Tikal is home to one of the most impressive archeological sites in the world, an ancient Mayan city that’s one of the largest of its kind. As you wander from temple to temple, you’ll learn how the city was once interconnected with a sprawling Mayan community, over a thousand years ago in a world that remains largely buried. If you’re up for even more adventure after Tikal, you can head to Semuc Champey to bathe in its turquoise cascading pools. It’s a good 10 hours by bus, but this is relatively close compared to other major attractions in Guatemala.
Most travel itineraries for Guatemala will feature Antigua, a classic colonial town with cobblestone streets and colorful storefronts. While the city itself is well-worth visiting, the real treasures can be seen on the horizon – four conical volcanoes known as Agua (12,355 ft), Acatenango (13,040 ft), Fuego (12,346), and Pacaya (8,373 ft). Of these, Pacaya and Acatenango are the most popular to climb, the first because its relatively easy and the second for its beautiful views.
Lake Atitlan is a unique place where Bohemian and traditional Mayan communities co-exist. It’s also a place of extraordinary natural beauty, as can be best witnessed from Indian Nose Mountain (Nariz del Indio). It’s a steep, multi-hour journey to hike up Indian Nose, but you’ll have the reward of panoramic views of the lake and its surrounding peaks. Trekking to the summit is particularly breathtaking at sunrise, when you’ll often be climbing above low clouds.
Cerro Quemado has some of the best climbing in Guatemala with a range of bolted routes and bouldering opportunities. It’s located in Quetzaltenango (a.k.a. Xela), Guatemala’s second largest city. While many tourists skip over Xela, it’s a great place to take Spanish lessons while having access to top-notch hiking and climbing areas.
Lake Atitlan is famous for its New Age culture, as best shown through its wide range of yoga and other workshop offerings. The teachers there well-trained and creative, and most studios have sweeping lake views. It’s the perfect place to gain some perspective and much-needed serenity.
The Cosmic Convergence Festival is a celebration of conscious living and Mayan culture, set on the shore of Lake Atitlan. It’s a relatively small festival with only a few thousand participants, but that means you’ll have a better chance to mingle and get to know people, since you’ll see the same people over and over again.
Empire Music Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in Central America. It features an impressive, mixed-genre line up each year, as well as Mayan-themed mega stages. Among the many world-class artists that have headlined EMF are Alesso, Zedd, Incubus, Claptone, and Marshmello.