07.11.2023 - 23:39 / lonelyplanet.com
The epicenter of Mayan culture in Central America, Guatemala is renowned for its dramatic volcanoes, black-sand beaches, biodiverse jungles, thriving Mayan townships and the stunning ruins of Tikal.
There's loads to see here. The country’s abundant natural attractions are topped off by the urban charm of Antigua, the country's former Spanish-era capital, where visitors can find some of the best food in Central America.
Everything in Guatemala feels vibrantly alive, from the Mayan culture of Chichicastenango to the serene waters of Lake Atitlán with its guardian ring of volcanoes. One trip will likely have you hooked for life, so here are the best places to visit to start the adventure in Guatemala, the Land of Eternal Spring.
Best for architecture, history and volcanoes
Just a 45-minute drive from Guatemala's main international airport, Antigua is most travelers’ first and last stop in Guatemala, and it rarely disappoints. This city’s cobblestone streets and colorful homes are surrounded by towering volcanoes, the most impressive of which is El Fuego ("the fire"), whose steep slopes are regularly marked by low-level eruptions.
Antigua is a place to pose for selfies under the iconic Arco de Santa Catarina, shop for Mayan handicrafts, take stunning photos of volcano-backed street scenes and colonial architecture, study for Spanish language courses, and refuel in the city’s many excellent cafes, restaurants and bars.
Some of Guatemala’s best restaurants can be found in Antigua, with excellent global cuisine as well as traditional and contemporary Guatemalan fare. Eat delicious, budget-friendly street food at the night market or splurge on somewhere elegant and atmospheric. Bring an appetite to Meson Panza Verde, a cozy boutique hotel where creative fusion dishes are made with local ingredients.
For days out of town, wake up early to hike to the nearby Pacaya and Acatenango volcanoes, or wake up late and enjoy a locally grown brunch at Caoba Farms. There's plenty here to fill many days of exploring.
Best for chilling out amidst volcanic scenery
Tucked away deep in the western highlands and framed by three towering volcanoes, Lago de Atitlán is considered by some to be the most spectacular lake in the world. The waters of this deep and mysterious crater lake turn turquoise to deep green to dark blue as the light changes with the time of day and season. Because of its unique beauty, travelers have been known to get stuck here for weeks, months or even years.
Small villages with distinctively different moods surround the lake. Party people should head to San Pedro La Laguna, while those interested in meditation and yoga will love quieter San Marcos La Laguna. Spanish classes are widely available, but the main
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