Guatemala City is the capital and largest city of Guatemala with about 4 million people. Guatemala City is established in the very mountainous Central Highlands of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas range alongside the Pacific Coastal Plain that begins in Mexico and flows into El Salvador and Honduras. The population’s diversity of this city varies from Mayan, Mestizo, and Spanish descent which brings about a beautiful blend of cultures here from traditional foods to vibrant festivals. Below we have our recommendations as the best places to start upon your visit to Guatemala City!!
Antigua & Nearby Volcanoes
It is imperative that we begin with the most fascinating feature of this entire country: the volcanic activity that is present. Several of the volcanoes that are nearby Guatemala City are located about an hour away surrounding Antigua, a quaint town dominated by Spanish Colonial structures. Following the 1773 earthquake, Antigua’s reign of being capital was no longer possible due to how extreme the damages were. The surrounding volcanoes include: Volcan de Agua, Volcan de Fuego and Volcan de Acatenango, all exceeding 3,500 meters high in elevation. Located a bit more south lies the Volcan de Pacaya, which is slightly smaller than the other three but you can still explore the Pacaya National Park regardless. We suggest that you take guided hike tour with a group up one of these volcanoes that lie on the outskirts of the city because you won’t only get to see remarkable views, but you will gain more knowledge of Guatemala’s history of volcanic eruptions.
Relief Map of Guatemala
This is an open air museum that physically depicts the topography of the entire country on a 3D compressed scale so that people can understand the wide range of elevations that are present and not visible to the human eye. Before or after your visits to the volcanoes, you should take time to come visit this map to gain a unique, yet beneficial perspective of the earth of and around the volcanoes to really see how dramatic Guatemala’s landscape is.
National Palace of Culture & Cathedral of Guatemala City
The National Palace of Culture and the Cathedral de Guatemala City are the most iconic attractions that one must come to when you are exploring the city and they are both located on the perimeter of Parque Central. The National Palace of Culture, also known as Palacio Verde, was originally built for the President of Guatemala and today is where important government meetings are held and doubles as a Guatemalan cultural museum. Sharing similar intricate architectural features as the Palacio Verde even though they were created in different eras, the Cathedral de Guatemala City has been through so much of the city’s history of earthquakes and governmental turmoil that you must see in person. Walking distance from Parque Central, you will find the Mercado Central where you can stop to see all of the beautiful foods and beyond here while you grab something for lunch!
Torre del Reformador & Iglesia Yurrita
The Torre del Reformador is located south of Parque Central on 7A Avenida and was built in 1935 to honor the influential reformist and President of Guatemala, Justo Rufino Barrios who was appointed from 1873 to 1885. Standing over 70 meters tall, this structure was also inspired by the infamous Eiffel Tower. Within 10 minutes of walking distance, you will be able to visit the Catholic Church, La Iglesia Yurrita, which has a stunning Gothic architectural facade. These two attractions just add to some of the city’s most beautiful features that must be enjoyed!
Sharing the same road as the Torre del Reformador, you will eventually run into the small green space called Plaza Espana about 10 blocks south. At this square and roundabout, there is a monument and fountain held here in honor of Don Carlos III, the King of Spain. Several main attractions of Guatemala City are found on 7A Avenida so you could drive by this place to see it!
La Aurora Zoo & Handcrafts Market
Traveling southwest from La Plaza Espana, you will find yourself at the popular La Aurora Zoo where the animals are separated into three categories depending if they are from Africa, Asia, or the Americas. Bring your family here to see the animals and then after be sure to check out the Handcrafts Market next door to enjoy all of the traditional artisan goods of Guatemala. In between the Zoological la Aurora and Asociación Nacional de Ecuestres de Guatemala, you will find a string of museums to explore: The Children’s Museum of Guatemala, Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno “Carlos Mérida,” and Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología. This area alone would take about a day to get through these amazing attractions!
Irtra Mundo Petapa
This attraction is an amusement park that is specifically for those wanting to have a fun time with friends and family. From several roller coaster rides, electromagnetic games, zoo, theatre and olympic sized swimming pool, there is an endless amount of excitement here! Irtra Mundo Petapa is located about 30 minutes by car from Parque Central.
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