In the months leading up to our trip to Guatemala, whenever we’d tell our friends and family where we were going, we’d receive the same confused, unenthusiastic response: “Why?” they’d ask. “Why are you going there – of all the places?”
Never once did anyone say, “Wow, that’s so cool. I’ve always wanted to go to Guatemala!”
Can you believe that?
Well, considering that Guatemala is a lesser-visited destination, I can’t say that we were surprised.
But after all of the planning and research we’d done, there was one obvious response to those questions: “Well, because it’s supposed to be a beautiful country, full of outdoorsy things to do, Maya villages to explore, wildlife to encounter, and ancient ruins to discover. Just to name a few reasons.”
After traveling through Guatemala for the past few weeks, I can think of so many reasons people should travel there. In fact, the harder question to answer would be, “Why shouldn’t you travel to Guatemala?”
Seriously, I can’t think of one reason why not.
If you’re looking for your next vacation destination, then please, look no further.
Here are 10 reasons to visit Guatemala as soon as you can!
10 Reasons to Visit Guatemala Immediately
1. Guatemala is home to more than 1,500 different Maya ruin sites.
During our visit to Guatemala, we explored Tikal, one of the most important Maya complexes, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D.
We woke up at 2:30 am to climb the tallest Maya temple in the world to watch the sunrise and hear the jungle come alive from the top. Then we spent hours exploring the many different structures and searching for jaguars and spider monkeys in the jungle. As you might imagine, it was an incredible day.
As you explore Guatemala, you will encounter thousands of indigenous peoples and multiple Mayan dialects. After learning about present-day Maya culture, you should go back in time to see where and how it all began. Between Tikal, Yaxha, El Mirador, and hundreds of other sites, you have so many options to choose from.
No doubt, exploring an ancient archaeological site like Tikal will blow your mind.
2. Antigua is the coolest colonial city ever.
Seriously, Antigua is awesome.
Firstly, with its cobblestone streets, rainbow-colored, centuries-old buildings, wrought-iron details, quaint hotels, endless trees, vibrant blooms, and looming volcanoes, Antigua is absolutely gorgeous.
Ex-pats also make up a large portion of the population. So in other words, there are lots of incredible internationally inspired restaurants and bars. From taco joints, Texas barbecue, and vegan cafés, to sushi bars, mezcalerías, and craft breweries, you can find it all in Antigua – and it is all good!
Antigua is also the cultural capital of Guatemala, meaning you’ll find no shortage of artisanal goods, art, bustling markets, local restaurants, typical music, traditional clothing, and Mayan languages there.
Tuk-tuks are also the favorite mode of transport in Antigua because they’re fun, zippy, and super cheap!
And on top of all that, Antigua is just an overall happy place. Being there just felt right to me. From the moment we arrived, I knew I loved the place. My guess is you’ll feel the exact same way.
3. Guatemala is home to many stunning lakes.
Some say that Lake Atitlán is one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire world – even more beautiful than Lake Como. With its dark blue waters, vibrant orange sunrises and sunsets (literally every time), its three soaring volcanoes, and the quaint Maya villages dotting its shores, Lake Atitlán is a real beauty.
On the other side of the country, Lake Petén Itzá also awaits. This tropical lake teems with wildlife and greenery and features an island called Flores with carefree Caribbean vibes. Though Petén Itzá is the polar opposite of Lake Atitlán, this lake definitely won’t disappoint.
Whether you’re looking for cultural experiences, beautiful vistas, good fishing, water sports, or pure relaxation, there’s a lake to suit you in Guatemala!
4. Guatemala is a relatively inexpensive country.
While Guatemala is by no means cheap (if you compare it to the likes of Southeast Asia or other Central American countries), it’s still a very affordable destination.
Just to give you an idea of the costs, here are some examples.
You can easily find nice hotels for around $80 per night. The four-hour shuttle from Lake Atitlán to Antigua costs only $12. And meals in good restaurants will range anywhere from $10 to $25 dollars per person (including a drink or two)! You can also find all kinds of beautiful handicrafts for cheap at the Chichicastenango Market.
5. The outdoor adventures are boundless.
If you’re into outdoor adventuring, Guatemala is a great place to be!
Throughout the country, there are 37 different volcanoes for hiking – some of them easier than others.
While in Guatemala, we hiked through mud, fog, drizzle, and freezing winds to summit Volcán Pacaya for some pretty spectacular views.
Kayaking and paddleboarding on the country’s many lakes, mountain biking, hitting the beach on the Caribbean coast, and tracking wildlife through the jungles, are a few of the other outdoor activities available.
6. Guatemala is full of beautiful flora and fauna.
From jaguars, pumas, quetzals (Guatemala’s national birds), and oscillated wild turkeys, to parrots, howler monkeys, ocelots, toucans, and giant tarantulas, there are so many fascinating creatures to encounter in Guatemala… Some of them more dangerous than others!
During our few weeks in Guatemala, we saw countless animals we can’t find at home in California.
We loved watching spider monkeys swing through the trees at Tikal. Although we can’t say we can’t say the same for the scorpion that crawled across our terrace at Lake Atitlán!
While on Lake Petén Itza, we even visited a wildlife rehabilitation center, ARCAS, where we were up close and personal with friendly spider monkeys, two black caimans, two gorgeous jaguars, and one sleepy puma. Sadly, all of these animals (among others) were previously snatched from the local jungles and sold illegally as pets, though luckily ARCAS is working hard to rehabilitate them and return them to the wild where they belong.
If you want to find out more about ARCAS – and if you want to donate to the cause – click here!
7. Guatemala is off the beaten path.
What initially intrigued us about Guatemala was the fact that almost no one goes there. Between the two of us, we know a total of zero people who’ve ever visited the country.
If you compare Guatemala to the likes of popular vacation destinations like Spain or Italy, or similar-ish countries like Mexico or Costa Rica, Guatemala is no comparison in terms of visitors. Guatemala received just 2.1 million total visitors in 2017, meanwhile Mexico received 26 million visitors from the USA alone.
In our opinion, that’s a major plus because it means more authenticity, less crowds, and better prices!
8. Guatemalans are warm and welcoming people.
As in other Latin American countries, the people of Guatemala are friendly, warm, and welcoming. They’re eager to tell you all about Guatemala and their culture – whether that culture be Maya or Hispanic Guatemalan, or both.
Between our waiters, hotel concierges, drivers, or just random people on the streets and in the markets, we met so many kind people in Guatemala. Everyone was happy to chat with us, make jokes, and tell us about themselves, and that’s one of the reasons we fell so in love with the country!
9. The weather is perfect in the wintertime.
If you’re looking to escape the frigid winter weather, then Guatemala is your place!
We visited during December and January, and for the duration of the trip, we enjoyed sunny days ranging from 75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 Celsius). No rain, whatsoever!
However, Guatemala is known for having warm temperatures year-round, so don’t limit yourself to only the winter months. Just be prepared for rain during other seasons.
10. If you live in the United States or Canada, arriving in Guatemala is fast and easy.
If you live nearby a major hub in the USA or Canada, you can get to Guatemala in no time!
When we booked our flight from Los Angeles to Guatemala City, we were happy to discover that it was a quick 4.5-hour direct flight! How’s that for a reason to visit Guatemala ASAP?!
10 Reasons to Visit Guatemala on Your Next Trip
It’s pretty obvious that Guatemala is a destination for every type of traveler – no?
There are incredible cities and towns to explore, adventurous things to do outdoors, mysterious historical sites to discover, wildlife to see, and so much more.
If you’re looking for more reasons to visit Guatemala, well, we could list them all day long…
However, we think these 10 reasons to visit Guatemala should be enough to convince you.
You’re going to love Guatemala — one of the most beautiful countries we’ve encountered to date!