##DAY 1 – GUATEMALA CITY Often overlooked by tourists, I think Ciudad de Guatemala is definitely a place worthwhile visiting.
In spite of its not-so-safe reputation, I did not face any challenges at all just by practicing normal safety precautions. You should avoid the so called red zones which aren’t touristy areas anyways.
I recommend staying in zone 10 which is considered one of the more upscale neighborhoods. There you can find most of the big international hotel chains but also many modern AirBnB options.
You can start your day by strolling along Avenida Las Americas which is a wide avenue with lots of green space in between lanes (called Parque Las Americas).
During the day you can also consider checking out zone 1 (historic center). Here you can find several museums (such as the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura and the Museo Nacional de Historia).
On your way back to zone 10 you should definitely make a stop at zone 4. This area has recently become the hipster neighborhood of Guatemala. Here you can also find very good specialty coffee (Coffee District Guatemala has a beautiful outdoor terrace with nice views).
Coffee shop in zone 4
As far as nightlife is concerned you have many options in zone 10. Most of them are geared towards the younger crowd but everyone is welcome.
By sticking to the main avenues it even felt reasonably safe to walk at night. But if in doubt you can always consider taking an Uber which are very inexpensive in Guatemala anyway.
No visit to Guatemala would be complete without wandering through the beautiful cobblestone streets of the former capital of the country La Antigua Guatemala.
Although quite touristy, it is definitely a spot you don’t want to miss. There are dozens of churches, colonial buildings (with beautiful backyards) as well as many typical restaurants and cafes.
And as if a beautiful and safe little town wasn’t enough. Antigua is also surrounded by stunning volcanoes which, with the right angle and weather conditions, allows you to take many beautiful pictures. Arco Santa Catalina
There are tons of options to stay in Antigua ranging from low-budget to luxury. Most of them are right in the historic city center which is where I recommend you to stay. This way you can easily reach everything by foot. I found the lower end options not to be as cheap as elsewhere in the country. Antigua is Guatemala’s main tourist spot after all.
What I enjoyed most during my day in Antigua was to just stroll around in the many beautiful cobblestone streets. It is completely safe to walk around. Of course always take the common safety precautions like you would anywhere else in the world.
Antiguo Colegio de la Compañía de Jesus
Be sure to check out Parque Central and the countless churches and religious complexes that can be found across town: Convento Santa Clara, Iglesia de la Merced and of course the iconic Arco de Santa Catalina.
I recommend climbing up the hill Cerro de la Cruz from where you can enjoy a beautiful view over the city. You can also reach the view point by a short taxi ride.
Views over Antigua
What’s interesting to observe is that although international fast food chains are present in Antigua, they all blend in architecturally wise. So if you must, you can enjoy your Big Mac or Starbucks coffee while sitting on a colonial patio of an 17th century building. I would recommend, however, to just take a look and rather enjoy local food instead. For example a Pepian, a delicious stew served with vegetables and rice. One of the many options to try one of those is in the restaurant called El Sabor Chapin.
A different type of Starbucks
In Antigua you can also find excellent options to enjoy local specialty coffee.
I particularly enjoyed Fat Cat Coffee House and Artista de cafe.
Lake Atitlan sits in a spectacular setting in the Guatemalan highlands and can be reached in roughly 2 to 3 hours from Antigua. It is surrounded by three volcanoes and offers unforgettable views to anyone who makes it here.
View on Volcan San Pedro
You will most likely get to Panajachel first. Panajachel is the main village on the lake and where most shuttles from Antigua and Guatemala will drop off passengers. Other than stocking up on snacks, I think there is not that much to see and do there, especially if you have only one day at the lake.
From Panajachel you can get on little passenger boats that in no time get you to any village on the lake. They are much quicker than if you were to go by road due to the mountainous terrain.
While there are many options to stay around the lake, I chose La Casa del Mundo. It is relatively close to Panajachel (where the shuttles from Antigua arrive) but also sufficiently remote to enjoy the mystic atmosphere of this stunning lake. The water taxi is about 15 to 20 Quetzales (2 to 3 USD) to get there. View from water taxi
There are several hiking trails around with stunning views and as well as some decent little bars/restaurants. You can also rent kayaks and even swimming is possible. However, the water is not too warm – after all the lake sits at 1500 meters altitude.
The sunsets and sunrises over the lake are incredibly beautiful and were definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Guatemala.
“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
– gustave flaubert
Hi! I am Max and in 2022, after almost 12 years in the corporate world, I decided to fully focus on my passion for exploring new countries and cultures, hoping to inspire other fellow travelers and also to provide helpful tips and insights to those currently preparing for their next adventure.