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Backpacking in Guatemala

During a visit to Central America you should also stop in Guatemala. On the relatively small territory a big climate variety expects you, which is to be led back above all to the quite facet-rich relief of the country. After all it goes up from sea zero up to 4220 m. In addition to the mountainous interior of the country, you can discover vast mangrove forests on the Pacific and dense cloud forests in the higher altitudes. You’ll be able to visit ancient pre-Columbian cities such as the world-famous Mayan city of Tikal with its more than 4,000 buildings, or venture a detour to the indigenous peoples.

Guatemala also has a number of cultural and adventurous spots to offer. After all, the country borders on two oceans and the first traces of human settlement in Guatemala date back 12,000 years. You will meet a friendly people who still appreciate the hospitality. It is not quite as lonely as in some countries of South America in the different regions, as more than 12 million Guatemalans crowd on a terrain of only a little more than 100 000 km2. But it does not get narrow if one considers that in Begien, 11 million inhabitants live on an area of approximately 30 000 km2.

Backpacking in Guatemala

Backpacking in Guatemala

However, you will find a colourful mix of languages consisting of Spanish and 23 other recognised indigenous languages, including the Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna and Xinc. Among the best places in the country are the quiet coastal towns and a visit to the capital Guatemala City, the ancient colonial era in the style of Antigua Guatemala, which is almost entirely UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You should also make a detour to Flores on the island of Peten and start from Panajachel to the famous Lago Atitlán. An adventure awaits you at the Rio Dulce and you will discover the remains of the extinct Mayan culture in AguatecaEl Peru (Waká) or in Iximché. Traveling in Guatemala is easy and inexpensive. How you can manage with relatively low travel costs on a trip to Guatemala at all.

Indigenous diversity in Guatemala

More than 6 million indigenous people live in Guatemala. That is 60 percent of the total population. This makes Guatemala the country with the highest indigenous population density in Latin America after Bolivia. The various tribes include the Achi’, Akateco, Awakateco, Chalchiteco, Ch’orti’, Itza’, Jacalteco, Kaqchikel, K’iche’ and the Mam.

Although Spanish is the official language of the country, 23 other Mayan languages are spoken. Spanish is spoken by about 60 percent of the population. There are also the Xinca and the Garífuna. The latter language is spoken by the descendants of the African Guatemalans in Izabal.

Backpacking in Guatemala - Alter Herr

Backpacking in Guatemala – Old man

Tradition and culture in Guatemala

Of course, when you visit a country with so many different tribes, you’ll also find a diverse cultural landscape that ranges from the pre-Columbian Mayan period, through the Spanish epoch, to modern times. Each time has left its traces in cultural and architectural terms, which you can explore. In the 22 provinces you will encounter such unique cultural customs as El Palo Volador.

The prehistoric dance, which also survived the Spanish epoch, is, so to speak, the cultural showpiece of the country. Hanging on two long ropes, two artists “fly” in a circle around a rather high pole. Equally important is the Danza del Torito, which tells the story of a foreman of a hacienda who forbids his cowboys a bullfight. These make the foreman so drunk that he is killed in the fight with the bravest bull. A colourful spectacle awaits you with a cheering crowd. Don’t forget the camera, you won’t shoot such pictures again.

Backpacker Route in Guatemala

Man kann auch Trampen

You can also hitchhike

There are a lot of backpacker routes in Guatemala. However, as the country is not very big, it is also possible to explore it completely in a relatively short period of time. However, due to the great variety of touristic highlights, this is not possible in three weeks. The best thing is to combine a little beach holiday with some adventure holiday and a little bit of cultural holiday. Of course, depending on your taste, this can also be done in a different way.

As always, when planning the backpacker routes through Guatemala it is crucial how much time and budget is available. Of course, what you want to see is also important. We present you a good mixture of culture, adventure and activities here. The routes are of course variable expandable. See it as an idea and basic framework for further suggestions. But now a few suggestions for a few backpacker routes times with and times without suggestions for activities and trips:


Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)

  • 2 days to experience colonial Antigua Guatemala.
  • 1 day enjoy the natural pools Semuc Champey in Alta Verapaz.
  • 2 days at Lago de Amatitlán.
  • 4 days to explore the volcanic islands in Lago de Atitlán.
  • 2 days to discover the Maya culture in Tikal.
  • 1 day excursion to the old military fortress in the Río Dulce.
  • 2 days hanging out at the dream beach Playa Blanca in Izabal.
  • 1 day shopping at the market mercado de Chichicastenango for indigenous handicrafts.
  • 1-2 days Livingston and its white beaches, lagoons and bays experience.
Guatemala Backpacker

Guatemala Backpacker

Route 2: All or Nothing (32–42 Tage)

  • 2 days to experience colonial Antigua Guatemala.
  • 1 day enjoy the natural pools Semuc Champey in AltaVerapaz.
  • 2 days at Lago de Amatitlán.
  • 4 days to explore the volcanic islands in Lago de Atitlán.
  • 2 days to discover the Maya culture in Tikal.
  • 1 day excursion to the old military fortress in the Río Dulce.
  • 2 days hanging out at the dream beach Playa Blanca in Izabal.
  • 1 day shopping at the market mercado de Chichicastenango for indigenous handicrafts.
  • 1-2 days Livingston and its white beaches, lagoons and bays experience.
  • 3 days exploring nightlife and cultural diversity in Xela.
  • 2 days in the national park Quetzal in the cloud forests explore the national bird of the same name and the breathtaking nature ambience.
  • Experience 2 days the Río Dulce, which connects the Lago de Izabal with the Caribbean. There are also unique species such as the Manati.
  • 2 days to enjoy the black volcanic beaches of Monterrico.
  • 1 day ascent to the Volcán de Ipala and the lagoon inside.
  • 1 day to visit the sophisticated baroque Basílica de Esquipulas in the department of Chiquimula.
  • 1 day to relax in the spas of Georginas.
  • 1 day to climb the lava-spitting Volcán de Pacaya.
  • 3 days at the dream beaches of Punta de Manabique depend.

Climate in Guatemala

In Guatemala you have to be prepared for extreme climatic differences. In the northern part of the country, which is covered with dense jungle, it is usually oppressively hot. In the zone around Antigua, you can endure it a little better thanks to a more moderate climate. In the area around Monterrico it is really hot all year round. In the rainy season, between mid-May and mid-October, it cools down for a short time, but some destinations are hard to reach because of the flooded roads.

The hottest season, especially on the coasts, is in March and April. Ideal travel time are the months February to April / May. Especially a visit to the jungle and the ruins of Tikal can only be possible to a limited extent during the rainy season. October and November are again quite a good travel period. December and January can be very cold, especially at night.

Backpacker Budget in Guatemala

With a large travel budget you don’t have to plan a trip to Guatemala. All countries except Costa Rica are quite cheap to travel in the region. Calculate two dollars per meal. A small beer can cost a dollar. Strangely enough, the food in supermarkets is not exactly the cheapest. You can be cooked almost cheaper. Here a small price overview. The local currency is the Guatemalan Quetzal.

Was kostet mich das?

Was kostet mich das?

  • Menu cheap restaurant 3 Euro
  • Menu middle class restaurant 10 Euro
  • Combo in McDonalds 3 Euro
  • Domestic beer (0.5 litres) 1,7 Euro
  • Import beer (0.33 litres) 1,5 Euro
  • Cappuccino 1,5 Euro
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litres) 0,7 Euro
  • Water (0.33 Liter) 0,5 Euro
  • One-way ticket (local transport) 0,2 Euro
  • Monthly pass 9,7 Euro
  • Taxi Start (normal rate) 1,0 Euro
  • Taxi 1km (normal rate) 2 Euro

So you can get by on 8 to 10 dollars a day without an overnight stay. In the cities you have to take the so-called Chicken Bus. Not only do they look great, they’re also cheap. You can’t expect any comfort. But the buses stop where you want. The local buses of different bus companies go to every corner of the country. Mostly you sit in old American school buses. Overland trips or international routes are covered by more comfortable buses.

Due to the relatively good roads a distance of 200 km with the better buses takes about four hours drive. The ride does not cost more than 6 to 8 dollars. The bus company Ticabus drives through whole Central America for affordable prices. From Guatemala to Panama the single ticket costs about 130 dollars. So not exactly the hammer. The minibuses are also comfortable and flexible in the country. You have to check on the spot. Which one goes where.

Of course you can rent a car, but it costs 50 dollars. You have to calculate 50 dollars. If you know Spanish, you can also search in the local daily newspapers for the local special offers. Flying is hardly worthwhile because of the short distances.

A flight from Flores to the capital costs 150 dollars, depending on the season, simply with TacaIntlAir. From Flores on Petén you can also fly to Belize and Honduras. Check for cheap domestic and international flights at

If you want to leave by boat or ferry, you can do so cheaply from the port cities of Puerto Barrios and Livingston, for example to Belize.

Backpacker accommodation in Guatemala


Couchsurfing, Hostels und Co

In a country like Guatemala there are all kinds of accommodations, unfortunately to the regret of the upper class not so much in the higher price range. But whether 5 star hotel or campsite, whether Bed and Breakfast at the lake or hostel in the city, every accommodation is available – you just have to find it. The good thing about Guatemala and its accommodation is that they are all quite inexpensive. Beds in a dorm of a hostel cost between 6 and 10 euros. You don’t get that often. Ok, the standard is not always perfect, but it can be lived. How the prices for a bed are on average in the different cities of Guatemala you can see at Hostelworld.


  • Antigua 8 Euro
  • Guatemala City 11 Euro
  • Flores 7 Euro
  • Lake Atitlan 6 Euro
  • Quetzaltenango 8 Euro
  • Panajachel 12 -13 Euro
  • Livingston 6 Euro
  • Monterrico 9 Euro
  • Coban 11 Euro

Bed and Breakfast in Guatemala

If you want to be more comfortable, you can also settle down in a Bed and Breakfast. The accommodations are usually a bit better but also a bit more expensive. But affordable. If you’re on your way together, you’ll sometimes make a pretty good deal. A room in Antigua costs about 20 Euro. In Guatemala City about 30 Euro. It looks similar in Flores. Also at Lago Atitlan the rooms in a Bed and Breakfast cost so around the turn. Cheaper, with 16 to 17 euro, they are in Quetzaltenango. They cost about 20 Euro in Panajachel. You see, this is no stress for the budget.

Also check out the market for budget hotels. This can also be worth it. Even apartments can be rented in the city or at lakes like at the sea inexpensively for a few days or also longer-term completely equipped. You can get a fully equipped apartment for only 35 Euro. There are no upper limits.

Camping in Guatemala

Camping is quite possible in Guatemala. The Tikal National Park Campground is well known. Many also camp wild. But you should be careful there. Guatemala is not Honduras, but also not the safest place in the world. Camping doesn’t cost much in Guatemala either. Ok, of course you have to do without a star service then. You can’t have everything. You can also camp in the Parque Nacional Victoria in the Zephyr Lodge (hostel with camping), Biotopodel Quetzal (camping) and many other locations. Just ask the locals if you can pitch a tent on their property.

Backpacker Trips, Tips & Highlights in Guatemala

Backpacking Trips, Tipps und Highlights

Backpacking Trips, Tips und Highlights

In addition to the many cultural highlights in Guatemala, you will also see some exciting architectural and geographical sights. Especially fascinating is the high mountain region. Those who want to climb volcanoes are spoilt for choice between the Tajumulco with a height of 4.220 metres or the hardly less small Tacaná with a height of 4.030 metres. Also the Santa María with 3.772 m has it in itself. You will encounter roaring rivers with bubbling waterfalls on the different trekking paths. You don’t have to worry about the climate in Guatemala. Not for nothing it is also called the “land of eternal spring”. Not too hot and not too cold therefore.

Whoever wants to take a refreshing bath in turquoise crystal clear river waters, plunges into the Río Cahabón in the nature reserve Semucchampey. Lots of small natural bathtubs offer great bathing fun.

Backpacker Highlights in Guatemala

Mayan culture in Tikal

Guatemala without Tikal is like visiting Germany without Neuschwanstein Castle. Nowhere are the magnificent stepped temples of the Mayas better preserved than in the UNESCO cultural heritage reserve. The city, which stretches over 65 square kilometres, has not yet been completely excavated. After all, a total of 10 000 buildings are assumed to be there. Who knows exactly? Up to 200,000 people are said to have lived there.
Antigua Guatemala with baroque buildings

A visit to Antigua Guatemala is also exciting. If you are not yet a fan of classical architecture, you will be there. The magnificent buildings in the baroque style of the New World have still knocked everyone down. The city was founded under the name Santiago de Los Caballeros in the year 1566. A heavy earthquake in the year 1773 brought the building boom to an end. But there is still a lot to photograph, among others the Catedral de San José, the Iglesia y convento de las Capuchinas and the Iglesia Escuela de Cristo.

Backpacking in Guatemala - Menschen

Backpacking in Guatemala – People

Lake Atitlan

Surrounded by the impressive volcanoes Atitlán 3.537 m, Tolimán 3.158 m and San Pedro 3.020 m, Lago Atitlan spreads out at an altitude of over 1500 m over a length of 18 kilometres. You can swim in the lake all year round. The water temperature never falls below 18 degrees. Rainfall does it better than ever. You can expect spectacular panoramic pictures.

Wonderful beaches in Guatemala

The most beautiful beaches in the country are not even necessarily by the sea. The Playadorada or the Playablanca, for example, await you with their fine sandy beaches at Lago de Izabal in the department of Izabal. Monterrico, which can be found at the biotope Monterrico Hawaii, is considered a Hawaiian bathing paradise. Other dream beaches at the Pacific are in Retalhuleu or you visit Las Lisas or the Bahía Amatique on the Caribbean side. Also good are the Playa de Puerto San José with its volcanic sand in Escuintla. Great handicrafts to take away you can find in Chichicastenango.
As always at the end our travel tip. Start the journey comfortably and without stress. Get stuck where you like it should be your motto.



Backpacker Insider Tips Guatemala

The probably most spectacular view over the country you have in the Sierras of Huehuetenango, which are also the highest region of the country. There you will find yourself in a real climbing and bouldering Eldorado. If you want to penetrate deep into the earth, then go to the caves Cuevas de Candelaria Camposanto in Alta Verapaz. You can even do tubing there underground. Another exciting adventure area in Guatemala awaits you in the region near the border of El Salvador. There are adventure trips to the Volcán Chingo. From the Laguna de Atescatempa you can see the two countries from above. Another refreshing freshwater lagoon spreads out in the extinct crater of Volcán Chicabal.

An ascent to the Volcán de Fuego via the village Acatenango is also worthwhile. Drive the alternative route from Desde Salamá to Guatemala City via La Canoa, then cross dense primeval forests, cross bridges and reach various mountain ranges. Cool tour with a rented car.

The best rock climbing locations are in “Filón de Amatitlán”, about 45 minutes from the capital. At Cerro Quemado in Quetzaltenango, about three hours from Guatemala City. Or also in Jalapa, which is about one hundred kilometres from Guatemala City at the Urlanta Waterfall. Chiquimula with the Cerro de la Ermita is also worthwhile. Of course, all climbing spots are also great destinations for excursions.

Trekking is worthwhile to the 2200 m Pico de Palencia in Tomastepeque. Only a few minutes from Ciudad de Jalapa the 65 m high waterfall Catarata de Urlanta plunges into the depth. A real insider tip is the hidden waterfall El Salto also near Jalapa. In Parque Ixpanpajul you can trek over different suspension bridges. Also at San Pedro Chuarrancho a suspension bridge spans a river.

Backpacking in Guatemala

Backpacking in Guatemala

Food & Drinks in Guatemala

As in all Latin American countries, Guatemala’s cuisine is influenced by various factors. In the course of the centuries it came again and again to smaller or larger immigration waves, with which the immigrants brought their food culture among many other things into the country. Some dishes are also based on pre-Columbian influences that date back to the Mayan period and beyond.

Guatemalan cuisine is not exactly the best in terms of variety on the menu. If you’re invited somewhere to stay at a local’s home, you can expect a greater variety of dishes, which will be presented to you by the hostess depending on your mood. The most famous dish is Fiambre, which also stands for the cultural diversity of the country. There is no original recipe. Up to 50 different ingredients can be added at will.

Five dishes have been added to the national heritage by the government over the years, including El Jocón, El Pepián, Kaq ‘ik, Plátanos en mole and Frijolescon Chicharrón. Some have been known for more than 400 years. Try the exotic menus, some of which are of Arabic-Spanish origin. El Pepián is an old dish based on vegetables, spices and meat. Los Plátanos en mole is prepared on the base of chocolate, ajonjolí and cinnamon.

ElKaq ‘ik is an ancient indigenous dish with spices, vegetables and chicken or turkey.
Also delicious are the different Tamal dishes, including Tamalcolorado. The basis is a corn mass with tomatoes, meat, chilli, olives and a few more snacks. The dish is a real Christmas dinner classic.

Drinks in Guatemala

In Guatemala you can enjoy a number of delicious juices made from fresh fruits. But also Arrozconleche, Arrozconchocolate – rice with milk or rice with chocolate is drunk. Popular cold drinks include Fresco de Rosa de Jamaica and Fresco de Tamarindo. The Guatemalans are in great demand for the various schnapps. Rum belongs to them, but also Quezalteca Especial, Quezalteca Rosa De Jamaica or a homemade Caldo de Frutas – fruit schnapps. Of course there is also local and imported beer in Guatemala. Heineken can be found everywhere.

Backpacker Visa and Vaccination in Guatemala

Entry requirements for German nationals
Travel documents – Backpacker visas and vaccinations in Guatemala

According to the Federal Foreign Office, entry for German citizens is possible with the following documents:

  • Passport: Yes
  • Provisional passport: Yes
  • Identity card: No
  • Temporary identity card: No
  • Children’s passport: Yes

Still valid child ID card according to the old model (the child ID card has not been issued since 1 January 2006): Yes, only with photo (no longer possible for entry via the USA).


All travel documents must be valid. Children entries in the passport of a parent are no longer valid since 26.06.2012. Each child needs its own identity document.


For German citizens, a visa-free stay in the so-called “CA-4” region Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua up to a total of 90 days is possible with a passport.
Vaccinations & medical information

The Federal Foreign Office recommends standard vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), if necessary also against mumps, measles, rubella (MMR) and influenza. Travel vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, for long-term stays for hepatitis B as well as for rabies and typhoid fever in case of special exposure.


There is a medium risk of transmission throughout the year (p. falciparum approx. 1%) in rural areas below 1,500 m altitude, especially in the Department Zacapa in the border area with Honduras.
Dengue, Chikungunya, Leishmaniasis and Leptospirosis are also known in Guatemala.

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