When country-hopping across Latin America, travelers normally have their hearts set on Mexico’s pristine beaches, Colombia’s vibrant city breaks, or Brazil’s extensive Atlantic coast, but this geopolitical entity, which extends from the southernmost part of North America to the South, still has numerous hidden spots yet to be discovered.
One of them is Guatemala, a promising destination in the post-pandemic scene and arguably one of the most underrated countries in the region:
Is Guatemala The Most Promising Destination In Central America?
Guatemala is a small nation in Central America located south of Mexico and bordering three other Latin American states: Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. Out of the bunch, it is not the most popular tourist site, being largely overshadowed by Mexico’s international prestige as a well-developed beach destination.
While Cancun alone draws in 30 million visitors on average each year, the whole of Guatemala attracted only 2.56 million in 2019. Granted, it is a much smaller country than Mexico, with a size equivalent to a Mexican state, but there’s Guatemala’s true potential as a tourist destination is yet to be unleashed:
- It has stunning a natural scenery
- Historical Mayan ruins that see only a small fraction of Mexico’s overwhelming tourism
- Much cheaper than its Central American counterparts, especially Costa Rica
- No COVID entry requirements for 2023
Despite not being as developed compared to Costa Rica, Central America’s leading destination in visitor numbers, Guatemala has a similar appeal, boasting a vast nature that comprises active volcanoes, dense rainforests, and unruffled sandy beaches.
Guatemala’s Natural Wealth Is Unmatched
One of the most beautiful natural sites in Guatemala is Lake Atitlan, a scenic reserve in the country’s wild Southwest. It is bounded by green hills and rugged volcanoes easily discerned by their conic shape. Nearby, the small town of Panajachel is famous for its long-standing textile tradition and souvenir shopping.
Other natural wonders include Tajamulco Volcano, a favorite among adventure seekers, not only because it is the highest elevation in Central America at 4,220 meters, accessible via a virgin forest, but due to its strategic location. From atop the mountain, climbers can clearly see Mexico from across the Western border and facing south of El Salvador.
Monterrico, on the other hand, is a hotspot for wildlife sightings. An untouched tropical paradise situated on Guatemala’s Pacific coast, it acts as a haven for numerous threatened species, such as sea turtles and iguanas. The beaches are also a highlight, extending for miles on end, lined with palm trees and featuring an up-and-coming resort scene.
Deep in the jungle, the Semuc Champey, or ‘Sacred Water’, is a collection of layered pools sitting on a nature-made limestone overpass. It may be remote and harder to reach, but being able to swim in the jade-colored waters while admiring the endless green expanse below is surely worth the long journey.
A Hugely Underrated Cultural Hotspot
If it’s culture you’re after, you won’t be disappointed, either: Guatemala City, the country’s largest urban center and bustling capital, has a plethora of cultural centers deserving of your time, with the imposing National Palace of Culture, and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology serving as prime examples of world-class local museums.
The capital is equally renowned for its nightlife: after dark, the Zona viva and Cuatro Grados Norte districts come to life with young revelers spewing out of bars, locals dining alfresco on tables set along the kerbside, and live music venues operating until the wee hours.
For a quieter atmosphere, crowd-wary visitors should head instead to Antigua Guatemala, or ‘Old Guatemala’, west of Guatemala City, a Baroque gem designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, what with its cobblestone paths, colorful facades, and majestic colonial-era churches.
Lastly, Guatemala is home to some of the best-preserved ruins in the cross-border Mayan World: the mighty Tikal was once a wealthy city-state in Mesoamerica, and Historians now call it the ‘best understood’ of all the large lowland Mayan conurbations, while Nakbe is widely accepted to be the first Mayan city ever built.
Both are tourist-friendly archaeological zones within Guatemala.
No Health Restrictions Apply
There are no COVID entry requirements for Americans visiting Guatemala in 2023, making it one of the easiest destinations to explore in Latin America, a region that is yet to fully lift its health-related curbs:
- No vaccination required
- No pre-departure testing, regardless of vaccination status
- No mandatory health insurance
- No Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs) that need filling out
In sum, entry to Guatemala is a breeze.
The primary international airport in Guatemala is La Aurora International, serving Guatemala City. There are scheduled flights from Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Fort Lauderdale, and Houston, among other U.S. departure points.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com