Looking for things to do in Guatemala?
Guatemala is a true melting pot of cultures, history and influences. So much so in fact that it’s not possible to talk about a single Guatemalan culture.
First-time visitors to this beautiful country will see plenty of evidence of Mayan, Mexican and Spanish culture. They all work together to shape 21st century Guatemala in different ways. With so much to see and do, it can feel overwhelming when creating your itinerary.
When the pandemic is finally over and tourism is firmly back on the agenda, plan a trip to Guatemala. Here’s some suggestions of what you can do when you’re there.
5 things to do in Guatemala
Of course, there are loads of things to do and places to visit when you’re in Guatemala. This is a very limited selection of all the sights, sounds and cultural highlights that you will experience.
- Head to one of the many beautiful churches
Since the arrival of the Conquistadors in the 16th century, Guatemala has been predominately Catholic. But churches often incorporate the Mayan culture and ancient religion too. You’ll see Mayan decorations, and sometimes even animal offerings. This makes visiting churches in Guatemala very different from the experience in other countries. And it’s definitely worth doing. Head to the Santo Tomas church in Chichicastenango or La Iglesia de San Andres de Xecul in Quetzaltenago for two great examples.
- Sample chocolate fruit
Guatemala is, of course, famous for its chocolate and is often credited as the original birthplace of one of the most popular foods in the world. But you can also find a different kind of chocolate in Guatemala in the form of the ‘chocolate pudding fruit’. Its proper name is black sapote, and its texture and flavour isn’t like chocolate. Neither is its texture like a pudding. My advice is to forget about its name and try it with an open mind. You will find a delicious mix of caramel, date and honey flavours, with a texture similar to a soaked date.
- Enjoy a Salsa lesson
Music plays a major part in Guatemalan culture. You’ll discover African-influenced Garifuna music if you’re on the Caribbean coast. Or you might prefer the classical music concerts in Guatemala’s world-class concert hall. And then you’ll see salsa music and dancing pretty much everywhere. While you may assume salsa is more of a Cuban dance, Guatemala is a great place to learn this dance. It does, of course, hail from Cuba by way of New York dance clubs, but in Antigua you’ll find loads of places to learn and enjoy this dance. One of the most popular salsa schools in Antigua is called Salsa Stylo, who even offer free classes on Saturdays. Not only do visitors learn how to dance, but they’ll also pick up some Spanish words.
- Discover Mayan textiles
One of the most beautiful and visually striking examples of Guatemalan art that is influenced by the Mayan culture can be seen in the textiles. You will see them everywhere throughout the country and can find museums and craft centres dedicated to them. If you head to some of the areas that are still populated by Mayan people, such as Lake Atitlán, you will see some of the most talented weavers possible.
The colourful shirt that you will see everywhere is a traditional weaved garment called a huipiles. The patterns of the fabric correspond to different regions and are very important to local people. Another speciality made with woven textiles is a colourful woven hair band called Cintas.
- Check out a firework display
Guatemalans love fireworks and enthusiastically use them as a backdrop to jyust about every kind of public event. Firework displays are apparent at everything from traditional Mayan religious ceremonies to football matches, weddings and even funerals.
And at specific times of festivity, such as Christmas and the 11 December (Virgin of Guadelupe Day) and Independence Day in September (celebrating freedom from Spanish rule), there are days of fireworks and celebrations to enjoy.