Since X and I are planning for our destination wedding in Guatemala, I’ve been doing a ton of research on the country to prep the wedding website for our guests. I’ve pulled so much information for the website, I figured I’d compile them all into one handy blog post that any future visitors to Guatemala might find useful!
No visit to Guatemala is complete without a trip to Antigua. Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua features beautiful colonial buildings next to picturesque ruins. Along the cobbled streets of Antigua, enjoy a coffee at a local café or go souvenir shopping. Check out Hotel Santo Domingo for a delicious lunch or dinner.
While you’re in Antigua, check out Arco de Santa Catalina, Antigua’s most iconic monument. The arch was built in 1694 to enable nuns from the Santa Catalina convent to cross the street without being seen. During early-morning or late-afternoon, you can grab a beautiful photo framing Volcan Agua through its arch.
Pacaya, an active volcano in Guatemala, is one of the most popular attractions within a short distance from Antigua. You can join a variety of tours where you can climb the simmering black cone. The top offers fantastic views of Lago de Atitlan.
Tikal is the Mayan ruins to visit. It is considered one of the most important archeological ruins left by the Maya civilization. During the Classic Period it was one of the largest and most important of the Mayan cities. Temple IV, a dizzying pyramid that stands 212 feet above the ground, is the tallest Maya structure ever built. Visitors can climb nearly to the top of this structure for the finest view at Tikal. For Star Wars fans, the view from the Great Temple was used for the rebel base on the jungle moon of Yavin 4 in Star Wars: A New Hope.
Many travelers to Guatemala skip Guatemala City altogether, opting to base their trip in Antigua. But the city has so much to offer, so don’t sleep on it! Zone 1 hosts the sites of Palacio Nacional de la Cultura and Iglesia La Merced. Nestled in Zone 10 are two of the country’s best museums: Museo Ixchel and Museo Popol Vuh. If museums aren’t your thing, go shopping at Oakland Mall, one of Guatemala City’s most luxurious malls, or have a pastry and coffee at San Martin.
Described by Lonely Planet as “the closest thing to Eden on Earth”, the lake is big, deep, and surrounded by fern-covered valleys and towering volcanoes. The volcanoes Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro (“The Three Giants“), on the shores of the lake, form an impressive landscape. Around the lake you can visit the the 6 Mayan towns of Santiago Atitlán, San Lucas Tolimán, San Antonio Palopo, Santa Catarina Palopo, Panajachel, and San Pedro La Laguna.
Often described as one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala, Semuc Champey is a series of limestone bridges and caves that snakes through part of central Guatemala, tying in with the Cabahón River. People visit Semuc to enjoy swimming in the pools, exploring the nearby water cave, or tubing down the Cahabon River.
Parque Acuático Xocomil & Parque de Diversiones Xetulul
For those feeling adventurous, Xocomil is the largest and most visited water park in Guatemala. Large and well-designed, the water park features several high, fast, and exhilarating water slides, two wave pools, a “lazy river” float ride, several children’s play pools, and everything else you might want or expect from a water park. For a more detailed look at the parks, check out my blog post on Irtra here.