The Wanderlust guide to the best of Guatemala and Belize

Lost temples, abundant wildlife and beaches to die for. Discover your inner-Indiana Jones with our guide to the best of Guatemala and Belize

7 mins

Volcanoes, jungle-clad Mayan ruins, vibrant fiestas, picture-postcard tropical beaches – no wonder Guatemala and Belize are Central America's hottest tickets.

If it’s colonial charm you’re after, head to Antigua, lying in the shadow of three volcanoes. Its cobbled streets are lined with pastel-coloured homes, toppled church arches, columned courtyards, flowers and fountains galore.

Also on everyone’s must see list in Guatemala is Tikal, the majestic Mayan city buried deep in the jungle.

Visit tiny Belize and you’ll be chilling on the tropical islands (cayes) that speckle the length of the east coast or diving the world's second-longest barrier reef. Tangled in Belize's forests lurk millennium-old Maya sites as well as a host captivating wildlife – toucans, iguanas, howler monkeys, coatimundis, kinkajous, tapirs and even jaguars.

A word of advice. Don’t try deciding between them. Visit both!

Antigua, Guatemala (

The streets of Antigua, Guatemala (Shutterstock)

Looking for inspiration?

Coffee, chocolate and colossal volcanoes. That’s what impressed Claire Boobbyer about Guatemala – and chances are they will impress you too...

Of course, you might be looking for lost Mayan cities and maybe a colonial city or two. In that case you need to take a look at Jini Reddy’s story about El Mirador, the lost city of the Maya, and Claire Boobbyer’s list of must-visit places in the Guatemalan highlands.

Before you make your way through the jungles of Belize towards its tropical coast, we’d suggest reading our suggestions for the six places you must visit, just so you don’t miss out on anything. Alex Robinson’s piece on little-visited Belize is worth checking out too. And because Belize is not the cheapest destination in the region, you’d do well to check out Chris Moss’s tips on enjoying Belize on a budget.

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Coffee, chocolate and colossal volcanoes in Guatemala – Claire Boobbyer

El Mirador, Guatemala: lost city of the Maya – Jini Reddy

Guatemala's Highlands Top 5 – Claire Boobbyer

Top 6 places to visit in Belize – Island Expeditions

Discover little-visited Belize – Alex Robinson

Belize on a budget – Chris Moss

Tikal. Guatemala (

Tikal, Guatemala (Shutterstock)

The secrets of the Mayan Route revealed

Stretching from Mexico to Belize, the Mayan trail is every thrill-seeking traveller’s dream. Temples and tapirs, rainforests and reefs, villages and volcanoes – it is a trail littered with adventure. To that end, Alex Robinson has put together a travel blueprint for the Maya Route to make sure you don't miss a thrill. Of course, not all travellers are as adventurous as the others, so Alex has also put together a list of four different ways to travel the Mayan Route.

Tikal in Guatemala is quite rightly regarded as the superstar of the Mayan sites with its mighty temples rising out of the jungle like a film set for Indiana Jones. But recent discoveries in Belize have revealed Mayan sites that are equally important and picturesquely set. Paul Bloomfield travelled to Belize to investigate and reveals the Mayan sites in Belize you must visit.

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Travel blueprint: Maya Route – Alex Robinson

4 ways to travel the Mayan Route – Alex Robinson

Mayan Belize – Paul Bloomfield

Palm Sunday carpet, Antigua (

Palm Sunday carpet, Antigua (Shutterstock)

Capturing it all on film

From the kaleidoscopic hues of the markets of Chichicastenango to the azure seas that surround the cayes of Belize, these countries are awash with eye-popping tones. But how do you ensure that your photos are as vibrant and as colourful as the scenes you are trying to capture? Be bold, says Steve Davey. And contrast, contrast, contrast!

If it’s inspiration you’re after, then look no further than the photos taken by our readers on their travels in Guatemala and Belize. They are truly amazing.

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Photography tips: capturing colour on camera – Steve Davey

Photos of Guatemala and Belize from our readers

Aracari toucan, Belize (

Aracari Toucan in Belize (Shutterstock)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Guatemala and Belize travel guides are the place to start. Make sure you drop by the Guatemala and Belize Essential Info pages as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from Guatemala  and Belize too.

If you have a particular question about Guatemala or Belize, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about Guatemala and Belize. The answer to yours might already be there.

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Guatemala Travel GuideWanderlust Team

Guatemala Essential InfoWanderlust Team

Belize Travel GuideWanderlust Team

Belize Essential infoWanderlust Team

Latest Guatemala travel news

Latest Belize travel news

Forum posts about Guatemala and Belize

Community content about Guatemala and Belize

Sunset on Caye Caulker, Belize (

Sunset on Caye Caulker, Belize (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From this to that, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Guatemala and Belize.

Main image: Decorated door, Guatemala City (Shutterstock)

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