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From the Highlands to the Pacific Coast - 5 Epic Things to Do In Guatemala

Posted on December 05 2018

Looking for an adventurous getaway where you can explore fascinating cultures, hike through lush lands to volcano tops, and relax and catch waves in warm coastal towns? Then check out Guatemala. This beautiful country is filled with diverse regions - from mountainous jungles to desert lands, and it is spotted with 37 volcanoes with astonishing views. With so many sights to see it can be difficult to narrow down an area to visit, especially on a limited time frame. This guide will give you a concise list of incredible things to do in under a 40-mile radius.
1. Explore the Ancient Streets of Antigua
Antigua is a must-see city while visiting Guatemala. There travelers can check out ruins of Spanish monuments, become immersed in the Mayan rich culture, or just wander through its captivating streets, which has 3 volcanoes within view. Its rustic cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings makes walking through town truly picturesque, especially with the Agua volcano in sight. Mayan culture radiates throughout the city as you'll notice women in traditional handwoven dresses, shops filled with vibrant multicolored textiles and crafts, and the sweet sounds of the traditional wooden xylophone called the marimba. Cuisines from all over the world are offered in Antigua, and activities like Spanish lessons, salsa dancing classes, and coffee & chocolate tours are widely available. Travelers in Antigua can easily book most shuttles, tours and expeditions to just about anywhere in the country from most travel agencies or hotels.
Where to stay in Antigua
Camino Real - A luxurious and rustic hotel with several amenities, a great location and reasonable prices.
Casa Jacaranda - A quaint and charming hostel that offers a peaceful environment and serves excellent complimentary breakfast.
Tropicana Hostel - Great spot for backpackers looking for a lively atmosphere and a beautiful rooftop view of the city.
2. Hike above an Active Volcano
The hike up Acatenango volcano is any adventurer's dream. Acatenango is Central America's third tallest volcano and overlooks the extremely active and infamous Fuego volcano. Its breathtaking views and diverse ecosystems makes this hike such an unforgettable experience. Acatenango takes hikers through just over 13,000 feet of unique scenery, from crop fields to cloud forest to alpine forest to desolate volcanic rock terrain. What makes this hike so special is its extraordinary view from the summit, where hikers can watch the sun rising over the country and see a chain of volcanoes weaving through the land. Those who do the recommended overnight trek will be able to see the fiery eruptions of Fuego from base camp and fall asleep to the sounds of thunderous rumbles. Hiking tours run daily with options for a day hike or an overnight hike. It is highly advised when hiking Acatenango or other hikes to choose a credible tour guide like OX Expeditions. They are a trusted and professional tour company that has been established for over 14 years.
3. Discover the Towns of Lake Atitlán by Boat
Lake Atitlán is one of Guatemala's most serene and scenic destinations. This emerald colored lake is surrounded by 3 volcanoes and lush tropical mountains. There are many peaceful towns and Mayan villages around Lake Atitlán to visit and each has its own unique styles and colors that are often displayed through the clothing of indigenous Indians. From the main town of Panajachel travelers can easily take a boat ride to towns like: San Marcos - which is known for its yoga and hippie influence, Santa Cruz - which offers a tranquil environment with a great view of volcanoes, and San Pedro - well known for its lively night life and its many shops and restaurants. Guided sunrise hikes up San Pedro volcano or Indian Nose are offered from San Pedro, where hikers can watch incredible views of sunrise illuminating Lake Atitlán. Travelers can also kayak or hike to neighboring towns, although it is highly recommended to ask a hotel which routes are safest to hike through. Transportation runs daily to Lake Atitlán from Guatemala City and Antigua and shuttle services are available from El Paredón.
Where to Stay in Lake Atitlán
La Casa del Mundo -  Luxurious and cultured hotel with stunning views, located in the hills of Jaibalito.
La Iguana Perdida - A scenic spot for a nice relaxing stay in Santa Cruz with volcano views and rooms to fit all budgets.
Hostel Del Lago - A lovely waterfront hostel with yoga offered daily.
4. Surf in El Paredón
El Paredón is a perfect beach town to visit if you're a surfer, want to learn to surf, or want to thoroughly unwind by lounging beach side in a hammock. The laid back feel of this town is contagious and it doesn't take long to fall into the beach-life groove. Travelers in El Paredón can enjoy kayak or stand up paddle board tours through mangrove forests, watch sea turtles in their natural habitats and shop for locally made clothing and accessories at the neighborhood non-profit La Choza Chula. El Paredón's stunning views of Pacific blue coastlines, far away volcanoes and palm thatched-roofed homes draw travelers to visit, and its kindhearted locals and good vibes will make any traveler want to extend their stay.

The surf culture has recently taken off in El Paredón and lucky travelers might catch a local surf contest or event. Share the Stoke Foundation recently had their second El Paredón surf competition to encourage the town's surf momentum, and donated new Firewire surfboards for the local children to share. El Paredón's uncrowded line-ups and sand bottom makes it a great spot to learn on the inside, while advanced surfers on the outside can get makeable barrels and long glassy rides. Shuttles run daily from Antigua to El Paredón and shuttles also run to and from Lake Atitlán.
"El Paredón's uncrowded line-ups and sand bottom makes it a great spot to learn on the inside..."
Where to Stay in El Paredón
Swell Guatemala - A relaxed and luxurious tropical paradise with a French touch. 
Hotel Pacifico - Offers a laid back atmosphere, good vibes and great food.
Surf House - A family friendly hotel that has gorgeous Guatemalan casitas and offers activities for all ages.
5. Shop in the Chichicastenango Market
The market of Chichicastenango is Central America's largest market and is a lively place to experience Mayan culture. Brilliant colors can be seen all over in this authentic market and the bustling streets are brimming with stands selling anything from livestock to handicrafts. There travelers can shop through infinite displays of traditional handcrafted items from Mayan Indians like intricately embroidered fabrics, vibrant colored clothing, brightly painted masks, and dazzling jewelry with precious stones. Exploring the town of Chichicastenango is a great way to learn more about Mayan spiritual customs and traditions. Visitors can see sites like the historic 400 year-old church Iglesia de Santo Tomás, Pascual Abaj, which is a shrine used in performing Mayan rituals, and the colorful above ground cemetery which gets painted and repaired by families every year on the Day of the Dead. Transportation to Chichicastenango is readily available from Antigua or Lake Atitlán and the market is open on Thursdays and Sundays.
Where to Stay in Chichicastenango
Mayan Inn Museum Hotel -  A historic and elegant hotel from the 1930's. It is a great place to learn about the history of Chichicastenango.
Hotel Santo Tomás - A beautiful and rustic hotel with lovely gardens and a pool.
Other Places in Guatemala to Consider 
Guatemala is an amazing and vast country to visit with astonishing sites to see. Here are a few additional places to check out for those looking to explore more regions of Guatemala.

Semuc Chempey
Cascading limestone pools surrounded by mountainous jungle with massive caves below it.

Tikal National Park
Ancient ruins and pyramids; has over 3,000 buildings and sits on over 200 square miles of rain forest.

Livingston
A relaxed Caribbean town where travelers can take boat tours through the gorgeous Rio Dulce.

Iztapa
A small town that is said to have the best wave in Guatemala and is also world-renowned for sailfish fishing.


Guest post written by Stephanie Lacerte and Zach Bankhead.
Stephanie Lacerte (@s.lasurf) and Zach Bankhead (@shred_yeti) are both travel enthusiasts who like to immerse themselves in different cultures while searching for unspoiled waves.






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