Smouldering volcanoes, verdant rainforests, mountain lakes and innumerable ancient Mayan sites – Guatemala heaves with history and jaw-dropping natural landscapes.
The hardest part is deciding where to start. You could enter across the Mexico and Belize borders, into a world of steaming jungle strewn with Mayan ruins. The most significant of these is the mighty Tikal complex, where imposing pyramids rise above the forest canopy and noisy howler monkeys swing through the trees. Stay in the nearby island town of Flores, where you can arrange an early morning trip to the ruins to catch the spectacular sunrise.
Or, you might begin your Guatemalan adventure in the southern region, home to the former capital, Antigua Guatemala. Dotted with crumbling churches and surrounded by active volcanoes, this town is a staple sojourn for most travellers. Explore the ruins of La Catedral, wander up the Hill of The Cross for sweeping views, or put your physical fitness to the test with a steep hike up Volcán Acatenango – and be rewarded with views of neighbouring Volcán Fuego spitting jets of lava high into the sky, and other volcanoes peeping through the clouds in the distance.
Guatemala retains a higher proportion of indigenous people than any other Central American country – and their culture is vividly apparent in cities like Cobán and Quetzaltenango, where markets abound with colourful fruits and hand-stitched fabrics.
There are eco-lodges, hotels and hostels widely available in the cities, especially Guatemala City, and the most popular sites like the crater-formed Lake Atitlan.
The 12 best places to stay in Guatemala: Top hotels, B&Bs, inns, and vacation rentals — Based on real reviews from real guests