Guatemala travel guide, including map of Guatemala, top Guatemala travel experiences, tips for travel in Guatemala, plus how to visit jungle-clad Mayan sites
Guatemala, birthplace of the Maya, is a land of kaleidoscopic colours.
The red lava tongues of Guatemala’s volcanoes contrast with the shadows of the caves in the southern Petén region and the thick lush jungles of the north – home to howler monkeys and rare scarlet macaws.
Further south, blankets of white sand coat the Caribbean Coast near Lívingston, while on the black-sand Pacific Coast, turtles and fabulous orange sunsets can be found at Monterrico.
Antigua, a cultural sideshow to Guatemala City, lies 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.
If you’re in Guatemala in November head to Todos Santos Cuchumatán for three days of drinking, dancing and a wild all-day horse race.
If you arrive by bus into Guatemala City, get a cab to your hostel: it’s a notoriously dangerous area, especially at night.
Wanderlust web intern Thomas Rees on the thing he wished he'd known before he arrived:
"Brush up on Tz'utujil. Many of the older inhabitants of the Mayan villages scattered along the shores of Lake Atitlan don't speak any Spanish which can make for a few awkward silences!”
The climate in Guatemala varies according to altitude, but the driest time is November-April. The coast is, by and large, hot all year round. The highlands have pleasantly warm days and cool nights. In December and January, there may be frost in the early morning at the highest elevations.
La Aurora (GUA) is 4km from Guatemala City.
Tourist shuttle buses, taxis or private car and driver are the best ways of getting around. From Guatemala City airport to Antigua (45km) get a bus or taxi.
As far as public transport goes, you’ll have to rely on the local or ‘chicken’ buses; they are inexpensive and dilapidated but offer a chance to meet ordinary Guatemalans. Poor roads make car hire challenging.
Guatemala has everything from luxury hotels to cosy B&Bs and bargain basement crash pads. Travellers on a budget will find it a joy: clean doubles and hostel dorms are easy to find everywhere except Guatemala City. At the top end, there are some fine colonial hotels, especially in Antigua. There are hardly any campsites in Guatemala.
Guatemalan food is hearty and filling: corn tortillas are a staple and – served with refried beans, eggs, sour cream, plantain and strong coffee – make a traditional breakfast.
Popular dishes include pepián, a chilli-infused stew made with meat and sometimes chocolate; chiles rellenos, chillies stuffed with vegetables and meat; and tamales, steamed cornmeal stuffed with chicken or meat.
Guatemalans have a sweet tooth: try mole de platano, plantain doused in a chocolate sauce. Gallo, the local beer, rum and aguardiente, a potent sugar cane spirit, are all cheap and popular.
Vegetarians are well catered for but check that beans haven’t been fried in lard (manteca/grasa de cerdo).
Although most visitors experience a trouble-free visit, crime is a serious issue in Guatemala. Take precautions: register with your embassy, don’t flash cash or jewellery, take registered taxis at night and steer clear of known trouble spots (Guatemala City after dark, and some trails around Lake Atitlán).
Highway robbery and robbery along hiking trails are risks. Don't flaunt valuables; distribute money etc around your bags/person; carry only what you need, keeping other belongings locked in hotel safes. Be up to date on key vaccinations. Take malaria tablets. Steer clear of tap water.
From rock-hewn cities to Welsh castles; mountaintop temples to island prisons, we celebrate the UNESCO-listed wonders that make the world a more cultured place... More
From liana-strangled jungle ruins to disappeared desert civilisations and eerie ghost cities, exploring the planet’s forgotten places is a thrilling adventure… More
Picking one single country to visit can be a challenge – so why not cross a few borders while you’re away? These trips pack in a glut of different cultures, food and experiences... More
From mass weddings and anonymous poems to friend celebrations and cutlery, these unusual Valentine gestures are as diverse as the countries they originate from — but all speak the same language of love... More
Winter doesn't have to mean mulled wine and mistletoe. Spice up Christmas this year at one of these far-flung festivals – they're colourful, exotic and a lot of fun... More
Venezuelans skate to church, Norwegians hide their brooms, and Catalans are obsessed with festive pooping. We reveal the weird and wonderful festive traditions around the world... More
Some of the world's finest travel photographers, including Richard I’Anson, Amos Chapple and Charlie Waite, pick the most rewarding places to focus their lenses on... More
From skeleton parades and sugary skulls to homemade feasts and lavishly-decorated alters, here's everything you need to know about celebrating Día de los Muertos in Mexico... More
Looking for a Christmas you’ll never forget? Don’t deck the halls, just grab your passport and go on one of these exciting adventures in India, Latin America, Jordan and beyond! More
Not sure where to go this Christmas or New Year? Fly out to one of our off-beat winter destinations and experience the festive season like never before... More
If it’s volcanoes, colonial towns, Mayan ruins and abundant nature you’re after, head to Central America. From Belize to Panama, Guatemala to Nicaragua, adventure is guaranteed... More
Symmetrical and spectacular, pyramids have long fascinated travellers. These ancient – and not so ancient – structures are just as enigmatic and beguiling as their cousins in Giza, and often closer to home More
Guatemala has it all: fascinating culture, rich history, colonial architecture and spectacular countryside. Not sure where to start? Latin America expert David Horwell shares his top tips More
Whether scaling the volcanic slopes of Cotopaxi on horseback or snorkelling the reefs of Belize, Central and South America are packed with thrills. Daniel Neilson reveals the best... More
See how Christians around the world mark Holy Week with a variety of traditional processions recognising the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and celebrating his resurrection. More
The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are dropping, but it’s not too late to book a bit of sun – in Jordan, Costa Rica, the Galapagos islands ... or even the sugar white beaches of the Seychelles More
From rugged rail journeys through South Africa to forest trekking in Thailand, escape the winter blues on these far-flung adventures More
Embark on a historical journey on the path of revolutionist Che Guevara, visiting some of South America's most iconic sights along the way More
From touching the North Pole to reaching Antarctica, some of the best adventures can only be undertaken by expedition cruise – here are some of our favourites More
Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
And the best bit is, this isn't a one-off offer, you get one every time you renew as well!
The £50 discount can be redeemed against one trip booking with one of our tour operator partners, by the expiry date printed on the voucher. The £50 can even be redeemed on top of any discounts our partners are already offering, ensuring Wanderlust subscribers get the best deal possible.
Simply quote your unique voucher code when booking to claim the discount. This offer is only available to Wanderlust subscribers.
UK subscribers automatically receive the voucher each year. Overseas subscribers receive it upon request.
From: £2685.00More …
Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified of new articles, new competitions, new events and more!