Reasons to visit Guatemala in 2022: The nature of Guatemala is so rich and diverse that even its currency – quetzal – is named after a tropical bird.
With so many natural wonders, including 37 volcanoes, 5 lakes, the country is perfect for the active and adventurous.
Tucked between Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador, between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the country manages to pack a lot into its borders.
The name Guatemala comes from the Nahuatl word “Quauhtlemallan” which means “place of many trees” and it is also a land of many languages. Although Spanish is the main language, 22 Maya languages are spoken here, as well as the Xinca and Garifuna languages.
“We have the heart of the Mayan world in the northern part of the country, and you can also explore the nature and all the archaeological sites in Guatemala,” says Minor Arturo Cordon Lemus, CEO of the Guatemala Tourist Board.
To help you better understand this multifaceted country, we have selected some of our favorite scenic spots.
Four reasons to visit Guatemala in 2022
1. Take a trip along the Carmelita-Mirador circuit to the ancient world
If a wilderness walk is what you need in Guatemala, then this is the place for you. The 55 km Carmelita-Mirador track is located in the northern part of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region.
A UNESCO site, and one of the largest rainforest areas north of the Amazon, includes over 200 ancient Mayan cities within its borders.
Recognized as one of the lungs of the earth, the reserve is ideal for bird watchers, ecotourists and adventure seekers. The scheme includes Tikal National Park, one of the largest cities created by the Maya. In the city’s Plaza Mayor, you can find the Great Temple of the Jaguar and the Temple of the Masks next to the Acropolis.
You can also visit Isla de Flores, the site of the first Mayan observatory, where civilization first measured time and found the best dates for growing crops.
Along with archaeological treasures, you will find many natural wonders, including 122 mammal species, 535 butterfly species, and 106 reptile species.
2. The best volcano hike in Guatemala
If you are looking for something a little more adventurous then how about climbing a volcano? The Acatenango volcano in Antigua is located at an altitude of 3976 meters above sea level and is considered the best route for adrenaline lovers in Guatemala. From the top, you can see Fuego Volcano, Acatenango’s much more active neighbor.
You need to be an experienced hiker to climb Acatenango and hiring a guide is recommended. Trek Guatemala even has a night hike so you can enjoy the splendor of Guatemala’s sunrise from the summit the next morning.
3. Guatemala: the Caribbean or Pacific side?
The country has coastlines in both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, and you can visit both sides of Guatemala on both waterfronts.
“We have black sand beaches in the Pacific and white sand beaches in the Atlantic,” says Cordon Lemus.
The Pacific side offers more than 300 kilometers of volcanic black sand beaches, where you can watch humpback whales from December to April. The beaches are also great for surfers, and the UNESCO-listed Takalik Abay National Archaeological Park is nearby if you want a break from the sun.
Just a few hours away, Quetzaltenango is one of the best places to visit in Guatemala right now, according to Cordon Lemus. “There are beautiful lakes here and really nice sights and volcanoes. And one of the best experiences you can have here is our gastronomy.”
Meanwhile, on the Caribbean side, you can enjoy stunning white sand beaches, the Río Dulce Nature Reserve, and Lake Izabal, the largest body of water in the country. You can visit the Lakeside Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, a Spanish colonial fort built in the 17th century.
4. Explore Guatemala City
After all this nature, you may need something a little more urban, in which case head to the capital. The country’s capital is the most cosmopolitan in the Central American region.
In 2015, the city was awarded the title of Cultural Capital of the Ibero-American region. There are two huge markets here: the Central Market and the Crafts Market. The latter is the best place to buy traditional handicrafts, Guatemalan clothing, and jewelry.