Things to do in Guatemala
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19 Things to Do in Guatemala + Tips For Your Visit!

I had no idea about the things to do in Guatemala, what it’s known for, or really anything about its history! That’s the beauty of travel to me, I’m curious about these things, and instead of just looking up tons of information, I sometimes just go and find out.

So, after I Googled a few things and then just hopped on a plane, I went backpacking around Guatemala for nearly a month.

And without surprise, I left the country, already wanting to come back. Its rich history, lush jungles, intense waves, kind people, colorful architecture, daring volcano hikes, and budget prices made me oh so happy!

So now I share with you all the things to do in Guatemala that I love and all the other tips and information you need to explore gorgeous Guatemala.

Planning Your Guatemala Trip NOW?

Here is the quick low down on the best things to do in Guatemala!

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1. Hike Pacaya Volcano Outside of Antigua

Pacaya volcano looks like a formidable volcano to crack. We are talking steep climbs pretty much the whole way up the dried lava field.

Although it isn’t the longest of hikes (3 miles total), it is a bit tough going!

View from Pacaya volcano in Antigua, Guatemala
Add Pacaya volcano to your list of places to visit in Guatemala. This is a view out from the hike up.

But when else will you get the chance to climb up an active volcano (actually, you’re in Guatemala, so you’ll get the chance again!)? You can usually see smoke billowing out of its peak even as you climb.

Traverse the rocky landscape, admiring unique lava formations and the views of the surrounding equally impressive volcanoes, before having a quick pit stop to roast marshmallows using the heat from the ash and hot rock. Ever had volcano-roasted marshmallows before?

Woman eating marshmallows on Pacaya volcano is one of the things to do in Antigua Guatemala
Marshmallows taste better when heated by a volcano—FACT!

In fact, there’s a famous dude up here cooking pizza! Yes, he’s making pizza up on a volcano using the heat.

The hike is only about an hour outside of Antigua; it is a great day trip to add to your Guatemala itinerary. Just note some pics show active flowing lava, which is unlikely to be happening during most tours.

Book the tour I did: Pacaya Volcano Trek

2. Kayaking or SUPing Lake Atitlan

When you are not gazing in awe and wonder at the country’s most popular lake, you should spend some time on the water instead. Kayaking/SUPing offers an easy way to explore the shores of the lake, and there are plenty of places you can do it.

Most of the towns that sit on the shore and some of the hotels have kayaks that you can rent by the hour or day, so pick an area of shoreline that looks interesting and get out and explore! There’s no “bad” spot, so you can’t go wrong.

Woman and dog on SUP on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
Taking my new friend out on Lake Atitlan at sunset. He literally just randomly swam up to me and hopped on my board!

If you don’t want to go out by yourself and want a little bit of structure to your trip, you could always go on a guided kayaking tour, some of which will take you to neighboring towns such as San Pedro.

Here are a few recommendations on where to rent and have a paddle depending on where you are on the lake:

  • Panahachel – Just head to the water, and you’ll see a few people renting them.
  • Santa Cruz – Stay at Atitlan Sunset Lodge like I did and kayak for free!
  • San Pedro – Rent a kayak and do a tour here!
  • San Marco – head to Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve and rent a kayak.

3. Surf Guatemala’s Coast (One of My Fav Things to Do in Guatemala!)

El Paredon is known for its surfing culture; let’s call it the surfing mecca of the country and one of the best places to visit in Guatemala.

It is arguably the best surfing spot in the country, yet it doesn’t look much more than a small fishing town. Although I think this adds to its appeal.

Surfers on the beach at El Paredon, Guatemala
If surfing is on your list of things to do in Guatemala, head to El Paredon

Surfers should head to El Paredon Surf Camp, which offers an effortlessly cool place to hang out with like-minded travelers before getting your surf on.

The water off of the black sand beaches offers consistent breaks all year round, with the most significant breaks in the summer.

Person lying in hammock at Mellow Hostel, El Paredon
Straight chillin’ in El Paredon

So what are you waiting for? Air out those beach shorts, give your board a little wax, and hit the waves to see all the hype! El Paredon Surf Camp is the surf camp that I went with, and they were super chill. For 120 quezales($15), I had a private one-hour lesson.

The waves can sometimes be a bit rough out here so even though I’ve surfed many times before, it was a new beach for me, so doing a lesson was a good idea.

4. Spend The Night On An Active Volcano (My Personal Fav Thing to Do in Guatemala!)

When in Antigua, add the Acatenango hike to your bucket list of things to do in Guatemala.  A volcano hike is pretty much a right of passage in Guatemala, and Acatenango is, without a doubt, one of the best.

You can hike Acatenango in a day, although it is a LONG day. You are better off choosing a two-day hike as you’ll have the incredible opportunity to watch the neighboring Fuego erupt into the night sky.

This hike is HARD. Seriously, if you are an inexperienced hiker, it might be best to give this one a miss.  It is pretty much a verticle climb, or at least it feels like it is, and over two days, this can be pretty draining.

However, it is so cool to say you have climbed up a volcano and get very close and personal to a highly active one.

There are a few different tour companies to consider, some of which offer a little more luxury than others (think a slightly more comfortable mat when it comes to the overnight stay and a small shelter versus a tent).

I LOVED the tour I went with, they are the most reputable in town. They have a small shelter which is a bit nicer than a tent.

Campsite on Acatenango hike Volcan Fuego is one of the best things to do when backpacking Guatemala
Our campsite with Fuego in the back!

This hike is over 8 miles round trip NOT including the addition of hiking to Fuego (another 3-4 miles). This additional hike is optional, as you can stay at camp but trust me, you’ll want to do it!

Make sure you’re decently fit. I hike often, and this hike still kicked my ass, but it was 100% worth it!

If you don’t do the overnight tour, you’ll only get to hike up one mountain for the day (not time for both), and you’ll also miss out on the lava at night. I really must say, this hike challenged me, but it was hands down one of the coolest things I’ve done!

Book the tour I did: Acatenango Overnight

5. Hike Santa Maria Volcano

Just a 30-minute bus ride from Xela is one of the best hikes in Guatemala. Another epic volcano hike! I hope you’re not tired of them because Santa Maria offers some of the area’s most stunning views.

Woman on Santa Maria, Guatemala, with view of mountains
The views from Santa Maria are unbeatable.

You can do the hike on your own, but many people would recommend hiring a guide, so you know exactly what you are doing and can take the safest route up and down. The guides know their stuff and will fill you with information on your way up.

Many people choose to stay the night at the top, so you can wake up to one of the most stunning sunrises that you will ever see but I had done my overnight in Acetenango, so I only went up for the day.

On a clear day, take a look around, as you can often make out some of the other surrounding volcanoes, and there are A LOT.

At 12,357 feet, it is no easy climb, but it is well worth the effort. The neighboring volcano, Santiaguito Volcano, is where all the action happens. It even sometimes spouts out lava so that you can catch one of the most magical shows in the world! Speaking of which…

6. Peek at The Smokin’ Santiaguito

If you’ve already hiked Santa Maria, you may have seen that other volcano calling you! Santiaguito is an active volcano with hot ash and rocks spewing every few hours. Don’t let this put you off, though.

It is a spectacular yet challenging hike, and it is pretty cool to say that you have hiked an active volcano… Again… This is now your life in Guatemala, accept it.

Eruption at Santiaguito volcano in Guatemala
Santiaguito volcano in action

I must say, my only regret is after I hiked Santa Maria, I wish I had continued to Santiaguito. You’re already halfway there and combining these two trails, if you’re up for it (Santa Maria is TIRING!), would be smart.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that these two volcanoes shared a trailhead until it was too late! Damn!

Just note that the trail takes you to a viewing area and hiking closer is dangerous and difficult because this is yet another active volcano! Like a REALLLLY active one.

7. See The Sparkling Semuc Champey (Probably The Most Famous Thing to Do in Guatemala!)

The look of the pools alone might be enough to convince you to add Semuc Champey to your itinerary, but there’s plenty more here for the avid adventurer to enjoy.

You could, of course, spend your day relaxing in the turquoise waters, but at a minimum, you should hike up to El Mirador, where you can see the whole site below you.

Overhead view of natural pools at Semuc Champey in Guatemala
You’ll get the best views of Semuc Champey from El Mirador

For anyone seeking something more thrilling, you can visit the network of underground caves, go tubing down the river, or enjoy the rope swing!

Semuc Champey is tucked away deep in the jungle and inaccessible by regular transport. Most people choose to hike the 2.5-mile journey from the closest town of Lanquin, though you can get a 4×4 shuttle if you’re pressed for time.

It’s also worth noting this place is a bit out there, and there’s not much around it! So you’ll need to dedicate a couple of days to get there and back out.

Book this Guatemala tour: Semuc Champey

8. Visit Fuentes Georginas Thermal Pools (the Most Relaxing Thing to Do in Guatemala!)

Volcanoes have shaped this part of the country, and as well as giving us epic hikes, they have also given us the perfect way to relax afterward, in the form of hot springs.

The volcanoes do an excellent job of warming up the waters of the surrounding pools, giving you an effortless way to have an outdoor bath without splashing out hundreds on a fancy hotel.

Georgina Thermal Pools in Guatemala
If you’re looking for relaxing places to visit in Guatemala, you can’t go wrong with Fuentes Georginas.

Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs is one of these natural wonders, heated by the Zunil Volcano. Although the pools here are man-made, it is easy to forget that fact, as you’re almost surrounded by a thick jungle.

For the small entry fee, you can spend as long as you like relaxing in the waters, so if you’re not careful, an hour can very quickly turn into the whole morning or afternoon.  If you can get there in the morning, you are much more likely to be able to enjoy them without the crowds. 

Each of the four pools is different temperatures, so try them all and see which you like best. There is also a short hike and a restaurant on site.

Georginas Hot Springs in Xela, Guatemala
Immerse yourself in heated luxury at Fuentes Georginas

The only issue is getting out there! You can figure it out through bus transportation, an Uber or taxi, or, the easiest way to get there is to book a tour since the springs are about an hour outside the city. It is one of the best things to do in Guatemala and definitely worth the journey.

After all those volcano hikes, I NEEDED this spot! I floated for hours and was a prune by the time I got home.

→ Book this Guatemala tour: Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings

9. Roam Antigua’s Ancient Ruins

There are some awe-inspiring ruins surrounding the city of Antigua.

Sure, it might not be the most adventurous of things to do in Guatemala, but even if you’re not a history buff, some of them are well worth checking out and will give you a little more insight into the history of this fascinating country.

You’ll need a lot more than a day if you want to see all of the ruins that surround the city but a few highlights include Convento De Las Capuchinas, a massive convent complex full of nuns until the earthquake of 1773.

Courtyard at Convento de las Capuchinas in Antigua Guatemala
Convento de las Capuchinas

It is now open to the public, making it the perfect place to stroll around and admire the views from the rooftop.

La Recoleccion is another not-to-miss ruin. A church that was destroyed by earthquakes but rebuilt time and time again. Although they are just ruins now, you can still make out how stunning this church once would have been.

Convento Santa Clara is another incredible set of ruins, once a church and a convent. The partitions that the nuns would have stayed in can still be seen today.

Ruins of building in Antigua Guatemala
Some ruins in Antigua are left mainly untouched.

There is something so incredible about walking through the tumbling and crumbling ruins, imagining what each of the buildings would have been like in their glory days.

One of the best ways to see them all and actually know what you’re looking at is by doing a walking tour.

They are inexpensive and only a couple of hours, making your visit deeper plus, it’s the chance to ask a local some extra questions, which is one of my favorite things to do when on a walking tour of a city. Who better to ask!?

→ Book this Guatemala tour: Antigua Walking Tour

10. Go Shopping at a Market

Welcome to Chichicastenango, or “Chichi” as the locals affectionately call it. In the highlands of Guatemala, this market town is a gem worth exploring.

Every Thursday and Sunday, Chichicastenango comes to life with a burst of colors and culture. The market showcases traditional Mayan craftsmanship at its best. From intricate textiles to wooden masks and locally grown produce, you’ll find a slice of authentic Guatemala in every corner.

Stalls at Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala
Trinkets and such at Chichicastenango

So, how do you get here? You’ll want a tour from Antigua or Guatemala City. It’s one of those spots that’s kind of out of the way, so heading out solo would only work if you use this as a stopping point on your way to the next spot.

Of course, there are plenty of other markets in Antigua and around Lake Atitland, but Chichicastenango is pretty iconic if you can make it!

RELATED: Your Perfect Guatemala Itinerary: 1-3 Weeks + Tips!

11. Kayaking Through the Mangroves in El Paredon

There is something so mysterious and incredible about kayaking through the mangroves in Guatemala.

The river at El Paredon
The river at El Paredon.

Weave your way in and out of small inlets, alive and teeming with wildlife.

Some of the pathways through the water are so crowded with the gnarly tree roots sticking out of the water you will wonder how you will ever be able to pass through, but the knowledgeable tour guides always seem to find a way.

Keep your eyes peeled for the weird and wonderful four-eyed fish; as the name suggests, this fish does have four eyes!

12. Tackle The Indian Nose Hike at Lake Atitlan

This hike is undoubtedly one of the most stunning things to do in Guatemala. The hike should take around 45 minutes.  If you can bear to get up early enough, try and reach the peak for sunrise, and trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

There is something so magical about seeing the light over this beautiful expanse of water, hemmed by the pointed peaks of the surrounding mountains. Although you can do the hike yourself, it is easier and safer to take a tour.

View of Lake Atitlan from Indian Nose hike, Guatemala
Indian Nose hike gives you views impressive views of Lake Atitlan

The first part is pretty flat, so make the most of it, as it will not be staying this way for very long.  As you continue, the pathway turns into steps.

While still tiring, it definitely makes the climb that little bit easier. When the steps end, catch your breath; you have made it to the halfway point of the accent.

After a bit more of a climb, you will reach the first viewing platform. Stop to take it all in, but the best is yet to come! Brace yourself and cross the final hurdle to the peak of the climb and the viewpoint that can be found there. If you are lucky, you might even be able to see a volcano erupting.

→ Book this Guatemala tour: Indian Nose Hiking Adventure

13. Chill at a Beach Club

If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing way to spend a day in El Paredón, look no further than the beach clubs. These clubs allow visitors to use their facilities and pools for a fee, giving you access to all the amenities you need for a perfect day at the beach.

Beach Hammock at the Driftwood Hostel in El Paredon
Chillin in El Paredon

The fee you pay goes towards food and drink too, so it’s really a steal, plus, beyond what was mentioned here, there isn’t much else to do here when backpacking El Paredon, so plan on just chilling!

Mellow Hostel and Driftwood Hostel were two of my fav places to chill all day using their day pass.

It was great because I don’t care for hostel vibes when I’m trying to sleep (light sleeper), so it was cool I got to spend the day here and get the social aspect while still being able to get good rest at my more private accommodations down the road.

READ MORE: Your Guide to El Paredon—Guatemala’s Surf Town

14. Explore Cerro Tzankujil

There is not one spot around the lake that isn’t beautiful, but if you’re on the hunt for somewhere special, pay a visit to Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve (20 quetzals entrance fee/$2.50).

The reserve can be found on a sacred hill overlooking the water just west of San Marcos.

Man jumping off platform at Cerro Tzankujil on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Brave souls jumping from the Cerro Tzankujil platform! Yes, that’s a group of army men I was lucky enough to catch jumping off—fully clothed!

It’s like an oasis, with pebbled pathways leading down to secret swimming spots. If you’re looking for daring things to do in Guatemala, there is also a diving platform where you can take the plunge into the rich blue waters below.

Kayak at Cerro Tzanjukil while backpacking Guatemala
Rent kayaks here

It’s 20 meters down into the water, so this isn’t one for the faint of heart. No one will judge you (much) if you would rather just watch others flinging themselves off of the platform. There are trails to viewpoints and kayak rentals here as well.

You can definitely spend the day here, and it’s worth it to come by, even if you’re staying at another point on Lake Atitlan—that’s what I did!

READ MORE: Your Guide to Exploring Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

15. Get Views at Cerro de la Cruz

For one of the best hikes near Antigua, take the Cerro de la Cruz hike. Starting just north of the city, the stone cross sits high on its lofty perch overlooking the buildings, with Volcan de Agua as a backdrop.

Cerro de la Cruz in Antigua Guatemala
Views over Antigua, Guatemala

The cross itself is devoted to the city’s patron saint, and there are a few different hikes when it comes to reaching it.

Some are longer than others. For those looking for the views and not the leg burn, the Cerro de la Cruz short trail is just 0.5 miles out and back, while others will take you up the hill, making you work for that terracotta vista.

READ MORE: 15 of The BEST Things To Do in Antigua, Guatemala

16. Tikal Ruin Adventures

If you love ancient ruins, then a visit to Tikal should be on your list of places to visit in Guatemala. Tikal was once the biggest city of the Mayan civilization and is now one of the most important archaeological finds in the area.

Tikal ruins in Guatemala
The Great Plaza at Tikal

The massive site is dotted with hundreds of buildings, including temples and palaces up to 200 feet tall. Take your time walking the well-marked pathways between structures, and you might spot buildings used in Star Wars: A New Hope or the James Bond film Moonraker.

A visit to Tikal is best done as a day trip from nearby Flores. Although there are local chicken buses that run between the two, most people book a tour. Some tours include a guide, but others act more like a shuttle bus and leave you to explore the ruins on your own.

Book this Guatemala tour: Tikal Day Tour from Flores

17. Wander Grutas de Lanquin

Just outside of the town of Lanquin, you’ll find the entrance to a massive cave system forged by underground rivers.

The true expanse of the Grutas de Lanquin has never been fully explored, but to make visiting more accessible, around 450 meters of well-lit pathways have been installed.

Power outages are common, however, so it’s best to bring your own flashlight and try not to venture off course.

Inside caves at Grutas de Lanquin in Guatemala
Incredible rock formations at Grutas de Lanquin

While many attractions are best visited at the crack of dawn, you’ll get a special experience here if you plan your trip for sunset. As dusk arrives, thousands and thousands of bats will exit the caves, making for a pretty spectacular overhead show.

You can see these caves when you’re visiting Semuc Champey as they are quite close! This tour takes you to everything!

Book this Guatemala tour: Semuc Champey 3 Days

18. Chill on a Rooftop With a Drink!

When I was in Antigua, I enjoyed the stunning scenery by visiting several rooftop bars that offer fantastic views of volcanoes! You have to eat and drink at some point—why not make it on a rooftop!?

The best is going at night, you can witness the mesmerizing sight of lava flowing from Fuego in the distance while sipping on your favorite beverage. Exploring the rooftop bars around town allows you to make new friends and indulge in some local brews!

People at Skybar for things to do in Antigua Guatemala
This was the crew for the night, but I only snapped this one pic which means it was a good time!

Antigua Brewing Company, Rooftop Antigua, Cafe Boheme, and Lava Terrace were my favs, and yes, all of them had great food and drinks!

19. Check Out Livingston on The Caribbean Coast

Simply getting to the town of Livingston is a bit of an adventure. The coastal town is surrounded by thick forest, unconnected by roads.

The only way to get to Livingston is by boat – either by river or ocean. It’s this isolation that makes it one of the more interesting places to visit in Guatemala, with a culture all of its own.

Palm trees and umbrellas on beach at Livingstone, Guatemala
A visit to Livingston is one of the more unique things to do in Guatemala

Top of your list should be experiencing the Garifuna culture, with drumming and dancing held at some of the local bars. Make sure you try the local dish known as tapado, a fish and coconut soup, or take a cooking class to learn how to make it yourself.

Around 1.5 hours hike from town you can find Siete Alteres (Seven Altars), a series of seven waterfalls with beautiful freshwater pools you can swim in.

Where to Next? Maybe Head to Belize!

These two Central American countries are located right next to each other, making it easy to explore both in one trip—And I can’t recommend it enough! From the stunning Mayan ruins in Guatemala to the beaches of Belize, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic duo.

To travel from Guatemala to Belize, simply take a shuttle from Flores, Guatemala, and cross the border into Belize. You’ll first reach San Ignacio, but you can continue on to Belize City and then to either San Pedro or Caye Caulker all in one day!

Things to do in Belize
You could trade volcanos for waterfalls if you head to Belize after.

The journey is easy and hassle-free, and the border crossing is relatively quick and painless.

Once you arrive in Belize, get ready for an adventure like no other. With its crystal clear waters, colorful coral reefs, and beaches, Belize is a tropical paradise that’s just waiting to be explored! Here are all of my favorite things to do in Belize.

Guatemala Itinerary

Here’s a 4-week itinerary exploring Guatemala’s culture, history, and natural beauty. You’ll get to see some of the country’s most iconic and beautiful destinations!

Of course, you’re welcome to mix things up as you wish, but this should be a good guide on what you can fit into each week.

Here’s my full article on deciding on your Guatemala itinerary.

Guatemala Week 1:

  • Antigua: Explore the colonial town of Antigua, take a coffee tour, and hike volcanoes like Pacaya, Acetanango, and Fuego.
  • Lake Atitlán: Take a boat out on the lake to reach any of the charming towns of the lake. Hike, SUP, yoga and hike volcanos.

Guatemala Week 2:

  • Xela – Tackle the Santa Maria hike and scope our Santigauito Volcano, then relax in thermal waters.
  • El Paredon – Try your hand at surfing or just hone in on your skills of being a beach bum or pool lounger.

Guatemala Week 3:

  • Rio Dulce: Take a boat tour of the river, visit the nearby waterfalls, and explore the local wildlife.
  • Livingston: Visit the Garifuna village, learn about the local culture, and enjoy the beautiful beaches and Caribbean vibe.

Guatemala Week 4:

  • Semuc Champey: Hike to the viewpoint for stunning views of the turquoise pools and cascading waterfalls, and explore the nearby caves and natural wonders.
  • Flores and Tikal: Head to the colorful town of Flores, located on Lake Petén Itzá. Use Flores as a base to explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, climb the pyramids, and learn about the Mayan civilization. Then head to Belize!

READ MORE: Your Perfect Guatemala Itinerary: 1-3 Weeks + Tips!

Tips for Traveling Around Guatemala

  1. Use GuateGo to book your transportation – But only if you want to make your life easier. There are the cheap chicken buses but what you don’t pay in cash you’ll pay DEARLY for in time. They take much longer, stop more, and can be a bit sketchy at times. I use GuateGo simply because they made my life easier and I got to spend more time at the destination than on the bus.
  2. Use anti-theft bags – I had zero issues while visiting the country but I always use my anti-theft bags. It helps me keep peace of mind and they are just simply great bags for travel! Mine still look new after years of abuse.
  3. Habla Espanol – It’s not essential to speak Spanish but boy does it help! I got some great practice while I was here, it was amazing! In fact, it’s a great place to learn, so perhaps pick up a few lessons while you’re here.
  4. Just go to the ATM – This is a tip for really anywhere in the world. I hate using exchanges, they are rife with scams. An ATM will never screw you (use ones in stores/banks only), just get a card that doesn’t charge you fees and be sure there are ATMs available in the town you are going to! (El Paredon doesn’t have one!) More about travel cards here.
  5. Bring layers – Not only did it get cold at night when I visited in November but it was FREEZING at the top of the volcanos. Don’t forget it won’t be hot 24/7.
  6. Watch yourself at night – I felt safe in Guatemala but it’s often because I know getting drunk and walking at night is a big no no. Go out with a group or perhaps not at all (at least don’t get smashed) and then walk alone at night. It’s just a bad idea.
  7. Take the tour – While some things definitely don’t require a tour (like walking the city) they can definitely enhance your time! However, attempting some of the volcano hikes solo, might not be worth it. Your time figuring out the chicken buses, haggling, getting lost etc, can eat away at your enjoyment. Just book the tour and enjoy your time! Plus, it’s safer and a way to make friends.
  8. Visit anytime – Backpacking Guatemala is great year-round but the rainy season is May-September.

RELATED: Best Anti Theft Backpacks

Backpackers Guatemala Budget

Overall, Guatemala is pretty budget-friendly and is certainly a great destination to visit when you’re not trying to spend TOO much money. Here are some example costs to give you a better idea of how much you’d spend here! Everything is in USD.

Tours and Fun Stuff:

  • Overnight Camping Acetenango Hike – $90
  • Pacaya Day Trip – $15
  • Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve Entrance Fee – $2.50
  • Mirador in San Juan Lake Atitlan – $4


  • Antigua private room with shared bathroom – $15
  • Splurging on a pretty bungalow in El Paredon – $49
View from the rooftop of Cesar Guesthouse in Antigua Guatemala
My rooftop view from my cheap Antigua accommodation

Food in Guatemala:

  • Amazing western breakfast with eggs, bread, huge french press, fruit, and yogurt in Antigua – $5
  • Cheap vegan lunch in Xela – $2.50
  • Good pizza in Panajachel – $10
  • A night out with beers and nachos with friends in Antiga – $30


  • Uber in Xela- $3.25
  • Uber Guatemala City to Antigua (1 hour) – $18
  • Antigua to El Pardon shuttle – $25 (shuttles are currently operating at half capacity and have raised their prices)
  • Boat in Lake Atitlan – $2

How to Backpack Guatemala for LESS

How can you travel to Guatemala for LESS? What if I told you there’s a way to travel Guatemala without paying a penny for your accommodation costs and maybe even your food?!

Woman on swing at jetty on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
Enjoying the perks of my FREE accommodation in Lake Atitlan

This is actually what I did to keep costs down exploring Guatemala AND it helped me meet locals. I did a few Worldpackers experiences and had the time of my life! I had so much fun, met new people, and saved a huge chunk of cash because I didn’t pay for accommodation in Xela or Lake Atitlan!

Grab $10 off Worldpackers and explore all the cool experiences you can do while visiting Guatemala!

Read my Worldpackers review and how you can use it to travel the world for LESS (honestly, this is a backpacker’s dream)!

How to Get Around Guatemala

Using GuateGo – My choice for easy bus/shuttle bookings! You can book online and have all your transport sorted within a few clicks. It’s just so much easier, and they pick you up from your hotel.

Just booking on a whim – Totally possible! Just know sometimes it’s best to still pre-book so you can get the day and time you want. You’ll have to “shop” around for the best choice. Sometimes through your hostel is OK but showing up at the bus station can be better. Also know it’s usually a shuttle as large buses don’t do great on the narrow curvy roads here.

View from inside a tuk tuk in Guatemala
Tuk tuks are a great way to get around towns when backpacking Guatemala

Taxis, Tuk Tuks, and Ubers – Taxis are generally pretty safe, Ubers are exactly like what you know from home, and tuk tuks are tiny moto-taxis which are great for around town (but I personally prefer walking). All of them are popular and fine to use! Ubers aren’t everywhere, just the bigger cities like Xela, Antigua, Guatemala City…

Chicken buses – Old school buses, super cheap, not mega convenient though. This will surely be the longest way to get around but is great for budget backpackers. Just be mindful of your things while riding and plan for rides to take nearly double as long.

What To Pack for Backpacking Guatemala

  • A GOOD backpack: Don’t get caught out with broken straps on day 5! Been there and done that, 10/10 don’t recommend it. Check out these awesome backpacks for women.
  • A portable water bottle with filter: When backpacking in Guatemala, a portable water filter is a great item to pack. It’ll allow you to safely drink water and not create more plastic waste.
  • A headlamp: A headlamp is a must-have item for any adventurous backpacker. I like carrying it on me if I know I’ll be out at night as well.
  • A sarong: A versatile and lightweight item to pack is a sarong, which can be used as a towel and a beach cover-up. I don’t travel without one!
  • Credit Card and ATM card: While credit cards are accepted in some places, you have to carry cash on hand for the majority of things. Don’t get caught out without the right travel cards!
  • Portable charger: Keep your devices charged and ready for all your adventures with a portable charger. Remember, phones need more juice when they’re playing camera and navigating all day too!
  • Lightweight, breathable clothing and a few warm items: Guatemala’s climate can be warm, so it’s important to pack comfortable, breathable clothing that will keep you cool and dry. With that said, if you’re hiking, it can be cold at the tops of the volcanoes! A light rain jacket would be a good idea too.
  • Good hiking shoes: If you plan on doing any hiking or exploring Guatemala’s rugged terrain, be sure to pack a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots. You can’t get away with just walking shoes for some of these trails, I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Insect repellent: Mosquitoes and other insects can be quite common in Guatemala, so be sure to pack insect repellent to protect yourself.
  • Sunscreen: The sun in Guatemala can be blazing! Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen to protect your skin and your pocket because it’s expensive to buy here.

Tips for Booking Your Trip:


The best way to get bus and train tickets around Central America and Mexico. Check here.


Booking is one of the best options as well as Hotels.

Things to do

You’ll want to book a few tours! I use Viator and GetYourGuide!

Don’t forget insurance!

Get a quote with the best and easiest travelers insurance: Safety Wing

Find Deals

Travel deals to anywhere! Check here.

How stoked are you to travel to Guatemala?! It’s incredible and the only thing I regret is not spending even more time there. I can’t wait to return! I hope my tips and list of best things to do in Guatemala helped—happy, and safe travels!

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