There are few places on the planet that sound as wildly exciting and exotic as Guatemala. This land of volcanoes, lakes, pyramids and smiling faces offers more than enough to keep even the most demanding traveller happy and occupied.
The good news is that your excitement will keep on rising the more you read about this incredible Central American country and the tempting places to visit in Guatemala.
Mystical Mayan Pyramids and Temples
Guatemala is an excellent place to explore some ancient Mayan ruins and temples. Some are pretty well preserved while some are slowly losing ground the surrounding jungle.
image courtesy of Dennis Jarvis at Flickr
While some of these structures are relatively easy to get to, others involve jungle treks that add to the adventure and the memorable experience. There is nothing quite like finally reaching a remote Mayan city after a long and tiring journey through stunning natural scenery.
Among the top places to visit in Guatemala in this respect is the white city, known by the name of Zaculeu. The pyramids and ancient Mayan ball court sit in a magnificent setting close to the city of Huehuetenango.
image courtesy of Guillén Pérez at Flickr
This place was deserted when the Spanish conquistadores starved out the Mayans in 1525, although it was restored to something approaching its former glory in the 20th century as a tourist attraction.
Another terrific choice is Yaxha, which became well-known after being featured on the US Survivor show. This ruined city is close to the Belize border and well-situated for tourists to head out to visit. This is a hugely atmospheric place where you can watch an unforgettable sunset over Lake Yaxha.
Of course, if you have only heard of one Mayan city in Guatemala then it is probably the beautiful ruins at Tikal. This is quite simply one of the most impressive ancient cities you will find anywhere in the world and pretty much a must-see for anyone visiting Guatemala.
Colourful and Laid-Back Antigua
One of the most exciting places to visit in Guatemala is the colourful colonial city of Antigua. This was once one of the most important cities in the region but is now a laid-back stop for travellers looking to explore this fascinating country.
Antigua was once the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala but recurring natural disasters meant that it was virtually abandoned by the 19th century. These days is has a thriving ex-pat community and is regularly visited by cruise liners and lots of tourists.
There are now few better places in Latin America to feel the history of the place and to do some shopping. If you like taking pictures on your travel then you will also capture some fantastic ones here, with colourful buildings and friendly locals vying for your attention.
Lake Atitlan: The World’s Most Beautiful Lake?
You won’t believe how stunningly pretty this lake is until you get there. In fact, even then you might have to pinch yourself to believe what your eyes are seeing. Some famous visitors have waxed lyrical about the beauty of this lake, and it is easy to see why.
A big Mayan community lives here, living out a traditional way of life. It is also one of the best places to visit in Guatemala for trekking up volcanoes and for visiting quaint little villages. You will really feel as though you are somewhere special when you take a wander round here and look out over the lake.
If you like laid-back places where you can buy trinkets, take life easy and be close to nature then you could easily spend weeks around this lake. There is even a yoga retreat nearby if you want to meditate and reflect on life in one of the most picturesque places you are ever likely to be in.
Flores for Chilling Out
If you are heading over to Tikal then a side trip to the pretty colonial town of Flores is definitely recommended. This is a delightful place that looks fantastic and promises a cool time for you. You can eat in a shore-front restaurant, meet other travellers and soak up a very special atmosphere here.
courtesy of roaming-the-planet at Flickr
As Flores is on an island it is also a fine spot to hire a boat, go swimming or just head to the beach. The welcoming feel to this town means that some travellers also decide to hang around here and learn Spanish or just chill out for a while.
Tikal is only about an hour away by bus, so it is easy to see why so many tourists choose to make Flores their base when they want to see the wonders of this old Mayan city.
courtesy of Wojtek Ogrodowczyk at Flickr
There are many other fine places to visit in Guatemala too, such as the fabulous market town of Chichicastenango. Guatemala might not be a massive country but it is somewhere you can really relax and feel a part of something special.
You can also mix its intriguing history and architecture with shopping, high octane sports and lots and adventure.