The 13 best places to visit in Guatemala

 

At the heart of Guatemala City is the Constitution Square, the largest central square in the country and the zero kilometre marker for every road in Guatemala. Centred around a large fountain, the square is surrounded by impressive buildings including the National Palace Artistic Historic Monument, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala and the National Library.

Pictured is the fountain in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala.

13. Plaza De La Constitucion

 

In the south of the country between Guatemala City and the Mexican border is the city of Quetzaltenango, which has at its heart the American Central Park. This large well maintained central plaza is the most beautiful spot in the city, the circular stone kiosk surrounded by gardens are themselves surrounded by impressive buildings such as the Roman pillared Natural History Museum and the large Cathedral of The Holy Spirit.

12. Parque Centro America

 

Dating from around 500 BC, the Potbelly Sculptures of Guatemala are round stone sculptures of obese human forms carved from boulders, some more crudely created than others. Varying in size and found at different locations across the south of the country these sculptures can range anywhere from a few centimetres and grams up to two metres and 12 tons. Though there is a history of sculpted figures within Mayan tradition the Potbelly Sculptures have been deemed non-Maya with their creation one of the regions biggest mysteries.

Pictured is one of the colossal heads on display at the Regional Archaeological Museum of La Democracia.

11. Barrigones

 

In the eastern centre of the country close to the border with Honduras is the Ancient Maya archaeological site of Quirigua. The city was at its height between 500 and 850 AD when it created a wealth of grand sculptures, large plazas and an acropolis with accompanying structures, all of which remain fairly well preserved to this day. With so many outstanding 8th century monuments and carved rock pieces, the Archaeological Park & Ruins of Quirigua have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

10. Quirigua

 

In the extreme north east of the country close to the border with Belize is the Ancient Yaxha archaeological site, the third largest city in Guatemala from the pre-Colombian Maya civilization. The ruins at the site include the remains of more than 500 structures with the largest of the group of pyramids standing over 30 metres (100 ft) high.

9. Yaxha

 

To the west of Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan is a large lake sitting at an altitude of 1,562 metres (5,125 ft) above sea level in the Guatemala Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range. The lake is surrounded by an array of high mountains, volcanoes and many villages, most of which are built on steep slopes leading down to the lake using narrow cobbled roads.

8. Lago De Atitlan

 

To the south west of Guatemala City in the Sierra Madre mountain range is the Acatenango Volcano, standing a whopping 3,976 metres (13,045 ft) above sea level it is located in a very high risk volcanic avalanche hazard zone in an area of volcanoes and high mountains. Trekking is possible with local guides and the views more than make up for the risk.

7. Volcan Acatenango

 

In the south west of the country close to the border with Mexico is the Tajumulco Volcano, standing at 4,420 metres (13,845 ft) above sea level it is the highest mountain in Central America. Treks can be arranged and will usually take around two days, offering visitors incredible views over the surrounding Sierra Madre mountain range. 

6. Volcan Tajumulco

 

The Hill Of The Cross is a viewpoint overlooking the city of Antigua. From this high location visitors get an unimpeded view over the old city all the way to the 3,760 metre (12,340 ft) high Agua Volcano a short distance beyond.

5. Cerro De La Cruz

 

In the centre of the country in what feels like the middle of the jungle is a series of stepped cascading turquoise pools known as the Semuc Champey Natural Monument. The trails surrounding the river lead up to the Mirador viewpoint for spectacular views over the surrounding mountains and rainforest. Remote, difficult to get to and often marred by stories of thieves who rob tourists at knife point, Semuc Champey remains one of the countries major attractions.

4. Monumento Natural Semuc Champey

 

South of Guatemala City is the 2,552 metre (8,373 ft) high active Pacaya Volcano, having erupted violently in 1965 it has been erupting continuously ever since. Hikers will be met with outstanding views of the surrounding natural mountainous countryside and get the opportunity to get close and personal to some real life lava flows.

3. Volcan Pacaya

 

Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes in the central highlands of Guatemala is the city of Antigua, a major draw for visitors thanks to its well preserved Spanish baroque architecture and colonial monuments. Small colourful buildings line the narrow cobblestone streets leading to large churches and open city squares dotted with monumental ruins. The entire historical city of Antigua has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Santa Catalina Arch with the Agua Volcano looming behind.

2. Antigua

 

In the north of the country are the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal, some of its monuments dating back to the 4th century BC. Found in the rainforest in what is now Tikal National Park in 1853 AD it is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Colombian Maya civilization. At its centre lies the Great Plaza, flanked by a northern and southern Acropolis Palace Complex and the Plaza of The Seven Temples. The tallest temple on site is Temple IV, standing at 70 metres (230 ft) high it offers incredible views over the jungle canopy where other pyramidal structures poke out above the trees. One of the major sites of the Maya civilization is today one of the most impressively preserved and historically important places in Central America, as such the entire complex has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is Temple 1, also known as the Temple Of The Great Jaguar with the North Acropolis in the main plaza. Temple 1 stands at 47 metres (154 ft) high and is often cited as the most iconic landmark in Tikal.

1. Tikal

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