Why travel to Guatemala
With its Mayan archaeological sites, exquisite natural landscapes, dense jungle, colonial cities and sandy beaches, Guatemala is a country that offers something for everyone. Nature lovers enjoy visiting its numerous highlights such as spectacular Lake Atitlan, with three volcanoes as its backdrop and various little villages on its shores just begging to be explored.
Then there’s Antigua, one of the country’s most popular cities, also surrounded by volcanoes, with its quaint cobbled streets and colourful colonial architecture. The impressive Mayan ruins at Tikal National Park are a must-visit, atmospheric and fascinating. While there are plenty of other ruins to explore, Tikal is renowned as the best and most comprehensive and offers a real-life taste of those legendary Indiana Jones movies.
Why visit Guatemala
- Guatemala is home to one of the most beautiful lakes on earth, Lake Atitlan.
- It boasts a natural water park that is quite magnificent – called Semuc Champey, it’s a section of the Cahabón River.
- There are so many different indigenous people here, including some that are Mayan.
- The beaches on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast are superb.
- The Mayan ruins here are unmatched, especially those at Tikal National Park.
- Guatemala is Latin America’s creative capital.
- The coffee is legendary.
- Guatemala is home to the largest market on the continent, Chichicastenango, a colourful, crazy place that is an experience to visit.
With its wealth of creativity, ancient history and natural beauty, Guatemala is an interesting holiday destination with plenty of activities on offer and many beautiful sights to see. It’s one of South America’s most exciting countries and its rich Mayan culture makes it a fascinating place to explore. Let Thompsons Holidays put together a Guatemala holiday package that is tailor-made for you, offering you a chance to explore the indigenous culture, visit charming Colonial towns, tropical rainforests, scenic lakes and rumbling volcanoes.
Things to do in Guatemala
This fascinating South American country is full of contrasts, offering an insight into the continent that is traditional as well as modern, with customs and lifestyles that are both ancient and contemporary. Guatemala is a very authentic country. Many indigenous people still practice their traditions and cultures as they have for centuries, making a holiday here a captivating experience.
When you travel to Guatemala on holiday, you’ll be inspired to try new adventures and learn about old civilisations. You’ll meet warm, friendly people and savour superb cuisine, enjoy numerous activities and discover its magic. Guatemala offers holidaymakers endless opportunities to explore ancient ruins, charming colonial towns, noisy markets, tropical jungles and beautiful beaches.
Things to do in Guatemala
- Explore the lesser-known Mayan ruins in remote Peten.
- Go surfing on some of Guatemala’s perfect Pacific coast beaches.
- Discover the ongoing Mayan culture – a surprise and a revelation.
- Take a dip in Semuc Champey’s turquoise pools.
- Shop for souvenirs – and take some Instagram photos in the famous Chichicastenango market.
- Climb the active volcano, Acatanenango.
- Enjoy kayaking in a volcanic crater at Lake Atitlán.
- Climb the pyramids in the legendary Mayan ruins at Tikal.
- Stroll through Flores’ colourful streets.
- Laze on a black sand beach at Monterrico.
- Explore colonial Antigua.
- Take a sunrise hike up Indian Nose mountain at Lake Atitlán.
- Enjoy caving by candlelight in Lanquín.
- Embark on a jungle adventure in the Amazon.
Guatemala offers so many interesting places to see and fascinating things to do that it’s hard to know where to start. Bucket list adventures await in this extraordinary, exotic little country. Let Thompsons Holidays take you on an adventure with the perfect holiday package to Guatemala.
Know before you go...
- The best time to visit Guatemala is in the dry season (summer), November to April.
- The rainy season is from May to October.
- Flight duration from Johannesburg to Guatemala City: 20 hours, 18 minutes with one stopover.
- There are not many regular flights from South Africa to Guatemala.
- South African passport holders do not require a visa to enter Guatemala for a stay of up to 30 days.
- Passports must be valid for 6 months after departure from Guatemala.
- Guatemala is 8 hours behind South Africa.
- Daylight saving is not practiced in Guatemala.
- The official currency is the Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ).
- The US Dollar is widely accepted in Guatemala but do have local currency on hand as well.
- Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are prevalent. Some retailers charge a surcharge for credit card payments.
- Tipping is not obligatory but if service is good, do leave a tip.
- The official language is Spanish. There are also 22 Mayan languages and 2 indigenous languages.
- English is spoken in tourist areas.
- Roman Catholicism is the main religion in Guatemala. Other Christian religions are also practiced.
- When visiting sacred sites and temples, dress conservatively. (See ‘What to pack’).
- It is not recommended to drink tap water in Guatemala. Bottled water is readily available.
- Many public restrooms charge a small fee for use, so keep change on hand for this.
- Smoking is not permitted in public areas such as restaurants, bars and indoor work places as well as on public transport. Airports offer designated smoking rooms.
- Vaccinations - check with your travel clinic before you go.
What must I pack?
- Lightweight clothing in summer, warm layerable clothing for winter.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
- Transport within Guatemala is mainly by bus.
- Towns in outlying areas may have less sophisticated transport infrastructure – it depends where you are going.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Instead of using plastic bags, take fabric shopping bags with you.
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
Out of season
We’re sorry! The holiday you’re looking for is not in season. Luckily, we have loads of other exciting options. Take a look!