6 finest street journeys in Guatemala for unbiased journey

From the dramatic western highlands to the jungle-laden ruins of Tikal, Guatemala has no scarcity of unbelievable issues to see, and getting access to a automobile makes it lots simpler to see extra of the nation at your personal tempo. 

With an more and more improved community of roads, many hostels providing designated locations to park RVs and vehicles, and the Pan-American Freeway to information your method, taking a street journey in Guatemala is fairly easy, even when issues don’t all the time go in line with plan. 

Though Guatemala is a protected place to drive, obstacles like site visitors jams and last-minute protests can typically derail your schedule. Should you can roll with the punches, driving right here generally is a nice expertise filled with alternatives to go to off-the-beaten-path locations that might in any other case not be attainable.

Listed below are our prime six street journeys to take advantage of out of a go to to Guatemala.

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Depart room in your suitcase for all of the wonderful finds on the market in Chichicastenango © Visible Communications / Getty Photos

Sierra Madre mountains

Greatest street journey for purchasing native

Antigua–Lago de Atitlán; 77km (48 miles); permit two days

This fashionable street journey winds via conventional cities within the Sierra Madre mountain vary to reach on the spectacular Lago de Atitlán, providing lush surroundings and loads of purchasing alternatives alongside the best way. 

From Antigua, head north to the city of Chimaltenango and get on to the Pan-American Freeway. An hour-long stretch will take you previous avenue distributors promoting pottery, fruit, flowers, jewellery and colourful textiles, so put together for frequent pit stops. At Los Encuentros, take the RN-1 exit, which heads on to Panajachel, the most important city on the shores of Atitlán. The drive turns into extra technical, because the winding descent takes you thru slender streets of mountain villages, permitting a glimpse into on a regular basis rural life in Guatemala. 

Should you nonetheless need to store, proceed north on the Pan American towards Chichicastenango at Los Encuentros as an alternative of heading down the RN-1. This slight detour provides on 40 minutes of driving time every method, however Chichicastenango’s historic market on Thursdays and Sundays is properly price it. Nestled within the inexperienced mountains of the highlands, Chichicastenango is house to one of many largest markets in Central America. The labyrinth of stalls with distributors promoting textiles, jade, gold, pottery, leather-based items, and jewellery will take just a few hours to discover, so the solar could also be setting by the point you’re accomplished. Spend the night time in Chichicastenango and head to the lake within the morning, or arrive the day earlier than the market begins, purchasing within the morning earlier than getting again on the street. It is nearly an hour and half drive from Chichicastenango to Panajachel, the place artisans promote conventional textiles, jewellery, clothes and crafts every day.

Guatemala’s Pacific coast

Greatest street journey for seashore lovers

Antigua–El Paredon; 100km (62 miles); permit two hours

A number of hours’ drive from Antigua, El Paredon is a small fishing village fashionable with surfers and vacationers seeking to get off the vacationer path for some time. It’s additionally a favourite weekend getaway for households and {couples}. With the Pacific Ocean on one aspect and mangroves on the opposite, this relaxed city is an ideal escape from busy Antigua that also gives sufficient out of doors actions to maintain each youngsters and adults entertained for a few days. 

Attending to El Paredon is a straightforward drive so far as Guatemala goes, and nearly all of the journey follows the Pan-American Freeway. As you get nearer to the coast, you may detect a definite change within the environment from the remainder of the nation. Anticipate the air to turn out to be hotter and extra humid, and the flora lusher and extra tropical. Palms and flowering bushes line the street, whereas distributors promoting coconut water, papayas and pineapples abruptly seem. El Paredon’s most important street just isn’t paved, however it’s simply navigable with a automobile. As soon as there, you possibly can keep for just a few days, and a few hostels provide locations to park RVs and trailers.

A cone-shaped volcano topped with clouds, framed by a broken stone wall in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
Quetzaltenango is a superb base for exploring Guatemala’s volcanic panorama © Ivan Castro / 500px

Volcano route

Greatest street journey for surroundings

Lago de Atitlán–Quetzaltenango; 84km (52 miles); permit three hours 

The start of this volcanic street journey is dramatic: you wind up a mountain street whereas watching the beautiful Lago de Atitlán and its trifecta of towering volcanoes turn out to be smaller and farther away. Subsequent, a scenic ascent via verdant mountains and volcanoes takes you to Guatemala’s second largest metropolis – the primary hub of the highlands, Quetzaltenango.

At 701m (2300ft) above sea stage, town is surrounded by spectacular volcanoes – similar to Volcán Zunil, Volcán Santa Maria and its smaller cousin Santiaguito – that create an epic panorama to drive via, to not point out worthy treks to deal with in case you are up for the problem when you arrive.

Central cloud forests

Greatest street journey for jungle walks, caves and pure swimming pools  

Cobán–Río Dulce; 215km (134 miles); permit three days

A street journey for nature lovers, this drive takes you thru the wilderness of Alta Verapaz, the place cloud forest and jungle teeming with colourful birds and flowers beckon the adventurous to get out of the automobile and discover. Anticipate dust roads with many pure sights alongside the best way together with caves, waterfalls and Biotopo del Quetzal Nationwide Park. 

The picturesque city of Lanquín, surrounded by forested mountains and flanked by the Río Cahabón, gives a wonderful cease for just a few nights. From Lanquin, go to the well-known turquoise swimming pools and limestone bridge nestled deep within the jungle of Semuc Champey or the close by Ok’anba Caves for the favored candlelit swim in underground swimming pools. From Lanquín, proceed right down to Río Dulce and on to Lago Izabal, the nation’s largest lake – excellent for a day of swimming.

A man looks out over rolling green hills and low clouds in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
Huehuetenango affords unbelievable off-road alternatives © Rolando Estrada / Getty Photos

Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes

Greatest street journey for an off-road journey

Quetzaltenango–Laguna Brava; 250km (155 miles); permit two days

Surrounded by the spectacular Cuchumatanes, the tallest non-volcanic mountain vary in Central America, Huehuetenango’s lovely Laguna Brava is notoriously exhausting to entry until you will have a 4×4 automobile and a way of journey. Elements of this route are fairly technical, so it’s a visit advisable for these assured of their driving abilities. Greatest reached through a street journey from Quetzaltenango, the street to Huehuetenango is easy, however the previous few hours of the journey to the lagoon require off-road driving via rivers, up rock-strewn hills and on barely-there dust roads affected by potholes.

All of this finally opens as much as the beautiful crystal clear turquoise lake surrounded by three cenotes and forested mountains. It’s attainable to camp or lease a cabin for the night time earlier than making the return journey. The journey is difficult, however the expertise of being so deeply immersed in nature’s uncooked magnificence is unparalleled.

Guatemala’s northeastern route

Greatest street journey for exploring jungle ruins

Antigua–Tikal; 535km (332 miles); permit one week

If there may be one place in Guatemala the place it’s price it to have your personal automobile, it’s undoubtedly Petén. For vacationers searching for a superb multi-day street journey, the journey from Antigua is a stunning one. Petén accommodates the ruins of Tikal, a sprawling, historical Mayan metropolis buried deep within the coronary heart of the forest. Right here you may additionally discover many smaller archeological websites and guarded tracts of jungle which are great for climbing and observing wildlife. Many of those spots are a lot simpler to go to when you’ve got your personal transport. 

Coming from Antigua, it’s finest to separate this journey up with an in a single day keep in Río Dulce, the place you possibly can swim at Lago Izabal and go to the distinctive scorching waterfalls earlier than getting again on the street the next day. The drive from Río Dulce to Flores (the most important city closest to the ruins) takes three to 4 hours, and as soon as in Flores, a automobile will serve you properly for exploring the world for just a few days. Driving to Tikal from Flores takes 1.5 hours, and with a automobile, you may make your approach to different lesser-known ruins within the space similar to Yaxha (as spectacular as Tikal however extra rugged and fewer busy) and Nakúm, a nationwide park with the most important variety of restored constructions in Petén aside from Tikal and Uaxactún, a smaller web site that was as soon as used as an astronomical observatory by the Maya.