Guatemala or Guate-Buena? I joked. “Mala” means bad in Spanish, and “buena” means good.
So good, Guatemala! Why have you been hiding these treasures to yourself?
Quite frankly, I love indigenous Latino cultures, but bright patterned artistry and ceviche isn’t something new to me. As a first generation Mexican- American, it’s something I’ve been exposed to often. With global opportunities to work in countries all over the world, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to start my summer in Guatemala. There are so many places to go, so why Guatemala?
To my pleasant surprise, there is a lot more than Antigua, Guatemala. I’ll start with these seven wonders of Guatemalan life that left me wanting for more:
1. The Volcanoes
THIS my friends, is why I decided to do Guatemala.
There are three active volcanos in Guatemala.
But about thirty volcanoes throughout the country.
Guatemala’s active volcanoes include rocks hot enough to roast marshmallows. It’s a half day hike, round trip, and worth a trip to Guatemala in itself.
Can’t take a hike? Consider horses. Exploring a volcano in Guatemala is a family friendly event whether you prefer leisure or fitness.
You can also take a helicopter tour over the volcanoes for an unforgettable panoramic view.
Atitlan means “at the water,” boasting the deepest lake in Central America. Unlike most lakes that drain the ocean, this one actually feeds two lcoal rivers.
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
3. Smart (Affordable) Luxury& Wellness
Consider a spa experience in the jungle.
Soak in thermal baths.
Indulge in opulent cuisine.
Whether you seek a budget friendly experience or pursue opulence, consider infinity pools leading into the jungle.
My favorite hotel was the Santa Teresita Hotel & Spa. It was exactly what I needed after hiking a volcano. I could have stayed a week there alone.
Speaking of health, don’t be surprised to meet a few people getting more than a tan. Guatemala is surprisingly renowned for medical and beauty tourism including breast augmentation, nose jobs, and all things nails and hair.
4. The Architecture
Cemetery in Chichicastenango, Guatemala
Square center in Antigua, Guatemala
Calling all lovers of doors, hallways and arches.
From the colorful cemetery of Chichicastenango to the churches of Antigua, Guatemala will brighten up the life of even the most “black on black” tourist/ traveler.
Many native Guatemalans wear traditional Mayan dressings — the vivid patterns reflect the warmth of their hearts.
However, as we romanticize indigenous cultures, only 40% of Guatemalans are Mayan. It’s the overtly friendly everyday people with open arms and open doors that make you feel at home.
Burnt out from living out of hotels, I stayed in the home of a Guatemalan at the tail end of my trip. I’ll list my tour guides, drivers, and other people who helped make my trip amazing at the end of the post, so you are able to have the same experience if you choose.
6. The Artistry – Jade, Hand Woven Fabrics and Leather
Just because I said that it isn’t new to me, doesn’t mean I don’t love it. What is unique to Guatemala is its precious jade. You can identify real jade because like a diamond, it cannot be scratched. Guatemala is one of the few countries in the world that produces Jade, and even better, the only that will give you black jade and pink jade in addition to the traditional teal/ turquoise.
7. Waterfalls, jungles, ruins, and caves.
I skipped most on these for this trip as I’m off to Croatia. However, some Instagram friends will be capturing these beauties for me to share as a preview before my return.
Guatemala is such an exotic city, Stephanie.It offers so many things to see like the volcano, great architecture and the lake Atitlan! Great photos!
Great article Stephanie!
Guatemala really is amazing and it’s unfortunate that so many people are scared to go there. It has such a rich culture and beautiful scenery.
Cheers from a fellow Guate lover!
When you’re in Guatemala you absolutely have to try pepian, so delicious! Such an incredible blend of herbs and spices, usually with chicken over rice.
And although it’s technically the “national dish,” it’s also more regional, so you can’t get it everywhere.
Guatemala is also super famous for fried chicken! Long live Pollo Campero!