Any trip to Guatemala is unforgettable – whether you are soaking up the atmosphere of one if its vibrant, ever-changing cities, exploring its fascinating Mayan history, or climbing your very first volcano at dawn. So, picking just a few of the experiences that make this country so special has been tricky to say the least – it is just one of those places where everyone will create their own special memories. But, we have had a go – here are just some of the most unforgettable experiences to be had in this incredible country.
Hike your way up Acatenango volcano
Bagging your first volcano is always a special feeling, but where Acatenango volcano is your first or your fiftieth, you really will never forget it. Guatemala is world famous for its remarkable volcanoes (it has 30, some of which are still active!), and Acatenango is one of the country’s most treasured natural sites. We won’t lie to you – it isn’t an easy hike, as it is moderately steep and it will take you around seven hours to get to the top (with a few breaks, of course). But all that effort is more than worth it when you get to the summit and enjoy the spectacular views. On a hike like this we obviously strongly recommend that you get a local guide, but we’d also suggest you do an over night hike too. All of your supplies will be taken up with you, and watching the sun rise coming up behind the volcano is a truly once in a lifetime experience.
Swim in the natural pools in Semuc Champey
A series of naturally stepped, turquoise blue pools and stunning waterfalls make this place something really very special indeed. It is almost unbelievably beautiful, with its jungle setting and crystal clear water. It is a complete pain to get to – around 8 hours of travelling from Flores or Antigua on an uncomfortable bus, but we promise you that you won’t regret a single moment of the journey once you are there. The pools themselves are incredible to swim and relax in, and if you somehow manage to tire of the beauty of Semuc Champey you can also always explore some of the nearby caves for a change of scene. Truly, one of the most beautiful and unforgettable places on the planet, let alone Guatemala.
Of course, street food is huge at the moment – and there really is no better way to get an authentic taste of the real Guatemala than sampling some. Our tip is to watch the locals and follow them to see where they are getting their street food fix. If they’re eating there, then it is probably a good bet.
Elote, or corn on the cob, is everywhere in Guatemala, and no trip to the country is complete without stopping off somewhere for a moment and enjoying some while you’re out and about. Guatemalans eat it with salsa, salt and lime, and it really is delicious. For those of you after something a bit more substantial, tacos are always a big favourite too, as they are in most of Latin America. The Guatemalan version is usually packed with cabbage and cheese, and again, they’re seriously tasty. A top recommendation is the tiny street vendor in San Pedro la Laguna near to the dock on Lake Atitlan, whose tacos are truly unforgettable.
Take time to volunteer
Guatemala is the largest economy in Central America, but there are still many people who are struggling with high poverty levels in many areas of the country. There are countless volunteering programmes available, in sectors ranging from education through to environmental projects such as sea turtle protection. But whether you want to teach English in a local city school, help promote responsible farming methods in a rural town, or even live for a while with a Mayan Kakchikel-speaking family to try and support indigenous communities, volunteering is a great way to get an insight into this wonderful, varied country.
Guatemala is a country full of fascinating and unforgettable experiences, and of course we’ve only been able to cover a few here. Our advice is to just get out there, talk to the locals and really find out what makes the place tick.