25 Best Things to Do in Guatemala

Guatemala

Welcome, and prepare to embark on an unforgettable journey through the best things to do in Guatemala.

In this comprehensive guide, we've melded insights from locals and travelers to present you with a mosaic of experiences that define this remarkable place. While we've highlighted some must-visit spots, it's imperative to understand that these recommendations are shaped by personal opinions and experiences.

There are countless other wonderful places awaiting your discovery. Our goal isn't just to point you to the well-trodden paths, but to inspire you to explore and truly immerse yourself in the city's essence.

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We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Michael Fuentes, Laura Pina and Jada Lucas, Diego Gonzales & Luis Navas.

Experience Ancient Mayan Culture at Yaxha North Acropolis

Stunning view of the Yaxha North Acropolis
Odessa25 / Shutterstock.com

I'm blessed to live in the close vicinity of such a rich historical gem - the Yaxha North Acropolis.

Just a stone's throw away from my home, this archaeological marvel is a constant reminder of our Mayan heritage.

Have you ever wondered what it's like to step back in time and explore a pre-Columbian city?

The ruins of the Yaxha North Acropolis offer an awe-inspiring glimpse into the ancient Mayan world.

The site is home to the largest group of restored buildings at Yaxha.

The complex is composed of three grand pyramids and residential buildings.

Closer view of one of the pyramids at Yaxha North Acropolis
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

I've had the privilege of climbing each one of these pyramids and let me tell you, the panoramic view from the top is absolutely astounding.

One of my favourite pastimes is to spend an evening at the North Acropolis, watching the sun set over Yaxha Lake.

It's an experience that never fails to inspire, no matter how many times I witness it.

I recommend anyone visiting to not miss this spectacle, it truly is an unforgettable experience.

The North Acropolis, due to its elevated position, is perhaps the most impressive part of Yaxha.

Unlike any other sections of the city, it exudes a character that is unique and intriguing.

Whether you're a history buff, an adventurer, or just someone looking for a tranquil escape, the Yaxha North Acropolis is a destination that should be on everyone's bucket list.

View of the Yaxha North Acropolis
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

Climb the Temple Stairs at Tikal National Park

View of the Tikal National Park
Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com

In the heart of the dense jungles of Guatemala, time stands still.

The ancient Mayan city of Tikal, now an archaeological site within the Tikal National Park, whispers tales of the past.

I've spent countless days wandering the grounds of Tikal, exploring the Mayan temples and ceremonial ruins dating back to 900 BCE.

Every visit presents a new opportunity to marvel at the sheer magnitude and historical significance of the site.

A sunrise or sunset visit to the park is a spectacle to behold, though the park authorities insist on having a tour guide during these times.

The darkness that sets in post-sunset or before sunrise can be intense, making the presence of these guides crucial for safety, especially for those unfamiliar with the terrain.

Yes, there may be a language barrier as not all guides are well-versed in English, but their knowledge of the area and its history is invaluable.

Tikal is not just a tourist spot.

For us locals, it's a testament to our rich heritage.

Visitors climbing on the wooden stairs at Tikal National Park
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

The local vendors at the entrance of the park offer a range of souvenirs and local artifacts, though the prices are admittedly steeper compared to the city markets.

The park is certainly vast, and it's true that a single day might not suffice to fully absorb its grandeur.

It's also not particularly friendly for those with mobility issues, as some of the temples require climbing steep stairs.

But the effort is well worth it when you stand at the top of Temple IV, taking in the panoramic view of the sprawling jungle, a sight that inspired the iconic Star Wars view.

The sweltering heat can be challenging, and sudden showers are common during the rainy season.

Equip yourself with water, sun cream, and a raincoat, and you're all set to dive into the mysteries of Tikal.

Coati at Tikal National Park
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

Plunge into the Natural Pools of Semuc Champey Natural Monument

Bird's eye view of  Semuc Champey Natural Monument
Isabellaphotography / Shutterstock.com

Life in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle is quite an adventure, and I am fortunate to have the stunning Semuc Champey Natural Monument as my backyard.

I start my day with a brisk walk in this lush, tropical paradise, often exploring the caves that stretch out for 11 kilometers.

Only the bravest venture the whole way, but for me, 1 kilometer is just enough to soak in the serenity.

The cool water of the caves provides a refreshing plunge, a much-needed break before the impending hike.

Post afternoon, climbing to the top of the waterfalls, the hike gets steep, but the reward is an unparalleled view of the interconnected turquoise pools.

While it's a challenge, seeing our landscape from this vantage point is one of the most breathtaking experiences you can imagine.

The pools, nestled amidst the hills, are a sight to behold.

Waterfall at  Semuc Champey Natural Monument
Natali Daniel / Shutterstock.com

If you're bold enough, you can slide down the waterfalls into the lower pools, something I still enjoy despite doing it countless times.

For the less adventurous, the pools at the foot of the waterfalls are equally inviting.

The crystal clear water is perfect for a relaxing swim or just to sit back and enjoy the jungle's melodies.

On weekends, I usually indulge in the freshly prepared local cuisine available at the entrance of the park.

A quick tip for anyone visiting - grab your food before you enter, as there aren't any vendors near the pools.

To conclude, life around Semuc Champey Natural Monument is a kaleidoscope of rich experiences, from adventurous hikes to tranquil dips in the pools, all set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty.

It might not be on everyone's travel radar, but those who've visited agree that it's one of Guatemala's best-kept secrets.

A man admiring the natural beauty of  Semuc Champey Natural Monument
Juan Fdo. Vanegas / Shutterstock.com

Stand under the Santa Catalina Arch

View of the Santa Catalina Arch
Diego Grandi / Shutterstock.com

I wake up each morning to the sight of the Santa Catalina Arch, one of the most beautiful landmarks in Antigua, Guatemala.

It’s a daily reminder that I live in a city steeped in rich history dating back to the 1600s.

My usual route to the local market takes me past the arch, and I often find myself pausing for a moment, looking up at the clock that was added in the 1800s, feeling a sense of pride in this beautiful piece of our past.

Some days, the backdrop of the arch is painted with the majestic sight of the nearby volcano.

Close up of the top dome at Santa Catalina Arch
THP Creative / Shutterstock.com

On clear days, it’s a breathtaking view and an added bonus for the tourists snapping photos.

Yet, even when the volcano is obscured by clouds, the arch itself never fails to mesmerize.

As the day progresses, the area around the arch becomes a lively hub.

The central plaza next to it is bustling with activity.

Local vendors set up their stalls, selling everything from vibrant local art to fresh fruits and vegetables.

It's a feast for the senses, from the colorful displays to the enticing aromas wafting from nearby food stalls.

In the evenings, the arch is beautifully lit up, a beacon in the heart of the city that seems to glow with an ethereal light.

It's a sight that never gets old, no matter how many times I see it.

Living here, in the shadow of the Santa Catalina Arch, is truly an experience like no other.

It's a blend of the old and the new, history and progress, and a testament to the enduring spirit of this remarkable city.

Parade at the Santa Catalina Arch
Lauren Squire / Shutterstock.com

Go on a World Tour at Xetulul Theme Park

Kids waiting at the Xetulul Theme Park
AbelDL / Shutterstock.com

I've been to Xetulul Theme Park more times than I can count, and every time feels like the first.

The excitement never fades!

Each visit presents a new world of fun, with a variety of rides to choose from.

The roller coasters, though slightly small, offer an adrenaline rush that is hard to beat.

The only snag is if you are slightly on the bigger side, you might struggle with the safety lock.

Apart from the rides, the park is beautifully designed with replicas of famous world landmarks, making you feel like you're on a world tour in a day.

It's a sight to behold and a favorite spot for family photos.

Pyramid at the Xetulul Theme Park
Xetulul_El_Gran_Jaguar,_la_RĂ©plica.jpg: Fernando Reyes Palencia from Guatemala, Guatemala derivative work: IronGargoyle, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On the days when it rains, I've noticed that most rides are closed.

Remember to check the weather forecast before buying your tickets because they don't offer refunds for mild rains.

However, don't let this discourage you, as there is still plenty to do.

One of the highlights for me is always the theatre/magic show.

It's an absolute delight, especially for the kids.

You can see their faces light up with wonder.

To top it all off, the park offers great spots to grab a bite.

The food and drinks are reasonably priced, and the variety is impressive.

Xetulul Theme Park is an excellent place to make lasting memories with your friends and family.

It's a place where you can find something for everyone, regardless of age or interest.

Aerial view of the Xetulul Theme Park
Rene T Hernandez Orento, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Immerse in the Serene Beauty of Lachuá Lake

View of the Lachuá Lake
No machine-readable author provided. Chixoy assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It's not every day you get to commune with nature in its most unspoiled form.

But growing up around Lachuá Lake, I've been lucky enough to experience this regularly.

A typical day for me involves taking a 2-hour walk to reach the lake, but every step is worth it.

The hike is a fantastic experience in itself, with exquisite views that could take your breath away.

The lake, when it finally comes into view, is a sight to behold – a clear-water body surrounded by the lush greenery of the national park.

Picturesque view of the Lachuá Lake
Adriana Velásquez adrizvela, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

It's a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike, mainly known for swimming.

However, the water can get pretty warm during peak summer days, which gives it a distinct charm.

Family gatherings, picnics with friends, or solo trips to find some peace – the lake is the perfect setting for all.

Sometimes, I just sit by the water, taking in the tranquil beauty around me.

The fish in the lake are quite friendly, too, except they have a penchant for nipping at you if you're not careful!

Despite the heat and the occasional fish bites, Lachuá Lake is truly a paradise on Earth.

It's a symbol of pure, untouched beauty, a haven for those who seek to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, and most importantly, a place that I am proud to call home.

Sunset at Lachuá Lake
Jhony Whilliams, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Catch the Sunrise from Chicabal Lake

Top view of the Chicabal Lake
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've been living near the Chicabal Lake, a mystical Mayan site nestled in a volcano crater, for years, and it is undoubtedly the jewel of our town.

My favorite time to visit is at sunrise.

I usually start my trek from the small town of San Martin Chiquito, a couple hours' walk away.

The path to the lake is steep, but it is wide and easy to walk.

Along the way, the sight of the sunrise casting its golden rays on Chicabal Lake is a sight to behold.

Sometimes, you can even see the lava of Volcan Santiaguito from the mirador.

Hiking trail towards the Chicabal Lake
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once you reach the top, you're greeted by a mesmerizing view of the lake and the Santa Maria Volcano.

It is worth the walk, I assure you.

But don't worry if walking isn't your thing, as there are 4x4 taxis that can take you most of the way up.

Visitors can also camp by the lake, a serene experience I highly recommend.

Just remember to bring extra warm clothes as it can drop to 5 degrees Celsius at night.

The entry fee is 50Q per person and an additional 15Q to camp.

If you're lucky, you might even witness a Mayan ceremony taking place.

It's a profound cultural experience - but remember, swimming in the lake is not allowed out of respect for its sacred status.

Colorful flowers at the Chicabal Lake
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Boating at Rio Dulce

Castle at the Rio Dulce
Milosz Maslanka / Shutterstock.com

From the moment I wake up to the moment I close my eyes at night, the Rio Dulce is a sight to behold.

This bustling, vibrant place is my home, a place full of adventures waiting to be discovered.

The city center is alive with the daily hustle and bustle, with the occasional cacophony of sounds that some may find off-putting.

Yet, for me, it’s just part of its charm.

Although it's true that the city may be lacking in terms of pavement and some infrastructure, it doesn't take away the magic of the place.

Restaurants may not be as fancy as some places, but Sun Dog offers a comforting familiarity with their home-like meals.

Still, one of the best things to do is to escape the town and head to the Finca Paraidiso Springs for a day trip.

The warm, relaxing waters of the springs provide a much-needed respite from the daily grind.

The boat trip to Livingston never gets old.

Beautiful view of the Rio Dulce
Lucy.Brown / Shutterstock.com

It's a refreshing journey that offers a picturesque view of this beautiful town.

Livingston itself may seem a bit worn out, but it's just part of its character.

I’ve had the pleasure of staying at the Banana Palms Resort on a few occasions.

The cleanliness, combined with the stunning view of the lake, makes it a top-notch getaway spot.

Traveling around the city might be a bit rough due to the lack of infrastructure, but it just adds to the adventure.

The surrounding villages are charming in their own unique ways.

Here, you'll find artisans selling beautiful handmade souvenirs.

One of my frequent stops is the Castillo de San Felipe, a historical landmark that adds to the appeal of Rio Dulce.

Living in Rio Dulce has its own challenges, but it's these very challenges that make it a unique and wonderful place to call home.

It might not be a typical tourist destination, but it's a place with a lot of heart and countless surprises waiting around every corner.

A little girl rowing her boat at Rio Dulce
milosk50 / Shutterstock.com

Encounter Animals at the La Aurora Zoo

Elephant at La Aurora Zoo
Byron Ortiz / Shutterstock.com

Craving a day of adventure and discovery, I recently ventured to the La Aurora Zoo.

As soon as I stepped through the gates, I was hit by a wave of excitement, fueled by the cacophony of animal sounds and the sight of lush, green spaces.

This is no ordinary urban park; it's an oasis brimming with life right in the heart of Guatemala City.

Walking through the zoo, it's almost impossible not to be captivated by the variety of species.

I've been to this zoo often, yet every visit feels like a new experience, unveiling animals I haven't seen before.

There's something exhilarating about seeing rhinos up close or watching the "Black Panther" so active and lively.

The sight of a baby hippo with its mother is always a heartwarming spectacle.

And then there are the gazelles, their graceful movements painting a picture reminiscent of a wild safari.

Hippos at La Aurora Zoo
GROGL / Shutterstock.com

The zoo isn't just about animal viewing, though.

The landscaping is a sight to marvel at, with the animal enclosures seamlessly blending into the vibrant greenery.

The peacocks are a particular delight, strutting freely through the paths, their vibrant colors leaving a streak of brilliance in their wake.

It's not every day you get to walk alongside these magnificent birds!

Despite its popularity with school groups, tourists, and fellow residents, the La Aurora Zoo still maintains a calm ambiance.

Yes, it can get busy, but the zoo's vast expanse ensures you always find a peaceful corner to relax and simply enjoy the beauty around you.

Plus, it's such an affordable day out, it's no wonder everyone flocks here!

The zoo also caters to the little ones with a fun playground.

After a day of animal encounters, it's the perfect spot for the kids to burn off that extra energy while I sit back and soak in the tranquil atmosphere.

The La Aurora Zoo truly is a gem in Guatemala City, offering an escape from the urban hustle and a firsthand experience of nature's marvels.

Penquins at La Aurora Zoo
Jazmin Gonzalez / Shutterstock.com

Embrace the Waves at Xocomil Waterpark

Bird's eye view of the Xocomil Waterpark
Rene T Hernandez Orento, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Splash, slide, and smile, oh my!

Xocomil Waterpark has been my favorite spot to beat the summer heat for as long as I can remember.

For just 100q, about 13 USD, you can dive into a world of fun with all the amazing rides this place has to offer.

From their huge wave pools to the long curly slides, there's something to cater to everyone's adrenaline needs.

The artificial river?

Absolutely a top-notch attraction.

It's like embarking on a thrilling adventure, navigating the twists and turns of the man-made waterway.

Believe me when I say you'll be left craving for more.

Kids posing at the Xocomil Waterpark
Netogonzalez, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And the best part?

The climate here in Guatemala ensures that it's always warm enough to enjoy the water, regardless of the time of year.

But it's not all about the rides.

The food selection is something that deserves its own highlight.

I've lost count of the number of times I've enjoyed their nachos, a snack that I reckon is a must-try.

And let's not forget their ice cream, an ultimate crowd-puller on those hot, sunny days.

What I love the most about Xocomil Waterpark is that it's more than just a waterpark.

It's a place that ensures a full day of fun for the entire family, with great food and comfortable accommodations adding to the overall experience.

It's clean, it's safe, and it's worth every penny spent.

If you're ever in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and pay Xocomil a visit.

You won't regret it!

Father and daughter enjoying their day at Xocomil Waterpark
Netogonzalez, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll through History at Castle of San Felipe of Lara

View of the Castle of San Felipe of Lara
Judith Lienert / Shutterstock.com

Every morning, as the sun rises over the magnificent Castle of San Felipe of Lara, I'm reminded of the deep-rooted history that lies within its walls.

This fort, ordered to be built by Guatemala's governor in 1644, and expanded for over a century, is a significant part of our heritage.

Walking through the halls of the castle is like taking a step back in time.

Its architecture, inscribed with stories of the past, keeps the town's history alive.

The seeming smallness of the castle is deceptive; once inside, you can easily spend over an hour exploring its labyrinthine corridors.

And while the guided tour is in Spanish, even without understanding the language, the castle itself narrates its story.

Interior view of the Castle of San Felipe of Lara
Milosz Maslanka / Shutterstock.com

An entry fee of 75Q gives you access not only to the castle but also to a park with spots perfect for a refreshing swim.

There's a unique charm to the castle that makes every visit worthwhile.

One of my favorite parts of the fort is the FCKIN MAN cannon, standing there as a testament to the fort's military past.

The Castle of San Felipe de Lara is more than just a landmark; it's a living history lesson.

Every corner, every stone, every cannon echoes the past, making the castle a place of learning and exploration.

Within 30 minutes or so, you can take a leisurely stroll through the entire castle, absorbing the essence of history that it so effortlessly exudes.

Cannons at the Castle of San Felipe of Lara
Milosz Maslanka / Shutterstock.com

Immerse in Local Culture at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago

Distant view of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
Lucy.Brown / Shutterstock.com

Every day, I am greeted by the majestic facade of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago de Guatemala.

Nestled in the heart of our Central Park Area, the cathedral, with its neoclassical exterior and opulent interior, has become a constant in my daily life.

Every detail of the cathedral, from its marble altar supported by four massive columns to the intricate carvings and works of art scattered throughout, speaks volumes about our rich history and culture.

Each time I walk through the cathedral doors, I am transported back in time.

I can almost hear the echoes of the past, of the countless masses held, of fervent prayers whispered, and of lives forever changed within these sacred walls.

The cathedral holds many chapels, each dedicated to different saints and historical events, each with its own story to tell.

It's a haven of peace amidst the bustling city, a place where I often find myself lost in contemplation or simply enjoying the serene environment.

A vendor selling local delicacies at Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
Lucy.Brown / Shutterstock.com

The cathedral has weathered the test of time and the devastating earthquakes of 1976 and 2017.

Yet, the resulting damages have been so meticulously restored that they're almost invisible.

You could say that the cathedral is a testament to our resilience as a people; we pick up the pieces, rebuild, and move forward.

Situated near other historic landmarks like the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, the cathedral has become a hub of activity.

The lively atmosphere of the main square is always a welcome change of pace.

The scent of street food wafts through the air as local musicians fill the park with music.

Tourists and locals alike flock to the square, each drawn by different aspects of the cathedral and its surroundings.

Visiting the cathedral is always a gratifying experience, whether it's for a quiet moment of reflection, to appreciate the masterpieces it houses, or simply to soak in its grandeur.

The best part?

Entrance to this architectural gem is free!

Clock placed on the top of the building at Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

Go Hiking at Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve

You know, I've been to Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve so many times.

And every time, it never ceases to amaze me.

It's a beautiful park with an entry fee that's worth every quetzal (20Q for foreigners and 15Q for us locals).

As soon as you step in, you can follow these winding trails that lead you to these fantastic lookouts.

From there, you can behold a view that's nothing short of breathtaking - you'd think you're looking at a picture-perfect postcard.

But that's not all!

There are also trails that take you down to the lake.

It's my go-to spot whenever I feel like taking a dip.

The water is amazingly clear and swimming with the view of the volcano in the background... now that's an experience I highly recommend.

You can even jump off the platform into the water - it's a huge rush, I tell you!

The reserve also has clean bathrooms and changing rooms.

In fact, I've spent countless days just hanging out there.

So here's a tip - bring some snacks, a bottle of water, and maybe even a blanket.

Trust me, you'd want to stay for the whole day.

The ticket allows for same-day re-entry, so you can come and go as you please.

One thing to note, though, the reserve closes around 4 pm.

You wouldn't want to get locked inside like I did once, now, that was quite an adventure!

But don't worry, as long as you keep track of time, you'll be fine.

Oh!

Peruse the Shops at Central Park

View of the Antigua's Central Park
davesimon / Shutterstock.com

I wake up and see the sun just starting to peek over the horizon - the perfect time to head to my favorite spot in Antigua, Central Park.

There's something magical about starting your day in this lush, green oasis at the heart of the bustling city.

As I walk along the streets of my beloved town, Central Park is only a few steps away.

Making my way through the park, I pass by the central fountain, a common meeting place for friends and family.

The nearby benches offer a quiet respite, a place to sit back, relax and watch as the city comes to life.

The towering trees offer a cool, shady refuge from the city's tropical heat and the sweet aroma of nearby food vendors fills the air.

Fountain at Antigua's Central Park
Opachevsky Irina / Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite things to do here is to explore the small shops that line the park.

These quaint stores are filled with handcrafted souvenirs, paintings, and other trinkets that showcase the rich culture and history of Guatemala.

The park comes alive at night, becoming the city's cultural hub.

From concerts and performances to food stalls offering local delicacies, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

The historic monuments, like the palace, are a sight to behold, especially when they're lit up against the night sky.

Saturday is always special in the Central Park.

It's when local farmers bring their fresh produce to the market.

It's a great opportunity to meet the city's local growers and purchase the freshest fruits, vegetables, and other products directly from those who cultivate it.

Giant puppets at Antigua's Central Park
Lucy.Brown / Shutterstock.com

Examine the Artifacts at Takalik Abaj National Park

View of the Takalik Abaj National Park
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've passed by the signpost leading to the Takalik Abaj National Park many times, and curiosity would prick at my consciousness each time.

Finally, one sunny weekend, I decided to take the plunge and visit this pre-Columbian archaeological site.

What an adventure it turned out to be!

You're transported back in time as soon as you step foot on the grounds.

The majestic terraces and Olmec-style and Mayan sculptures scattered all around the park speak volumes about the place's rich history.

The entrance fee is modest, and the package includes an informative guide.

I found the explanations of the guides very helpful, making the site even more intriguing.

Grinding stone exhibited at Takalik Abaj National Park
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They took their time to ensure we fully understood the significance of each artifact and structure.

The tour lasted for around two hours, a perfect duration to explore and soak in the mystique of the park.

While the archaeology is the main draw, the small animal zoo on-site was a bit of a letdown.

The cages seemed small, and the coyotes looked distressed.

It was quite unsettling and something the management should consider improving on.

Aside from the zoo, the experience at Takalik Abaj National Park was nothing short of amazing.

The people I met during the tour were friendly and genuinely interested in the park's history.

Walking among the ancient Mayan ruins and learning about our past was an experience I will not soon forget.

A visit to the park is a must for any history buff or anyone looking to explore the rich cultural heritage of our region.

Artifacts at Takalik Abaj National Park
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take in the Views from the Hill of the Cross

View of Hill of the Cross
JackKPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Each morning, before the sun is too high in the sky, I lace up my trusty hiking boots and make my way to the Hill of the Cross.

It's a scenic spot perched high above the city of Antigua, crowned with a cross that dates back to the 1930s, offering an unobstructed view of Volcan Agua.

The trek up the hill is fantastic, a perfect blend of challenge and serenity.

It's quite a climb, but the effort is worthwhile.

With each step, you rise higher than the noise of the city below, and the views become increasingly spectacular.

Reaching the top, I'm greeted by the sight of an almost deserted park, save for the dedicated cleaning staff who ensure the place is kept pristine.

View of Hill of the Cross
Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock.com

Being here early in the morning gives me a peaceful solace that is hard to describe.

I sit on a bench, hydrating with a bottle of water, wiping my sweat with a rag, and just lose myself in the beauty around me.

You can see the city of Antigua laid out like a vibrant quilt, its colorful buildings a sharp contrast against the looming silhouette of Volcan Agua.

I spend a good amount of time just taking it all in from Hill of the Cross, the combination of the city, the volcano, and the quietness around me is truly mesmerizing.

This beautiful place is open to everyone from 7am to 6pm, and it's free of charge.

Path leading towards Hill of the Cross
Leticia Abdo / Shutterstock.com

Discover Local History at Iximche

View of the Iximche
Sandra Foyt / Shutterstock.com

There's something truly magical about the ancient city of Iximche.

Waking up to the sunrise piercing through the ruins, casting a golden glow on the 15th to 16th-century palaces, temples, and ball courts, is an experience I am fortunate to witness daily.

The city resonates with the echoes of my ancestors.

It's not just a cluster of ruins, it's a testament to our history, our culture, and our civilization.

As I wander through this sacred place, I am always filled with an overpowering sense of respect and pride.

On weekends, I love taking long walks and exploring the countless hidden corners of this archaeological site.

The ball courts are a sight to behold!

Ruins at the Iximche
SJP_87 / Shutterstock.com

It's fascinating to imagine the ancient Mayan games that were played here with such fervor and zeal.

The site also boasts a museum that has proven to be an endless source of knowledge.

The artifacts, the sculptures, the murals - they all tell a story of the rich cultural heritage of our people.

Every visit to the museum leaves me with a newfound appreciation for my roots.

Iximche is not just a tourist attraction, it is a part of our identity.

It's a place that connects us with our past while inspiring us for the future.

And while it may not be as grand as Tikal, Iximche has a unique charm that tugs at your heart.

Incense festival at Iximche
nobito / Shutterstock.com

Stroll through the Heart of Guatemala - Palacio Nacional de la Cultura

Exterior view of the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura
Lucy.Brown / Shutterstock.com

There's an air of grandeur that envelopes you as you step into the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura.

Its imposing structure, a perfect blend of Greek, Roman, and Moorish architectural styles, is a sight to behold.

Not many expect to find such an architectural marvel in Guatemala, but right here in our city, it stands - a symbol of our rich history and culture.

One of the most astounding parts about the palace is the attention to detail.

Each corner, mural, and artwork at Palacio Nacional de la Cultura is a testament to the artistic prowess of our ancestors.

Comparisons may have been drawn with the likes of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. and even with some European historical buildings, and I can assure you, they are not unwarranted.

Interior view of the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura
nobito / Shutterstock.com

When I walk through the iconic building, a sense of pride swells in my heart.

It's not just a museum but a living narrative of our people's journey.

A guided tour of the palace is truly enriching.

For a mere $4, you can delve into the intricacies of Guatemalan artwork, culture, and history.

It is a worthwhile experience that I would recommend to anyone visiting our city.

Adjacent to the palace is a vibrant square that adds to the historic charm of the city.

It's a stone's throw away from popular spots like Restaurante El Portal and Mercado Central.

This makes it a perfect starting point for an unforgettable tour of our beloved city.

Hall at the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura
nobito / Shutterstock.com

Journey through Time at the Museo Popol Vuh

Display at the Museo Popol Vuh
Andrea_GR, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's something magical about walking into a space that transports you back in time.

If you're like me, a lover of history and culture, then the Museo Popol Vuh is a place you'd be drawn to.

Nestled within the lush grounds of the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, every visit feels like I'm escaping the city's hustle and bustle, even though it's just a couple of steps away.

The moment I step foot into the museum, I'm greeted by a world of Pre-Colombian and Colonial art.

The displays are a testament to the rich history of our land.

A word of caution, though, if you're looking to capture the captivating exhibits through your lens, there is a small additional fee for photography.

I find it a small price to pay for the chance to bring a piece of history back with me.

There's always something new to learn with each visit.

Stone sculpture at Museo Popol Vuh
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The art might not always take your breath away, but the history behind the pieces, which is thoughtfully explained in both English and Spanish, is fascinating.

From ancient Mayan art to cultural artifacts of Guatemala, the collection is vast and intriguing.

And if you're like me, it's not just about the artifacts, the stories they tell are just as important.

Taking a break at Café Saul, situated on the campus, is always a treat.

The serene surroundings make for a perfect spot to sit back and reflect on all that I've learned.

It's my little oasis in the city.

The Museo Popol Vuh may be small and cozy, but it's a treasure trove of knowledge and history.

It's a place that I often visit, and every experience is unique and enriching.

Display at the Museo Popol Vuh
Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Delve into Ancient Guatemala at the Nacional Museum of Archeology and Ethnology

Exterior view of the Nacional Museum of Archeology and Ethnology
BBCLCD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Straying from the hustle and bustle of the city, I found myself immersed in the rich historical tapestry of Guatemala, right in the heart of the Nacional Museum of Archeology and Ethnology.

Even though it's not the largest museum, I've always found its compact size to be part of its charm.

Navigating through the museum is a breeze, making it easy to absorb the wealth of information about the illustrious Maya civilization.

I couldn't help but marvel at the detailed English descriptions accompanying the artifacts, a testament to the museum's educational commitment.

The range of exhibits is impressive, with some truly fantastic displays that allow you to time travel back to the era of the Mayas.

Interior view of the Nacional Museum of Archeology and Ethnology
Willyman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every visit to this museum offers something new and exciting.

The lifelike models depicting various aspects of Maya life are particularly intriguing.

It's like peering through a window into the past, watching the everyday lives of this ancient civilization unfold before your eyes.

And each time I pass by the beautiful mural inside, I am struck by its vivid colors and intricate details.

Nacional Museum of Archeology and Ethnology also proudly showcases beautiful textiles, another testament to the rich cultural heritage of Guatemala.

And the art by Mena brings a fresh, modern touch to the historical setting, bridging the gap between past and present.

Despite some areas needing better lighting, the museum has a beautiful outdoor area where exhibits are displayed under natural light.

This only adds to the overall experience at the museum, offering a chance to appreciate the artifacts in a more natural setting.

Exhibits at Nacional Museum of Archeology and Ethnology
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Learn about Local Flora and Fauna at Reserva de Biosfera Maya

A beautiful bird at Reserva de Biosfera Maya

Living on the doorstep of the Reserva de Biosfera Maya, I get to appreciate its spellbinding wonders every day.

This isn't just any park, it's a vast expanse of tropical forest filled with a rich array of fascinating animals.

The aroma of the lush flora envelops you as you step into this majestic realm.

And the thrill of encountering coatis, lizards, and playful gangs of monkeys is simply unbeatable.

The ancient Mayan ruins scattered across the reserve are a sight to behold, and you can feel the energy pulsating around them.

Tikal, in particular, is a place of jaw-dropping beauty and grandeur.

Despite the throngs of visitors it attracts, there are still serene hideaways where you can bask in solitude and tranquility.

For a light refreshment, there's always a nearby spot to grab a bottle of water, a beer, or a quick snack.

But packing a small bag with your own goodies is never a bad idea.

Trust me, every step you take in your comfy shoes on the well-tended trails will be an adventure you'll cherish.

One of the realities living here has bestowed on me is the understanding of how vast and diverse our world truly is.

The incredible biodiversity the Reserva de Biosfera Maya offers is a stark reminder of the wider world beyond our own corners.

Discover the Country's Rich Tapestry Museo Ixchel del Traje IndĂ­gena

Colorful blouse display at the Museo Ixchel del Traje IndĂ­gena
Chiome-gold, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to immersing oneself in the vibrant culture and tradition of Guatemala, there's no better place to start than the Museo Ixchel del Traje IndĂ­gena.

Nestled in the heart of Guatemala City, this cultural history museum is a treasure trove of traditional Guatemalan clothing, textiles, ceramics, and much more.

The first time I stepped into the museum, the sheer beauty of the traditional outfits left me speechless.

They were more than just pieces of clothing; they were stories woven in vibrant threads, each telling a tale of our ancestors' way of life.

The museum offers a variety of exhibitions, so it's definitely worth going, even though it's not that large.

The pottery and ceramics collection is equally fascinating.

The intricate designs and meticulous craftsmanship are a testament to the skills of the indigenous people of Guatemala.

Each piece is a marvel unto itself, a snapshot of our rich history preserved for posterity.

The museum also houses a collection of paintings that depict the everyday life and rituals of the indigenous community.

While walking through the galleries, I felt a profound connection with my roots and a deep appreciation for the resilience and creativity of my people.

As if the artifacts weren't enough, the museum also has a small souvenir shop.

From cute keychains to beautiful postcards, you can pick up a memento of your visit at reasonable prices.

The staff at the museum are always friendly and ready to answer any questions you might have.

A visit to the Museo Ixchel del Traje IndĂ­gena is more than just a museum visit; it's an exploration of the rich cultural tapestry of Guatemala.

The narratives embedded in every artifact and the captivating presentation of the collections are a reminder of the great story we are part of.

Soak Up the Sun at Monterrico Beach

Vibrant sunset at Monterrico Beach
ShutterPrice / Shutterstock.com

Walking on the sand of Monterrico Beach is like stepping on a warm, soft carpet sprinkled with golden glitter.

The beach, which is known for its unique milk chocolate hue, is a precious gem tucked away in my beautiful hometown, located just 2 hours from Antigua and 3 hours from the city.

Even though the beach is the main attraction, the town around it is just as exciting, filled with a variety of shops and restaurants that cater to every palate and pocket.

A walk through the lively center of town, leading up to Monterrico Beach, is an experience in itself.

It's like the town is alive, always buzzing with activity.

Baby turtle at Monterrico Beach
ROSITO / Shutterstock.com

When you get to the beach, the warm water welcomes you with open arms.

However, it's wise to stay close to the shore due to the strong sea current.

Trust me, you don't want to challenge it.

But, don't let this deter you from witnessing the magnificent Pacific Ocean sunset.

It's mesmerizing, to say the least.

Bird's eye view of the Monterrico Beach
Francisco Sandoval Guate / Shutterstock.com

Go Sandboarding at the Majestic Pacaya Volcano

View of the Pacaya Volcano
Ingo Bartussek / Shutterstock.com

There's something indescribably enchanting about standing on the edge of an active volcano, feeling the ground beneath your feet rumble with life.

Pacaya Volcano, with its awe-inspiring valley views and towering 8,373-foot summit, is where I experience this thrill most weekends.

One of my favorite activities is joining the guided hikes.

Not only do they offer unparalleled views of the surrounding valley, but they also include some exciting pit stops along the way, perfect for capturing memories through the lens of a camera.

The weather can be a bit unpredictable at times, but the clouds rolling over the mountains only add to the dramatic landscape.

The hike is not overly strenuous, making it a great option even if you're short on time.

It takes roughly 4 hours to complete the round trip.

Eruption of Pacaya Volcano
fboudrias / Shutterstock.com

And trust me, the views from the top are well worth the journey.

I always make sure to wear my sturdy boots for the adventure.

A unique experience offered at Pacaya Volcano is sandboarding.

The thrill of gliding down the volcano's ashy slopes is something you won't forget.

And when hunger strikes, there's nothing like a lava pizza cooked right on the volcano's hot rocks.

Truly an experience straight out of a travelogue!

But perhaps the most memorable part of the trip is the journey up the volcano.

Whether you choose to walk, take a "horse taxi," or ride an all-terrain vehicle, each trip offers its own unique excitement.

I've walked up countless times, and every time I do, I'm always accompanied by a friendly local tour guide and their loyal dogs.

Visitors hiking the Pacaya Volcano
Jose de Jesus Churion Del / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Guatemalan Jungles with Auto Safari Chapin

Bird at the Auto Safari Chapin
Memo Loaiza / Shutterstock.com

I've always been a fan of wildlife, so when I heard about a place where I could drive through a safari and see animals roaming freely, I was all excited.

The place was none other than Auto Safari Chapin.

The drive from my house to Auto Safari Chapin is roughly an hour.

It may seem long, but it's absolutely worth every minute.

The drive-through safari itself is an exhilarating experience.

I was in awe of the diverse landscape and the variety of animals.

The hippos were particularly memorable.

There's just something incredibly cool about driving through the same pool where the hippos are lounging!

Parrot at Auto Safari Chapin
Memo Loaiza / Shutterstock.com

Auto Safari Chapin also features a walking zoo.

It's fascinating to see a wide range of animals up close.

However, I was slightly disheartened by the size of the enclosures.

They seemed a bit too small for such majestic creatures.

The place also boasts a swimming pool and a restaurant.

I was excited to take a dip in the pool, but unfortunately, it was teeming with people on a Sunday afternoon I chose to visit.

Despite the scorching heat, I decided not to give it a try.

For just Q75 (about $10), you get to enjoy an incredible experience that lasts about 20 minutes.

The place also has a birdcage walk-through that I highly recommend.

They have a selection of food you can buy and even a Safari boat ride, which seems like a great attraction for kids.

A bird with a long beak at Auto Safari Chapin
Memo Loaiza / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

I truly believe that there is no place like Guatemala.

The vast landscapes, ranging from the pristine beaches of Monterrico to the scenic vistas of Hill of the Cross, are just waiting to be explored.

And don't get me started on the array of historical sites and cultural hotspots like the Museo Ixchel del Traje IndĂ­gena and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago.

Each day in Guatemala brings with it new adventures and discoveries.

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