10 Reasons Why Visiting Guatemala Should Be On Your Travel Bucket List

Consider yourself a travel enthusiast? An adventure-seeker, perhaps? If you're in search of your next travel destination, Guatemala could be the destination you're looking for.

With its vibrant culture and stunning landscapes, Guatemala is a country that will charm you from the moment you arrive. This unique travel destination is still under the radar of many travelers who are more familiar with other Central American countries like Costa Rica or Mexico. But trust us, your journey in Guatemala will leave you in awe and make you fall in love with its crumbling Mayan architecture and smiling, brightly-dressed people.

Without further ado, here are ten compelling reasons why visiting Guatemala should be at the top of your bucket list!

1. Guatemala is home to 1,500+ ancient Mayan ruins

Pyramid and the main plaza at Tikal.

Traveling in Guatemala means stepping back in time to the heart of the Mayan world. The ancient wonders of Tikal ruins, El Mirador, and many other Mayan cities boast awe-inspiring architecture, intricate carvings, and fascinating history. The Maya built cities of stone, and towering pyramid temples to their rulers who were lauded in life and death, and their Mayan culture lives on to this day. On stelae and wooden lintels, they carved in exquisite detail their battle stories, lives, and legends.

howler monkey in Tikal national park is one of many reasons why visit Guatemala

Today, all the Mayan ruins are home to jaguars, howler monkeys, and keel-billed toucans. At Tikal National Park, a Unesco world heritage site, there are more and more jaguar sightings. You might be lucky enough to see one yourself!

2. Traveling in Guatemala is very affordable

Looking for an affordable backpacking adventure? You won’t have to look further than Guatemala to find an incredible place where you can enjoy a ton of amazing activities, great street food, and exceptional treks near active volcanos.

Hostels and budget hotels in Guatemala are stylish and clean, and there are tons of backpackers everywhere. Shuttle buses are so easy to book! And if you are truly budget-minded, the famous chicken buses are inexpensive public transportation that can take you to any of the tourist destinations for a few dollars. Seriously, you’ll be blown away by how easy it is to travel in this country.

It might even remind you of Thailand as it’s a perfect place for a first solo trip or to work remotely. The city of Antigua is particularly popular among digital nomads thanks to plenty of affordable hostels and hotels like Selina, plus delicious street food and economic restaurants on every street corner.

3. Hike volcanoes and see volcanic eruptions

Night view of Fuego volcano with city lights in the background.

For the adrenaline junkies, Guatemala offers thrilling volcano hikes with 37 volcanoes all in all, including three active volcanoes. Challenge yourself to conquer the peaks of Pacaya, Acatenango or Fuego volcano, and be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views plus the unforgettable experience of witnessing active volcanic activity right in front of you.

Each of these excursions can be booked with local tour operators in Antigua, or can be booked online at Kayak Guatemala. The three volcanos (San Pedro, Toliman, and Volcano Atitlan) at Lake Atitlan are not active, yet they beacon the adventurous traveler to climb them for the spectacular views from their summits. Another active volcano hike a little off the beaten path is the Santa Maria/Santiaguito trek near Quetzaltenango.

Santa Maria and Santiaguito volcanoes

4. Explore countless outdoor adventures at Lake Attilan

Guatemala is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering plentiful opportunities to get your heart racing and leave you in awe of its natural beauty. For those seeking a more serene adventure, Lake Atitlan is the place to satisfy your craving for adrenaline and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Some adventure activities in Lake Atitlan:

Spend a day exploring Lake Atitlán. Avoid walking while taking photos 1600 meters above sea level. The best kayaking is during daylights hours.

WE RECOMMEND: Sleep in a different Mayan village every night and spend your days kayaking across the world-famous Lake Atitlan with this unique one-week kayak vacation from Kayak Guatemala.

5. Guatemala is full of diverse wildlife and rainforests

Welcome to a wildlife lover's paradise! From the lush rainforests to the towering mountains, Guatemala is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna.

You can spot colorful toucans soaring through the treetops, monkeys swinging from branch to branch, and elusive jaguars silently prowling through the dense vegetation. Take a boat tour along the mangroves and catch a glimpse of crocodiles basking in the sun or marvel at the sight of sea turtles nesting on the pristine beaches.

Whether you're an avid birdwatcher, a nature enthusiast, or simply curious about the wonders of the animal kingdom, Guatemala will not disappoint.

TIP: Go birdwatching to see the Quetzal bird.

Quetzal bird in the wild.

The famous Guatemalan Quetzal bird is a true symbol of beauty and majesty. With its vibrant emerald-green plumage and long, flowing tail feathers, spotting this magnificent creature is like stepping into a fairytale.

Picture yourself immersed in the misty mountains, surrounded by the melodious sounds of nature, as you patiently await a glimpse of the quetzal perched on a branch. This extraordinary Quetzal bird-watching experience is accessible from Lake Atitlan. We recommend going with a tour guide who will know where and how to spot this rare bird species.

6. Catch waves in El Paredon

Hey there, surf seekers! With stunning coastlines along the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea, Guatemala offers a variety of surf spots for all levels of experience. The most popular destination is El Paredon with its black sand beaches, but you can also catch great waves in Sipacate and Monterrico. These spots boast consistent waves, warm water, and breathtaking tropical scenery that will make your surfing sessions truly unforgettable.

Surfer catching a nice wave at El Paredon on the Pacific Ocean.

If you're new to surfing or want to improve your skills, Guatemala's Pacific coast has a range of surf schools and camps that cater to all levels. Experienced instructors will provide personalized coaching, teaching you the fundamentals of surfing, from paddling techniques to riding the perfect wave. With their guidance, you'll gain confidence and have a blast in the water.

7. It's cheap to learn Spanish in Guatemala

There are numerous language schools across the country, including popular destinations like Antigua and Quetzaltenango (Xela). These schools offer immersive programs taught by experienced instructors who will guide you through the language-learning journey with enthusiasm and expertise.

Learning Spanish in Guatemala goes beyond the classroom. It's a chance to explore the rich cultural heritage of the country. Imagine strolling through the colorful markets, engaging in conversations with locals, and unlocking a deeper understanding of Guatemalan culture. The warmth and openness of the Guatemalan people will make your language-learning experience all the more enjoyable and rewarding.

Beyond the surf breaks, Guatemala's Pacific coast offers a treasure trove of natural wonders waiting to be explored. Take a break from the waves and embark on boat tours to discover hidden black sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and the unique marine life that thrives in these waters. If you come during the winter months, you can volunteer at the turtle hatcheries.

Spend an entire day on the black sand beaches.

8. Embrace the "pura vida" lifestyle

Baby turtle fresh from its egg makes his way to the ocean.  The nests are found in rural areas.

In Guatemala, you'll encounter a "pura vida" mindset that emphasizes living life to the fullest and embracing the present moment. Allow yourself to immerse in this laid-back lifestyle, where time slows down, and stress melts away. It's the perfect environment to find a sense of inner peace.

You can fully immerse in the lifestyle on the beaches of coastal towns like El Peredon, or at a spirituality retreat in San Marcos la Laguna aka the spiritual capital of Guatamala. San Marcos is said to be an "energy vortex" where cosmic forces collide to create a unique and peaceful ambiance. With plentiful yoga and meditation centers, the aroma of incense in the air, and narrow colorful streets, it's a haven for free spirits and searchers of personal transformation.

9. The weather is perfect year-round

Most travelers visit the Guatemalan highlands, also known as the Land of Eternal Spring. The weather is near perfect year round, with the only differences being the dry season (November to April), and the wet season (May to October). The comfortable climate allows thousands of species of flowering plants to flourish. For more help with planning your trip, read our guide on when to visit Guatemala.

A day exploring and making new friends at the beach

10. If you live in the United States or Canada, traveling to Guatemala is fast and easy

Traveling to Guatemala from the US or Canada is so fast and easy. Guatemala is conveniently accessible from numerous cities in the US and Canada, making it a hassle-free destination to reach.

With direct flights available from major airports to Aurora International Airport, you can be sipping on a delicious cup of Guatemalan coffee or exploring ancient Mayan ruins in no time. Guatemala is in the Central time zone, so jet lag will never be an issue. Plus, the friendly and welcoming nature of the Guatemalan people will make you feel right at home from the moment you arrive.

Folk band playing at a park.

Planning Your Trip to Lake Atitlan

Kayak Guatemala is Lake Atitlan’s #1 base camp for exploration and adventure, offering activities like epic volcano hikes, family kayak tours, cooking classes, and village-to-village boat and walking tours. We employ and upskill underprivileged local people, plus a portion of our profits goes towards an NGO that works hard to alleviate poverty in Lake Atitlan.

For more help with planning your trip to Lake Atitlan, check out our "Top Tours & Things To Do In Lake Atitlan" guide.

Now that you've caught a glimpse of what awaits you in Guatemala, add it to your bucket list and get ready for a truly remarkable adventure. Whether you're seeking history, breathtaking landscapes, thrilling experiences, or cultural immersion, Guatemala has it all. So pack your travel gear, open your heart to new experiences, and let Guatemala work its magic on you!


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