Let me start by mentioning that I knew NOTHING about Guatemala before showing up on a last-minute trip. But holy moly, it’s an amazing gem of a country. Below is my short-list of favorite things about Guatemala (spoiler alert- chocolate is definitely one of them) and a few tips on how to maximize your experience.
1. (Vegan) Food
I’m still dreaming of Guatemalan food. One thing to know about Guatemala is that there’s a surplus of avocados in the summer. They literally litter the ground in some towns (see photo). Just plain avocado and fluffy purple tortillas are enough of a meal for me but we also found two of my favorite restaurants in the world. Samsara in Antigua (photo: vegan nachos) and Medicine Foods in San Marcos la Laguna (photo: smoothie bowl). Both of these restaurants serve plant-based menus and are INCREDIBLE. Sami and I ordered almost everything off the menus at both places (we went to Samsara 6 times in one week) and there isn’t a single negative thing to say about either. If you have the opportunity- support these two restaurants!!! The owners and employees are wonderful to chat with.
San Marcos la Laguna is also home to Love Probiotics. Like kombucha, sourdough, or kimchi? Check out their probiotic factory (an American expat’s living room). The owners are an incredibly nice couple who fell in love with San Marcos a few years back and never left.
Yogis rejoice! Want a view you almost can’t believe is real? Go to one of the many yoga studios in San Marcos la Laguna (Yoga Forest and Hostal del Lago pictured above). Want to WORK and make your body feel like jelly after a class? Go to Antigua Yoga Center. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking for this one.
3. Picturesque Landscape
Guatemala is home to 37 volcanoes. The views from all over the small country are gorgeous- whether you’re on the coast, in the highlands, looking over coffee farms, in the lowlands; Guatemala is truly a place of endless beauty.
Look. At. Those. Colors. The markets, the textiles, the buildings- everything in this vibrant country makes me smile!!!
The majority of Guatemalans are indigenous Mayan. The history of Mayan people is incredibly complex and so intertwined with modern western culture I still find myself thinking of questions to ask on the next trip. Make sure to visit Tikal National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and splurge for a sunrise tour. Listening to the howler monkeys and birds wake up in the rainforest as the sun rises over the ancient Mayan temples is breathtaking, if not surreal. Learning about Mayan culture and Guatemalan history is half the fun of this country- don’t skip out on it!
The lowlands can be sizzling in the summer, but the highlands (like Antigua) can be refreshingly chilly! Make sure to bring layers when traveling in Guatemala- you’ll need them.
7. Local People
Guatemalans are some of the most genuine and kind people I’ve ever met. Talk to the locals when you can.
Guatemala is more expensive than places like Morocco or the Baltic States, but overall, it’s a great country to visit on a budget. A local meal will cost anywhere between US $4-$8 and a night in a highly rated hostel will cost about $12.
The volcanoes attract hikers from all over the world and of all levels of experience. You’ll find stores like The North Face and Patagonia in Antigua, a common base town for hiking one of the more recognizable volcanoes in Guatemala, Pacaya Volcano. Unfortunatley we weren’t able to go on a hike this trip, but we’re already planning on a 3-day hike during our next visit Guatemala. There is a variety of multi-day guided hikes from Antigua so if you’re an outdoorsy-type, take a hike.
Chocolate. Chocolate! CHOCOLATE!
Go to the Choco Museo in Antigua, Paseo Cayala, or Panajachel. The smell alone will keep you up at night (in a good way).
*Bonus: and where else are you going to find a tiny hippy town with vegan cosmic speed dating in Central America??
And there you have it- ten reasons to visit Guatemala ASAP. Now go hop on a flight and discover Guatemala for yourself.