The Most Epic Hiking Trails in Guatemala

Guatemala chicken bus | © SdosRemedios / Flickr
Guatemala chicken bus | © SdosRemedios / Flickr
Photo of Jack Guy
2 January 2018

Guatemala is home to impressive highlands, dramatic volcanoes and lush jungle just waiting to be explored. Here are some of the best hikes to try in this Central American nation.

The view from Acatenango at dawn | © Pedro Santiago / Flickr

Acatenango Volcano

The third-highest volcano in Guatemala stands at 3,976 metres (13,045 feet) above sea level, and it’s not to be taken lightly. It might be just half an hour from the picturesque colonial town of Antigua, but you’ll need to be prepared to take on the peak. Temperatures can drop to around -2°C near the top, and most people camp for the night. Make sure you have a decent tent, sleeping bag and clothing. Get up early to look down over the neighbouring Fuego Volcano, which erupts regularly.

Tajumulco Volcano

The highest volcano in Central America is situated near the border with Mexico. It’s 4220 metres (13,845 feet) above sea level, but the hike itself is easier than Acatenango. Two-day trips usually begin at an elevation of around 3,000 metres (9,843 feet) and cover four kilometres (two miles) in distance to the summit.

Looking down over Nebaj, Guatemala | © Murray Foubister / Flickr

Nebaj – Todos Santos

If you fancy taking on a longer hike, this six-day route through the Cuchumatanes is famous for its amazing views and the chance to experience rural Guatemalan culture. The jumping-off point is the Mayan mountain city of Nebaj, and the route winds through the mountains before ending in Todos Santos.

El Mirador

Skip the tourist trap at Tikal and take a jeep into the jungle to the hamlet of Carmelitas, the jumping-off point for hikes to the Mayan city of El Mirador. Shrouded in dense jungle near the Guatemala–Mexico border, only a few hundred people make this five-day round trip trek each year. You’ll sleep in tents in the jungle and wake to the sound of howler monkeys, before arriving at the largest pyramid by volume in the world. Most of the site is unexcavated, but you can’t fail to appreciate the scale of the ancient city.

Lake Atitlan | © Murray Foubister / Flickr

Quetzaltenango – Lake Atitlan

Start off in the highland city of Quetzaltenango and head south to the volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan. The landscapes are incredible, you’ll stay in small traditional villages and you’ll end up at one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Atitlan is a great place to spend a few days relaxing after the hike, too, with various small villages dotted around its shores.

Nebaj – Xeo – Cotzol

Another hike from the mountain town of Nebaj, this three-day route visits isolated villages in the Ixil Triangle. Take a tour with local guiding outfit Guias Ixiles, who are from the region and can provide great information about culture and traditions. The 37-kilometre (23-mile) route is fairly strenuous, and you will need warm clothes.

Ipala Lagoon

In the south of the country lies the intriguing Ipala volcano and its crater lagoon. It’s only 1,650 metres (5,413 feet) in height, making for a relatively easy two-hour hike, but the real fun begins when you reach the top. Get your swimmers on and take a refreshing dip in the lagoon before heading back down.

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