TOP 5 things to do in

GUATEMALA

“The earth feeds on footprints, the sky feeds on wings.” Miguel Angel Asturias (writer)

Now is surely the time to set foot on Guatemalan soil and discover this magnificent country!

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO

After 3 weeks visiting this country, here are my TOP 5 things to see and visit in Guatemala!

1. Visit the city of Antigua

Time : 2 days

Antigua is a 16th century city known for its Spanish colonial buildings. It is a city where you feel instantly at home. The colourful city walls catch your eye and the volcanoes surrounding the city give the impression of a cocoon.
The colonial architecture is important and the history of the city is quite rich! The main attractions of the city are the central square, the church of La Merced and the famous arch of Santa Catalina. I advise you to do a free walking tour, to stroll in the streets, to watch the sunset from Cerro de La Cruz and to try the different bars and restaurants of the city which are mostly excellent!

I loved this city which reminded me of San Cristobal de las Casas (Mexico). You feel good in this city and you eat very well! The people are very pleasant and always ready to help! The city is just beautiful with its colourful streets and the surrounding volcanoes. I liked it so much that I made 2 other stops in this city during my stay in Guatemala.

My adresses

Hostels : Tropicana Hostel (Hostelworld)
Restaurants : El Viejo Café, Fridas la Antigua, Pappys BBQ, La Pasta Nostra, Indian Accent
Free walking tour: booked on Guruwalk

2. Climb the Acatenango volcano

Time : 2 days

Si vous êtes à Antigua ou dans la région, l’ascension de l’Acatenango est une chose à absolument faire ! C’est une randonnée sur 2 jours qui vous emmène au sommet de ce volcan. La montée se fait en 2 étapes, la première jusqu’au campement d’où vous pourrez observer le coucher du soleil mais surtout les éruptions du volcan Del Fuego à la nuit tombée. Les campements se situent aux environs de 3 756 m. Et la seconde partie se fait le lendemain dès 4h du matin et grimper les derniers (et long mètres) de l’Acatenango à 3 976 m.
Le chemin est relativement simple, mais vous ne faites que monter sur un chemin sableux.
Prendre son temps, aller à son rythme, boire beaucoup d’eau et bien respirer pour habituer son corps à l’altitude. 
Le chemin est simple, mais si vous n’êtes pas habitués, les efforts seront présents et votre mental devra suivre. Mais rien d’insurmontable.  

Une expérience incroyable tant par la beauté que par l’effort fournit. J’ai adoré cette expérience, c’était mon premier trek, mes premières éruptions, la première fois que je grimpais aussi haut ! Beaucoup d’émotions et un spectacle magnifique que je ne suis pas près d’oublier !

My adresses

Agency: Soy Tour

3. Explore Semuc Champey

Time : 1 day

Semuc Champey Park is one of the main tourist attractions in Guatemala. Its park is not very big and stands out thanks to a succession of natural pools. It is possible to visit the park, go to the mirador to have a breathtaking view of the pools, but also to swim in them!
Activities next to the park are possible and well known. It is possible to go on an expedition with a guide in the galleries of a cave. The experience is quite crazy as you are in the dark with a candle in one hand and trying to swim with the other! It’s really crazy especially as there are some passages to climb! It is also possible to take advantage of the river coming from Semuc Champey to take a swing and jump in the river, or to make the buoy! If you are looking for these activities, the easiest way is to ask the locals in front of the park, they will show you the way.

Bad luck for me, I had forgotten the swimming costume. I was able to dip my feet in this turquoise and crystal clear water. I had the soreness of the Acatenango in my legs, so I didn’t have the motivation to go to the mirador. The experience was nice but what I preferred to do was the activity part with the cave!

My adresses

Hostels : Greengo’s hostel (Hostelworld)
My advice conseil : take CASH !!!! If your accommodation is not in Lanquin (nearest town), you will not have an ATM, so plan ahead.

4. Discover Lake Atitlan

Time : 5 days

The deepest lake in Central America with 350m of depth in some places. Some people dive here, but most of all it’s an opportunity to visit the different towns that border the lake: 
San Pedro de la Laguna: A fairly dynamic and large town where you can find a “fairly” large choice of restaurants.
San Juan la Laguna: this is surely the town with the most charm. The town is nicely decorated and very touristy with many souvenir shops.
Santa Cruz la Laguna: the most authentic town, but also the least beautiful and the smallest. The town is located high above the lake, and the hostels are close to the lake.
Panajachel: also very touristy, but with much less charm than San Juan.
The lake is bordered by mountains and volcanoes which make the view superb! It is possible to do different hikes. The most popular is the Indian Nose hike at sunrise. A beautiful moment and an extremely simple climb (20min).

I really enjoyed my time on the lake because the towns around are different and have their own charm. This makes it possible to feel quickly disorientated. I enjoyed the dynamism of San Pedro and the quietness in my hostel in Santa Cruz.

My adresses

Hostels : Mr Mullet’s hostel 🍻 (Hostelworld), La Iguana Perdida (Hostelworld)
Partying: every week the hostel Mr Mullet organises a boat party. The hostel Dreamboat (Panajachel) is also a good place to go out apparently.

5. Lounging in El Paredon

Time : 2 days

It’s a great destination to have a good time and just enjoy the Guatemalan warmth. To be honest, there’s not much to do except bask in the sun, surf, drink beers and watch the sun go down. But life is good for a few days. On the other hand, you have to be careful when swimming, as the current is EXTREMELY strong. Most hostels advise against swimming and explain how to get out of the current. To cool off, it’s best to just dip your feet or to take accommodation with a pool.

I really liked the quietness of El Paredon, while being able to go out a bit in the evening. I took surfing lessons there as a beginner and the waves are quite manageable with an instructor! On the other hand, the mosquitoes and sand fleas had a field day. I had over 80 mosquito bites all over my body.

My adresses

Les hostels : Mellow Hostel (hostelworld), The Driftwood 🍻 (hostelworld)
My advice: don’t underestimate the power of mosquitoes and sand fleas, SPRAY yourself with mosquito repellent!

Other ideas in Guatemala

Tikal

Livingston

Huehuetenango

Quetzaltenango

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