10 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Guatemala

I am sitting in Antigua, Guatemala, relaxing at the Central Park facing the giant volcano. I am trying to think what I could write to describe how much I love Guatemala. This is my second time in the country, and this time around I came to relax, get caught up on work, and I plan to stay a while. Then it hits me. I don’t need to try and pin point one single thing I love about Guatemala to try to get you to come visit for yourself. I can just list my favorite things about it! So here it is; 10 reasons why you should visit Guatemala.

1. Some smoking volcanoes to hike or gaze upon

Img src: theatlantic.com

Img src: theatlantic.com

This image kinda says it all doesn’t it? Santiaguito is just one of MANY volcanoes in this tiny country, both active and not. Right now if I go out side my house here in Antigua I can see 3 volcanoes pretty close up- Agua, Fuego and Acatanengo. Fuego spewing smoke little eruptions all day long. Guatemala also boasts the highest peak in Central America, a dormant volcano called Tajumulco. There are three active volcanoes here, and you are allowed to trek them and see some lava up close and personal, if you are brave.

A fact that I thought ironic, considering how the volcanoes have been known to wipe out cities in Guatemala’s history, is that Coffee, one of Guatemala’s main exports, needs to be grown in high elevations on fertile soil. That means all the coffee economy-supporting plantations are on the slopes of volcanoes!

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2. Only the best weather

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I was freezing to death in Brussels in December, and it was so foggy I didn’t see the sun for three days. So I bought a ticket to Guatemala and arrive in 25c degrees, sunny weather. Even in the summer months you can get to mountain towns and it’s not too hot. A great place for all. Guatemala is kinda near the equator, but is high enough in altitude that is isn’t too hot. At night it even gets cool enough to want a thin blanket. You can get a tan and still hot spend the whole day sweating your face off!

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3. Some pretty interesting people

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When I was hanging in Estonia I spent a lot of time with a Guatemalan guy. We became good friends and later I decided to go see his home country to see if all Guatemalans where that cool. They were! I am use to countries where you see a little old lady on the street and she gives the gringo a withering glare. I was pretty shocked when it was the opposite here, and their faces lit up with huge smiles and the  said “buenas tarde!”

Guatemalans also seem to take a lot of pride in their country, and love to show it off, either by showing you cool things you didn’t know about, or even by just showing how friendly and open they are there. It is rare that I encounter a whole group of people ready to just make friends with a stranger. Even my own country can learn a little something about this from the Guatemalans!

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4. Great food to grub on

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Just loo at that picture and you’ll buy the next flight. The other day I was at a big market and bought some home made chips. (thats “crisps” for you English weirdos) and when I later tried them at home they turned out to be the best chips I had ever eaten! I went back and bought 4 more bags and came home and made my housemates try them. They just shrugged…. They were use to them. And what goes great with these awesome nachos? Guacamole! Luckily avocados are grown locally and are always fresh and available!

Some great Guatemalan recipes include cool soups and stews. If the stews are watery they call them caldos and if the stews are thick they call them recados. In Guatemala there are plenty of caldos and recados and sometimes is difficult to decide which is which. Take Kak’Ik for instance, which is caldo that looks like a recado. Also, if you are lucky enough to be around for the holidays, it is a great idea to make some local friends. My house mate and friend’s mother cam to visit from the city and brought us some of the best tamales ever!

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5. World class coffee to satisfy your fix

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The coffee that is locally grown, harvested and roasted here in Guatemala is world famous and a favorite to coffee lovers all over. I knew this when I arrived, and decided to take a coffee tour when I was in Antigua. It was lead by a local boy whose family leased a small plantation and produced their own coffee, right on the slopes of Volcano Agua.

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They let us go to their fields, showed us the bright red cherries that were ready to be picked, showed us how hard of work it was for little pay, then we took y meager sack of coffee beans to his house. There he showed me how it was put through a shucking machine, then the inner seed laid out on concrete to dry. after that there was sorting and more shucking and finally roasting and grinding. I really got a feel for how much work went into making a pot of good coffee the Guatemalan way.

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6. Colorful chicken buses to love/hate

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You have to hate these huge, loud school buses running all over Guatemala. They are the most comfortable thing known to man, built for 5th graders, and they pack as many people they can into them. I have never seen a driver pass up a prospective passenger. That said, these chicken buses, highly pimped out to the liking of each driver, are also a god send to locals and budget travelers. For just a few US $ you can probably get across the whole country. So the discomfort is definitely worth the cheap travel in wildly flamboyant local transportation.

But thats not all! These cheap bus rides come with their own entertainment and the convenience of buying things you need. At each stop a different sales person gets on the bus and makes their grand speach about whatever it is they are selling. from simple pleasures like snacks and drinks, to home miracle remedies, secret  vitamins, weight loss pills, the greatest lotions known to man and so on. After each speech they will walk though the bus and see who was convinced to buy the stuff. You can even get your soul saved for a small donation!

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7. Great beaches to lounge

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Monterrico, pictured above and on the Pacific side, is just one of the awesome beaches here in Guatemala. There are more on the Pacific coast, the Caribbean coast as well as the major lakes. Finding this out was a bit of a surprise for me, as when I think of Beaches I think of Costa Rica, and when I think of Guatemala I think of Mayan ruins. Its cool to see they have both! Guatemala is small, so even though I spend a lot of time in Antigua, it is only a couple hours by bus to some awesome beaches and a hammock if I want to get away.

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8. Beautiful lakes to plunge

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Lake Atitlan was ranked as one of, if not THE most beautiful lakes in the world, up there with Lake Como in Italy. Lake Atitlan reminds me of Lake Managua with its volcanoes shooting out of it and its amazing landscape. Not many places in the world you can see this whole combination.

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9. Ancient ruins to wander

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Ya Ya, Mayan ruins, I was getting to it. Every one knows about Tikal, pictured above, and we all agree it deserves to be visited. But what most don’t know is there are other Mayan ruin sites besides TIkal. El Mirador is one for example, and it is huge. it is suppose to be one of the biggest Mayan complexes in Central America, but it is still mostly covered in jungle. There are tons of ancient ruins to either visit or discover for yourself.

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10. Cheap and easy to get

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Many Americans head to Cancun because of its nice beaches, weather and relative closeness. Not many realize though that they can just go an hour or two farther south and be in a much less touristy area with the same benefits. And flights are cheap too. From Miami to Guatemala City fo my friend the other day was about 3 hours and $400 or less. I came from Europe, and the cheap flight, 250 Euro from Brussels, brought me to Cancun, then I took buses the rest of the way to Guatemala. There is definitely a lot of cheap options to get here from around the world, and this is a really good reason to visit Guatemala!

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Want to also discover Belize? Be sure to check out the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich

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Latin America, Places to See, Things To Do In...

36 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Guatemala

  1. Vicky and BuddyonReply

    My dad’s side of the family is from Guatemala and I’ve been going there since I was a baby. I love that more people are noticing how beautiful and interesting a country it is. 🙂

  2. Tara CloudonReply

    Great blog on one of my fave countries, Guatemala. Please tell me where that food photo was taken–a restaurant buffet? I’m in Peru and heading home (slowly), and will be passing through/staying awhile in Guatemala, and would totally love to splurge in that restaurant!

    1. CarlaonReply

      It’s not a restaurant! Almost all markets, parks, churches and even sidewalks have food stands like these full of food, atoles (which are hot and thick beverages) and snacks. My country is beautiful and so much fun 🙂

  3. LouAnn KirkonReply

    This was a great read and I couldn’t agree more! My husband and I were in Guate recently for 2 weeks visiting our daughter who is a Peace Corps Volunteer. We LOVED every bit of it! Antigua was great, Lake Atitlan was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, Tikal was amazing and Livingston was very cool. We took every mode of transportation possible- chicken buses, tuk tuks, micros and pickups. I am totally hooked on Guatemalan coffee now. Our two week visit wasn’t near long enough and I am ready to return.

  4. SydneyonReply

    Guatemala is at the top of our list of favourite places to visit. Headquartered in Antigua and visited a great place you didn’t mention called earth lodge half an hour at the most from Antigua. Also awesome little hotel on lake attitlan called Posada de santiago. Highly recommended.

  5. mimionReply

    Our Guatemala is very beautiful!
    I’m originally born in California but both my parents are from Guatemala and they took us to live there, I lived there for 10 years I came back on 2005 and didn’t have the chance to go back to Guatemala till June of 2014 and for the first time took my 3 baby boys and my wonderful boyfriend and his sister, gotta say THEY LOVED IT!
    Boyfriend and my kids are so kind and they are friendly, and love to help

  6. DannyonReply

    I will have a 5 yr old daughter and 10 year old son. is it safe to travel with them, especially riding to the ancient ruins. I know there are zones in the capital that are bad and some that are good. I want to go but not sure if traveling with young kids is a good idea.

    1. Pedro EstradaonReply

      I’m from Guatemala and recommend you to take private transportation every time!

      It’s very unsafe to travel in the buses (if not transmetro) or taxis (if not the yellow ones) the tuc tucs are also very safe specially the ones in lake Atitlan!

      If you want to go to the ancient ruins do it with private hotel transportation and go to Tikal.

      You can travel with your kids for sure! But remember to always keep an eye in your whole family. Like everywhere you go! You can also check the security advisements from your embassy in the country!

      Good luck and wish to have the best time in Guate!!

  7. Jesus Alberto ValdezonReply

    I’m Guatemalan, and I’m facinated that people around the world are in love with my beautiful country. You are wellcome whenerver you want. Thanks Justing for share this piece of Guatemala Places, I love to be in Antigua Guatemala.

  8. Nicté KonoonReply

    Thank you for your post! i am a guatemalan woman living in japan now. I am totally agree with you about the wheather… OMG! and the chicken buses… it is cracy, its not?
    The coffe is pretty good… and of course, the best of all is the people and the kids with big eyes and smiles. Love you enjoy my little country and hope you have the best time in it.
    Regrasts.

  9. CesaronReply

    Im Guatemalan and for those who are thinking about coming over, it is a beutiful place, maybe just try to avoid the buses in the capital, the food is great and cheap, Antigua must be an obligatory destination if you are visiting.

  10. StefonReply

    Hi,
    Can you recommend a “beginner volcano”? I’d love to get more into hiking but haven’t done it in a while, so I guess I should start right away with a hard hike. I also so much look forward to seeing Lake Atitlan. And another question: when you had to choose 3-5 places to stay and explore the country from those places, which one would you choose? Thank you!

    1. miltonwaronReply

      Hello. A beginner volcano for sure is the Pacaya volcano. It is located about 25 miles south of Guatemala City. It has a safe path, there are no risk to get lost, as the volcano does not have trees. 5 places. 1.) Guatemala City. 2) Antigua Guatemala. From here you can go easily to places like Tecpan, Atitlan Lake. 3.) Coban. You can visit places like Semuc Champey, Lankin and so on. 3.) Rio Dulce is a perfect spot for the caribbean of Guatemala. It is on the road who takes to you to 4.)Flores, Peten. From here you can go to Tikal, and Yaxha. 5.) Monterico, Santa Rosa. Beaches with black sand. Hope this information will be useful to you.

    2. ManuelaonReply

      Hi Stef
      I’m Guatemalan and not a pro at hiking myself, but I recommend you Volcan de Pacaya, its surely and easy one and if you’re lucky enough you’ll get to see the lava pretty close. You can also try Volcano San Pedro, which is a small Small inactive volcano nearby lake Atitlan.
      Regarding where to go I’ll say Antigua Guatemala, Atitlan and Peten. Hope you have a great time at my beautiful country!!!
      BTW you should check this sitehttp://www.hastalacumbre.com for hiking tours.

  11. CinonReply

    Thanks for showcasing the best of my beautiful Guatemala… people like you that can appreciate its beauty are more than welcome ! 🙂

  12. Katie FeatherstoneonReply

    Wow, Guaremala looks like it has just about everything I travel for… not quite sure why I haven’t been yet in fact. Thanks for the inspiration! The food looks really delicious and your photos of the country just generally make me want to explore.

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  16. MeganonReply

    I spent 27 months in Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I loved to see this post! I do think you might want to check some of your spelling (particularly of Spanish words)…but thanks for writing about this great country!

  17. TracyonReply

    Guatemala sounds so amazing. I have actually been looking into going to a language school at Lake Atitlan. What is your take on the saftey down there and traveling by yourself.

    1. nomad.justinonReply

      Oh it is definitely safe. There are so many people at the lake or in Antigua taking language immersion. Lots of poeple travel there alone, and never want to leave. Including me.

    2. MeganonReply

      For females, it is a pretty great place to travel alone, particularly if you have some Spanish skill. Even if you don’t you’ll be fine. There’s some catcalling issues, but in general it is quite safe of you are smart and aware of your surroundings. Wouldn’t recommend Guatemala City alone though.

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  20. Shimi Shimi coco puffonReply

    Thank you for the informational forum and responses, too! I’m inspired to write one about Thailand. We are planning a trip to Guatemala and Belize in November. Cheers!

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