25 Unforgettable Things To Do in Guatemala

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With active volcanoes, a vibrant indigenous culture, and colorful markets, there are so many incredible things to do in Guatemala. You’ll find adventure, culture, history, and warm locals all in one place. Traveling in Guatemala is not always easy, but if you come with an open mind, this country is sure to steal a piece of your heart.

Things to do in Guatemala Semuc Champey

Known for active volcanoes, charming colonial towns, vibrant indigenous cultures, and ancient ruins, Guatemala is a place we’ve been itching to travel for years. And I’ve gotta say, it lived up to the magical expectations I’d built up in my head, which is not an easy feat.

But I’m going to be blunt: Traveling in Guatemala is not without difficulties.

There are certain areas known for crime, and while we didn’t have any issues, we heard stories from people who did. Food poisoning is something you have to cautiously avoid, and transportation between cities can be an… undertaking. And that’s a nice way of putting it.

All challenges aside, Guatemala is a country with charm, vibrant culture, and endless adventures. And if you’re up for the journey—bumps and all—we think you’ll love Guatemala.

Whether you’re backpacking through Central America or are planning to explore this country alone, there are so many incredible things to do in Guatemala. The only problem will be deciding how to fit them all in!

In this article, we’ll go over all the best things to do in Guatemala and the places you must see if you have limited time. We’ve also included some off-the-beaten-path experiences, plus insider tips and things you should know to help you plan your trip to this captivating country. 

Guatemala Travel Guide

For more tips and advice for planning your trip to Guatemala, jump to the following sections (or just keep scrolling to see it all!).

Top things to do in Guatemala

If you’re looking for the very best things to do in Guatemala, here are our top recommendations: 

  1. Hike up to an active volcano
  2. Fall in love with Antigua
  3. Find your zen at Lake Atitlan
  4. Visit the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey
  5. Explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal

Keep reading for more detailed information on each of these things and more ideas of fun things to do in Guatemala. 

1. Hike up an active volcano

Hiking Acatenango Volcano Guatemala

With 37 volcanoes in the country, Guatemala is a great place to see these natural wonders. Three of the country’s volcanoes are still active—Pacaya, Fuego, and Santiaguito—with the first two being the most popular for tourists to visit.

Getting up close and personal with these forces of nature is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip to Guatemala.

We’ve been hearing travelers’ stories about Volcan Fuego for years, and we finally got to experience it for ourselves. This active volcano erupts frequently (usually at least once per hour) and is most active at night. 

Things to do in Guatemala Volcan Fuego

A popular excursion from Antigua is to hike up the neighboring Acatenango Volcano, to watch it erupt all night long.

Spending the night beneath the stars and watching lava spew out of Volcan Fuego was unlike anything we had ever seen. And it is one of our favorite memories from our 3-month trip in Central America.

However, this trek is not for the faint of heart. We’ve written about our Acatenango Volcano overnight hike so you can know exactly what to expect and how to prepare.

2. Fall in love with Antigua

Things to do in Guatemala Antigua Arco de Santa Catalina

This charming colonial city flanked by volcanoes is hard not to love. Wander through cobblestone streets and past colorful buildings as you check out all the sights. 

  • Take a break in a cafe with some Guatemalan coffee
  • Photograph the famous Santa Catalina Arch
  • Stroll around Parque Central and the Plaza Mayor
  • Check out Casa Santo Domingo museum, hotel and spa
  • Explore Antigua’s ancient ruins
  • Visit Caoba Farms for lunch or their famous Saturday farmers market

Read more about our favorite things to do in Antigua (including where to eat and where to stay!). 

3. Find your zen at Lake Atitlan

Things to do in Guatemala Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is known for sucking people in, getting them to stay longer than expected. The ironic thing is while there is so much to do, it is also a great place to just relax.

Kayak or SUP along the shoreline or jump off a dock and swim! Before you do, read up on the pollution in the lake and make your own decision on whether or not you want to jump in. And if you’d rather just chill on shore, this is the perfect spot to soak up the lake views with a good book.

We have an entire guide to Lake Atitlan that’ll help you plan your trip. And don’t miss two of our top recommendations below.

Embrace your inner Hippy in San Marcos

Things to Do in Lake Atitlan: San Marcos Dock

San Marcos has an unapologetic “hippy vibe” that some people love, and others (like us) find a bit… how shall we say this… over the top.

All hippy vibes aside though, it is a cute town to relax in, eat yummy vegan food and soak up the lake atmosphere. And if you are open and curious, you can try all sorts of healing and spiritual rituals:

  • Cacao Ceremonies
  • Temazcal Ceremony
  • Be vegan for a day
  • Reiki healing
  • Silent Retreats

If any of the above experiences interest you, head to the main street of town and check out the bulletin board for dates and times. During the busy season, these events and ceremonies seem to take place quite frequently. We visited during low season (May), and found many yoga studios and other places closed.

Indian Nose hike

Things to Do in Lake Atitlan: Indian Nose Hike

The hike to Indian Nose viewpoint in San Juan la Laguna is relatively short (30 – 45 minutes) and not too difficult. But the views overlooking Lake Atitlan, several volcanoes and small villages, makes it a pretty epic experience.

You can choose to join a tour group and hike for spectacular sunrise views, or do it on your own in the daylight hours.

4. Visit the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey Guatemala

The turquoise pools of Semuc Champey are something out of a dream, and they truly are as beautiful as they look on Instagram.

Spend the day swimming, splashing and taking photos. Oh, and don’t forget to hike up to El Mirador for the most beautiful view. We have a complete guide to visiting Semuc Champey, which will help you plan your trip and know exactly what to expect.

Important Note: The thing that you have to understand before putting Semuc Champey on your itinerary is that it is not easy to get to. The long (and bumpy!) bus rides, however, mean that there are fewer crowds than you might expect in a place this breathtaking.

Caving by candlelight

The pools aren’t the only thing to see in Semuc Champey. There is a cave system which can be explored on a tour. And you’ll use candles to light the way!

Extreme tubing at Semuc Champey

Ultimate Guide to Semuc Champey River Tubing Floating

Many hostels organize groups to go tubing on Rio Cahabon. After spending a day in the pools, we grabbed tubes (and a beer or two!) and joined the group headed back to our hostel.

It is called “extreme tubing” for a reason! The river has a series of rapids and sharp turns, so it was a wild (but fun!) ride back.

5. Explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal

Visit Tikal Guatemala Ancient Ruins Viewpoint

Central America is full of Mayan ruins to explore, but one of the most loved sites is Tikal. Located in the jungle of northern Guatemala near the borders of Belize and Mexico, this used to be one of the most powerful cities in Mayan civilization.

Being that it is a bit difficult to get to, Tikal National Park sees less visitors than other popular ruins. Plus, the complex is huge and spread out through a jungle, so you can pretend you are Indiana Jones as you roam about the ruins.

We’ve put together a complete guide to visiting Tikal packed with everything you need for planning your trip!

6. Jump off a rope swing in Lake Peten Itza

Things to do in Guatemala Flores Jorge's Rope Swing

The town of Flores, Guatemala is cute, but the main reason people pass through is to visit Tikal. However, there is one more thing you shouldn’t miss before heading onward.

Jorge’s Rope Swing is set in a secluded bay on Lake Peten Itza, Guatemala’s 3rd largest lake, and it is a seriously fun place to escape the afternoon heat.

Order a drink (or two!) and relax on hammocks, mingle with other travelers, swim in the tepid waters or take a leap and jump off the famous rope swing. You’ll be happy you came!

Do it yourself: Here are details on getting to Jorge’s Rope Swing as well as more info about what to do in and around Flores.

7. Ride a “chicken bus” 

Things to do in Guatemala Chicken Bus

These brightly painted American school buses are common throughout parts of Central America, and Guatemala is the perfect place to hop aboard.

They earned the nickname “chicken bus” because locals bring everything on board—from machinery parts to giant bags of produce to, you guessed it—chickens!

Depending on the route, the bus might be really crowded. But don’t be surprised when the driver stops to pick up more passengers. There is always room for everyone on a chicken bus.

Unless you have lots of time to spare and are really looking for adventure, we’d recommend trying a shorter route. These local buses can take infinitely longer than direct shuttles, so a cross-country drive can take a really, REALLY long time.

And don’t expect comfort. While you might have a whole seat to yourself, you may also be squished between strangers for the whole bumpy ride.

Insider tip: When entering the bus, tell the driver your destination to be sure it’s going the correct direction. Then find a seat or a place to stand. Someone will come around to collect the fare, and the amount will be based on your final destination. But don’t worry, it is cheap!

8. Shop for handicrafts at local markets

Things to do in Guatemala Saola Market

Guatemala is known for shockingly colorful textiles and beautifully crafted artisan goods. If picking up a souvenir (or a suitcase full of them!) is on your to-do list in Guatemala, you’ll have no shortage of places to choose from.

And even if you don’t have room in your backpack, going to the markets is a great way to get a glimpse into local life and try regional foods you may have never seen before.

We visited a handful of markets during our time in Guatemala, but two of our favorites were around Lake Atitlan.

One is an excellent place to find crafts to purchase, while the other is an amazing place to observe local life.

Chichicastenango Market

Things to do in Guatemala Chichicastenago Market

Commonly called “Chichi” for short, this market is a must-see. It’s actually known as the largest market in Central America!

With rows upon rows (upon even more rows!) of locals selling handicrafts, this colorful market is a sight to see. Plus, it’s one of the best places to purchase souvenirs in Guatemala. Even though it is popular amongst tourists, we found it a totally worthwhile stop.

And while you’re in Chichicastenango, make sure to stop at the colorful cemetery not far from the market.

Sololá Market

Things to do in Guatemala Saola Market

Unlike Chichi, you won’t find many souvenirs. But you’ll find hardly any tourists either. Instead, experience true local life, as the nearby villagers come to purchase produce and home goods.

This is also one of the best places to spot men wearing their traditional clothing, which is a rare sight in much of the country.

9. Take a yoga class

Things to do in Guatemala Yoga Class Lake Atitlan

Whether you are an experienced yogi or you are new to the practice, You’ll find yoga classes all around the country—from the eco lodges in Semuc Champey to studios in Antigua to full-on retreats at Lake Atitlan. With an overwhelming amount of options, the latter is arguably the best place in Guatemala to get your downward dog on.

The town with the most yoga classes and retreats is undoubtedly the hippie and wellness haven of San Marcos, but you can find classes all around the lake.

You’ll find everything from drop-in beginner classes to month-long retreats, so there is a class for everyone at every level.

10. Scuba dive and see thermal activity

Scuba diving in Lake Atitlan will be different than most other dives you’ve experienced.

For one, don’t expect to see much marine life. But what the lake lacks in underwater life it makes up for in interesting sights like shipwrecks and thermal activity.

Plus, at 1,562 meters (5,125 feet) above sea level, it is possible to get your high altitude specialty at Lake Atitlan.

11. Toast marshmallows on Volcan Pacaya

Pacaya Volcano Day Hike (GYG)
Image source: Get Your Guide

If camping overnight isn’t for you (aka hiking Acatenango), hiking up Pacaya Volcano is an easier and less time consuming alternative. This volcano is much more accessible and can be easily done on a day trip if desired. 

The entire hike takes just 2 hours up and about 1.5 hours back depending on your speed, and is suitable for families and hikers of all abilities. Most tour companies offer morning and sunset times, and we’ve been told sunset is optimal!

At the top, you can roast marshmallows over warm lava rocks. How cool is that?!

12. Drink Guatemalan coffee

Things to do in Guatemala Coffee

Guatemala is known around the world for its robust and delicious coffee beans. They export their coffee around the globe, so there’s a good chance you’ve already had a Guatemalan brew before stepping foot in the country.

If you’re a coffee-lover, you’re going to be buzzed (quite literally!) your whole time in Guatemala.


In the more touristy towns, you’ll find super cute cafes with artisan coffees and dreamy decor. Oftentimes the beans are sourced responsibly from local communities, meaning your coffee habit will not only caffeinate you, but it will give back.

Visit a coffee farm

Things to do in Guatemala Coffee Farm

Learn about the process and support the farmers who work hard to produce quality coffee plants by taking a tour with De La Gente.

We’ve taken coffee tours in a handful of places, and it always gives us a deeper appreciation for the process and people behind it.

13. Learn about chocolate (or just eat it!)

Things to do in Guatemala Chocolate

Second to coffee, another well-known export from Guatemala (and Central America in general) is chocolate. So Guatemala is a perfect place to indulge your sweet-tooth.

  • Eat ALL the chocolate: Diego’s Chocolate is available all around the country (usually by the register of small shops) and comes in a variety of tasty flavors. Our favorite was dark chocolate sea salt.
  • Visit a chocolate museum: Yep, you read that right! The most famous one is in Antigua.
  • Do a cacao ceremony: Explore the spiritual side of chocolate.
  • Learn about the process: If you’re in San Marcos (town on Lake Atitlan), stop in Dalileo where you can sample some amazing chocolate and learn about how it goes from the bean to the bar.
  • Make your own chocolate: Take your chocolate knowledge to the next level and book a chocolate-making workshop!

14. Try pepián

Things to do in Guatemala Pepian

Known widely as the “national dish of Guatemala,” be sure to try this meat and vegetable stew at least once when traveling through Guatemala. It is said to be a fusion of flavors from both Mayan and Spanish culture, and is absolutely delicious!

This hearty dish can be found everywhere from street vendors (for a few dollars) to restaurants ($5-15) to locals’ homes.

Here are some top restaurants to try pepián in Antigua (but it can be found all around the country):

Or for the best pepián you’ll try, learn how to make it yourself in a cooking class. Read more below…

15. Take a cooking class

chocolate workshop Antigua Guatemala

We’re obsessed with taking cooking classes around the world, and think that it’s a great way to get a deeper look into culture, support locals, and have one of the best meals of your trip.

If you’re staying in Antigua, you can browse these cooking classes and food tours, or if you want to support locals and make sure your money is going back into the community, we’d recommend booking a Pepian cooking workshop through De La Gente. The workshop is $35 USD per person and makes for a great experience, plus it includes a tasty meal!

And if you’re traveling to Lake Atitlan, check out the classes run by CECAP & Amigos de Santa Cruz. It is a really cool organization that empowers locals in the community, and offers very cool experiences for travelers (plus, it’s one of the most affordable cooking classes in the country!).

16. See the “real Guatemala” in Xela

local Things to do in Guatemala Markets

Set high up in the Guatemalan highlands, Quetzaltenango or “Xela” (pronounced “sheh-la”) for short is often said to give visitors a glimpse of the “real Guatemala”.

Xela is the second largest city in Guatemala, yet it has a more laid back atmosphere than the not-so-charming capital, Guatemala City. Surrounded by volcanoes and known for beautiful churches and markets, Xela is far less touristy than Antigua and Atitlan, so it makes a nice stop if you have the time.

Spend a couple days exploring, or stay a while and take a Spanish class. Xela has many affordable options, including the choice to do a homestay.

17. Soak in hot springs (Fuentes Georginas)

Fuentes Georginas hot springs Guatemala
Fuentes Georginas images by: Laurel Van Woerkom

Nestled in the lush highlands near the town of Zunil (about 45 minutes from Xela), are the tranquil Fuentes Georginas hot springs. 

The natural, mineral-rich waters, heated by the nearby Zunil Volcano, provide a soothing soak with breathtaking views. They are surrounded by dense cloud forest and volcanic landscapes—unlike any hot springs you’ll find in North America!

Fuentes Georginas hot springs Guatemala

A visit to Fuentes Georginas makes for a great way to spend an afternoon away from Xela. But you can also visit these hot springs on a hike. More on that below…

18. Do a multi-day trek

Nebaj - Todos Santos Trek (Quetzaltrekkers)
Nebaj – Todos Santos Trek | Image source: Quetzal Trekkers

Quetzaltenango is also known as a base for trekking and there are a few popular multi-day hikes you can do from there. 

Standing tall at 4,222 meters (13,852 feet), Tajumulco is the highest point in Central America and takes 2 days to summit. Another popular multi-day hike is the 3-day trek to Lake Atitlan. 

If we had more time in Guatemala, this would have been at the top of our list!

Responsible travel tip: If you are considering doing a trek in Guatemala, check out Quetzal Trekkers, a non-profit trekking company led by volunteer guides. All profits go to a school and home for street children in Xela.

19. Volunteer

This hostel was mostly run by volunteers wanting to extend their stay in Guatemala!

Being that there is a high level of poverty, Guatemala has many volunteer opportunities. But beware. Volunteering abroad is not always as good as it sounds. If you plan to volunteer with people, please do your research on the subject of “voluntourism” and ensure that you are choosing a reputable and ethical organization.

An alternative option for those who want to stay longer in Guatemala but don’t want to breach the fuzzy ethical lines of working with children and impoverished communities is to volunteer at a hostel, guesthouse, animal rescue center, yoga studio, or farm.

Volunteer Opportunities in Guatemala

Typically these programs are free, and in exchange for a few hours of work a day, you will be provided room and board. There are many opportunities on WorkAway, and unlike volunteering with impoverished communities, the repercussions of your work aren’t as much of a concern.

20. See a different side of the country in Rio Dulce

Rio Dulce Guatemala_STOCK-U (Weyden Gonzalez)
Image by Weyden Gonzalez via Unsplash

While we didn’t personally have time to make it to Rio Dulce and Livingston on the Caribbean Coast, this spot is a good stopping point if you are traveling from Guatemala to Belize.

With an old fort, jungle, birds, and small Mayan ruins, there are a handful of attractions in Rio Dulce National Park. However, we haven’t heard anyone name this place as a highlight of their time in Guatemala.

Truthfully, we heard mixed reviews about this area. Some people we spoke with said it was a nice way to break up their trip to Belize. However, others said it didn’t feel super safe and the town of Livingston didn’t have the best vibes (in their opinion).

We can’t speak from experience, but had we been traveling to Belize, we probably would have tried to make it here just to check it out.

21. Go surfing in El Paredon

El Paredon Guatemala_STOCK-U (Marc Andre Julien)
Image by Marc Andre Julien via Unsplash

If you’re a surfer (or want to learn) El Paredon is one of the best places to catch waves in Guatemala. Surfing in this region is best from September through November, and undercurrents can be strong.

While El Paredon doesn’t get the same attention as more famous neighbors, like surfing towns in Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, this could be a nice way to soak up time away from the crowds.

Just 2.5 hours from Antigua, this laidback beach town could be a good addition to your Guatemala itinerary if you have some time to work with and want to get off the tourist path. You’ll find a completely different vibe here than you will throughout the rest of the country.

Take a surfing lesson, do a cooking class, visit a sea turtle hatchery, and explore the mangroves on a boat tour. Oh, and take some time to just relax at a luxurious hotel with a pool, like this one!

22. Practice your Spanish

Things to do in Guatemala Antigua

Guatemala is the perfect place to take a Spanish class. There are courses offered all around the country, and they vary in length and cost depending on what you’re looking for.

The towns around Lake Atitlan are popular places for people to take Spanish courses, as is the charming town of Antigua. You can book in advance, or visit each place and see where you’d prefer to spend more time.

23. Do a farm tour

Caoba Farms Antigua Guatemala

Whether you want to learn more about coffee farming practices, understand how chocolate goes from bean to bar or are looking for a quirky local experience, the region surrounding Antigua is a great place to tour a farm in Guatemala.

  • Tour a coffee farm with De La Gente: Signature coffee tours led by local growers from San Miguel Escobar near Antigua. Explore their fields, learn the coffee cultivation process from bean to brew, and conclude the tour with a coffee in their home. Engage in authentic conversations with small-scale producers, gaining insights into their challenges, triumphs, and dedication to the coffee industry.
  • Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm: Discover the complete journey of macadamia nut cultivation, the agroindustrial process, and their unique reforestation initiative. Sample macadamia products, unwind with a complimentary facial massage using macadamia oil, and grab a bite to eat at the restaurant before you go.
  • Caoba Farms: Established in 2004 with a mission to contribute to a more environmentally sustainable world, Caoba Farms is a short walk from Antigua’s city center. Beyond supplying fresh organic produce to local homes and eateries, the farm serves as a learning center offering permaculture courses and volunteer opportunities.  

24. Visit Hobbitenango

Hobbitonengo Antigua Guatemala 4

If your mind just went to the Lord of the Rings and you’re picturing the pint-sized movie set of Hobbiton that tourists come to visit on a trip to New Zealand, you wouldn’t be that far off. 

Hobbitenango is a hobbit-themed eco park, restaurant and hotel situated high on a mountaintop outside of Antigua. The destination is a popular visit for local families from all over the surrounding region and if you come on a weekend, you’ll surely run into crowds. 

Hobbitonengo Antigua Guatemala

Nevertheless, it’s a quick and fun experience to walk around the park, take in the stunning views of the surrounding volcano peaks and take lots of cheesy Hobbit-themed photos! If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can stay the night in one of the hobbit houses that were built to look just like those on the set of Lord of the Rings. 

Tip: It can also get really chilly up there, so it’s a good idea to wear layers. There is a small stand at the park entrance selling second-hand sweaters and jackets if you get desperate.

25. Don’t sleep on Guatemala City

Guatemala City_STOCK-Pix (Victor Leal)
Image by Victor Leal via Pixabay

While the major metropolis is certainly not going to be the highlight of your Guatemala itinerary, it is worth a stop if you’re looking for a little luxury or some comforts of home. 

For one, you can get luxury 5-star hotels in Guatemala City at a fraction of what it would typically cost you in the U.S. For example, a stay at The Westin will run you just about $100 USD per night. 

While you’re in the city, there are a few highlights we’d recommend checking out:

  • Take a free walking tour to get your bearings
  • Explore the Museo Popol Vuh (considered one of the largest collections of Maya art in the world) to learn more about Mayan culture
  • Stroll through the botanical gardens
  • Visit the National Palace, Guatemala’s City’s cultural center
  • Check out the trendy shopping and dining district of Cayala 

Is Guatemala safe?

Things to do in Guatemala Tikal Ruins

I don’t think a country can get generalized as safe or unsafe as a whole. And while we never had any safety issues while traveling in Guatemala, that doesn’t really answer the question, does it?

If you follow world news, you likely know that Guatemala deals with violent crime on a regular basis. Much of the violence in this country is related to cartel activity, however some of the crimes target tourists.

As of November 2023, the US State Department has Guatemala listed as a “Level 3 Travel Advisory” due to crime. However, if you read further, only certain areas are considered at risk. There are also plenty of ways you can exercise caution without forgoing travel completely.  

Things to do in Guatemala

Tips for traveling safely in Guatemala

  • Safety in numbers: When you’re exploring towns, don’t go alone. We did meet solo travelers—many of whom are female—so it is certainly possible to travel on your own through Guatemala. However, if you are a solo traveler, we’d recommend trying to find fellow travelers at hostels to go exploring with during the day.
    • That being said, I felt perfectly safe walking around Antigua alone (as a solo female) during daylight hours. 
  • Be especially cautious after dark: Avoid wandering around at night if possible. And when you do, make sure you’re with a group or you hire trustworthy transportation. If you’re in a city, you can always stop inside a hotel or restaurant and ask them to call a driver for you.
    • It is not advised to travel between towns after dark as tourists on your own, so keep this in mind if you are considering renting a car in Guatemala.
  • Listen to local advice: There are certain routes that are known for dangerous muggings. For example, many locals will warn you against walking between some of the towns around Lake Atitlan. Listen to them.
  • Keep your valuables out of sight: Be mindful about what valuables you’re flashing around.
  • Use common sense: While bad things can happen even when you’re using common sense, there are situations that can be avoided if you are aware of your surroundings. We’ve put together some essential travel safety tips that can help you feel more confident.

Best time to visit Guatemala

Tikal National Park Guatemala

Generally, the dry season, which runs from November to April, is considered the best time to visit Guatemala. 

During these months, the weather is generally pleasant, with less rainfall and warm temperatures, making it ideal for exploring outdoor attractions. During the wet season, you can expect only a few hours of rain per day.

However, keep in mind that Guatemala’s climate can vary based on altitude and region. The highlands and mountains may have cooler temperatures, while the lowlands can be warmer. 

While the rainy season (May to October) sees more precipitation, it can also be a beautiful time to visit, as the landscape becomes lush and green. Just be prepared for occasional showers.

How much time should you spend in Guatemala?

Hobbitonengo Antigua Guatemala

How much time you spend in Guatemala will significantly depend on how much of the country you want to see and what your desired pace of travel is. 

We recommend spending 2 weeks in Guatemala if you want to see the highlights (covered in #1-15 on this list). It can be tempting to try to squeeze in as much as possible, but we’d urge against this.

As we’ve mentioned a few times, getting around the country can be extremely time consuming, and part of the beauty of Guatemala is being able to take things at a slower pace and really get a feel for local customs and culture.

However, if you have more time to explore Guatemala and want to get off the typical tourist path, 3 weeks is ideal.

Guatemala itinerary

Semuc Champey Guatemala

Your route in Guatemala is going to be determined on whether you’re traveling from San Cristóbal, Mexico and onward to Honduras (this is what we did), or if you’re flying in and out of Guatemala City.

Below, you’ll find which places we recommend visiting if you have 2 weeks to spend in Guatemala, and how many days to spend in each place.

Insider Tip: When planning your route, keep in mind that transportation between towns can take the better part of a day.

  • Antigua: 3-5 days
    • Good to know: if you are planning to do the Acatenago trek, this takes an entire day, one night, and you’ll return (very tired) the next day in the early afternoon.
  • Lake Atitlan: 4-6 days (you can break up your time on the lake between 2 villages, as they each have a different vibe)
    • From Antigua, plan on the ride taking around 4-6 hours when you account for stops and traffic. It can be more or less depending on which town you’re staying in.
  • Flores/Tikal: 2 days
    • You only need one day for the ruins, but it takes nearly a day to get to Flores.
  • Semuc Champey: 2 days
    • Again, you only need 1 day to explore the pools (though an extra day would be nice for relaxing if you have the time), but it takes the better part of a day to get here.

How to get around Guatemala

Things to Do in Lake Atitlan: Walk to San Marcos

The options for transportation around Guatemala will vary greatly depending on your budget and itinerary. 

GuateGo is a reliable and easy to navigate site that we’d recommend using to book your transportation throughout the country. You can find buses, shuttles, private transport and even flights on the site that’ll take you all around Mexico and Central America. 


Uber is an affordable and reliable option for getting around in some of the more populous areas like Guatemala City and Antigua. It’s also a great option for getting from the airport in Guatemala City to Antigua. 

For shorter distances (intercity) Uber is our preferred method of transportation because you don’t have to negotiate prices and it feels safer knowing the ride is being tracked. 

Rental car

Renting a car in Guatemala is also an affordable way to get around, plus you have the freedom to chart your own path and move at your own speed.

The downside to renting a car is that the roads in Guatemala can be hazardous at worst and tricky to navigate at times with poor signage and foreign driving etiquette. It may not be the best option for travelers who aren’t as comfortable behind the wheel in a foreign place. 

Public buses

Buses are the main method of transportation for Guatemalans and probably the most affordable option for travelers on a budget. 

The “chicken busses” run inter- and intracity routes and come with some surprising additions (read more about this in #7 on this list) but can be quite the experience!


Shuttles, whether private or shared, are probably the most reliable option for traveling between cities, that offer a balance between comfort and affordability.

Tips for visiting Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

Guatemala is a unique country with a lot to offer, and these tips can help ensure a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

  • Exercise a healthy level of caution and stay informed about the current safety situation. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded or unfamiliar areas, and avoid displaying expensive belongings.
  • Explore beyond the city. Guatemala offers diverse landscapes, from ancient Mayan ruins to lush rainforests. Plan your itinerary to experience the variety of natural and cultural attractions the country has to offer.
  • Practice basic Spanish. While many people in tourist areas may speak English, learning basic Spanish phrases can significantly enhance your experience and interactions with locals.
  • Carry cash and some small change. While credit cards are accepted in many places, it’s advisable to carry some cash, especially in smaller denominations, for markets and smaller establishments.
    • We NEVER use currency exchanges as they take a hefty percentage. Instead we always bring a debit card and withdraw local currency from ATMs when we arrive in a new destination. 
  • Beware of changing altitudes. Guatemala has varying altitudes, so be prepared for different climates. If you’re visiting high-altitude destinations like Antigua or Lake Atitlán, take it easy the first day to acclimate.
  • Indulge in local cuisine. Guatemalan cuisine is rich and diverse. Don’t miss the opportunity to try traditional dishes like tamales, pupusas, and local coffee. Street food can be delicious, but choose reputable vendors.
  • Respect the local culture. Guatemala has a strong indigenous culture. Respect local customs and traditions, especially in rural areas. Ask for permission before taking photos of individuals, and be mindful of local etiquette. 

What to pack for traveling to Guatemala

Semuc Champey Guatemala

As much as you can, pack light with carry-on baggage only. This will help you during your travels around the country. There are poor roads so it’s not really recommended to rent a car. 

If you are on a budget, most often, chicken buses are your go-to transportation. And if you have a massive suitcase with you, it will just be in the way. Your luggage will be put above the bus, too.

Here are some specific items we’d recommend packing for Guatemala:

Round up of the best things to do in Guatemala

Here’s a recap of all the best things to do in Guatemala so you can see everything in one place.

  1. Acatenango Volcano hike
  2. Antigua
  3. Lake Atitlan
  4. Semuc Champey
  5. Tikal National Park
  6. Lake Peten Itza
  7. Ride a “chicken bus” 
  8. Local markets
  9. Yoga 
  10. Scuba diving
  11. Pacaya Volcano tour
  12. Guatemalan coffee
  13. Guatemalan chocolate
  14. Pepián
  15. Cooking class
  16. Xela
  17. Fuentes Georginas hot springs
  18. Multi-day trek
  19. Volunteer
  20. Rio Dulce
  21. El Paredon
  22. Spanish practice
  23. Farm tour
  24. Hobbitenango
  25. Guatemala City

Are you planning a trip to Guatemala?

We have lots more resources on travel in Guatemala and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Guatemala Travel Guide for all the important travel information, or read some of our favorite articles below.

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Things to Do in Guatemala | Two Wandering Soles
Things to Do in Guatemala | Two Wandering Soles

We want to hear from you!

Which of these epic things to do in Guatemala are going straight to the top of your bucket list? Are you planning a trip and still have questions? Comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!

Comments (13) on “25 Unforgettable Things To Do in Guatemala

  1. Karina says:

    Do you recommend renting a car? Is it safe to use public transportation or did you guys use tour companies to move from one place to another? Thanks!

  2. flecke@seattleu.edu says:

    Have loved all of your articles! I am planning a year long trip June 2023 -June 2024 through central america, south america and africa and have really appreciated your posts! Many thanks!

    • bwzweber@gmail.com says:

      To be honest, Patricija, we felt safe the entire time while traveling Central America. Of course you should use common sense when traveling about, just like anywhere else, but I wouldn’t let the reports of crime stop you from traveling there. Most of the tourist spots/cities are completely safe to travel around. Please reach out if you any more concerns.

  3. jord.bryant@gmail.com says:

    Solid post here! Commenting from San Pedro La Laguna. You’re spot on about the safety (some other blogs need to be updated)…you can get halfway up Volcan San Pedro with a guide and should be safe, but bandits are rife at the moment. I’ve been recommended not to do Indian Nose solo as well :/

    Time to read the Antigua post 🙂

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