Guatemala is a magical stretch of land, packed with culture, exquisite jungles and lakes, and truly unique pursuits. Explore these unusual things to do in Guatemala, including volcano trekking, visiting Mayan Ruins, and stopping by villages at Lake Atitlán.
Mayan Ruins in Tikal
It’s extremely rare to visit Mayan ruins as sacred and significant as those in Tikal. Tikal is a compound of Mayan ruins deep in the jungle of northern Guatemala. Mysterious, classical, and enchanting, the Mayan Ruins in Tikal are a mystical landmark. It is believed by historians that the structures and remains of Tikal have stood for thousands of years, and were once part of the ancient empire. Tikal was an elaborate city-state, with decorated commercial buildings dating back to almost 3,000 years ago. Tikal National Park extends over 200 miles, so there’s plenty to explore.
The Great Plaza in Tikal includes many cultural stopping points, including Temple I and Temple II, which are two massive pyramids pertinent to Mayan History. However, there are actually several temples and structures that reside in Tikal National Park, most of which stand above 120 feet. Each temple contains its own set of unique characteristics and build, which visitors tend to find intriguing. In addition, the structures are engraved in the breathtaking Guatemala jungle, so having the chance to view them in person is a very unique experience.
Visiting Tikal can also be an exceptional chance to see Guatemala’s wildlife, and natural geographic scenery. Many visitors find that they gain both knowledge and tranquility from Tikal National Park, as it is both peaceful and educational. Make sure to plan accordingly before traveling to Tikal, and brief yourself about Mayan history prior to visiting. There are several tour companies that guide guests through Tikal and hit all of the main stopping points along the way.
Explore Guatemala’s several volcanoes
Guatemala is a mountainous range that inhabits nearly 40 volcanoes. This gleaming country is also composed of jungles and mountains, making it very pleasing to the eyes. Better yet, you can hike most of the towering peaks and volcanoes Guatemala has to offer, including the tallest volcano in Central America – Tajumulco, standing at almost 14,000 feet.
Volcan Tajumulco is part of the Sierra Madre mountain range can be seen from quite a far distance away, and is set upon the border of Mexico and Guatemala. For location reasons, Tajumulco isn’t as popular with tourists, and seasoned hikers are more likely to tackle this route. However, the tallest volcano in Central America is immersed with wildlife and scenic views from bottom to top; an unworldly experience to see for yourself.
Another Sierra Madre peak, Santa Maria can be spotted relatively close to the city of Quetzaltenango. Santa Maria is over 12,000 feet, and stretches so far in length that you’ll never run out of places to explore. Santa Maria was known to be extremely powerful, which is evident from the disseminated landscape below.
A popular hiking destination is Acatenango, which occupies two staggering peaks that both reach above 12,500 feet. The views all over Acatenango are simply magical and graceful. The last significant eruption to occur in Acatenango was in 1972, but clouds of smoke frequently fly overhead due to the fact that Acaatenango shares the same range as Volcán de Fuego.
Volcan de Fuego is one of the most frequently erupting volcanoes to be found in Guatemala. This intimidating mountain spits out fire every 20 minutes or less, but largely significant lava explosions are not typical currently. While Volcan de Fuego is not possible to hike up, it provides magnificent views from surrounding volcanoes.
Jungle Pools of Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is concealed in the mystical jungle of Guatemala, filled with underground waterfalls, natural caves, and aqua pools; a hidden, glistening oasis. Semuc Champey is only accessible by heavy-duty vehicles that are equipped with four-wheel drive, and truck taxi entrances are a possible way of transportation.
In addition to the warm, earthly pools, visitors can also embark on a rope swing journey, straight into the river, and glide through dim, natural caves while grasping a candle. Semuc Champey is hard to compare, but also isn’t typically flooded with tourists, which makes it an attractive stop for adventurous travelers. This gem of the Earth is a mix between relaxation and adventure, and is located in a rather remote part of Guatemala.
Ride a Chicken Bus
Contrary to what you may think, a Chicken bus is not packed with chickens – it’s actually a vividly decorated vehicle that carries people and goods all around town.
Chicken buses are guaranteed to catch your eye for as far as you can see it, and are usually booming with loud music as well. These transportation vehicles normally require you to pay in cash, rather than cards, so always be sure to carry around a small amount of cash and change that will be sufficient for the ride.
Chicken buses aren’t just for city traveling, however. The Authentic Chicken Bus Tour will take you through Antigua for a localized experience. This cultural ride even brings you through a macadamia farm, and around to different stopping points that would normally be much more time consuming to see on your own.
Visit the Villages on Atitlán Lake
Lake Atitlán is accompanied by various towns and villages, outlined by the charming body of water. Panajachel is a town on the more touristy side, and many travelers are attracted to its fancy hotels, moderate hostels, and incredible lake views. Panajachel is also a safe village, which is best for inexperienced travelers or those who are new to Guatemala. You’ll also find great local shopping here, and amazing food.
San Marcos is another village that encompasses gorgeous hotels, panoramic lake views, and is also a hub for tranquil activities such as yoga and meditation.
San Juan La Laguna is an intriguing town that carries tons of authentic culture. Local markets are found here, and locals are welcoming to visitors.
There are many other captivating towns and villages, all of which are distinctive, colorful, and filled with entertainment. It’s fairly easy to take a boat to most villages around Lake Atitlán and explore the alluring settlements.