I’m a lover of the world and far off places who is so excited that you’re here. Looking forward to sharing more of my world with you and all the things I love. I hope this site really does feel like a wellness oasis right here on the internet.
Guatemala is a highly underrated travel destination and one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. So why visit Guatemala? This country is breathtakingly beautiful—you’ll find everything from historic colonial architecture to active volcanoes and remote swimming holes! The prices are also a fraction of what you’d pay in other destinations, making it a very affordable place to visit. I’m so excited to share this travel guide with you all based on my recent Guatemala trip.
Guatemala Travel Tips
The main airport is in Guatemala City (GUA). Many major airlines fly here, as well as some budget airlines like Spirit and Interjet. You can definitely find flight deals (under $300 RT), so I’d recommend using Skyscanner to keep an eye out for good prices.
Spanish is the primary language, and it is a huge plus if you know some basic phrases for getting around.
Pack layers. Because of the higher elevation of the mountains, it tends to get really cool at night or if you do any hiking. So make sure you pack plenty of outer layers to stay warm.
You will need bug spray, especially if you visit during the rainy season (typically May-October)!
We hired a great driver named Byron to get around based on a recommendation from my good friend Monet (@thetravelingchild). Reach out to me on Instagram; I’d be happy to connect you with him if you need a driver!
If you bring USD, make sure your cash is newer (ideally post-2010) with no imperfections, as the banks are stringent here.
Many places in Antigua accept cards, but you will need cash if you visit Lake Atitlan. You can get cash in Lake Atitlan, but it’s much more of a hassle.
Average Transport Costs in Guatemala
The currency in Guatemala is the Guatemalan quetzal. The current exchange rate is about 7.5 to 1 US dollar. You will get a better exchange rate in Antigua vs. the airport in Guatemala City. Pro-tip, almost anywhere you go, rates will be less favorable in the airport. Here are some typical prices for transportation for 1-2 people by car:
GUA airport to Antigua – Q300 each way
Antigua to Hobittenango roundtrip – Q225
Antigua to Pacaya volcano roundtrip (transportation only, does not include local guide fee, Pacaya National park entrance fee, or horse rental) – Q600
Antigua to El Paredón – Q725 each way
Antigua to Panajachel – Q750 each way
Panajachel to GUA airport – Q900 each way
We stopped in Antigua on the way to Lake Atitlan. It is a unique historic city that sits in a valley surrounded by three volcanoes. You’ll find beautiful colonial architecture, landmark buildings, cobblestone streets, and ruins. The town itself is relatively small; the population is less than 50,000, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things to see and do.
Where to Eat & Play:
Eat at Caoba Farms – An farm-to-table restaurant and organic garden that offers yoga classes and hosts an artisan market on the weekends.
Eat at Samsara – Vegan and vegetarian-friendly health-focused kitchen with dishes inspired by the world.
Eat at Frida’s – Upscale Mexican cuisine with a fun, eclectic atmosphere.
Eat at El Criollo – An excellent spot for an authentic Guatemalan lunch!
Porta Hotel Antigua – Luxurious rooms and suites, lush gardens, and a five-minute walk from the city center. Some of the historic touches include wood floors, wood-beamed ceilings, exposed brick, and handmade tiles.
El Convento Boutique Hotel – An luxury boutique hotel with just 26 suites, a modern living space, and a rustic pool surrounded by greenery.
Hobbitenango – A restaurant, eco-park, and hotel all in one, Hobbitenango has beautiful spaces to explore and fun activities to try. They have two hobbit-style casitas available for overnight stays.
Lake Atitlan is a large lake that was created by a volcanic eruption that left a vast crater. It is located in the Southwest highlands of Guatemala.
There are many towns surrounding the lake, including:
Panajachel (Pana) – A well-developed town that is one of the larger towns surrounding the lake. You’ll find great views, bustling markets, and many options for accommodations, from eco-hotels to luxury resorts.
Santa Cruz La Laguna – Santa Cruz sits atop a steep hill and is a traditional Mayan town. There are a few hotels, a culinary school, and scuba diving.
Jaibalito – This tiny village is only accessible by boat or hiking trail. Jaibalito is a well-kept secret with just two hotels, a hostel, and a club. The food is delicious, local, and very affordable.
San Pedro La Laguna – A popular spot for backpackers with lots of options for lodging, fun nightlife, and adventure options like kayaking.
San Marcos La Laguna – San Marcos is known for attracting hippies. You can visit a spa, do yoga, and try Reiki healing. There is also a nature preserve with an 8-meter cliff jump for the adventurous.
I’m also linking a list of 12 of the top towns to visit on Lake Atitlan with more details on each town here. We visited Santiago on our last day and saw amazing views here. So even though it isn’t as tourist-focused, there’s impressive history there. Although this area has a history of violence during the Maya struggle, there is almost no violence today.
Cash is necessary when traveling around Lake Atitlan. The average pricing for boats is usually Q20-25 along the route to San Pedro and a little more expensive to go to Santiago at Q30-35. Locals are charged less, and if you speak Spanish, you can sometimes pay a little bit less, but it’s not really worth haggling over.
Eat & Drink at Restaurante & Bar Colibri – Great food and incredible views from the main dock in one of the more remote towns, Santa Cruz La Laguna.
Eat at Guajimbo’s – An Uruguayan restaurant in Panajachel serving vegetarian plates and Uruguayan dishes like churrasco.
Eat at Moonfish Cafe – Enjoy farm-fresh ingredients from a restaurant with a community-forward mission at this spot in San Marcos La Laguna.
Grab a coffee at Cafeína Panajachel – A cozy coffee shop with skilled baristas and good quality espresso.
Enjoy the view from Mirador De Santa Catarina – One of the best overlooks of Lake Atitlan!
Where to Stay
Casa Prana – A luxury 5-star hotel located in Santa Cruz La Laguna with a spa, yoga, and adventure experiences. The hotel is set on 9 acres of breathtaking nature and features eight elegant and spacious suites.
Tzampoc Resort – Tzampoc is a resort surrounded by beautiful gardens and terraces overlooking the lake in Santa Catarina Palopo. You’ll enjoy an authentic taste of Guatemala here.
Jenna’s River Bed and Breakfast – Every rustic yurt at this terraced hotel has a great view of the lake! Located in Panajachel, just 5 minutes from the town center but secluded enough to enjoy peace on the lake.
Casa Polopo – I stayed here on my first trip to Guatemala, and it was very nice! There are 15 rooms, 2 pools, a private garden, and gorgeous lake views.