Colonial Architecture

Antigua Guatemala’s colonial show pony is a riot of gorgeous cobblestoned streetscapes, crumbling ruins and noble churches.

Iglesia San Andrés Xecul Colonial/indigenous fusion at its wildest, this small church features a phantasmagoric facade laced with Maya imagery.

Guatemala City While most of the city is fabulously ugly, there are some definite gems here, particularly in the Centro Historico.

Cobán This cute hilltop town has a couple of real lookers, some of which have been converted into charming hotels.

Quetzaltenango The country's second city has some great old buildings, especially around the Parque Central.

Volcanoes

Tajumulco Central America’s highest point is a relatively easy climb, particularly if you take two days and camp overnight.

Pacaya An easy day trip from Antigua, this smoking, lava-dribbling peak is an all-time favorite for hikers.

Santa María Get an early start and catch the sunrise and views that stretch from Mexico to Antigua and out to the Pacific.

San Pedro A moderate half-day hike rewards you with gorgeous views of Lago de Atitlán and surrounds.

Ruins

Tikal This regional superstar is well on the tourist trail, but totally worth the visit for its soaring, jungle-shrouded temples.

El Mirador A little hard to get to (unless you pony up for the helicopter ride), you can watch archaeologists at work at this former megacity.

Copán Just over the border in Honduras, this site hosts some of the finest carvings and stonework in the region.

Aguateca Impressive clifftop Maya site with walls and chasm defenses and tremendous views, accessible by river trip only.

Takalik Abaj The only really impressive set of ruins on the Pacific Coast shows evidence of some of the earliest links between Olmec and Maya cultures.

Off-the-Beaten-Track Places

Chajul Step back in time and experience life as it has been lived for hundreds of years in this very traditional town.

Laguna Magdalena Saddle up your horse with Unicornio Azul to visit this turquoise lagoon nestled in the Cuchamatanes mountain range.

San Mateo Ixtatán Up near the Mexican border, this cute village is surrounded by spectacular scenery.

Tilapita This classic one-hotel beach town is a great place to take a breather and watch the world go (slowly) by.

Wildlife

Monterrico Save a turtle, spot a whale or go birdwatching in the mangroves from this Pacific coast village.

Biotopo del Quetzal The cloud forest of this reserve near Cobán is home to a plethora of bird species, including the national bird, the resplendent quetzal.

Río Dulce If you’re very quiet and very lucky, you might just spot a manatee or a crocodile near the banks of this jungle-shrouded river.

Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas Biologists travel to this research station in a protected jungle reserve to study jaguars, crocodiles, turtles and exotic scarlet macaws.

Handicrafts & Textiles

Chichicastenango Central America’s oldest and largest handicrafts market is a visual feast and souvenir heaven.

Antigua For a tourist-town market, prices are reasonable and shopping is reasonably hassle-free with a country-wide selection of goods

Santiago Atitlán Maya women weave textiles as they have for centuries in this Tz’utujil community on Lago de Atitlán’s southern shore. See the work and the process at the excellent Cojolya Museum.

Panajachel Sure, they’re pushy, but the street vendors and roadside stalls in this lakeside town have some of the best collections of textiles, at very reasonable prices.

Doing Nothing

San Marcos La Laguna Taking it easy is pretty much a way of life in Guatemala’s lakeside yoga and wellness hub.

Lanquín Sure there are caves to explore and rivers to tube… tomorrow…

El Paredón You can hit the surf at this Pacific village, but there are some equally important beach hammocks to test out for an afternoon or three.

Río Dulce Kick back riverside for a few days in a secluded jungle lodge.

Earth Lodge Chill out on an avocado farm in the hills above Antigua.