Guatemala is a kaleidoscopic land that has it all: Mayan ceremonial city ruins, ancient volcanoes, deep azure lakes and spectacular mountain landscapes. Defined by its illustrious history and exhilarating mix of colonial cities, colourful highland markets, and rich indigenous culture, a holiday here offers an authentic Mesoamerican experience.
As the birthplace of the ancient Maya, Guatemala appeals to both history buffs eager to learn about the legacy of this civilisation, and nature-lovers keen to explore a vibrant landscape. First, head to Antigua, the original capital, for a feast of colonial architecture. Although the earthquake in 1717 left most of the city's buildings in ruins, it still charms with cobbled streets and well-preserved neo-colonial buildings. Marvel at the twin peaks of the Fuego (Fire) and Agua (Water) volcanoes, shop in colourful markets and admire the yellow façade of La Merced church. Take a walking food tour to discover the very best of this city.
Lake Atitlan should feature in any itinerary exploring Guatemala. As one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and the deepest in Central America, it truly is a sight to behold. Framed by three volcanoes - Tomilan, Atitlán and San Pedro, it is an idyllic spot for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, diving, kayaking, and exploring the villages and towns that stud its shoreline. Time your trip to make sure you travel to or from Lake Atitlan on a Thursday or a Sunday for a cultural whirl at Chichi market in the mountain town of Chichicastenango. Also trip-worthy is both Quetzaltenango (known as Xela) for its hot springs, colonial architecture and handicrafts, and Sololá for its markets that draw huge crowds of traditionally-dressed Mayans.
Located in El Petén in the north is Tikal National Park, where lies an ancient Mayan city buried deep in the jungle. This is one of Central America’s largest archaeological sites complete with around 3,000 Mayan ruins, palaces, temples, and more. Southeast from Tikal is the Mayan site of Yaxha, famous for its twin pyramid complexes, acropolises, plazas and structures and a sunset tour here is a must.
Guatemala is an awe-inspiring country where you will find natural beauty, with highland lakes ringed by perfect volcanic cones and rich jungles full of wildlife and beautiful birds. Delightful colonial architecture with flashes of highland culture contrast with brightly coloured markets and impressive Mayan ruins.