6 Best Things To Do in Guatemala | An Adventure Paradise

Guatemala is one of the best countries to visit on earth and it has to be added to your travel bucket list.

Guatemala encompasses some once in a lifetime experiences and it has to be the next country you visit.

Antigua best things to do

This lesser known travel destination has some of the most unique things to do out of any country in the world.

If you love adventure then this is a place you absolutely have to visit with some unreal marvels!

Best things to do in Tikal & Flores 2

Not only is it stunning, the country itself is remarkably cheap to travel to. From cost of hotels to food to activities, you can live like royalty with prices that are 50% of other popular countries like Costa Rica & even places in Mexico.

I could go on about this country but let’s just dive into the things you must do in Guatemala on your next trip!

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1. Hike An Active Volcano Spewing Lava

Yes, you can climb an active volcano and get right up close as it shoots molten hot lava into the air.

At 13,000 ft Acatenango is one of Central America’s most incredible volcanoes and right beside it is the active Fuego volcano.

Antigua best things to do

This truly is one of the must surreal things you will ever come across in the world. I highly suggest you do it now as you never know when the powers that be may shut down this incredible adventure due to safety.

Fuego’s has daily minimal eruptions that have ranged from hourly to as many as 12 per hour. Here you will see smoke coming from the volcano and at night you can see the lava coming down the sides of the volcano.

Honestly, aside from the lava, throughout the hike there were 4-5 of the most unique and beautiful views I have ever seen while traveling.

From views of volcanoes to sitting above the clouds to the most beautiful unique sunset and so much more… it is a once in a lifetime experience.

Antigua best things to do

I suggest using a guide and Wicho & Charlies is commonly known as the best guide company to use.

Guide’s for this amazing adventure are relatively cheap and Which & Charlies does everything for you! They have places for you to stay whether you want to be in a shared dorm or also have a private cabin option.

They provide roundtrip transportation, all food, water and most importantly they have all of the supplies you will need as well as have rentals for things you may not have.

Antigua best things to do

You will want to book them over a month in advance as typically they sell out weeks in advance during high seasons.

Is Hiking Acatenango & Fuego Safe?

Yes, and no. The hike is grueling and of course anything could happen with regards to twisting an ankle or knee that comes along with hiking.

There also are larger eruptions that have caused evacuations and even worse. An eruption in May of 2023 had 1,000 people evacuated and 5 months prior an eruption also closed the airport and roads as well as leading to evacuations.

Antigua best things to do

In 2018 an eruption devastated the village of San Miguel Los Lotes killing 215 people and equal that number have been missing since.

Fuego has these larger eruptions every four to five years on average so it definitely is not the safest place on earth… but neither is driving down a road these days so…

With that said, while it is safe, of course anything can happen so be prepared and keep your wits about you and as Cedric The Entertainer once said… just run… you don’t need a running coordinator… just run.

Can You Hike Acatenango Without A Guide?

Yes, you can hike Acatenango without a guide and you can do it in one day or overnight.

You can hike Acatenango in a full-day but if you want to hike Fuego you will probably want to pack tents & gear to stay overnight, which isn’t really advised unless you are a higher level outdoorsy person.

A guided trip really is ideal as the hike is grueling and they help with food, lodging, transportation to the trailhead and so much more.

Antigua best things to do

I would only hike without a guide if you were just doing a day-hike, had headlamps, safety equipment and were a higher level hiker as you really need to be prepared.

You also really should stay overnight since the eruptions of fuego are the best part of the hike and best seen at night.

If you wanted to hike yourself you could uber or hire a private vehicle to the trailhead and then  little up the trail you pay the entrance fee that is less than $2USD.

The weather changes constantly on the hike and nighttime can be very cold, which tour guides prepare you for.

Furthermore the guided shelters have the best spots on the side of Acatenango so you are able to have a great view from basecamp to see Fuego erupt.

With that said… there are thousands of people doing the hike so it isn’t like you will ever be stranded in the wilderness and the trail is extremely easy to follow… just be sure you know how to get to Fuego.

2. Visit Tikal National Park

Tikal is one of the largest pre-Columbian civilizations with 3,000 structures dating back to the 6th century.

It is in my top 3 of favorite ruins next to Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat, which is some spectacular company.

Best things to do in Tikal & Flores

The temples, palaces and structures really make you feel like you have traveled back in time as you stand in awe of these remarkable structures.

Tikal is also one of the few ruins where you can still climb many of the structures for stunning views and an even deeper dive into the feeling of you being transported back in time.

Best things to do in Tikal & Flores 2

Tikal’s history is also very interesting as it was abandoned in the 10th century enveloped by the jungle only to be rediscovered in 1848.

What makes the site even more incredible is that only 15% of the site is excavated while the rest is still covered by the jungle that reclaimed this miraculous place. 

You can access Tikal via the city of Flores, which in its own right is a great place to spend 3-5 days or more. 

Best things to do in Tikal & Flores 2

The surrounding area of Flores offers lakes, cave adventures and even more beautiful ruins and areas to explore.

You also are only a couple hours from Belize and one of my favorite towns of San Ignacio. San Ignacio has so may amazing things to see and do including the famous ATM cave. See our article here for more on best things to do on the Belize Mainland.

3. Visit Antigua – Arguably The Best City in Central America 

Antigua is one of my favorite cities in the world as it reminds me of Cusco, Rome and Mexico City all squished into a small town with a ton to do.

It truly has as much to offer or more than any other city you will ever come across. I met a lot of people who just passed through Antigua and that is a mistake you cannot make.


Antigua is more than just the gateway to the aforementioned Acatenango hike but the town itself is full of so much culture, beauty and is an adventure in itself.

Antigua is incredibly walkable and you must take a few days to just walk the city and see its many cultural sites.

Antigua offers a multitude of ruins & historical landmarks itself from the beautiful La Merced to the awe-inspiring Convento la Recoleccion and 20+ other churches and landmarks in between.

Antigua best things to do

From a landmark & building perspective, Antigua reminded me of a lesser Rome… I know… stay with me…

No it is not Rome, however if you have been to Rome the best part is that you turn a corner and there is some random new structure you never knew about and repeat for an entire day of walking around.

Antigua offers that feeling with countless numbers of buildings, views and all else around every corner… all while having an active volcano erupting within eyesight watching over the city.

Antigua is also home to the best and largest market I think I have ever been to in their Mercado Central. You can get lost in the giant mercado for hours and that is not hyperbole… you actually can get lost and turned around.

Antigua best things to do

There are stunning cathedral ruins, a central park that is always bustling with people, restaurants, bars and cafes with incredible views and coffee plantations you can easily spend half a day at.

If you are a Lord of The Rings fan you can also stay in hobbit houses for less than $150 USD a night… with a full butler, breakfast included and more!

I could go on… and will in an Antigua article to come but wow… it is a must-visit and one of the best cities on earth.

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4. Visit Lake Atitlan 

Another gorgeous Guatemalan location is this massive lake home to multiple unique colorful villages to visit and sites to view.

Lake Atitlan is truly one of the most picturesque lakes in the world and has year-round perfect weather!

Lake Atitlan best things to do

The lake is surrounded by three volcanoes and 12 culturally rich mayan towns that you have to see on your visit.

There are also multitudes activities to do such as volcano hikes, cliff jumping, parasailing, kayaking, scuba diving, paddleboarding and tons more to explore this vibrant region.

Some of the more visited towns are Panajachel, which is the jumping off town for Lake Atitlan and then other favorites are San Pedro, Santa Cruz, San Juan and San Marcos.

Lake Atitlan best things to do

Many people also will just rent a remote place on the lake enjoying the tranquil and quiet locations surrounding this lakeside paradise.

Each town has its own charm whether you want the more busy Pana & San Pedro or quieter and laid back San Juan or San Marcos.

The most common thing to do is stay in one village as a home base (or two) but then do day trips via the public boats and sitesee each of the unique villages throughout your trip.

Lake Atitlan best things to do

I would say personally if you want somewhere quiet, San Juan is the best place to stay and if you want a bit more nightlife then San Pedro is the spot.

I stayed in a gorgeous place in San Marcos with amazing hosts, which you can see here. It truly is a paradise spot with lake views and very affordable compared to other villages.

However, I was not much of a fan of San Marcos itself compared to the other villages… so do that with what you will.

Lake Atitlan best things to do

Unfortunately you can’t swim in many locations of Lake Atitlan as places like Pana empty their raw sewage (yes everything) directly into the lake. 

So be sure to ask your hotel or locals prior to taking a dip in the the lake or read up online about any updates.

5. Make The Trek To Semuc Champey

After all the unique beauty I have covered it is hard to believe we haven’t even gotten to the most gorgeous site in Guatemala.

Tucked away deep into the Guatemalan jungle you find the turquoise limestone pools of Semuc Champey.

Beyond the breathtaking site of the waters you can go river tubing, visit caves, scenic hikes, visit waterfalls, rope swing and more!

semuc champey

The only reason that it is lower on the list is because it can be quite hard to get to being 8 hours by bus away from Antigua (9-10 from Guatemala City). Unfortunately there are not any flights and no quick way to see this paradise.

Thus, if you are only in the country for a 2-3 week vacation you really don’t have enough time to do it comfortably while also fitting the other places in.

However, if you have time definitely head that way for 3-5 days to complete you incredible trip to Guatemala. It is a good place to go to on the way to Tikal if you wanted to do a little detour on the way.

6. Volunteer

More than 55% of Guatemala lives under the poverty line and it is ever so easy to help out.

If you read or listen to anything on this blog you know much I push to volunteer abroad if you have the time as it is a life-changing experience.

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I highly encourage you to reach out to Maximo Nivel, and mention me Fraser Laveay with the Change Your Stars Foundation. 

Maximo Nivel has a ton of great options to volunteer from working with kids to medical field to animals and more.

It is also a great way to meet people if you are traveling solo. Maximo Nivel has activities every day to bring you together with other volunteers and gives you a lot of time to go explore outside of day-to-day volunteering.

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They also set up excursions and all else so is a one-stop travel guide as well. If you wanted to take spanish lessons then this is another service they offer.

Go volunteer abroad and you will never travel the same again!

What About Oceanside Beaches in Guatemala?

As someone who never went to the beaches I can’t really speak to them but from my research it doesn’t appear Guatemala is home to many remarkable oceanside beaches in comparison to its neighbors such as Belize, Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica etc.

However, this is completely fine. As mentioned this trip is about adventure, not laying by the beach and Guatemala is one of the most unique places for adventure you will ever visit!

Is Guatemala Safe?

Yes… and no. Guatemala does have a bad rap for being unsafe and while places like Guatemala City have very unsafe places so does any other major US city.

Antigua itself is known as one of the safest places in Latin America so do not even blink an eye about not feeling safe here.

Similar Lake Atitlan, Semuc Champey and Tikal are all very safe and covered with tourists as well. 

Best things to do in Tikal & Flores 2

While there is nefarious activity and extreme poverty in Guatemala, locals also know not to mess with tourists as that is the lifeblood of a ton of people in the country.

Honestly if you are worried go to Instagram or TikTok and search Antigua, Lake Atitlan etc and you will see pictures of a ton of solo travelers with no worries in the world.

If traveling solo there are a plethora of great hostels in each place and as you know you will instantly find a friend or whole tribe to hangout with and not be alone either way.

How to Get to Guatemala

For basic info for the most common traveler, the easiest & most cost effect way is to fly into Guatemala City, which is where the majority of all international flights fly into.

From there you would get a shuttle or private driver if you wish to go to Antigua. Uber is also huge in Guatemala City and Antigua so 99% of the time that is reliable and similar cost to a private ride.

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TIP: Even if you fly in really late at night… shuttle or get a ride to Antigua. Traffic is awful in GC so landing late is actually a blessing… land, get in your ride and you will be to Antigua in 40 minutes vs. 1.5-3 hours when GC traffic is going.

Honestly, there is no point going to a GC hotel just to wake up the next morning and head to Antigua… time & cost benefit it makes way more sense to just get to Antigua when you land especially if no traffic.

If going to Atitlan you could similarly go right from the GC airport but overall I think starting your journey off in Antigua is the best bet then go from there.

Of course if coming from nearby you can bus in from other countries etc as well.

How To Travel Around Guatemala 

There are a lot of common options to travel around Guatemala all with different price points. 
You can fly around to some cities in the country, you can do a public bus, private driver or even uber is rampant in GC & Antigua.

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If you are going the places mentioned above see below best bets:


As mentioned above, to get to Antigua land in GC and shuttle/bus/private car/uber to Antigua.

Getting around Antigua uber is cheap and easy and there are also tuk tuks that will get you around the town for $1-5 USD.

Lake Atitlan:

As mentioned above as well, to get to Lake Atitlan land in GC and shuttle/bus/private car/uber to Panajachel. Or you can do the same from Antigua.

Getting around Lake Atitlan you use the the public water taxis that go each direction ciruclarly around the lake from early morning but end at 6pm for just 1-2 USD. If you miss the public taxi then you are looking at at least $40-50 for a private boat.

Lake Atitlan best things to do

There are also tuk tuks that get you around each village and some drive you to neighboring villages. Note that tuk tuks from other villages are licensed for their village so they drop you off on the outskirts of each village typically.

There are roads to each village as well but take a considerable amount of time to drive further distances around the lake.


The most efficient way to get to Tikal via Flores is to fly from GC to Flores and it only takes 45 minutes and you can easily get flights for well under $100 USD.

Do note that many airlines will charge you for carry on bags and a premium on checked bags so be sure to read that before you leave. See my podcast in this article for my rant on how that went haha.

Tip: Many hotels let you keep your luggage with them so you can always just store your big luggage at your GC or Antigua hotel before going to Tikal.

Best things to do in Tikal & Flores 2

I actually ubered to my hotel in GC dropped my luggage off at the hotel I was staying at when I returned to GC and then continued in my same uber to the airport.

Another option is to bus to Tikal but it is 11+ hours so I would say fly from GC as flights are very cheap unless you are on a tight backpacking budget with nothing but time anyways.

Getting around Flores is easy with a lot of taxi and tuk tuk options. Your hotel also most likely offers shuttles, which I would use as the taxis at the airport when you land will try to rip you off.

It should not cost more than $10-20 USD to get from the airport to Flores or hotels in the area, so be firm with them. However, avoid this but just setting up transportation with your lodging before you arrive.

From there they can call you taxis etc and make sure you get a good rate. Most likely you will stay on the island of Flores as well so that entire area is walkable.

Transportation Companies. I used Guiness Travel a lot, not the cheapest but also very reliable. Their Whatsapp is +502 3609 6081. Guatedriver is also another reputable driving service.

Where to Stay in Guatemala 

I will keep this answer very broad as you could dive into tiny details and will just tell you what I suggest.

Guatemala City

Zone 10, 1 & 9 are the common areas for tourists to stay in when visiting and those areas are very safe.

Truly, take the stress out of this and just go to hotels.com or your hotel booking company of choice and search hotels. You will then see the main areas that populate with common hotel company names all grouped together and bingo… it is typically safe.

The Good Hotel is my favorite as it is in a safe area and also are a socially responsible hotel that gives back to the community! They have a foundation called Ninos de Guatemala and have opened multiple schools housing over 500 students in-need.

The hotel in GC is contemporary and has everything you need for a quick GC visit. Their hotel in Antigua is very pretty and also has a nice restaurant and coffee lounge attached.


Anywhere in town… there are a ton of options from hostels to gorgeous hotels within the very walkable town.

My favorite hotel I have ever stayed in is Hobbitenango. If you like Lord Of The Rings this is a must stay as you stay in an actual hobbit house! 


The houses are huge with living rooms, some have hot tubs & rooftop seating areas all while having views of Acatenango & Fuego erupting in the distance.

Furthermore, you also get a full-time butler who can start your fireplace, brings you breakfast, serves you all meals & drinks around the grounds and will even help with pictures.

Hobbitenango is typically cheaper than $150 USD a night so it is an absolute must for 2-3 nights, even if you aren’t a huge LOTR fan.


As mentioned The Good Hotel is an amazing place to stay due to their philanthropy giving back to the kids in the country with your help. 

The Good Hotel Antigua rooms are really cute, have outdoor showers, contemporary look and is attached to the perfect little restaurant and coffee lounge area.

Some other top hotels are Hotel Casa Santo Domingo (one of the nicest hotels ever), Hotel Posada Don Rodrigo, Camino Real Antigua and Adra Hostel is a gorgeous hostel.

Lake Atitlan 

Lake Atitlan has a plethora of hotels & Airbnbs of which the best ones sellout asap.

Since there truly is a myriad of options and areas… I would say look at San Pedro & San Juan then try and find the best value for a place with great reviews & location.

Lake Atitlan best things to do

As mentioned you can be in the mix in Pana or be in solitude in a remote airbnb somewhere on the lake so just do your searching.


Most people stay on Isla Flores, which is a small very walkable island in the heart of town.

I stayed in Villa Maya and it was amazing, as well as really affordable for what you get. It is 15 minutes out of town and the restaurant can get a little old after a few days but… still is amazing.

Best things to do in Tikal & Flores

They also set you up with all tours you might want and their pricing is on par with anyone in town. They will also set you up with rides to and from town/the airport, which cost $15-20.

If you are a couple it is a great little romantic spot along the lake with your own little casitas and walking paths all around the grounds.


Get to Guatemala right now before the secret is out!


Hola! I’m Fraser & this site is a guide to help you reach your goals, travel the world and create amazing food in between. Get inspiration for travel, recipes & to follow your dreams.

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