To help inspire or plan your trip to Guatemala, some of its major attractions
for travellers are shown below, including some of the best natural, historical, cultural and adventure sites in the country.
These include all of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Guatemala which represent the best
of the world's cultural and natural heritage.
Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
Antigua is one of the best preserved Spanish colonial towns in Latin America and a magnet for travellers to this region. Located in a spectacular setting underneath the Agua, Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes, it is a beautifully laid back town of Spanish Baroque buildings, ruined and preserved churches and many interesting cafes, restaurants and markets. Founded in 1543, Antigua was capital of the Spanish colonial empire in Central America for over two centuries until an earthquake in 1773 led to the relocation of the capital to Guatemala City. As well as exploring the historic buildings, streets and courtyards, Antigua is a prime location for learning Spanish, with over 30 language schools. Additionally, the nearby Pacaya volcano can be summited with a half-day hike, allowing you to get stand right next to red-hot lava flows and admire the view of nearby volcano cones.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Antigua Guatemala
|Mayan City of Tikal|
Tikal is the largest and one of the most impressive Mayan sites, set amidst the jungle of Tikal National Park. Tikal was occupied between the 6th and 10th centuries and at its height it was one of the major centres of the Mayan civilisation, with up to 100,000 inhabitants and trading links as far away as Teotihuacan. The ruins comprise some 3,000 buildings over 16 km², including temples, palaces, causeways, ball courts and public squares. Most spectacularly, some of the tallest temples tower above the jungle treeline, which can be climbed to provide amazing views. Structures of note include the Q complex, Main Plaza, North and Central Acropolis, Seven Temples and Mundo Perdido. Its setting in the national park jungle means you'll share the experience with the resident wildlife including coatimundis, grey fox, spider and howler monkeys, toucan and weaver birds.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Tikal National Park
|Mayan City of Quirigua|
The Mayan site of Quirigua was occupied between the 2nd and 9th centuries AD and was an important trading centre between the powerful states of Tikal and Copan. Quirigua reached its zenith in the 8th century under the reign of Cauac Sky, becoming an autonomous and prosperous state after wars with its powerful neighbour Copan. Quirigua is renowned for its monumental carved stelae which chronicle historical events, including the wars with Copan, as well as Mayan myths, symbols and beliefs. Built every five years at Quirigua's height, they were up to 12 metres high and 60 tons in weight, the largest known quarried stone in the Mayan world. This is one of the lesser visited Mayan ruins, but no less special because of it.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua
Lake Atitlan, located in the Guatemalan highlands at 1,585 metres, has been described by the writer Aldous Huxley as 'the most beautiful lake in the world'. The lake, 20km long by 15km wide and reaching depths of 325 metres, is surrounded by the majestic volcanic peaks of Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro, making for a spectacular sight during daylight and at sunset. The surrounding villages and towns, including Panajachel, Santa Catarina, San Juan La Laguna and Santiago Atitlan, are populated by native Mayan peoples who maintain many of their traditional practises, costumes and beliefs. A boat ride can take you to various villages to learn about the lives of these indigenous people, with the shrine to the Mayan god Maximon in Santiago being particularly popular.
Chichicastenango is a town in the Maya Quiché highlands that is famous for its twice weekly market, considered to be one of the most colourful in Latin America. Indigenous people from all around the region gather to sell their wares including livestock, pottery, medicinal plants and in particular textiles making for a crowded, chaotic and fascinating experience and a great place to shop for souvenirs.
The town of Livingston is located on Guatemala's narrow stretch of Caribbean coast. The town can only be reached by boat from the town of Rio Dulce along the river of the same name, passing gorges with sheer rock faces and tropical vegetation. Livingston is a lively, colourful town whose people, known as Garifuna, have a unique racial blend. The town is renowned for its music and laid back vibe on the beaches or street cafes.