• Laura Bachmann

5 Best Summer Vacation Destinations

Whether your ideal summer vacation involves a relaxing beach scene, a big city stay, an action-packed adventure, or days of exploring history, Guatemala has the perfect summer vacation destinations.

We consider it the best Central American destination. This is a beautiful land with truly breathtaking landscapes, like the iconic Lake Atitlán and the exotic black sand beaches from volcanic ash. It’s a place filled with nature, with 19 eco-systems and 300 microclimates, it’s home to over 30 volcanoes and 118 wildlife preserves. And this land, with an amazing diversity of people, traditions and cultures, offers the heart of the Maya world. Guatemala represents a people that enliven the land, expressing themselves through languages, traditions, dress and folkloric festivals, and celebrate their faith and historic deeds with magnificent colorfulness.

1. The Beach – Monterrico and Livingston

Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the country has two very different beach scenes with plenty of fun-filled activities for the whole family to enjoy. Not interested in Fishing the Sailfish Capital of the World, or having the wind blow through your hair on a magical horseback riding trip down the black sand beach of the Pacific, then melt your stresses away in an intimate villa by the water with private massages and perfectly made cocktails.

On the Pacific side , help the baby sea turtles find their way to the sea, hitch a ride on a Mangrove Tour on the Nature Reserve, or take a surfing class. Head out for a fun-filled day of fishing, or knock off one of your bucket-list items and enjoy a full day of Whale Watching. In addition to the daily sightings of dolphins, turtles, and manta rays, pilot whales and whale sharks can be seen throughout the year, with the famous Humpback Whales and Sperm Whales completing their visits in the beginning of summer.

Ready for that cocktail? Head over to the Caribbean side for a rare chance to try Gifiti, a distinct drink that is prepared by soaking roots, herbs, and spices in rum, a Garifuna specialty. Livingston, hosts an amazing combination of peoples and cultures, with Garifuna, Ladino, and Mayans all coming together to make Livingston the most unique cultural destination around. Stay awhile and feel the excitement as the primera and segunda drums accompanied by the traditional turtle shell and conch are heard echoing down the streets of this “no worries” beach town.

2. Action Adventure – Alta Verapaz

More interested in satiating the inner thrill seeker, then a beach vacay? Take a trip over to Alta Verapaz! This Guatemalan Department is full of natural adventure. From white water rafting, rappelling, and tubing to exploring hidden caves and discovering jungle cenotés, you’re sure to find excitement here. In addition to the truly epic adventures found in this area, you will fall in love with the natural beauty in Alta Verapaz.

From Semuc Champey’s picturesque staircase of turquoise pools, the national park of Laguna Lachúa’s circular lake surrounded by a dense tropical jungle, and the Chelemhá Cloud Forest Reserve's pristine cloud forest of evergreen broadleaf forest full of flora and fauna, you cannot go wrong if you love nature. Guatemala with over 300 microclimates, offers an inspiring opportunity to explore nature that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

3. Experience the Lake

The Jade-green crater lake nestled between a ring of breath-taking volcanoes makes Lake Atitlán a must see simply for its beauty. However, the volcano hikes and bike tours, lake kayaking, unique Mayan culture and local artistry and tradition will move a visit to Lake Atitlán to the top of your list for Central American destinations.

Decided by many to be the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Atitlán is definitely a must-see location and one of Guatemala's most sought after travel destinations. The lake's surroundings offer many options to experience the life at the lake. From the main town of Panajachel (Pana) boat taxis are available to access the traditional Mayan villages of San Juan and Santiago, just across the lake. Pana is also a great location to plan activities. Snorkeling, scuba diving, daily kayak rentals, and a trip to the nature reserve, where guests can zip line through the majestic beauty of the lake are popular among visitors. Lake Atitlán is not just for activities and adventure. Many hotels and restaurants offer access to the impressive view and immersion into nature, with the lake's relaxing sounds of lapping water on the shoreline and assortment of unique and wonderful birds.

4. Charming Colonial City – Antigua

La Antigua has been named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is a central location for many visitors. Antigua is a great city to visit during your time in Guatemala. Located just over 20 miles from Guatemala City and the International airport, many guests enjoy a day or two at the beginning or end of their stay.

The city has so much to offer to visitors, as it was once the country's capital and adorned with several must-see landmarks and historical gems. Some of Guatemala's best sight-seeing adventures can start in Antigua with stops like Santa Catalina Arch; Volcán de Agua; Volcán de Fuego; San Francisco church and ruins; Santo Domingo ruins; La Merced church and ruins; and of course Antigua’s weekly market days.

Panza Verde, or green belly was the name given to those that remained in Antigua after the capital was moved to Guatemala City. It is said that the people received this name because of their reliance on avocados for a food source after the damage to the city from earthquakes. The nearly 500-year-old city, founded in 1542, Antigua was the first planned city in the Americas, structured on a rigid grid pattern, and is easily recognized by its cobblestone streets. In 1979, Antigua Guatemala became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered a cultural gem in Central America because of its vibrant culture, historical significance, and rare beauty.

Come stay a day, walk the city, enjoy a dinner show of Marimba dancers, and take a chocolate making class or a local cooking workshop.

5. Ancient Mayan City of Tikal

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal National Park, is located within the Petén Department. This 360 square mile protected national park is located on the edge of the “Reserva de la Biósfera Maya”, where a large assortment of animal species can be found. The park’s main attribute is the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, Tikal (Tik’al).

The Department of El Petén occupies approximately a third of the country, yet its population represents only about 4%. This huge expanse of tropical rainforest, swamps and savannah forms part of an untamed wilderness that stretches into the Lacandón forest and collects Maya cities from late pre-classic and classic period (400 B.C. to 900 A.D). With so little of the site restored the tropical forest continues to occupy much of the area. The national park is home to several species of wildlife including the jaguar, toucans, parrots, parakeets, howler and spider monkeys, wild turkeys, agouti, and numerous other animals.​

Take a sunrise tour of the ruins of Tikal and experience a truly amazing trip back in time while you hike through the jungle listening to the sounds of the howler monkeys waking up the forest. Watch the sun rise over a collection of the city’s temples and enjoy the playful spider monkeys dance from tree to tree.

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