1. Perfect destination for outdoor lovers
Guatemala has a diverse range of activities for all to enjoy. You can relax on a beach, go on a food tour, hike up one of the many active volcanos, take part in an ecological tour of walking the hanging bridges and horseback riding, and for thrill-seekers you can embark on an adrenaline-induced adventure of flying through the jungle by a zip lining.
2. Full of friendly locals
Guatemalans are one of the friendliest and warmest people. While walking around Antigua city, I was often greeted with a smile and a “welcome to my country” nod. They were always ready to help when I ask for directions. Staffs in restaurants would talk to you like a friend and give you great food recommendations. Shopkeepers don’t pressure you to buy, welcome you to freely browse around, and even if you walk out emptied-handed they still wish you a wonderful day.
3. Mouth-watering food
Antigua boasts some of Central America’s best cuisines. I just couldn’t get enough of the warm tortillas, tasty guacamole, and frijoles con arroz (rice and beans) – I wouldn’t mind eating these Guatemalan staple food everyday. You would never go hungry. There are plenty of vendors selling cerviche, enchiladas, chuchitos, cold refreshing drinks, and exotic tropical fruits. There are many great local restaurants and cafes, as well as many international cuisines that are popping up in Antigua, to choose from.
4. Perfect place to study Spanish
Guatemala is one of the best Latin American countries to study Spanish. Not only because you get the best bang for your buck, there are many reputable schools to choose from.
5. Pleasantly affordable
In Antigua, you can get a standard meal eating at local restaurants for $3 to $5, nice dinners for $5-$10. Fine dining at one of the many restaurants for as little as $20. A bed in a hostel dorm is less than $10 (less than that outside of Antigua), a private room at a decent guesthouse for around $20, and stay at a nice hotel from $35 a night.
6. Many budget-friendly health and wellness offerings
People go to enjoy the many affordable yoga retreats they have around the country. San Marcos La Laguna, a quiet town on Lake Atitlan is a mecca for all things spiritual and holistic – with yoga, meditation, reiki and massage centers.
7. Great coffee
Some of the world’s high quality and most distinctive coffees are produced in the highlands of Guatemala. Even as a tea drinker, I drank a cup a day when I was there. Join a coffee tour to learn about all the efforts that go into one cup of coffee.
8. One of the most beautiful lakes in the world
The beauty of Lake Atitlan and the colorful Mayan villages that surround it drew my curiosity to this country. Hop on a boat and explore the seven lake villages. You will enjoy the charm of each community. No matter where you go, green mountains and San Pedro Volcano are right before your eyes.
Lake Atitlan is a must on your itinerary.
9. Colonial Antigua
Get ready to be intrigued by the beauty and the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site – the many historic buildings, the Santiago Cathedral, the old ruins of colonial churches, the Spanish architectural houses, the outdoor markets and the street venders. Enjoy a nice stroll in the charming cobblestone streets.
10. It is safer than you think
I was surprised by the reaction from some people when I told them I was going to Guatemala. Yes, I have read about the high crime rate in Guatemala City and the highway kidnaps and robberies, but no one should let that stop them from going. There are crazy things happening in metropolis like NYC and Chicago everyday.
Obviously, I always kept my guard up and practiced general safe travel behavior, but I never felt menaced by anyone during my 4 weeks there.
Go see Guatemala! You won’t run out of things to do in this gorgeous and culturally-rich country. I won’t think twice about going back again in the near future.