Top World’s Cheapest Exotic Travel Destinations – Guatemala

15 Apr Top World’s Cheapest Exotic Travel Destinations – Guatemala

If you think that you can think you can live a regret-free life without stepping foot in Guatemala, this post will change your mind. By far one of the most visitor-friendly and affordable destinations in Central America, Guatemala is a land of bright colours, indigenous faces and Mayan ruins. It’s a lot more than just the Mayan wonders, though. Guatemala has one of the most densely packed lists of things worth seeing anywhere in Latin America, from the must-visit, world-famous archaeological marvels of the Maya, to its pristine jungle reserves, endless hiking opportunities, and a mix of modern cities, colonial towns, and tiny villages, many with still-intact ancient traditions from long before the days of Columbus.

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It provides a varied but always beautiful landscape of striking green countryside, erupting volcanoes, soothing, peaceful lakes – and many budget-traveller friendly hostels to boot. These are our top 5 recommended must-see destinations.

  1. Antigua

Situated in a spectacular valley of three volcanoes (one of which, Fuego, releases puffs of smoke daily), Antigua’s surroundings are as picturesque as its well-preserved colonial architecture.

antigua-guatemala

With cobblestone streets, arches, and a tree-filled central plaza, Antigua is the embodiment of the word “charming. Without a doubt it’s an absolute must on any Guatemala itinerary and, being only an hour from the airport in Guatemala City, it’s a perfect first stop for visitors to acclimatise to Guatemalan life.

=Getting Around=

Cars can be hired but it is an expensive and tedious affair. There is a 30mph speed limit in the country and it is US$100 a day. Taxis are also not the cheapest option in the world in Antigua. As they do not charge you with a metered fare, you have to pay a flat amount depending on where you are going. Fares typically ranges from US$30 to US$50 for one to two destinations. If you have the cash to spend, these are not bad options.
Local buses are the cheapest and best choice for an affordable trip. At only US$1-2 per person, you can travel around Antigua from St Johns.

=Where to Stay=

+ South point Antigua

$$$$
Address: Yacht Club Drive, English Harbour Town

South point

+ Five Senses Antigua

$$$
Address: Jolly Harbour, Jolly Harbour

=What to Do=

+ Parque Central

The main plaza of the city, it is popular with locals and tourists, and a mix of modern shops and street vendors catering mostly to the latter also accompanies it. The Cathedral, and two arch-lined government buildings and many other gorgeous colonial structures surround the broad and beautiful plaza. Most assuredly, it will be a fine, verdant place to sit or stroll and observe the goings-on, from hawkers and shoe shiners to school kids and groups of tourists.

parque

+ Hill of the Cross (Cerro de la Cruz)

The main attraction of this place is the panoramic view. From here, you are able to the Capuchin Complex, the Church and Convent of La Merced. You can even hire hot air balloon rides to have a bird’s eye view of the entire city.

  1. Lake Atitlan

Often described as the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Atitlan should be on the list of every visitor in Guatemala. Interestingly, each lakeside village as its own distinctive atmosphere. We are talking about hippes in San Marcos and alcoholics in San Pedro. But this is a place to party and drink till your fill at very cheap prices. It is not all drinking and partying of course. Hikes up nearby Volcan San Pedro are a challenging day’s walk but provide absolutely breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding towns below.

lake atilan

Kayaks and canoes are cheap to rent in just about every town on the lake, and the water is clean enough for a swim. So be sure to embrace the backpacking culture and sweat it out. You will have plenty of time to enjoy the nightlife after all conquering all the scenic places.

=How to Get There=

Many lanchas, or small boats, and even bus-like boats provide transport from village to village around and across the lake. There is no official schedule, but typically, public boats leave Panachel for San Pedro via Santa Cruz & San Marcos every half hour. These boats will pass by other smaller harbours as well. The local prices are Q3 for one harbour, Q5 for two, and up to Q10 for many or across the lake.

 

=Where to Stay=

+ Hotel Villas Balam Ya

Balam ya

$$$

Address: Km 4 carretera hacia Santa Catarina Palopó, Sololá, Panajachel

+ Hotel Dos Mundos Panajachel

$$

Address: Calle Santander 4-72 Zona 2, Panajachel

 

=What to Do=

+Kayaking

Address for Casa del Mundo: Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan

One of the more popular things to do so that you are able to see the lake in its entirety and feel the grandeur of it all. Rent one from Casa del Mundo or San Perdo la Laguna. If you want something faster, you can get a jet ski as well.

+Hiking

Be adventurous and take the hike from Santa Cruz to Jaibalito. It is dangerous, exciting, living by the edge but the rewards are exhilarating. The hike offers you uninhibited views of the lake and the serenity you have here is unparalleled in a bustling city life. Once at Jaibalito, take a break and dip in a hot tub and pool at Club Ven Aca.

hike

  1. Tikal

Presumably the most important piece of ancient Mayan architecture in all of Central America, Tikal is well known as the greatest Maya ruins. Built around AD550 – AD900, it is very well preserved. One of the greatest wonder is how the technology back during the late-classic Mayan period allows them to build some of the highest towering pyramids. Set among lush tropical rainforest, the views surrounding Tikal is as impressive as the ruins themselves. Do try out the ridiculously steep steps of Temple I and Temple V.

guatemala-tikal

=How to Get There=

Travelling from Guatemala City to Tikal is the most common route to take. You can drive a hired vehicle via Carr. Jacob Arbenz Guzman/CA-9N on an 8 hours drive.

Buses depart from Guatemala City, Zone 1 on an overnight bus from Autobuses del Norte, Fuente del Norte or Linea Dorada.

Alternatively, you can also spend US$45 for a return flight to Flores Return.

=Where to Stay=

+Hotel Jungle Lodge Tikal

$$

Address: Parque Nacional Tikal, 17013 Tikal, Guatemala

+Hotel Jaguar Inn Tikal

$$

Address: Tikal National Park, 20001 Tikal, Guatemala

=What to Do=

+Tikal National Park

Open daily from 6am to 6pm, but the best part of being in the park is to stay until 8pm for the sunset and nocturnal wildlife viewing. Just remember to get your admission ticket stamped at the office behind Stelae Museum.

+Canopy Tour Tikal

canopy

Besides being at the Maya ruins, there is a series of treetop platforms where visitors can zip from platform to platform. It is priced at Q225 per person located right outside the entrance to Tikal National Park. If you are an adrenaline junky, you cannot give this place a miss.

 

  1. Semuc Champsey

Trek deep into the lush mountainous jungle, and arriving in the middle of nowhere is a gigantic natural limestone formation covering an underground river. It might well be the most beautiful place on Earth with dozens of cascading turquoise and emerald lagoons. Semuc Champsey is a DIY kind of attraction where you do not need a guide to get around. From cave swimming to bridge jumps and cliff diving, you are guaranteed breathtaking experiences and unforgettable memories in this paradise.

waterfall

 

=What to Do=

+El Mirador

You can fully embrace the beauty of Semuc Champsey by swimming the pools with the amazing landscape in the background. But you can get a panoramic view of the picturesque environment that will blow your mind. Take a 45 minutes hike through the jungle and the scene that awaits you will be worth every effort you make.

el mirador

+K’an Ba Cave

The adventurous hearts have to come into play when you decide to go to the cave. Without helmet, head-lamp or life jacket, you will conquer this hour long cave tour where you get to climb a 10 feet high waterfall, venture into claustrophobic spaces, and be frightened by bats. All of these while hold on to a dripping candle. Thought it is foolish? Think about the stories to you will accumulate in your arsenal of experiences. It will be worth every Q60 of the admission fee.

 

  1. Chichicastenango

Also known as ‘Chichi’, this adorable name boasts the most famous colourful market in the world. Spend a Thursday or a Sunday at the magnificent market to complete your trip to Guatemala. You will find pretty much anything there, from fruits to vegetables to electronics like a Sony Walkman back from the 80s and to the more popular choice of vibrantly dyed Mayan textiles.

market

=How to Get There=

Many buses provide the journey to Chichi from Guatemala City, Anitgua and Panajachel, which brings you to Los Encuentros. From here, you will change a bus towards Chichicastenango. From Antigua, take a bus to Chimaltenango (5Q) and change for a bus going either directly to Chichi (25Q) or to Los Encuentros (15Q).

=Where to Stay=

Hotel Museo Mayann Inn

$$

Address: 3a Avenida y 8 Calle zona unica de Barrio Santo Tomas, Chichicastenango, Chichicastenango

=What to Do=

+Santo Tomas Church

Address: Plaza Mayor, Chichicastenango

church

+Chichi Cemetery

+Chichi Market

chichi

+Pascual Abaj

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