7 of Guatemala's most beautiful places

Known for hidden villages and epic hiking trails, now appreciate the country's prettiest places: glowing lakes, towering volcano peaks, and jungle-shrouded cities up in the highlands...

5 mins

1. Antigua

The view of Fuego and Acatenango from Antigua, Guatemala (Shutterstock)

The view of Fuego and Acatenango from Antigua, Guatemala (Shutterstock)

Central America’s most captivating colonial city is flanked by volcanoes. Two are just 16km from the city: Acatenango is the tallest, with two peaks, reaching an impressive 3,976m tall. Volcán de Fuego is close by, soaring to heights of 3,763m. One can be seen from Antigua's centre: Volcán de Agua, a stratovolcano with a peak of 3,760m.

Another, Pacaya, is an active complex volcano just over an hour outside of the city. at 2,552m tall, it's the easiest of the above to climb. Don't worry, it last erupted more than 20,000 years ago. Still, you never know...

2. Tikal

The Grand Plaza of Tikal. Pictured are the North Acropolis and Great Jaguar Temple (Shutterstock)

The Grand Plaza of Tikal. Pictured are the North Acropolis and Great Jaguar Temple (Shutterstock)

The lost city’s towering Maya temples and grand plazas loom out of a lush tropical setting, earning it the status of national park. There are thousands of structures within the 575km of rainforest encompassing the area.

The UNESCO-listed Tikal National Park was inscribed in 1979. It forms part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, recognised by UNESCO in 1990, to help protect what is the largest tropical rainforest on the North American continent. 

Its natural beauty is just one part of the park's appeal. Its historic significance is undeniable. The Maya are thought to have settled here in 900 BC, and the ruin site remains one of the largest Maya sites left in the world.

3. Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán, with San Pedro Volcano in the background (Shutterstock)

Lake Atitlán, with San Pedro Volcano in the background (Shutterstock)

Lake Atitlán is one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, craddled in a volcanic crater in the south-west of Guatemala, high in the Sierra Madre mountains. It is fringed by three volcanoes: Volcán Atitlán, Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán, all looming large as a dramatic backdrop.

Surrounding the deep blue waters is the town of Panajachel to the north, which connects to Maya villages and the Atitlán Nature Reserve. You'll need a lot longer than a day trip to discover the depths of this lake.

4. Chichicastenango

The famous Chichicastenango market (Sarah Gilbert)

The famous Chichicastenango market (Sarah Gilbert)

This mist-wreathed highland town is famed for its colourful, nature-entwined cemeteries, and more cheerfully its bright, twice-weekly market.

It sells all sorts of quality goods: pottery, tablecloths, handmade jewellery or clothing, fruits and vegetables, along with a few surprises. Of course, the market provides ample opportunity to purchase locally made coffee, too.

5. The Ixil Triangle

The natural beauty of Nebaj, Guatemala (Shutterstock)

The natural beauty of Nebaj, Guatemala (Shutterstock)

The Ixil Triangle is comprised of three highland towns offering excellent trekking and a wealth of traditional Maya culture.

Santa Maria Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and San Gaspar Chajul make up the trio, and each has their own walking highlight. Wherever your starting point, expect jaw-dropping landscapes of mountains and fields covered in rich green trees and plantlife as you hike.

6. El Mirador

A view of the jungle near El Mirador, Guatemala (Dreamstime)

A view of the jungle near El Mirador, Guatemala (Dreamstime)

El Mirador is a jungle-shrouded ‘lost city’ (so lost, it's tricky to find photos of it) and a surreal experience for any visitor. It isn't the most accessible, but it's worth trying to make your way there purely for the views from the ruins.

You can reach El Mirador via a long hike, or, if you've got the cash to spare, take the simpler route to this important piece of Maya history via a short helicopter ride. 

7. Livingston

Boats ashore in the port town of Livingston, Guatemala (Dreamstime)

Boats ashore in the port town of Livingston, Guatemala (Dreamstime)

In eastern Guatemala, the port town of Livingston is well known for its clear waters and quiet, sandy beaches.

Take a boat ride down the Río Dulce, to the home of the Garifuna, a Caribbean people expelled from St Vincent in the 1800s, who later settled here. Enjoy views of the colourful homes perched on the waterside as you sail along.

Get your bearings in Guatemala...

(Scott Jessop)

(Scott Jessop)

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