On the eastern side of Guatemala is the Izabal region, a sultry area that’s usually thick with humidity. The rainy season can render sections of Izabal off-limits, but during the drier months (November – May), this wildly beautiful region opens up. Head to the Río Dulce and the Lago de Izabal areas, where you can explore rich wetlands, hot springs, Mayan villages, dense rainforest and the Caribbean coastline. About a five hour bus journey from Antigua, it’s an ideal destination for a long weekend break.
Guatemala may not be known for its beaches, but don’t let that fool you. Head west to the town of Monterrico on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast to experience a side to this country that few travelers see. Just a few hours from Antigua, you can spend the weekend kicking back on the beach and spotting the sea turtles that this region is famous for. If you have time, go a little further west to the twin villages of Tilapa and Tilapita to see an even more authentic side to Guatemala.
Lake Atitlan is the type of place you could spend weeks at and never want to leave, but for most of us, a weekend trip might have to suffice. Situated in the Sierra Madre mountains and bordered by fern-covered valleys and towering volcanoes, it’s achingly beautiful, and there are countless things to do here too. With seven traditional Mayan towns around the lake perimeter, the mighty San Pedro volcano to climb, and bubbling hot springs to soak in, a weekend might not be enough…
Tikal is Guatemala’s most popular tourist attraction, and it’s not hard to see why. As the capital city of the Mayan classic period, Tikal’s vast causeways and towering pyramids draw visitors from all over the world. These jungle-cloaked limestone buildings are still veiled in mystery, and at an almost eight hour drive from Antigua, it’s just about close enough for a long weekend break. However, if that’s too far for you, you can also fly here.
The lovely island town of Flores is only about 1.5 hours drive from Tikal, so it’s ideal to stop off on your way to or from Antigua. With copper-colored rooftops, cobbled streets and bright painted buildings, Flores is an incredibly charming town, and deserves much more than just being a jumping-off point for exploring Tikal. If you have time, spend a day or two enjoying Flores’ peaceful atmosphere and beautiful lake.
Acatenango is the third-highest volcano in Guatemala, and if you’re serious about trekking, scaling the summit should definitely be on your Guatemala to-do list. However, because this hike takes eight hours at the very least, many visitors prefer to take a couple of days exploring this region. The summit is the best lookout point to the active Fuego Volcano, and on a clear day you can enjoy views of Pacaya and Agua Volcanoes too.