Backpacking Guatemala

Guatemala is a very special insider tip. In the Mayan language, Guatemala means 'land of trees'. Once you're there, you won't be able to stop marvelling. And when you leave, you'll leave with unforgettable memories and a smile on your face.



Have fun exploring our ideal backpacking itinerary for Guatemala.


Important Basics

Official language: Spanish
EnglishSpanisch
HelloHola
Goodbyechau
Thank youGracias
Yes
NoNo
Capital city

Guatemala City

Form of government

Presidential Republic

Best time to travel

December, February, April, May

Currency

Quetzal

Telephone area code

+502

Fun Facts
  • The largest collection of UNESCO World Heritage sites is found in Guatemala.
  • It is estimated that half of the people in Guatemala are descendants of the Mayas.
  • In the Mayan-Aztek language, Guatemala is called the “country of trees”.

Cities

Antigua

You’ll probably land in Guatemala City, the country’s capital, but it’s not tourist-friendly and not worth visiting – so hop on a shuttle for about 10 euros and go check out Antigua.

Antigua was the capital of Guatemala until 1773 when it was destroyed by an intense earthquake. Today, it’s the most beautiful city in the country and is a cultural and culinary hotspot.

The picturesque old town, which you can easily explore on foot, is characterized by imposing, reconstructed Renaissance buildings, richly decorated facades, and baroque churches and cathedrals. There are also many museums, parks, traditional restaurants, and cozy cafes around the Plaza Mayor.

Don’t forget to visit La Bodegona supermarket, which is quite popular among backpackers, where you can try bread, nuts, whiskey, cheese, and countless other treats. This supermarket also offers the craziest promotions – one day you could buy a bottle of rum get offered toilet cleaner for free!

Want more adventure? Then be sure to check out the nearby (active!) Pacaya volcano.

Stay in the historic center of Antigua for 10 euros a night in a four-bed dorm.

Santa Cruz La Laguna

Next, go to Santa Cruz La Laguna by bus for about 25 euros.

This peaceful Mayan village is located on Lake Atitlán, the second largest lake in Guatemala. The German scientist Alexander von Humboldt described it as “the most beautiful lake in the world,” and at 1,500 meters above sea level surrounded by three volcanoes, it’s probably the most spectacular natural wonder of Guatemala and offers incredible panoramic views.

Charming, authentic Santa Cruz is the perfect base for excursions. Take a hike or mountain bike tour and explore the spectacular, serene landscape with its grass-green terraces and hills surrounding the lake. Go kayaking, swim in azure-blue waters, and discover hidden bays. You can even go diving through underwater houses that have been flooded by the lake’s rising water levels.

Pay 6 euros to stay the night in Santa Cruz in an eight-bed dorm.

Semuc Champey

For around 45 euros, a shuttle will take you further inland to one of the country's most popular attractions, Semuc Champey, which means “where the water hides” in the Mayan Q'eqchi' language.

This stunning natural monument lies right in the middle of the rainforest and is famed for its tiered, turquoise pools, up to three meters deep, formed by the underground Río Cahabón. Swimming in the natural pools is the perfect opportunity to cool down from the jungle’s hot temperatures. If you go late in the afternoon, you’ll have the place almost all to yourself to relax and watch the cyan-colored water shimmer in the evening light.

The nearby village of Lanquín is a great starting point to explore the surrounding area and its other cave systems, underground waterfalls, and rivers where you can go tubing.

Spend the night nearby for 11 euros in a seven-bed dorm.

Flores

Your last stop is Flores, in northern Guatemala – get there by shuttle for about 22 euros.

Flores is located on an island on Lake Petén Itzá and is connected to the mainland by a small dam. This tiny town is usually the point of departure for tours to Tikal and its towering temples. Tikal, the legendary 2,000-year-old Mayan city deep in the rainforest, should be at the top of your list of things to do in Flores.

With its relaxing atmosphere, colorful colonial houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and cozy restaurants, the island city is a small and peaceful oasis. Take a refreshing swim in the lake or a stroll along the promenade with a cold drink in your hand and enjoy breathtaking sunsets over the water.

For no more than some pocket change, you can go to the mainland by boat and hike to various lookout points for a wonderful view of Lake Petén Itzá and Flores Island.

An overnight stay in a hostel costs 10 euros for a four-bed dorm.

From the nearby Mundo Maya International Airport, you can catch a flight back to

Guatemala City starting from 90. After two unforgettable weeks in Guatemala, you’ll make the journey home.


Antigua

Antigua

You’ll probably land in Guatemala City, the country’s capital, but it’s not tourist-friendly and not worth visiting – so hop on a shuttle for about 10 euros and go check out Antigua.

Antigua was the capital of Guatemala until 1773 when it was destroyed by an intense earthquake. Today, it’s the most beautiful city in the country and is a cultural and culinary hotspot.

The picturesque old town, which you can easily explore on foot, is characterized by imposing, reconstructed Renaissance buildings, richly decorated facades, and baroque churches and cathedrals. There are also many museums, parks, traditional restaurants, and cozy cafes around the Plaza Mayor.

Don’t forget to visit La Bodegona supermarket, which is quite popular among backpackers, where you can try bread, nuts, whiskey, cheese, and countless other treats. This supermarket also offers the craziest promotions – one day you could buy a bottle of rum get offered toilet cleaner for free!

Want more adventure? Then be sure to check out the nearby (active!) Pacaya volcano.

Stay in the historic center of Antigua for 10 euros a night in a four-bed dorm.

Santa Cruz La Laguna

Santa Cruz La Laguna

Next, go to Santa Cruz La Laguna by bus for about 25 euros.

This peaceful Mayan village is located on Lake Atitlán, the second largest lake in Guatemala. The German scientist Alexander von Humboldt described it as “the most beautiful lake in the world,” and at 1,500 meters above sea level surrounded by three volcanoes, it’s probably the most spectacular natural wonder of Guatemala and offers incredible panoramic views.

Charming, authentic Santa Cruz is the perfect base for excursions. Take a hike or mountain bike tour and explore the spectacular, serene landscape with its grass-green terraces and hills surrounding the lake. Go kayaking, swim in azure-blue waters, and discover hidden bays. You can even go diving through underwater houses that have been flooded by the lake’s rising water levels.

Pay 6 euros to stay the night in Santa Cruz in an eight-bed dorm.

Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey

For around 45 euros, a shuttle will take you further inland to one of the country's most popular attractions, Semuc Champey, which means “where the water hides” in the Mayan Q'eqchi' language.

This stunning natural monument lies right in the middle of the rainforest and is famed for its tiered, turquoise pools, up to three meters deep, formed by the underground Río Cahabón. Swimming in the natural pools is the perfect opportunity to cool down from the jungle’s hot temperatures. If you go late in the afternoon, you’ll have the place almost all to yourself to relax and watch the cyan-colored water shimmer in the evening light.

The nearby village of Lanquín is a great starting point to explore the surrounding area and its other cave systems, underground waterfalls, and rivers where you can go tubing.

Spend the night nearby for 11 euros in a seven-bed dorm.

Flores

Flores

Your last stop is Flores, in northern Guatemala – get there by shuttle for about 22 euros.

Flores is located on an island on Lake Petén Itzá and is connected to the mainland by a small dam. This tiny town is usually the point of departure for tours to Tikal and its towering temples. Tikal, the legendary 2,000-year-old Mayan city deep in the rainforest, should be at the top of your list of things to do in Flores.

With its relaxing atmosphere, colorful colonial houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and cozy restaurants, the island city is a small and peaceful oasis. Take a refreshing swim in the lake or a stroll along the promenade with a cold drink in your hand and enjoy breathtaking sunsets over the water.

For no more than some pocket change, you can go to the mainland by boat and hike to various lookout points for a wonderful view of Lake Petén Itzá and Flores Island.

An overnight stay in a hostel costs 10 euros for a four-bed dorm.

From the nearby Mundo Maya International Airport, you can catch a flight back to

Guatemala City starting from 90. After two unforgettable weeks in Guatemala, you’ll make the journey home.

Guatemala Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home – Guatemala City
Home – Guatemala City
Flight
360
Four-bed dorm
10
2. Antigua
Antigua
-
Four-bed dorm
10
3. Antigua
Antigua
-
Four-bed dorm
10
4. Antigua - Santa Cruz La Laguna
Antigua - Santa Cruz La Laguna
Shuttle
25
Eight-bed dorm
6
5. Santa Cruz La Laguna
Santa Cruz La Laguna
-
Eight-bed dorm
6
6. Santa Cruz La Laguna
Santa Cruz La Laguna
-
Eight-bed dorm
6
7. Santa Cruz La Laguna - Semuc Champey
Santa Cruz La Laguna - Semuc Champey
Shuttle
45
Seven-bed dorm
11
8. Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
-
Seven-bed dorm
11
9. Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
-
Seven-bed dorm
11
10. Semuc Champey - Flores
Semuc Champey - Flores
Shuttle
22
Four-bed dorm
10
11. Flores
Flores
-
Four-bed dorm
10
12. Flores
Flores
-
Four-bed dorm
10
13. Flores - Guatemala City - Home
Flores - Guatemala City - Home
Flight
410

Total price.

Flights 790,00
Transportation 102,00
Tours 38,00
Accommodation 111,00
Total1041,00

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deine eigene

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Plátanos fritos:  A classic breakfast item, these fried plantains are often served with bread or beans and rice.

Soups

Kak’ik: This tasty, traditional soup features turkey in a spicy broth made with coriander and chili.

Main courses

Pepián: This traditional stew of meat and roasted vegetables has Mayan origins and is one of Guatemala’s oldest dishes. It’s usually served with tortillas and rice.

Enchiladas: Most Guatemalan enchiladas are quite different from the ones you may be used to and consist of a toasted tortilla topped with meat, veggies, and herbs. Sometimes vegetarian versions are available, too.

Tortillas: This classic, Central American staple is, of course, also found in Guatemala and served with many meals. It’s also used as an ingredient in dishes like dobladas guatemaltecas and filled with minced meat and/or vegetables.

Shucos: Sandwiches with guacamole, grilled sausage, and other meat, and topped with various sauces. A super delicious street food!

Drinks

Gallo: Das ist die beliebteste Biersorte in Guatemala und ein Muss für jeden Backpacker.

Ron Zacapa: This popular Guatemalan rum is distilled from sugarcane and can also be used in mixed drinks.

Guatemala

The exchange rate for 10 Guatemalan Quetzal is around €1.21 (as of February 2020). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of living 

Food

Free time

Personal hygiene

Dos

Be careful at the border: If you cross the border, pay close attention, as you can easily get scammed.

Cash: Always carry a little cash with you because ATMs are hard to come by.

Try the coffee: Guatemalan coffee is a specialty that should not be missed.

Don'ts

Don't take a picture without permission: This is equally true for locals who love to take pictures of tourists. Ask first and you shouldn’t have any problems!

Leave your flip-flops at home: If you’re exploring ancient ruins, flip-flops are not appropriate footwear.

Don't flush the toilet paper: Locals have set out special buckets for it.

Don't travel at night: Always avoid the streets after dark.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

Not necessary 

Vaccine

Yes 

Additional Remarks.

All travel documents must be valid for six months upon entry. We recommend researching the travel document, visa and entry requirements for your home country before your departure. If you travel to Guatemala, consult a health care provider before you leave to discuss vaccination requirements.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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