Guatemala Holidays: an Overview

Guatemala is one of the smaller Central America countries but the local indigenous population is the largest of any Latin nation, making for a particularly 'authentic' holiday experience. The country offers the best of Central America under one roof - volcanoes, protected tropical jungle, mountainous highlands, impressive Mayan ruins, vivid colonial towns (including the wonderful Antigua) and beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Altogether, Guatemala makes a great holiday destination for those fond of eco-tourism, adventure and culture as their traditional dress and culture are very much still evident.

Kate B is here to help give you the inside track.

Why we think you’ll love it

  • With an abundance of colourful local towns, indigenous markets, Mayan ruins and colonial cities, and a fascinating religion that's a hybrid of Catholicism and ancient Mayan beliefs, Guatemala is the ultimate Central American experience
  • It's an outdoor adventure playground: you can hike volcanoes, kayak on lakes, trek through jungles and fly through the canopy on a zip line

More on Luxury Travel to Guatemala...

The best time for a Guatemala holiday is in the dry season, between November and April. Located at the heart of Central America, it is one of the most culturally and geographically diverse countries in the world. Guatemala is an interesting and exciting country to travel in. One can marvel at ancient temples, spectacular lakes, smoke-ringed volcanoes and bustling indigenous markets. Formerly visited by the intrepid traveller, it now has a number of excellent boutique hotels and posadas which make it a fantastic country to visit without sacrificing basic creature comforts.

The hotels are mainly family run and are often converted haciendas maintaining their original charm and style. One of the highlights is to immerse oneself in the charming colonial town of Antigua, with its labyrinth of cobbled streets, museums and stunning architecture followed by a visit to the crystalline waters of Lake Atitlan or head North East, slightly off the beaten track, into the depths of the jungle to discover one of the impressive Mayan archaeological sights and admire the spectacle of exotic wildlife and birds.

Did you know

  • Guatemala means 'Land of Trees' in the Mayan tongue
  • Guatemala has the largest collection of World Heritage Sites in Latin America
  • There are 21 different varieties of original Mayan languages that are still spoken today
  • The first chocolate bar was invented in Guatemala during Mayan times

Top picks for Guatemala

Posada del Angel

Posada del Angel

Antigua Guatemala

This pretty little inn is built in the Spanish colonial style but has a strong Guatemalan feel, from the friendly staff to the brightly woven textiles in each room.

Where to stay

Hotel Atitlan

Hotel Atitlan

Lake Atitlan

The welcoming rooms in this converted family coffee farm are individually decorated with traditional Guatemalan textiles and furniture.

Where to stay

Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park

Guatemala

A 45-minute flight from Guatemala City to Flores in the steamy Petén region of northern Guatemala, Tikal’s 3,000 temples, shrines, ceremonial platforms, ball courts and plazas lie in the heart of the jungle.

Where to go

Palacio de Dona Leonor

Palacio de Dona Leonor

Antigua Guatemala

Palacio de Dona Leonor is an authentic mansion steeped in 500 years of history, evident the minute one steps through its heavy oak doors.

Where to stay

Panza Verde

Panza Verde

Antigua Guatemala

Panza Verde is a gorgeous boutique property with plenty of character and warmth.

Where to stay

Wheelbarrow down a Cobbled Street

Antigua Guatemala

Guatemala

A highlight of any Guatemalan trip; Antigua competes with Cusco and Cartagena as Latin America's most beautiful colonial city.

Where to go

La Lancha

La Lancha

Tikal National Park

The Mayan ruins at Tikal and Yaxha require long days of exploring, so a relaxing hotel is in order afterwards, and the best in the region is La Lancha,

Where to stay

Tikal Temples Sunset

Flores

Tikal National Park

The slow paced island village of Flores is often overlooked as a mere start off point for trips around the Peten region, but it is worth spending a few hours exploring its pretty cobblestone streets flanked by handicraft shops and charming pastel coloured houses.

What to do

Guatamalan Headress

Lake Atitlan Villages

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is surrounded by a dozen or so small villages, each with its own distinctive feel. Although most remain fairly quiet, tourism is becoming more of a significant presence in almost all of them.

What to do

El Convento

El Convento

Antigua Guatemala

Hidden away down one of Antigua’s cobbled streets, El Convento is located opposite the 18th Century Capuchin convent, and is at once quiet and central.

Where to stay

Casa Encantada

Casa Encantada

Antigua Guatemala

One of the most hospitable places to stay in one of Latin America's must-see cities.

Where to stay

Tikal Temple

El Mirador

Tikal National Park

Tucked away near the Mexican border and still largely covered in thick vegetation, the ancient Mayan ruins of El Mirador are believed by many to be the original cradle of Mayan civilisation.

What to do

Iximche Ruins in Guatemala

Iximche

Antigua Guatemala

Perched on top of a fortified hilltop, and surrounded by a deep moat, sits the pre-Colombian archaeological site of Iximche.

What to do

Chichincastenango Masks

Chichicastenango

Antigua Guatemala

The mountain village of Chichicastenango, three hours from Antigua, is especially worth visiting on Thursdays and Sundays when indigenous Mayans from the surrounding villages come to trade at the market.

What to do

Mountain View of Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan

Guatemala

A huge body of deep blue water that stretches into the distance and takes at least half an hour to cross by motorised boat, the lake has an amazing setting, ringed by imposing volcanoes.

Where to go

Casa Palopó

Casa Palopó

Lake Atitlan

90 miles from Guatemala City, Casa Palopó is a beautiful villa built on the hills surrounding Santa Catarina Palopó village, on the shores of Lake Atitlan.

Where to stay

Dolls in Guatamala

Solola Market

Lake Atitlan

Set on a natural balcony overlooking Lake Atitlan, Solola’s Tuesday and Friday market is one of Central America’s finest, drawing crowds of traditionally dressed Mayans from all over the highlands.

What to do

Yaxha

Yaxha

Tikal National Park

45 miles to the west of Flores, the gateway to the north, lie the archaeological site of Yaxha.

What to do

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