What to do when you're in Guatemala
A guided tour in Tikal
Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilisation. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I recommend doing a guided tour in Tikal for several reasons;
The park is in the middle of the jungle and it is really easy to get lost there. A guide knows exactly where to be and how to walk, to make sure you get to see everything you want to see without having to stress where to go or how to get back.
Another reason to get a guided tour, is because the guides know a lot of information about the history of this archeological site and the jungle around it. They also know a lot of funny facts, which makes the tour interesting and a lot different than you're probably used to.
Go shopping for all your souvenirs in Panajachel
Panajachel is situated next to Lake Atitlan, and the locals here primarily earn their money from the tourism. There are countless little shops with handmade Guatemalan clothes, bags, jewellery and other souvenirs. It'll take you about a day if you want to visit all the little shops. Panajachel also has a lot of small restaurants and coffeeshops where you can take a break while you're shopping.
I visited Panajachel for just one day and I thought that was enough. It is the perfect place to stay when you want to travel to other places, as San Juan la Laguna.
Enjoy a couple of nights in Antigua
Antigua is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala known for its preserved Spanish-influenced architecture, as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I felt so at home in this city because of all the nice locals, the small streets and the laid-back vibe. Antigua has a main square, the plaza, which is located at the centre of the city. This is where the church, the many restaurants and the shops are situated. The plaza has a very welcoming feeling to it, making it the perfect place to just sit down with some ice cream after dinner.
Antigua is very touristy, and has a lot of different activities and hotels to offer.
If there is one activity I can recommend you, it is climbing the Pacaya volcano.
(Read by blog about the Pacaya volcano here: https://www.astromaud.com/sleeping-on-the-pacaya-volcano)
I did the overnight activity, which means you climb the volcano when it's dark and you also sleep at a base camp on the volcano. It was the most beautiful and special thing I have ever seen. It does take a lot of energy, so make sure you're feeling healthy and energized before you're doing this.
If you consider doing this activity, you could for more information at your hotel.
I stayed at the Lemon tree hostel right in the centre of Antigua and had a good time there. There are a lot of backpackers here, so it's easy to make some friends!
Flores is a city in Guatemala with a lot of colourful houses and an authentic vibe. Eventhough Flores doesn't have any specific sights, the bars/restaurant and the small streets make it the perfect stop before traveling to any other cities in Guatemala as; Lake Atitlan or Guatemala City.
Flores is situated next to the water, which makes it perfect to sit at one of the bars at night and look at te stars and all the lights from the city. A great bar to do this at is Raices.
A great place to stay at is the Peten Express Hotel. It is situated in the middle of the city within walking distance from all the shops, bars, restaurants and the water. The hotel has a big balcony overlooking the water, and it even has a pool which overlooks the great view.
Enjoy Rio Dulce
When you're in Guatemala, I highly recommend going to Rio Dulce. Rio Dulce is a river completely contained within the department of Izabal. It is part of a lake and river system that has become a popular sailboat destination. I stayed in a hotel called Hacienda Tijax which is located directly on top of the lake. The hotel rooms are basically small houses made of wood, scattered over the island. Every room has a balcony with an amazing view over the water or on the jungle.
The hotel is only accessible by boat. It costs about $1 to reach the mainland and you could also use the boat of the hotel to go to other places.
One of these places is a natural hot spring, called Agua Caliente and you can ask the hotel if they can provide you with fresh coconuts and mud masks for a small price. Agua Caliente is not crowded by tourist, it's most of the time only visited by the locals, which makes it a different experience than a lot of other hot springs. It is a relaxing activity and gives you the opportunity to take a lot of great pictures.
One of the other activities you can enjoy is horseback riding on the island next to the hotel. The hotel will also arrange this activity since they take care of the horses. You'll get a guided tour from a cowboy who knows everything about the area and has a lot of interesting things to say. He does not speak English very well, so a little bit of Spanish would come in handy. The horses know exactly where to go, taking you to a small waterfall, a rubber plantation and a tower with a beautiful view over the jungle.
At night you can take the boat and go to one of the restaurants on the other side of the island or you could have dinner at the hotel.