Check out these 10 can’t miss experiences in Guatemala

Guatemala is a country rich in culture, history and natural beauty, but beyond the popular attractions like Tikal, Antigua and Lake Atitlan, there are many hidden gems that await the adventurous traveller. Here are 10 under-the-radar experiences that you can have in Guatemala, without worrying about crowds or time limits.

Explore the second-largest city in Guatemala

Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city that offers a glimpse into the modern and traditional aspects of Guatemala. You can visit colonial buildings, museums, art galleries, markets and cafes, or join one of the many language schools and volunteer programs. Xela is also a great base for hiking and exploring the nearby volcanoes, hot springs and indigenous villages.

Swim in the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey is a natural wonder that consists of a series of limestone bridges and pools that span over the Cahabón River. The water is crystal clear and refreshing, and you can swim, snorkel or relax in the sun. You can also hike to a viewpoint that offers a stunning panorama of the entire site, or explore the nearby caves and waterfalls.

Visit the island town of Flores

Flores is a charming town that sits on an island in Lake Petén Itzá. It is known for its colourful houses, cobblestone streets and friendly atmosphere. You can stroll around the town, enjoy the lake views, take a boat ride or visit the nearby zoo. Flores is also a convenient gateway to the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal, which are only an hour away by bus.

Experience the largest market in Central America

Chichicastenango is a town that hosts the largest and most colourful market in Central America every Thursday and Sunday. You can find everything from handicrafts, textiles, pottery and masks, to fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers. The market is also a place to witness the syncretism of Maya and Catholic beliefs, as you can see locals praying and burning incense in front of the church.

Discover the Afro-Caribbean culture of Livingston

Livingston is a unique town that lies on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, accessible only by boat. It is home to the Garifuna people, who are descendants of African slaves and indigenous Caribs. You can learn about their culture, music, dance and cuisine, which are different from the rest of Guatemala. You can also enjoy the beaches, mangroves and waterfalls that surround Livingston.

Immerse yourself in the Mayan culture of Nebaj

Nebaj is a town that belongs to the Ixil Triangle, a region that preserves its Mayan identity and traditions. You can see women wearing their distinctive huipiles (embroidered blouses), men playing wooden flutes and children flying kites. You can also visit the local museum, church and market, or hike to nearby villages and archaeological sites.

Hotels in Antigua

Relax in the spiritual hub of San Marcos La Laguna

San Marcos La Laguna is one of the villages that dot the shores of Lake Atitlan. It is known for its laid-back and alternative vibe, attracting travelers who are interested in yoga, meditation, healing and holistic therapies. You can join one of the many workshops, retreats or courses that are offered in San Marcos, or simply enjoy the lake views and nature.

Trek to the lost city of El Mirador

El Mirador is an ancient Mayan city that lies deep in the jungle of northern Guatemala. It is one of the largest and oldest Mayan sites, dating back to the pre-classic period. It features impressive pyramids, temples and plazas, some of which are still covered by vegetation. To reach El Mirador, you need to embark on a challenging but rewarding trek of several days, accompanied by a guide and a mule.

Support the conservation of sea turtles in Monterrico

Monterrico is a beach town that lies on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. It is famous for its black sand beaches, mangrove swamps and sea turtle reserve. You can visit the reserve and learn about the efforts to protect these endangered animals, or even participate in the release of baby turtles into the ocean. You can also enjoy the sunsets, surf and nightlife that Monterrico offers.

Meet the patron saint of Santiago Atitlan

Santiago Atitlan is another village on the shores of Lake Atitlan, known for its strong Maya culture and traditions. One of the most fascinating attractions in Santiago Atitlan is the shrine of Maximón, a folk saint that is revered by the locals. Maximón is represented by a wooden effigy that wears a hat, a scarf and a cigar. He is said to grant favors in exchange for offerings of money, alcohol or tobacco. You can visit his shrine and witness the rituals that are performed by his devotees.

ENS Editors

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