital and the largest city in Central America. It offers a bustling atmosphere possessing a distinct Latin charm.

The capital city is a hub for Guatemalan tourism, with an array of rich cultural experiences to enjoy. From art galleries and museums to shopping and culinary delights, there’s something to satisfy everyone in Guatemala City.

Man spraying yellow graffiti paint on a wall in Guatemala City

The city is divided into 22 zones, and Zone 4 is the artistic hub. Brightly graffitied walls line the busy streets where you’ll find trendy boutiques, vibey bars, and quirky art galleries. Make sure to check out La Esquina, an indoor food market with some of the best food stalls in the city.

Another of the must-visit tourist attractions in Guatemala City is found in Zone 10. The Museo Popol Vuh is a leading museum in the world of Mayan art. Here you will be able to spend a couple of hours appreciating the incredible and comprehensive collection of Mayan as well as colonial art.

Collection of ancient Mayan trinkets and artefacts including statues

Acatenango Volcano

Volcan Acatenango towers almost 4,000 metres above the surrounding landscape just outside Antigua. The hike to the summit of this volcano is one of the toughest, yet most popular, in Guatemala. Not only will you get to appreciate the breathtaking panoramic views, but you will also have a bird’s-eye view of the nearby (and extremely active) Volcan Fuego.

An overnight hike to the summit is the best way to get the most out of this experience. The overnight campsite gives hikers a front-row seat to enjoy the spectacular show of glowing lava spewing from Volcan Fuego. Watching the sunrise the following morning is the perfect way to end an unforgettable experience.

Volcan Fuego volcano in Guatemala erupting and spewing lava at night

Final Thoughts on Guatemala: Places to Visit

In concluding our list of Guatemala’s tourist attractions, we hope we have left you feeling inspired to add this beautifully diverse country to your bucket list. 

Looking for more Latin American countries to visit? Check out this selection of the best countries to visit in South America.