Guatemala (in Spanish: República de Guatemala), is a country in central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the southeast. Tourism is the main driver of the country’s economy, with the arrival of 2 million visitors annually. The country is notorious for dangerous violence, but if you have an understanding of where to go and where to avoid, then you can have the trip of a lifetime. Here are few places where you can explore this most populated central American country.

Tikal

The name Tikal translates as “Places of Voices”. Found in a rainforest in Guatemala, Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. The site is a part of Guatemala’s Tikal national park and in 1979 it was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is one of the top tourist attractions in Guatemala due to its beauty and ancient wonders. There are thousands of ancient structures at Tikal and only a fraction of these have been excavated. The most prominent surviving buildings include six very large pyramids, labelled Temples I–VI. The city is surrounded by a large wildlife preserve, full of monkeys, parrots, dear and other incredible specimens.

Tikal

Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán is a lake in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range. The word Atitlán means “at the water” in Nahuatl. The lake is renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and is Guatemala’s most important national and international tourist attraction. The shores of the scenic lake are flecked with Indian villages. The main towns along the lake, including Panajachel, Atitlán, and San Lucas, are popular with anthropologists and tourists. The lake is described by Lonely Planet (largest travel guide book publisher in the world) as “the closest thing to Eden on Earth”. With seven Mayan towns around the lake and countless things to do, you could spend weeks here without wanting to leave.

Guatemala City

The capital of Guatemala, Guatemala City is known for its Mayan history, high altitude location and nearby volcanoes. Guatemala City is an essential stop for the visitor who wants to get a better sense of what the economic, social and political situation is really like for the people who call Guate home. It is the largest city of Guatemala and most populous in Central America. The city is a home to Eiffel Tower (Yes, it has!). Okay, in true sense, it doesn’t have the actual or eve the replica. It is the joke residents make that the Tower of Reformer, found in zone nine, is their own version. Here, you can have a drink at the same bar as Che Guevara. In how many places in the world you can do that?

With ancient Mayan ruins to peek at, a stunning lake to reflect in, and exotic local wares that are both beautiful and affordable, this fairly sizeable (& economical of course!) country is worth its own stamp on the passport.

Guatemala City