If you ask any of the backpackers who got the chance to explore Central America about their favorite destination, I’m sure many will say Guatemala!
Backpacking in Guatemala is highly rewarding because it’s less crowded than, for example, tourist-filled Costa Rica. It also has a bit of everything: from dense jungles and shimmering lakes to vibrant colonial cities and ancient Mayan ruins.
I didn’t know what to expect of Guatemala but it ended up becoming my favorite destination on the Central America Gringo Trail.
Why visit Guatemala
Landscapes. Guatemala’s landscapes are out of this world. You’ll find a string of impressive volcanoes (including ones you can climb) near Guatemala City and Antigua. The rainforests and central highlands are incredible.
Mayan sites. Hundreds of Mayan ruins are found across Guatemala. The biggest of all is Tikal, which looks like something you would see in an Indiana Jones film. Another impressive pyramid can be seen at Yaxhá, which sits on a beautiful lake.
Lake Atitlan. This lake is surrounded by seven picturesque Mayan villages, each offering something different. It’s a peaceful place where you can get away from it all, or hike up surrounding volcanoes, go paddleboarding, and explore nearby indigenous villages. This town-hopping guide to Lake Atitlan will tell you everything.
Plan your Guatemala trip
Backpacking Guatemala in 3 weeks
If you’re a backpacker wanting to explore every nook and cranny of Guatemala, you should set aside at least 3 weeks. This will give you enough time to experience all the best sites without being in a hurry.
If you’re coming from the north, consider starting your travel route in Flores, a small town that is best-known as a base for exploring the ancient ruins in Tikal that are located just a short drive away. There is not much to do in Flores apart from kayaking the lake or visiting some swimming holes. However, I liked the town’s friendly vibe and it’s easy to get guides to take you to Tikal.
Tikal is definitely one of those places that are not to be missed. Be sure to take your time wandering through the jungle and exploring the site’s five main temples. To experience Tikal in peace, I recommend visiting as early as possible. Sunrise tours depart from 4 a.m.
The next stop is the small fishing village of Livingston. It’s home to a large settlement of Garifuna people and offers a perfect opportunity to mingle with the locals and learn a bit more about the culture. If your idea of having a good time includes chilling on a picturesque beach, consider a day trip to the nearby Playa Blanca.
Make your way to Semuc Champey which is located in the densely forested mountains of Alta Verapaz. Here, you will find six spectacular turquoise pools, as well as a series of flooded caves just waiting to be explored. It’s best to visit Semuc Champey with a guide who will take you to a couple of interesting secret areas.
Located in the highlands of Guatemala and surrounded by a massive volcano, the next stop is the colonial city of Antigua. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days. Whether you wish to wander down the cobblestone streets dotted with colorful buildings, hike one of the nearby volcanoes, or see the iconic Santa Catalina Arch with the Volcan De Agua in the background, there is plenty to do and see here.
There are not many places in the world as beautiful as Lake Atitlan. Surrounded by small villages, this tranquil lake is a favorite hangout spot for many backpackers, hippies, and expats. I heard of many backpackers who weren’t planning to spend much time here, but once they’ve seen the beauty of this place, decided to stay for several weeks.
The city of Xela is another backpacker hangout that should be in everyone’s travel itinerary. It feels more typically Guatemalan than Antigua, more reasonably priced, and serves as a base for many spectacular hikes. Quetzaltenango (as Xela is officially known) is also a great destination for studying Spanish, thanks to its many language schools. Adventurous backpackers can conquer Tajumulco, the highest peak in Central America.
Backpacking Guatemala in 10 days
This is an excellent travel itinerary for backpackers who have 1 to 2 weeks to explore Guatemala. It focuses on sights close to Lake Atitlan in the south of Guatemala, minimizing your time needed in transit.
It’s easy to see why Antigua is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers visiting Guatemala. Take a half-day walking tour to learn more about the history of the city and explore its beautifully restored colonial buildings and ruined churches. You will surely notice that the sociable bar scene adds to the appeal of Antigua, while nearby volcanoes such as Acatenango and Pacaya are ideal for hiking.
Renting a scooter is one of the best ways to visit the small villages and coffee plantations around the city and admire spectacular views of various volcano landscapes. However, for the best views of the city, I suggest paying a visit to my favorite city viewpoint, Cerro de La Cruz which is located on the outskirts of the city.
After you’ve experienced all of Antigua’s charms, it’s time to visit Lake Atitlan and the fabulous small villages that surround this picturesque lake. The main village here is Panajachel, which is a great base to discover the other villages thanks to its connection to the main road. Here, you will find many accommodation options.
The village of San Pedro is quite popular with backpackers who wish to party, while Santa Cruz and San Marcos are ideal for backpackers who wish to enjoy some peace. Adventurous backpackers can hike up the San Pedro Volcano, but keep in mind that the hike takes about 6 hours.
If you’re still itching to see Tikal and hoping to fit it into your route, consider flying there and back from Guatemala City to cap off your adventure.
Super cozy, in a colonial house with leafy courtyard. Both dorms and B&B-style options.
Hostel doubling as an agency for volcano hiking or mountainbiking tours. Good place to make friends.
Amazing hostel on the island with tropical garden
$ Semuc Champey
Cute riverside hostel with private bungalows. Loved staying here. Try the wood-fired sauna hut, then cool off in the river.
$ Lake Atitlan (San Pedro)
Mr Mullet’s Hostel
Both dorms and private rooms in San Pedro’s most popular hostel.
$ Lake Atitlan (Panajachel)
Hospedaje El Viajero
Lovely guesthouse on the main road in Panajachel, just a short walk from the lake.
Top places to visit
Epic Mayan ruins of Tikal
A visit to the Mayan ruins of Tikal is one of the highlights when exploring Guatemala. This stunning Mayan archeological site is located in the middle of a protected jungle where it’s not that uncommon to cross paths with animals like macaws and monkeys.
As I mentioned before, the best time to visit the ruins is early at 6 am when the gates open. The sunrise views here can be amazing, but it all depends on the weather and if it’s cloudy or not.
As for the accommodation, you can either camp near the grounds of Tikal or search for a hotel in the park (which can be expensive). Travelers visiting Tikal on a budget can consider booking a room in the nearby town of Flores which is located a 45-60 minute drive in a shuttle bus from the site.
You can visit Tikal with or without a guide. Travelers can also download the free Tikal audio guide which is informative and convenient.
Tip: Tikal is the best-known archeological site, but if you’d also like to visit Mayan ruins deeper in the jungle, consider the temples of Yaxha. Los Amigos Hostel in Flores (among others) organizes excursions to this less-known site.
The colonial town of Antigua
The beautiful colonial town of Antigua is a popular destination in Guatemala, equally so with backpackers as with more upscale tourists. Here, you will see magnificent volcanoes in the background, incredible architecture, and colorful streets dotted with lowrise buildings.
You might initially find Antigua a bit more artificial than other places (you’ll see more tourist shops and Western brands), but there’s a lot of good stuff hiding under its facade. Many backpackers also visit Antigua to hike the famous Acatenango Volcano or use it as a base for trips around the area.
Stunning Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan, ringed by volcanoes, is one of those places that makes it so worth coming all the way to Guatemala. There are different villages around the lake, each with a different character, and using the local ferry boats it’s easy to hip between them. From the sleepy villages of Santa Cruz and San Marcos to the vibrant Panajachel and San Pedro which is popular with backpackers, you can easily find a town that has the vibe you’re looking for.
It’s a great place to chill, do yoga, or learn Spanish. If you’re looking to explore the lake surroundings, there are many great hikes you can do, as well as watersports on the lake.
Mountain city of Xela (Quetzaltenango)
Xela is one of those places that you just have to visit when traveling through Guatemala. It’s an ideal base for volcano hikes and houses many Spanish schools where backpackers go to learn the language.
What I love about this city is that it’s a lot cheaper than Antigua and you can find reasonably priced accommodation and delicious foods on every corner. Wander around the Parque Centro América, the central square or explore the Natural History Museum which houses many ancient Mayan objects.
Central America’s highest peak
Easily reachable from Xela, Tajamulco volcano is the highest peak in Central America and a place that offers the most amazing views ever. I have to say that hiking up to this volcano was my most memorable experience in Guatemala. Since I decided to hike up Tajamulco at night, I was greeted with magnificent sunrise views from the summit in the morning.
Azure limestone pools of Semuc Champey
If visiting dozens of breathtaking azure limestone pools in the jungle sounds like something you might want to experience, Semuc Champey should definitely find its place on your Guatemala travel bucket list.
There are also many caves in the area that you can explore with local guides who are knowledgeable about the area. Wish to spend the night here? No problem. The nearby town boasts many accommodation options ranging from bungalows to riverside hostels for backpackers.
Markets of Chichicastenango
In the small indigenous Mayan town of Chichicastenango lies one of the largest markets in Central America. The market is held every Thursday and Sunday, a time when many locals from other villages travel to Chichicastenango to sell their products.
Even if you’ve seen your share of markets in your travels, this may still be one of the biggest you’ll see. It’s chaotic, easy to get lost in, but somehow inviting at the same time. There are thousands of stalls at the market where locals are selling everything from fresh produce and cute handicrafts to colorful textiles and wood carvings.
Lake island of Flores
Connected to the mainland by a short causeway, Flores is a picturesque town where many backpackers who wish to visit the nearby Tikal National Park come to spend the night. Compared to other towns in the area, I can freely say that Flores feels more upscale and has a wider range of restaurants, bars, and hotels to choose from.
Backpackers who wish to try cool local foods can order thick corn tortillas which are called Pupusas here in Flores. In case you are feeling adventurous but have already paid a visit to Tikal, my suggestion is to visit the nearby Ixpanpajul Natural Park or Petencito Zoo.
Carribean town of Livingston
What makes Livingston a great town is that it’s much different from other places in Guatemala. It’s a melting pot of gringos, Garifuna, and Latinos where spectacular beaches are just a short drive away and where local food delicacies such as tapado (seafood stew in a coconut broth) and pan de coco (coco bread) can be found. I enjoyed Garifuna drumming and dancing performances, as well as the nearby waterfalls of Los Siete Altares.
Is Guatemala safe to visit?
Guatemala is safe to visit, but taking precautions is always recommended. Minor crime like bag-snatching and pickpocketing is possible.
The capital Guatemala City, in particular, requires some extra caution. I remember seeing two travelers using their smartphones on the steps just in front of a hotel and a guard immediately came up going “whoa, whoa, don’t show your smartphone like that”. In Antigua, locals told me to avoid the viewpoints after sunset when robberies are sometimes known to occur.
It’s always a good idea to ask locals (like your guesthouse or hostel staff) for some safety advice. Have a look at these 6 safety tips for Central America as well.
Even though Guatemala has problems with crime, it isn’t dangerous if you travel responsibly. Don’t flash your valuables, travel during daytime if you can, and when you hike it’s better to do it in a group.
Get insurance for your trip
Travel insurance will cover you for theft, medical expenses, cancellation, and more. Heymondo offers great coverage, COVID-19 included, zero deductibles, and an app with 24/7 assistance & doctor chat.
A reasonable daily backpacker budget per person is about $25 to $30. This assumes you travel as a backpacker, meaning you take local tours, transportation, and eat mostly the local food.
Expect to pay around $10 for a dorm bed in a hostel and around $25 for a private room. Guatemalan guest houses are also a good option for budget travelers.
As for transportation, the cheapest way to get around is in the colorful chicken buses. A one-hour ride on this type of local bus should not cost you over $1. Coaches cost more, though. If you are traveling between Antigua and Flores, it’s normal to pay around $30 for a seat on a coach bus.
Local food on the street or in eateries is really cheap and you can have a decent meal for $3. When it comes to tourist restaurants, such as those you’ll find a lot more of in Antigua, they can be expensive and you might end up paying the same amount of cash as you would at a typical restaurant in the US.
Practical travel tips
Best time to visit
The most popular time to visit Guatemala is during the dry season in December and January.
However, this is a time when prices are higher and popular sites and attractions are crowded with tourists.
To beat the crowds and get fair deals on tours and accommodation, visit in April or early May which is the end of the dry season and the weather is still nice.
How to get around
Buses are the most convenient option to travel in Guatemala. Locals use the chicken buses which are actually those old American school buses. However, they stop quite often, are not comfortable, and can get dicey on sharp turns.
Most tourist destinations can be reached with private shuttle buses that cater to many travelers. If you want to experience some comfort and air-conditioning but are willing to pay a lot more than a ticket on a chicken bus, these shuttle buses can come in handy.
Where to travel next
Wondering where to travel next and how to reach that destination? Here are a couple of options.
How to get to Roatan or Utila from Guatemala
There is a Trans-land shuttle service that offers a direct bus line from Antigua in Guatemala to La Ceiba in Honduras. Once you reach Ceiba, you can take a ferry on the same day to both Roatan and Utila.
How to get to Belize / Caye caulker from Guatemala
The most common way to reach Belize from Guatemala is by bus. You can take one of the many bus lines in Guatemala to the border and then hop on another bus to Belize and Caye Caulker.
How to travel to San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico
The easiest way to reach San Cristobal in Mexico from Guatemala is by taking a bus to the border. Once you pass the border, get on the connecting shuttle which will take you to San Cristobal.
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The Water Taxi is now operating between Livingston and Punta Gorda Belize. Jump on the boat in Livingston daily at 1100 Monday thru Friday.
Remember to go up the hill (either by Motorcycle Tuk Tuk or walk) until you see Immigrations Sign, turn right and go 40 yards. The immigration’s office on the left. Get cleared and stamped passport out of Guatemala before you go back down the hill to the docks. Get your ticket at the ticket booth on the left. waiting area has benches to recover from the hill if you walked…lol…You will be stamped into Belize when you arrive to PG
I hope this helps someone in their travels. Enjoy.
Thank you for sharing about our beloved country! Greetings from Antigua, Guatemala 🙂
Love your country!
This is some great info planning a trip to Guate soon. I lived in Costa Rica years ago and since have been back to visit but I am really looking forward to this! I have never been. What do you know about the border town Tecum Uman? Is it safe near the border ?
Hi Jackie. It’s been a few years since I passed through Tecum Uman. I guess there could be some migrants related issues but I have no idea. Maybe check the official safety advisories.
Thanks for the info! How do you get around the country – how do you find the busses? Or do you take private shuttles? Are there any resources on how to get around using the bus network?
Usually it’s easy to figure out as there’s little travel agencies all over the place, or reception desks can give you good info. Schedules for local services are pretty fluid and not worth planning out too much, but you could find some rough info for longer distance buses one rome2rio.con
Hey Mark, thanks for an awesome article, Im looking at travelling through Central America for 4 weeks starting in Mexico (Yucatan) and traveling the ‘gringo trail’ through Belize and Guatemala with an itinerary based off your articles! Do you think I would have enough time to explore down through Nicaragua/Costa Rica and maybe even finishing as far as Medellin? if not how much extra time would you recommend for this? Thanks
Hey Gerald. It’s always such a difficult question to answer as some travelers are content just to spend a couple of days in a country. But personally I think 4 weeks is perfect for traveling Mexico + Belize + Guatemala without rushing too much, but not enough for going the whole way. On my first time in Central America I took about 3 months going from Yucatan to Colombia (and I still rushed through Costa Rica and Panama). I think it’s usually better to keep the route more manageable but do more things in each country.
Hi! great blog, thank you. I’ve been thinking of going to Mexico and also do central America for a while now and this post made me want to go even more . My biggest issue is though how I should go from place to place. Is the most common thing to rent a van or car and go, or is it easier to go with busses etc?
Greatful for answere! Cheers
Hey Alice. I’ve traveled Central America with buses and also with a friend who purchased a car in Panama and later sold it in Mexico. I think it’s by far the easiest to get around using buses. You usually can’t take a rental car across borders.
Hey quick question,
My gf and I are planning on backpacking around Guatemala and we’re wondering how long did your trip take?!
We’re planning it for three weeks and it’s quite similar to your route.
Hey Amina. I did 4 weeks (at least if I can remember correctly). 3 weeks is a good amount of time for Guatemala!
I loved Flores. BUT Bus ticket scams are now very common. AVOID Everlasting Travel Agency and “Cesar” AT ALL COST! He is a LYING CHEATING FRAUD! ´If they know you are buying a ticket out of Flores and won’t come back, they will overcharge you wildly while telling totally sincere sounding stories how they feel sorry for travellers getting cheated by others.
EVERLASTING TRAVEL AGENCY sold me a ticket to Chetumal/Mexico and on to Tulum at 400% the regular price. I knew it was expensive but wanted a guaranteed seat as it was the last bus of the evening to Tulum, Mexico and transfer time was short. I was given a (fake) voucher for the onward Chetumal-Tulum trip, to be changed into a bus ticket at their “partner agency” in Chetumal terminal. The partner agency did not exist. Needless to say, I had to buy a new ticket and also ended up missing the bus and getting stranded in Chetumal for the night.
Fraud like this seems to be common in Flortes – they prey on travellers who they know will not come back and report them to the police. Best buy at your honesat hostel. I compared a lot of prices and the touts in the streets and agencies were ALWAYS a worse deal. Do not believe what they tell you about hostels taking higher prices.
Trip times are easily double of what this crook Cesar tells you. He also lied about the route, saying this bus would go directly to Chetumal (via Belize) and NOT stop on the road. Instead, it got off to a really late start because the driver picked up extra passengers (Guatemalans as a side business, in all sorts of out of the way places, so people and suitcases were stacked in the aisle), then went all the way into Belize City to pick up more travellers, amid rush hour…Instead of 7 hours, the trip took 14,5 hours and people were starving. I could go on and on. Worst experienvce in Guatemala.
But DO GO! It’s a wonderful travel destination! Just beware of the crooks in Flores, there are MANY of them!
Just passing by to say thanks! I was looking for a place to spend 10 days in Central America and this post made me go to Guatemala. It ended up being an amazing experience. Tikal, Semuc, Antigua and Atitlán, all worth the trip.
The only thing I’d recommend in addition to the above is hiking Acatenango, near Antigua. I also found Antigua underwhelming (much more touristy than a decade ago I was told) and decided to do the 2 day Acatenango hike, spending a night at the base camp near the summit. The sunset/sunrise, as well as seeing nearby volcano Fuego spewing lava at night, were experiences of a lifetime.
Hey Dan. Glad you loved it! Good tip. I sadly had to miss Acetenango but for anyone else reading this, I recently hosted a guest post describing the experience: https://www.indietraveller.co/volcan-fuego-camping-acatenango-guatemala/
Hi, I am passionate scooter rider ad would wish to travel Guate by hiring a scooter motorcacle. Do you think I would face serious problems while getting around? Thank you for an answer and wish everyone a nice day.
I don’t have any experience with exactly that, I’ve only driven around Guatemala by car on a road trip. The quality of the main roads is fine, though for safety we avoided driving at night. It was a great experience, most of the drives were very scenic!
Wow unreal.. you made my decision 100 times easier! Thanks pal!
I am traveling solo on my first backpacking trip to Guatamala on February 2nd. Don’t have an itinerary, but have been reading up on Guatamala for the past couple months before making a decision on Guatamala. I would like to backpack the volcanoes and visit the ruins. If anyone is planning a trip around that time and would like to hook up just mail me.
Hands down one of the best Guatemala guides I have found on the travel blogs! Really great! What you said about San Pedro, Lake Atitlan is absolutely true. We had to pull ourselves from that place and move on or we would have spent our entire trip there. Everyday, we would say to ourselves…. should we leave today… nah.. one more day. This happend for two weeks. 🙂 Anyway! Thanks for the guide!
Haha – great to hear you also experienced the pull that San Pedro has on many travellers. 🙂
Great and helpful article! I want to travel to Central America in January for three weeks. This will be my first solo travel experience, so I’m still contemplating were to go, since I’ve seen none of those countries. Right now I’m hesitating between Nicaragua and Guatemala, but since Nicaragua is regarded safer than Guatemala, would you recommend me to visit Nicaragua, because this will be the first time on my own (I’m 19 btw)? It’s not that I’m afraid to go there, and I really want to see the ancient Mayan heritage, but I would like some advice.
Good question, Liam (and one that’s always hard to answer!). Nicaragua is easier to start with but Guatemala does have the Mayan heritage and more impressive landscapes. You might be jumping into the deep a little but if you can take care of yourself, maybe go for Guatemala.
It does have some real safety issues though. People sometimes get robbed around Lake Atitlan when hiking without a guide, or get mugged in the streets of Antigua at night, etc. A guy I met in Guatemala had shots fired at him in Livingston (he got into a bar fight and then chased after a guy into an alley, but still). I’m just saying this to paint a realistic picture. It’s not a super dangerous country if you are reasonably aware and follow safety advise, but you can get unlucky. Only you can decide what you’re comfortable with! 🙂
I had been hesitating where to go on my first Central (or South) America trip, but your Guatemala page has really excited me to focus my efforts on going there.
The plan I have now would be to go there for 3 weeks, fly in to Guatemala City from Amsterdam, go by Semuch Champey to Tikal/Florens, then probably take an express bus to Belize City to go to Caye Caulker for the beach and from there move back towards Guatemala city to go to Lake Atitlan/San Pedro and perhaps do the hike toward Tajamulco and/or from Xela towards San Pedro.
Do you think that’s doable (and recommended..) as a 3 week trip for a first time solo backpacker?
Hoi Bram. Yeah that’s doable within 3 weeks, though I guess it’s a pity your route will probably involve covering some ground twice (back and forth from Belize). Maybe a more efficient route is possible. But yeah, it can certainly be done in 3 weeks.
As for first time solo, the social aspects of solo travel are easy here as there’s loads of other travellers around. Crime can be an issue in both countries, so they’re not quite as carefree as other places that are more popular with solo first-timers (like Thailand etc). Not a huge issue, just be sure to have read the common travel advice for this region.
I’m going to Guatemala with my husband and parents Feb 3-14th, 2017. I keep hearing great things about Semuc Champey – but I can’t find any easy way to get to or out of that area. Please share how to got to Semuc (transportation, amount of time & cost). Thanks!!
I took a bus from Flores that took 6 hours, and found an onward bus to Guatemala City / Antigua from there. It may be difficult to book these things online though. If you can’t find anything on Semuc Champey, try “Lanquin” which is the name of the nearby town. Hope this helps!
Hey Rachelle. If you are trying to get there from Flores, head to Los Amigos hostel. They run a small travel agency inside and can organise transport. You can do the same thing from the hostels in Antigua. Try Bigfoot Hostel in Antigua.
Thanks for your awesome blog, the advices have been really helpful so far 🙂 I’m planning a 2 months trip (January & February 2017) and I’d like to improve my spanish while getting in touch with the locals and the culture. Following your tips, I’d like to go to Flores & Tikal, Semec Champey, San Pedro and maybe head over Livingston to do volunteer in a library for kids! Do you think it’s realistic to do so in 2 months and do you think I left an important destination out?
Thanks for your help!
Hey Laurianne. 2 months will definitely let you experience Guatemala to the fullest. I did quite like Xela as well – it’s nice especially if you like to go hiking. But I think you’ve mentioned the highlights.
Hi! Im planning a trip to Mexico, 3 weeks. Was thinking Cozumel/Tulum-area. But Guatemala looks supernice too! Do you think its possible to visit Tikal and maybe Flores on that trip? Dont want to stress around. And how to get from Tulum to Tikal, is there a bus going that way?
Sure, it would make for a great addition to your trip. You can get there via Belize: take the bus to Chetumal, then Belize City, then on to Flores. You could stay for a day or two at Caye Caulker to break up the travelling a bit (there’s a boat going straight from Chetumal to Caye Caulker). There’s also a bus from Flores to Palenque, from where you could circle back to the Yucatan.
Hey guys! I have heard really good things for backpackers I. Guatemala. I will travel in tow weeks only for 10 day… I am on my budget and traveling solo. What route do you guys recommend me?? I will arrive to Guatemala City from Colombia.
, any suggested route for 10 days??
I was just about to go for brazil, but your post kinda totally changed my mind. Just unsure about the time: I have 23rd july to 13 or 14th sept. Question n.1: is the weather ok in August ? (I’m just concerned about dengue) question n.2: 7weeks is apparently very long. What other country would you “pair” with guatemala? I’m looking for nature ,culture , friends, hikes and activities. A bit of beach life, and a bit of some not-wild party. Ps:i am 29, girl, on a budget.
Many many thanks! 🙂
The first time I was in Guatemala was in August (or September, can’t remember exactly) and the weather was fine. It was also low season around Lake Atitlan which was quite pleasant. Apparently it was ‘rainy season’ but, for what it’s worth, I totally didn’t even notice this and only heard about this afterwards.
Mexico is easy to pair with Guatemala, and has lots of culture and some nice beaches. You could also maybe combine it with Nicaragua or Costa Rica which are great for hiking and wildlife, and have some fun beach destinations as well. 🙂
I’ll be going to Guatemala next January and I was wondering, did you guys book your hostels on forehand? Or do you just write up some names/addresses and see where it takes you?
And what is the best way to to this in Peru where I’ll be in July?
If you only had 10 days, what would be your route in Guatemala? Thanks for the great writeup!
Hmmm, probably 4 days to explore Tikal and Semuc Champey in the north, a day or two in Antigua, then spend the rest around Lake Atitlan (e.g. San Pedro) where you can relax take hikes around the volcanoes.
Hi Marek, I really liked your post. My girlfriend and I traveled in Guatemala in April 2015, we spent $13.13 each per day all inclusive and our average budget each was as follows:
Total: GTQ 1619/$210 in 16 days
Accommodation: GTQ 59/$7.60 per day
Transport: GTQ 24/$3.12 per day
Food: GTQ 27.50/$3.58 per day
We are still in Latin America, now in Chile, Guatemala was our cheapest country in Central America and second in Latin America (Venezuela topped the list). I agree our favorite place in Guatemala was Semuc Champey, this was my favorite site in Central America (excluding dive sites). We did one hike up Mount Tajamulco, at 4220m this volcano is the highest point in Central America, cost GTQ 300/$39 for 2 days. You can see what we did, where we stayed and what we payed on our blog Stingy Nomads at http://stingynomads.com/guatemala/
Can I ask you what plugin you used for the follow me on facebook/twitter pop up on your blog
Hi Campbell, great info! I use getsitecontrol for overlay widgets which I’m very happy with. (Most services like this cost $50/month or something crazy.) For something free but more basic, AddThis is nice too.
Thank you so much for offering your wisdom! I was wondering if you could also offer a suggestion.
I’m headed to Guatemala on my very first solo backpacking journey 🙂 I don’t have much of a game plan besides hitting a few destinations I’ve had my eye on (Tikal, Semuc Champey, Lake Atitlan) before I make my way down to Costa Rica for Envision Festival.
As a female in her mid twenties, where do you suggest I head first? I’d love to meet up fellow travelers to sync up and adventure together! Any words of advice as to where’s best to try for that?
It’s easy to meet people everywhere especially if you stay in hostels. If you want to base yourself somewhere for a bit initially to make some friends I’d recommend Flores in the north (as lots of people coming in from Mexico or Belize here)… have a look at Los Amigos hostel especially (even if you’re not staying there it’s worth visiting their bar in the evening). San Pedro next to Lake Atitlan is also a great place to buddy up, as people tend to stick around here for a while. Guatemala is generally great for solo travel. Have fun! 🙂
I’m going to Guatemala in the end of January. I will stay there for a month (hope it’s time enough?). I will definitely use this guide! I’m travelling on a budget and can only afford being away for a month because of studies back in Denmark. But it all sounds very affordable, which is good! I’m travelling by my self in another country for the first time, which is both exciting and a bit scary. I cannot wait to see the country and what it has to offer. Thank you for the guide!
1 month is a perfect amount of time to see all of the highlights of Guatemala at a relaxed pace. I’m sure you’ll have an awesome adventure. 🙂 Good luck, Daniel!
I just saw that you’ll be traveling solo in Guatemala? I will be too! It’ll be my first time in the area and backpacking as well. Where are you headed first? I’m trying to find out where’s best to meet others partaking on these adventures!
Feel free to reach out if you’d like to meet up and explore 🙂
I’ll be backpacking solo down that way as well around the same time! I’m thinking I’ll fly to Cancun from CA and work my down to Guatemala from there. I hadn’t heard of Envision festival but after checking it out online it seems like it’s something I can’t miss.
Anyway, let me know what your plan is and if you’d like to sync up!
All the best,
Awesome! If you’re in to that kind of stuff, then you’ll have an INCREDIBLE time at Envision! I’m all for forming a band of gypsies on the way down there, so the more the merrier! haha
When do you plan on reaching Guatemala? I’d love to meet up if timing works out!
I’ll be meeting with some other solo travelers in Costa Rica, right before the festival. Other than that, my plans are pretty loose. I’ve got a few different hostels in mind, and some key sights/experiences to hit, but other than that I’m pretty open minded.
Feel free to send me an email! email@example.com
Where are you on your travels now? I’m flying in tomorrow and I’d love to see where you’re adventures have brought you!
Hope to talk soon! 🙂
Hi Jasmine! Just came across your post and thought I’d ask a few questions!
I’m heading to Guatemala in 2 weeks alone. Did you enjoy your trip? Did you have any trouble in specific cities!
Your rough guides here helped me when planning my route through Central America. I have 6 months to travel so I have a bit more time than most people visiting but I just wanted to agree with you about Guatemala. It is a beautiful place where one can find themselves staying longer than expected. I encourage any traveler reading this to check out Finca Ixobel in Poptún, Guatemala. It is a great place to get off the Gringo Trail and still experience all Guatemala has to offer. It also has great volunteer opportunities for long term travelers! Next time you come through Guatemala stop by Finca Ixobel!
I have traveled in Guatemala for many years on a very thin budget. The info you provide here is right on. It is an amazing place for adventure travel and backpackers of every stripe. I am presently on my greatest adventure in the country. It is my first trip back in 7 years.
Working on a project in Cultural Anthropology in Antigua in 2008 I had an accident on a motorcycle I had toured down on. It resulted in a Spinal cord injury that put me in a wheelchair. Nonetheless the draw and truly magical quality of the country, especially the more rural areas has brought me back. Of course it is not easy traveling independently in my condition. There is little to no particular attention given to handicap accessible accommodations but i have found my way and so far surprisingly easier than i had expect when i set out driving from the states.
I am presently staying in a place that has always had a particular draw for me, as it has had for hundreds, even thousands, over the past 30 years. I have been more than pleasantly surprised to find the facility fully accessible (with a bit of innovation and minor adjustments, such as a small wooden ramp added to the restroom.) I have found everything I need here and will find it very hard to leave when the time comes.
I was surprised that you had no mention of the Finca Ixobel ( http://fincaixobel.com ) in your description of destination and accommodations in Peten, Guatemala. Located only 3 klm south of Poptun, (klm 376), on the highway to Tikal,it is not only a beautiful and peaceful place to have a wholesome rest, the in house restaurant offers an extensive and very affordable menu featuring fresh baked breads, produce and even fresh eggs, all from the finca. In addition they offer cave tours, mountain hikes, and horse back tours as well as serving as an excellent base for tours to near by attractions. One can stay for as little as $5 a night camping, or $6 a night for very clean and comfortable hostel style dorms. Of course there are other prvate rooms, cabins, and even treehouses for a bit more.
I really don’t mean to sound like an add for them but it is a place beyond special in the heart of Peten. It is a backpacker’s paradise and shouldn’t be miss. Unfortunately in the past years, sense the completion of the highway from Rio Dulce to Flores it has been missed by travelers on their way to destinations such as Semuc Champey and Tikal. Now they are struggling to survive. The new generation of travelers to these parts really need to know about the place.
I just wanted to give a shot out and let others know, Finca Ixobel is worthy as a destination for backpackers and all travelers visiting Peten, Guatemala. It should not be missed. Thanks. Hope to see you soon.
I’m actually from Guatemala, and I would definitely love to go backpacking with someone else. If you would like to come to Guatemala let me know, and we’ll plan the best backpacking trip in Guatemala. Even if you live here it’s a whole other world when you travel this way, you get to meet so different places and people.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for a great write up on many of the top travel destinations in Guatemala. It’s great to see people promoting travel in such a beautiful country that is often overlooked or misunderstood due to a long and complex history of corruption and violence, predominantly during the time of the civil war. I went to Guatemala in March of 2010 for what I thought would be a quick trip and I ended up staying for over two years. I now write passionately about the country at my blog, La Gringa Chapina http://www.lagringachapina.com. It would great if an experienced and established blogger such as yourself would check it out! I would love any feedback you could provide. I am hoping through this blog to add the positive promotion of the country and encourages others to have an authentic experience while abroad!
Chelsea – La Gringa Chapina – http://www.lagringachapina.com
Thanks for the writeup. I”m putting Semuc Champey and Tikal on my must-dos.