How to Escape the Crowds During Holy Week in Guatemala

La Merced church in Antigua Guatemala
La Merced church in Antigua Guatemala | © John Pavelka / Flickr
Jack Guy

Holy Week is a major celebration in Guatemala, and those who can get the time off go on holiday. If you visit the major tourist sites, you’ll find them overrun. Here is how to avoid the crowds.

Semana Santa parades in Antigua Guatemala

Get away from Antigua

First of all, stay well away from Antigua. The colonial city is the premier Holy Week destination thanks to the parades that take place over a month, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors. You should also avoid Puerto San Jose and Monterrico, where many wealthy Guatemalans have holiday homes, and Semuc Champey.

One of the best ways to avoid the crowds is to head off into the highlands. Book a hiking tour from Quetzaltenango to Lake Atitlan, or through the Cuchumatanes Mountains. One of the best outfitters is Quetzaltrekkers, which uses profits to help street kids in Guatemala’s second-largest cities. Make sure you book well in advance to get a spot, and you’ll be out enjoying the fresh air while others are fighting the crowds in Antigua.

The view from El Mirador, Guatemala, over the surrounding jungle

Surf it out

Another good place to get away from the crowds is on a hike to El Mirador, the Maya ruins in the jungle near the border with Mexico. Head to Flores to book a 5-day tour with one of the operators. If you want some beach time, head to the surf camps at El Paredon on the Pacific coast. Surf in the day and relax at night.

While no one would argue that Guatemala City is ever quiet, Holy Week can actually be a good time to visit. Many residents head off on holiday, leaving the city slightly less crowded. You might not think it at first, but Holy Week can be a good time to see the Guatemalan capital.

Guatemala City

Be organized

Wherever you decide to go during the holidays, make sure you book ahead. With so many people on the move and thousands of visitors from outside the country, accommodation and tours get booked up fast.

Plan ahead to make the most of the time.

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