Holidays & Sabbaticals to Guatemala – In a Nutshell
This is a land of extraordinary culture and colour, which sews together ancient Mayan, Spanish colonial and modern influences with a rich indigenous thread.
It’s the heart of Mayan culture in Central America, with hundreds of ruins and treasures to explore.
Some are famous – El Mirador, Quirigua — others are hidden deep in the jungle and rarely seen by tourists.
Tikal is the best known of them all – a UNESCO listed city enveloped by rainforest, with towering 70m-tall temples and King Jasaw Chan K’awii’s tomb.
Serene Lake Atitlan will stir your soul, whether you paddleboard and kayak across it, mountain bike around its traditional villages or paraglide over the top.
The skyline is dominated by volcanoes, some of them still active: climbing Volcan San Pedro as smoke plumes rise and orange lava glows.
Antigua Guatemala is a gem of a city which remains rooted in the past, all gorgeous cobbled streets, elegant plazas and bright yellow archways.
Locals are warm and friendly, and you’ll see traditionally-clad people wherever you go; the rich hue of their garments denotes which village they’re from.
Visit vibrant markets such as Comalapa to buy indigenous handmade textiles and crafts, and to witness colourful fiestas and processions accompanied by marimba orchestras. To be here is to be dazzled.
How to Get to Guatemala
You can travel overland from Mexico, Belize, Honduras or El Salvador as part of a longer Central American itinerary.
If you arrive by plane, you’ll fly into Guatemala City.
There are no direct flights from the UK – you need to go via the US or Europe and the flight time is approx. 14-17 hours.
If you’re coming from the US, you can travel from various major cities – flight times range from 2-6 hours.
From Guatemala City, the only onward domestic flight is to Flores, gateway to Tikal.
When & Weather – Guatemala
The weather is sunny and spring-like all year round, with temperatures changing through altitude rather than climate.
It can get hot on the coast and is cooler up in the mountains.
November to April is the Dry Season; May to October is Rainy Season, with most rain falling in September and October.
It’s mainly limited to late-afternoon downpours though, so don’t let this put you off.
Temperatures range between 13°C (56°F) and 28°C (82°F).
Who will Guatemala Appeal To?
The country’s rich indigenous culture and stunning natural landscapes are best suited to:
- Culture lovers
- Active travellers
- Solo travellers
- Families will be greeted warmly, too
Ranging from homestays and characterful guesthouses in the pueblos, to magnificent colonial hotels in Antigua, jungle lodges, luxury villas and boutique hotels.
Off The Beaten Path
- Swim in turquoise natural pools at Semuc Champey, a breathtaking river valley.
- You can tube through limestone caves, too, and swing out over the river on an enormous rope swing.
- Take a 2-day trek to the greatest city of the ancient Maya, El Mirador, buried deep in the lush jungle.
- Paraglide over the impossibly blue Lake Atitlan.
- Flores in Peten is a beautiful little colonial town on an island, with circular cobbled streets and hand carved wooden balconies.
- Take a chocolate-making workshop: cacao plantations surround Antigua and the Mayans invented the sweet stuff.
- Camp overnight amongst the ancient ruins of untouched Uaxactun.
- Chill out in Livingstone for a few days, eating seafood and swimming in the freshwater pools at Seven Altars. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a vibrant local dance performance during you stay.
- Spend a night in a homestay at San Juan la Laguna, one of the most authentic indigenous towns fringing Lake Atilan.
- Climb Guatemala’s highest peak – Volcán Tajumulco – for an incredible sunrise. At 14,000 feet high, by the top you’re actually walking amongst the clouds.
- Mountain bike through the highlands then white-water raft down tumbling rivers to otherwise inaccessible Mayan ruins.
- Swap the huge touristy craft markets for tiny Solola near Atitlan, which offers a much more laid-back experience. Various communities come to hawk their traditional craft.
- Stay overnight at Tikal and you’ll hear the jungle come alive with howler monkeys.
- Kayak through the breathtaking Rio Dulce gorge at sunrise and you may spot manatees.
- Turtle nesting season starts in July in Monterrico.
- The iridescent quetzal nests in the Biotopo del Quetzal between March and June.
- As you wander through jungle, keep your eyes out for rare scarlet macaws, particularly in the north.
Guatemala Experiences you shouldn’t miss:
- Wandering through Unesco-listed Antigua: gorgeous colonial architecture, cobbled streets and flower-filled plazas.
- Hiking up active Pacaya volcano, it regularly throws out plumes of smoke and red-hot lava.
- Paddle boarding across serene Lake Atitlan.
- Dining in a comedor: try spicy beef halacha, leafy tamales and sweet rellenos de platano.
- Climbing the splendid 800 BC pyramids of Tikal, half-enveloped by jungle. Or visit the Unesco site of Quirigua.
- Partaking in a traditional Mayan ceremony at Iximche.
- Bartering for colourful textiles at Comalapa’s Tuesday market, a hub of artisan wares.
- Chilling out in bohemian San Pedro La Laguna, with its pretty beaches and hidden swimming spots.
- Riding a ‘chicken bus’ – the old American school buses, which locals travel around in.
Pintando El Cambio is an NGO which uses art as a way to regenerate social change and economic development.
Santa Catarina Palopó is a tiny village on the Northeastern side of Lake Atitlan and is home to roughly 6,000 inhabitants.
Due to the demographic growth of the area, the profitability of traditional economic activities such as agriculture and fishing has been reduced to the point of
not being a sustainable option for families. The goal of the project is to paint arond 600 homes in a style and colour which is sympathetic to the cultural origins
of the village and community. Here volunteers can get involved by helping to paint a home or donate materials.
Our experienced team will guide you through a number of ideas based on how you would like to experience Guatemala.
Consider visiting Guatemala in combination with Belize, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama.
Browse our gallery for inspiration and read the sample itinerary below to whet your appetite.
No matter how long you have to travel, we’ll guide you through the planning process to ensure a trip is carefully pieced together to suit your interests,
pace of travel and budget. Contact us to start planning a holiday or sabbatical to Guatemala.