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The beautiful Central American country has rich layers of history, breathtaking natural beauty and buzzing with diversity. If you’re never been to Guatemala before, you’ll see lots of wonderful things about it to discover: from Guatemala City to Mayan ruins in Petén, from hiking up a mountain to a rural indigenous village (forty percent of the population is indigenous Maya), to visiting a coffee farm on the Pacific Coast. But what are the best places to visit and do when visiting Guatemala?
The ancient capital of the country is . one of the most popular destinations when visiting Guatemala. It is located in the central highlands and is famous for the 16th-century colonial-style Spanish architecture, as well as the three volcanoes surrounding it. Agua, Fuego and Acetenagno – they are great for a day trip if you like hiking. Fuego is still active and its eruptions can be seen from Antigua.) You’ll find lots of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and an artisan market in this ancient city. Examples of Antigua’s exquisite colonial architecture makes the city a really special place to visit.
Maya ruins in the Tikal National Park
The ruins are part of Guatemala’s Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remotely sitting in the middle of the jungle. Tikal was a Maya city of great power and size, the largest of Maya cities during the Classic Era over 1000 years ago. After the collapse of the Mayan Civilisation, the ancient city became overgrown, and all the temples and other buildings were lost to the jungle, until the middle of the 19th century when expeditions began. There is no Tikal town, but just outside the National Park, there are a few hotels, places to eat and artisan shops.
Lake Atitlan and the lakeside villages
This volcanic crater lake is surrounded by 3 volcanos and dozens of villages, each with its own unique atmosphere. A good couple of days are really needed to discover this area, and there’s a lot to do around: kayaking, hiking, climbing volcanoes, yoga classes, watching sunsets, and guided tuk-tuk tours. In San Juan you can even go to a weaving class and learning about how this town grows its own cotton and uses natural dyes for the textiles. You can also visit local coffee farms – Guatemalan coffee is one of the best! The lake area is home to dozens of retreat centres: yoga, reiki, meditation and teacher courses are also available.
The Semuc Champey natural monument boasts six stunning tiered turquoise pools, an extensive cave network complete with underground waterfalls, and breathtaking views. It’s also worth paying a visit to the caves. There are subterranean waterfalls and pools to explore, which is a unique experience. Semuc Champey can only be accessed by dirt roads, the drive from Antigua in a minibus takes about 8 hours and there are hostels and hotels to stay.
Be a foodie
Guatemala has so many special things to offer, that you cannot experience anywhere else. Food is one of them. The. Best quality of speciality coffee and chocolate is. Probably the best examples why you need to embrace your inner foodie when you visit the country. Try pepian (meaty soup) and of course the well known nachos, tamales, and enchiladas. You can even take a popular cooking class!