Guatemala is considered to have some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes and natural features in all of Central America. But, many of these sights are not just about nature itself; they do carry some culture and history behind them, making Guatemala one of the most alluring destinations in the region.
To tap into scenic side of Guatemala, here are some of the best natural sights you shouldn't miss on your next trip.
Formed by the crater of a (now extinct) giant volcano, today this lake is surrounded by several other (active) volcanoes. That description alone sounds stunning and intriguing, but there's more to Atitlan than the volcanoes. You can drive and bike around the giant lake, hopping between towns or even boat around the lake for fun and go diving. But, beyond that, the best thing to do in and around the lake is take in the slower pace of life people enjoy there.
This active volcano is located close to Antigua, so it is easy to do a half-day trip to hike it. In the past, the volcano featured more lava, but since its eruption in 2010, some of the lava flow has been covered. Still, when you hike to its base you can see some lava and feel the heat coming out of its crevices.
Often described as one of the most beautiful spots in Guatemala, Semuc Champey is a series of stepped natural pools and waterfalls that sit on top of an underground river in between a narrow canyon. You can hike along the river to see the underground entrance and exit of the Cahabon River, as well as explore the caves nearby the pools. If you're up for it, you can also take a relaxing river tubing ride down the river.
El Peten is a massive province comprised primarily of untouched tropical rainforest. Beyond that, it is also home to many of the country's Mayan ruins. If you're into bird watching, then this is the place to go. Take a guided tour through its natural reserves to spot the unique fauna and enjoy the lush flora.
Translated as The Seven Altars, these are seven waterfalls flowing progressively through a narrow canyon in the middle of the forest. The last waterfall is the largest, and it ends in a natural pool perfect for swimming.
A great volcano to climb to its summit to see down the crater of an active sister volcano Santiaguito, this is definitely an adventure not to be missed. But even if you don't look into Santiaguito, Volcan Santa Maria is in itself an imposing sight and a challenging experience, taking about three to four hours to reach the summit. It is possible to camp at the summit to get one of the most beautiful panoramic views in all of Guatemala. Be aware that it gets cold up there though, so bring warm clothes.
Beyond being a beautiful river flowing through tropical rainforests and narrow canyons from Lago Izabal all the way down to the Caribbean Sea, this is also a great place to find hot pools where you can swim freely and relax. Of course, in a country with so many volcanoes, you should dip into its hot, mineral-rich waters!
Last but not least on this list is the Tortugario. This is a turtle protection center located in the Monterrico natural park. Not only it is a beautiful place to visit, but it is also a great place to learn about the life cycle of giant sea turtles. And if you're lucky, you might see the turtle eggs as they are hatching and even help facilitate the release of baby sea turtles into the ocean. Should you visit outside of the hatching season, there's still enough wildlife to see there, including caimans, birds, and iguanas. Beyond the animals, there are great hikes around the park and along the beautiful volcanic, black sand beach.
These are enough natural sights to fill a two-week trip (or longer) in Guatemala, but I guarantee you, this is just scratching the surface of what the country has to offer.
Have you been to Guatemala? What did you think?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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