Guatemala is an adventure seekers paradise, from climbing active volcanos to discovers ancient ruins hidden in the jungle, there are many incredible things to do in Guatemala.

Guatemala is so diverse and in my opinion is such an underrated travel destination. Coastal havens, exploding volcanos, culture, and history, there’s many reasons to want to visit this Central American country.

In this article, we’ll uncover what to do in Guatemala. At the end of the post, I’ll add any necessary tips that will aid you in your travels to colorful Guatemala.

Things to do in Guatemala<br />

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Below I have listed the best things to do in Guatemala for easy viewing. If you would like more information about a specific thing to do in Guatemala, click on the blue links below for more details.

If not, keep scrolling for more details of the best Guatemala things to do.

Hiking Pacaya Volcano
Mayan person in the Chichicastenango Market

Are These Things to do in Guatemala Worth It?

With so many amazing destinations to travel to in the world, you may be wondering, is Guatemala worth visiting? And the answer is absolutely, Guatemala is worth visiting for a variety of reasons.

The country offers a diverse range of experiences, blending natural beauty, culture and history all into one. I spent just under 2 months here and still had so much more exploring to do. Here are a few of the compelling reasons to consider going to Guatemala.

  • 🐒 Mayan Ruins: Guatemala is home to some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the world.
  • 💦 Natural Beauty: From the stunning Lake Atitlán, to the diverse landscapes of Semuc Champey, Guatemala boasts a wide array of natural wonders.
  • ⛪️ Colonial Cities: Antigua, Guatemala is the best example.
  • 🧶 Cultural Diversity: Experience traditional Mayan customs, colorful textiles, and unique handcrafts.
  • 🌋 Adventure Opportunities: Can we say sleeping atop a volcano to watch an active volcano erupt through the night?
  • 🙂 Friendly Locals
  • 💰 It’s affordable! Guatemala tends to be more budget-friendly compared to some other Central American destinations.
  • 🫔 The food! Local cuisine is diverse and flavorful, influenced by Mayan and Spanish cultures.

20 Best Things to do in Guatemala

Things to do in Guatemala
Fuego Volcano Erupting at Night

Watch an Active Volcano Erupt at Night | The Best Thing to do in Guatemala

Starting off our best things to do in Guatemala list is to watch an active volcano erupt during the night. Guatemala is home to 37 named volcanos and 3 of them are active.

The best way to witness an active volcano in all her glory is on the Acatenango Overnight Trek to watch Fuego Volcano erupt at night. This is not an activity for the faint of heart as the climb to basecamp requires a bit of endurance.

The trek to the summit of Acatenango is challenging, marked by steep ascents through diverse landscapes. Once at basecamp, you’ll watch the sunset behind Volcan Fuego and here you’ll begin another 2 hour climb (one way) to get a closer look at Fuego.

This is one of the best things to do in Guatemala and being prepared will dramatically increase the enjoyment level of this journey. Make sure to check out my guide below as it walks you through the steps for an amazing adventure.

Book a Tour →

Pepian a traditional dish in Guatemala

Eat Pepiàn | One of the Tastiest Things to do in Guatemala

Pepian is often considered the country’s national dish and is one of the tastiest things to do in Guatemala. It is a hearty and flavorful stew that reflects Guatemala’s rich culinary heritage, blending Mayan ingredients with Spanish and African influences.

The dish typically features a meat, simmered in a thick and aromatic sauce made from a base of toasted seeds, spices, tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables. Served along side rice and tortillas.

One of the best places to try pepian is in Antigua. Antigua is a foodie city which only adds to its charm. Here are some restaurants in Antigua to try Pepian at:

Participate in a Temazcal Ceremony

If you are looking for a spiritual experience in Guatemala then you should participate in a Temazcal Ceremony. A Temazcal is a traditional Mesoamerican steam bath or sauna that holds deep cultural and spiritual significance in Guatemala and other parts of Central America.

In Guatemala, the Temazcal ceremony is often performed by indigenous Mayan healers or shamans, who guide participants through a ritualistic cleansing and healing experience. The Temazcal itself is typically a small, dome-shaped structure made of natural materials, resembling a sweat lodge.

During the ceremony, you’ll sit in a circle around a pit where the heated volcanic rocks are. As the steam envelops, you’ll engage in a series of rituals, prayers, and songs led by the shaman, focusing on spiritual purification, physical detoxification, and emotional healing.

Roasting Marshmellows over Pacaya Volcano one of the best things to do in Guatemala
Horse on Volcan Pacaya

Roast Marshmallows over an Active Lava Field | An Iconic Thing to do in Guatemala

Another awesome volcano to hike when traveling around Guatemala is Pacaya Volcano. Volcan Pacaya is one of the best day trips from Antigua, many tours run to and from Pacaya.

It takes 1-2 hours to hike from the trailhead to the lava field. The lava field is active and steamy so it’s even possible to roast marshmallows that has been baked over the heat of the lava meters below.

Book a Tour →

How to Get to Lake Atitlan San Marcos

Stand up Paddle Boarding on Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is one of Guatemala’s most beautiful destinations, a huge lake completely surrounded by volcanoes. Stand up paddle boarding is not only a great workout but it’s an exciting way to see the lake. Go early in the morning as the winds tend to pick up by noon.

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    Rio Dulce River Boat Cruise

    The Rio Dulce River Boat Cruise is one of the lesser known things to do in Guatemala but that doesn’t make it any less epic. The Rio Dulce, meaning “Sweet River,” flows gracefully from Lake Izabal to the Caribbean Sea, carving a stunning route through dense rainforests and limestone cliffs.

    This is not only one of the best places to go in Guatemala but it’s a boat journey to hidden hot springs, old colonial forts along the river banks, and a chance to spot wildlife.

    This adventure unveils a side of Guatemala where nature, history, and local traditions converge along the enchanting waters of the Rio Dulce. For an even more memorable experience, consider a homestay in one of the Mayan villages along the river.

    Hiking boots on Acatenango Trail

    Hike the Tallest Peak in Central America | Hiking in Guatemala

    If you love a good hike and want to earn some bragging rights, then don’t miss out on this thing to do in Guatemala. Hiking Guatemala’s highest peak, Tajumulco, is an adventure that rewards travelers with stunning views and a sense of accomplishment.

    Raising to an impressive elevation of 13,845 feet, Tajumulco offers a challenging yet rewarding take through lush forests, alpine meadows, and rugged volcanic terrain.

    It is possible to hike Volcan Tajumulco independently, but I’d recommend hiring a guide as hikers often choose to camp overnight to be able to watch sunrise from the summit. A guide will help arrange this for you.

    Book a Private Guide →

    Tacos in Antigua Guatemala
    Japenese food in Antigua Guatemala

    Eat Your Way Through Antigua

    Antigua is one of Guatemala’s most charming towns and filled with outstandingly good restaurants. I personally spent a little over 3 weeks in Antigua and still didn’t get to try all of the most eat Antigua restaurants on my list.

    Not only are there all types of tasty cuisines…I’m talking Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Indonesian, Indian, you name it, but you you’ll get to enjoy it at a wonderful price point. Check out the post below for my top rated restaurants in Antigua.

    Tikal National Park Travel Guide
    Sunrise in Tikal?

    Watch Sunrise at Tikal | Bucket List Thing to do in Guatemala

    Watching the sunrise at Tikal National Park is one of the most memorable things to do in Guatemala. Tikal is an expansive archeological marvel of the ancient Mayan civilization.

    One of the best ways to experience Tikal is at sunrise. You’ll begin your adventure trekking through the jungle in the dark with headlamps as the forest echoes with the sounds of howler monkeys and exotic birds.

    Finally, you’ll reach Temple IV which you’ll climb, this is where you’ll watch the sunrise. Some days are better than others, when we went, there was a huge cloud covering (pictured on the right)  thus we got no sunrise.

    April and May are the best months for watching sunrise in Tikal, just prepare for the heat. Watching sunrise or sunset at Tikal also requires an extra entry ticket.

    I explain everything you need to know about visiting Tikal so make sure you check out my Tikal guide before heading to this famous place in Guatemala.

    I'm Jess Traveling in Lake Atitlan

    Zen Out in San Marcos

    San Marcos is one of Lake Atitlan’s most famous towns known for its laid-back vibes, spiritual ambiance, and stunning lake views. This charming village has earned a reputation as the “hippie” town of Lake Atitlan.

    Travelers from all over the world are drawn to its serene atmosphere and holistic offerings, including yoga studios, meditation centers, and wellness retreats.

    Sunrises over Lake Atitlan hit a little different here. Even if you are not an early riser, I highly suggest you get early at least one day to experience the magic.

    ☕️ Read Full Guide: San Marcos Travel Guide

    El Paredon Surfing
    Surfing in El Paredon Guatemala

    Catch Waves in El Paredon

    If surfing is your jam or something that you always wanted to be your jam, then visiting the picturesque, coastal town of El Paredon is a must do thing in Guatemala.

    Nestled along the Pacific coast, El Paredón is known for its consistent surf breaks, making it a haven for surf enthusiasts of all skill levels. Plus waves break on a sand bar creating an ideal location for beginners who want to learn to surf.

    Things to do in Guatemala watch sea turtles hatch

    Watch Sea Turtles Hatch in Monterrico

    Moving down along the Pacific coast to Monterrico, is one of the best things to see in Guatemala. Monterrico’s pristine beaches serve as a vital nesting grounds for several species of sea turtles.

    The hatching of these sea turtles typically occur from June to November, with peak nesting season typically falling between July and September.

    If you travel to Monterrico during hatching season, you’ll watch as these tiny hatchlings emerge from their sandy nests and make their way to the ocean under the guidance of the moonlight. A must see in Guatemala if you’re a wildlife enthusiasts.

    Feel like Indian Jones on a 5 day Jungle Trek to Remote Mayan Ruins

    If you are anything like me, then you love a good trek to an exotic location. Trekking to the remote El Mirador Ruins is a journey into the heart of ancient Mayan civilizations, offering a rare archaeological adventure and a must do in Guatemala

    Located deep within the Petén wilderness in the north, El Mirdor is the site of some of the biggest and oldest Mayan constructions, notably the famous La Danta pyramid.

    The multi-day hike involves a journey through lush, unspoiled rainforests, where you’ll be accompanied on your adventure by exotic birds and howler monkeys.

    This is an ideal destination in Guatemala for adventure seekers and fans of archeology alike. Guides can be booked in the town of Flores, which also serves as the gateway town to Tikal National Park.

    Semuc Champay in Guatemala

    Relax at Hidden Travertine’s Deep in the Jungle | One of the Best Things to do in Guatemala

    It doesn’t get more epic than relaxing at hidden travertines located deep within the jungle. Semuc Champey is one of the most remote places to visit in Guatemala.

    This geological wonder is made up of several limestone ponds with terraces and turquoise water in each. The soothing waters of the natural limestone bridge beckon you to swim, trek to sweeping overlooks, and simply enjoy the peace and quiet of this far-off oasis.

    The majority of visitors stop in Semuc Champey en route from Guatemala City or Antigua to Tikal. Despite the lengthy, windy, and uneven route, this work of natural beauty is well worth the effort.

    💦 Read Travel Guides: Semuc Champey Travel Guide

    Overnight Hike from Cerros Quemados to the Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs

    Fuentes Georginas are volcanic hot springs tucked away deep in a misty woodland near the city of Xela. Coming to Fuentes Georginas hot springs is a great way to sooth your muscles after hiking up Tajumulco or Santa Maria.

    For an even cooler experience in Guatemala, you can embark on an overnight hike from Cerros Quemados to the Fuentes Georginas hot springs.

    Book a Ticket to Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs →

    Church of Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango
    The Hectic Chichicastenango Market

    Feel the Chaos at Chichicastenango Market | One of the Biggest Markets in Central America

    If you are looking for culture, charm, and chaos, then one of the best things to do in Guatemala is to visit the Chichicastenango Market. Every Thursday and Sunday the tiny town of Chichicastenango transforms itself into one of the biggest markets in Central America.

    As you wander through the maze of narrow streets and crowded stalls, you’ll discover handmade textiles, intricate handicrafts, colorful ceramics, and traditional Mayan clothing, each piece reflecting the unique craftsmanship and cultural identity of the region.

    Experience a Traditional Cacao Ceremony

    Attending a traditional cacao ceremony is one of the most unique things to do in Guatemala. Cacao, known as the “food of the gods” by the Maya, holds a central place in their rituals and ceremonies, symbolizing fertility, abundance, and divine connection.

    During the ceremony, participants gather in a sacred space, led by a Mayan shaman, involves rituals, chanting, drumming, and meditation. A cacao ceremony in Guatemala is not just a cultural experience but also a sacred opportunity for personal transformation and spiritual renewal.

    Livingston Guatemala

    Experience the Caribbean Coast in Livingston

    Livingston is the most remote tourist destination in Guatemala. Situated on the Caribbean coast, this vibrant village is only reachable by a boat trip down the Rio Dulce which I mentioned earlier in this article.

    Nestled near the mouth of the Rio Dulce, the hamlet is encircled by mangrove swamps and rainforests. Traveling through the rivers to get to Livingston will take you past bustling marketplaces, wooden homes, and the infectious beats of Garifuna music.

    You may sit back, unwind, and get your groove on in this laid-back town. Make sure to sample the tapado, a seafood coconut soup, and take in the vibrant Garifuna drumming and dancing before you depart the town.

    For an experience off the beaten route in Guatemala, head here. Take a three-day journey to see everything that the Caribbean has to offer.

    Book a Tour →

    Trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan & Stay in Mayan Villages Connected by Dirt Footpaths Along the Way

    Finishing up our best things to do in Guatemala list is the trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan where you will stay in Mayan villages connected by dirt footpaths along the way.
    This multi-day trek in Guatemala takes 3 days as the trail winds its way through lush cloud forests, rolling hillsides, and remote indigenous villages. This adventure in Guatemala must be done with a guide who knows the way and will arrange accommodation for you as you trek.
    Coffee Farm Lucmambamba-03
    Coffee tour in Guatemala

    Tour a Coffee Plantation

    Guatemala is recognized to have 8 primary coffee-growing regions –  Antigua, Acatenango, Atitlan, Coban, Fraijanes Plateau, Huehuetenango, Nuevo Oriente, and San Marcos..

    Each region has its own unique characteristics that contribute to the flavor profile of the beans. Touring a coffee plantation in Guatemala is an awesome way to learn about the coffee making process and you’ll get to taste the finished product.

    Book a Tour →

    Guatemala Travel Tips

    Guatemala Travel Vlogs

    Would you rather see what traveling Guatemala is like? Joe and I spent 7 weeks in Guatemala eating, exploring ancient ruins and hiking volcanos. It was an epic adventure.

    Check them out after you read this post and please subscribe or give us a thumbs up. It doesn’t cost you anything and really helps us be able to continue creating free content for you to enjoy 🙂.

    Colorful Flores Guatemala

    Guatemala Tours

    Guatemala is a smaller country and you can cover a lot of ground in a couple weeks, especially if you have someone work out the transportation, accommodations and logistics for you.

    Going on a group tour through Guatemala is a great way to see the highlights, meet a group of alike minded travelers and experience the culture of Guatemala.

    📌  Here are a few great Guatemala Tours to check out:

    Standing in Tikal
    A man carrying a basket of chickens in the Chichi Market

    Guatemala Travel Tips

    • Sunscreen – This is my go to reef safe sunscreen I use daily.
    • Mosquitos are swarming, make sure to apply mosquito spray if you don’t want to get eaten alive.
    • Book your accommodations in advance if you are traveling here during high season.
    • Get an eSIM for your phone to stay connected with a local high-speed data network while you travel.
    • Tap water is not safe to drink in Guatemala (or most Central American countries for that matter).
    • Travel Insurance – It’s very affordable when you consider the alternative.
    Im Jess Traveling in the ocean in El Paredon
    Church in Antigua Guatemala

    Final Thoughts on the Best Things to do in Guatemala

    From watching active volcanos erupt during the night to finding your inner chi on Lake Atitlan, there are many incredible things to do in Guatemala.

    Travel to Guatemala for the affordability, outdoor adventures, and tasty cuisine. Colonial cities, ancient Mayan ruins, and natural wonders are a few of the many surprises that await you in this fascinating Central American nation.

    If you found this article useful, let fellow travelers know in the comments below 👇.

     Guatemala Travel Guides ↓

    📍 Planning a trip to Guatemala? Check out the guides below for more inspiration and tips to plan your travels.

    15 Must Visit Places in Guatemala 

    What to Pack for Guatemala 

    1-3 Week Guatemala Itinerary 

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