A Guide to Backpacking Guatemala: 8 Incredible Places to Visit

Backpacking Guatemala

If you’re looking for an amazing backpacking adventure, look no further than Guatemala! This beautiful country is home to a wide variety of landscapes and cultures, making it the perfect destination for backpackers of all ages and experience levels. In this guide, we’ll discuss what to pack when backpacking Guatemala as well as some of the best places to visit during your trip. Let’s get started!

History of Guatemala

Guatemala is a country located in Central America. Bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, Honduras to the east, and El Salvador to the southeast. With an estimated population of 16.6 million in 2019, it is the most populous country in Central America. The majority of people in Guatemala are of Maya descent. The ancient Mayan civilization began to decline in the 8th century but remained a powerful force in the region until the Spanish conquest in 1524. A former colony of Spain, Guatemala gained independence in 1821. Throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was plagued by dictatorships, civil war, and military coups. In 1996, a peace agreement ended 36 years of civil war and ushered in a period of democracy. The country’s currency is the Guatemalan Quetzal. Guatemala is also home to significant populations of Mestizos, Europeans, Afro-Guatemalans, and Asians.


Guatemala has a climate typical of a country in Central America. It has a dry season that lasts from November to April and a rainy season that lasts from May to October. The dry season is the best time to visit Guatemala because there are fewer mosquitoes and the temperatures are cooler. However, the rainy season is also a good time to visit because the country is more lush and green. Guatemala is home to several active volcanoes, as well as many surrounding volcanoes that are inactive. The climate of Guatemala is tropical, which means that it is generally hot and humid all year round. However, higher altitudes can produce cool evenings.

What to Pack

Guatemala is a country full of adventure. From trekking through the jungle and exploring ancient Mayan ruins to restaurant hopping in the streets of Antigua, there is something for everyone backpacking Guatemala. When packing for a trip to Guatemala, it is important to be aware of the country’s terrain since some areas can be quite rugged. In terms of clothes, it is best to pack light and comfortable items that can be layered. As for shoes, sturdy hiking boots are a must if you plan on doing any trekking. Other essential items include a hat or bandana to protect from the sun, insect repellent and sunscreen. When it comes to travel documents, all visitors must have a valid passport and some citizenships require a Guatemala visa. Travel insurance is also a wise purchase for peace of mind. With a little bit of planning, you can be sure to have an amazing time when backpacking Guatemala!

Backpacking Guatemala Itinerary

Guatemala City

Guatemala City is the largest city in Guatemala and serves as a hub for many travelers looking to explore the most popular destinations in the country. The city is served by several shuttle buses that make it easy to reach most tourist destinations and Guatemala attractions. There are also chicken buses, which are local buses that are often brightly painted and decorated. In addition to shuttle buses and chicken buses, there are also many taxis and cars for hire. Guatemala City is home to a variety of popular tourist attractions, including the National Palace, the Central American Institute for Restoration and the Popol Vuh Museum. The city also has plenty of parks and green spaces, making it a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Overall, Guatemala City is a great place to start when backpacking Guatemala.

Tikal Mayan Ruins

Tikal is one of the most popular destinations when backpacking Guatemala. The ancient Mayan ruins are located in the rainforest of northern Guatemala and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tikal was once one of the largest cities in the Mayan Empire, and it is now one of the best-preserved sites from that period. Visitors can explore the ruined temples and palaces to see how the Maya lived centuries ago. Tikal is also home to a variety of wildlife, including Howler monkeys and toucans. To get to Tikal from Guatemala City, you can take a bus or a flight. The journey takes around five hours by bus and just over an hour by plane. If you are planning to visit Tikal, be sure to allow enough time to explore this fascinating archaeological site.

Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey is a natural monument in Guatemala that consists of a series of limestone pools on top of a subterranean river. The pools are fed by the river, which emerges from underground and flows through the pools before disappearing back into the earth. Semuc Champey is located in the department of Alta Verapaz, near the town of Lanquín. It is one of Guatemala’s most popular tourist destinations and is known for its beauty and dizzying array of colors, which change throughout the day as sunlight hits the water at different angles. Visitors to Semuc Champey can take a dip in the pools, hike through the surrounding jungle and explore the many caves and rivers in the area. For those looking for an adrenaline rush when backpacking Guatemala, there are also plenty of opportunities for zip-lining, tubing and rock climbing. No matter how you choose to spend your time at Semuc Champey, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Rio Dulce

It’s impossible to visit Guatemala and not be impressed by its natural beauty. From the soaring mountains of the Sierra Madre to the deep blue waters of Lake Atitlan, the country is a veritable paradise for nature lovers. However, one of the most unique and magical places in Guatemala is the Rio Dulce. This river flows through lush rainforest, home to an incredible array of plant and animal life. Monkeys swing through the treetops while brightly-colored birds flit among the flowers. With its towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls, the Rio Dulce is truly a sight to behold. And best of all, it’s easily accessible from the city of Guatemala. So if you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure, be sure to add exploring the Rio Dulce to your itinerary when backpacking Guatemala.


Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, is the second-largest city in Guatemala. Its city center is a beautiful and well-preserved example of Spanish architecture, with narrow streets and colorful buildings. The city is also surrounded by picturesque mountains, making it a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. In addition, Quetzaltenango is home to several interesting museums, including the Museum of Maya Textiles and the Museum of History. There’s also a lively market where you can find traditional Guatemalan crafts and food. Whether you’re interested in history, culture or nature, Quetzaltenango is definitely worth exploring when backpacking Guatemala.


Founded in the early 1600s, Antigua is one of Guatemala’s most pretty colonial cities. It was even once the capital of Guatemala. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Central America. Visitors to Antigua can explore its colonial architecture, stroll through its cobblestone streets, shop for handmade textiles and sip on Guatemalan coffee. There are also several Day of the Dead celebrations that take place in the city each year. With its colonial charm and festive atmosphere, Antigua is an ideal destination for travelers who want to experience Guatemalan culture.

San Marcos la Laguna