Discover the ultimate Gay Guatemala itinerary

Celebrated travel writer Norman Lewis once said he was so taken by Guatemala he worried the rest of the world might pale by comparison. His concerns weren’t entirely without merit. Wonderfully diverse and wildly colorful, Guatemala wows visitors with its impenetrable jungles, volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan, and palm-lined surf breaks. Then there’s the intriguing cultural richness of it all. Guatemala is a country riddled with ancient wonders, like the mesmerizing pyramids of Tikal–a mighty testament to the marvels of the Maya, once Central America’s greatest civilization, and a heritage that proudly carries on in Guatemala’s highlands today. The Spanish also left their mark, with pretty pastel buildings, flower-filled plazas, and ornate cathedrals on full display in ever-lovely Antigua. Whether you’re in search of adrenaline-pumping adventures, fascinating cultural legacies, or simply a soothing escape into nature, Guatemala delivers on all fronts. Now, discover the best things to do in Guatemala with Mr Hudson’s perfect Guatemala itinerary.

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Antigua Guatemala | Photo: Manuel Asturias

When to Visit Guatemala

There’s a reason why Guatemala’s tourism board touts the country as the “land of eternal spring.” With pleasantly warm days and perfectly cool evenings, Guatemala is a smart destination any time of year. May through October is the rainy season, but heavy downpours are typically only late-afternoon affairs and shouldn’t necessarily deter you. December through March, July, and August are the busiest times of the year, and the best hotels and language schools fill up. While the climate in Guatemala is, on average, as comfortable as can be, the landscape is diverse, so temperatures vary, too. Expect the lowlands around Tikal to be hot and humid and the volcanos to be quite chilly.

Gay Guatemala

Though homosexuality is legal for persons over 18 years of age, the reality is that Guatemala is a mostly Catholic and socially conservative country not entirely accepting of the LGBTQ community. You’ll find Guatemala’s most lively gay scene in the capital city, where there’s a smattering of gay bars and an annual Pride festival. That said, public displays of affection are ill-advised anywhere in the country, and even in tourist hot-spots, expect the gay community to be discreet.

Photo: Marcelo Chagas

Antigua Guatemala | Photo: Saulo Zayas

Day 1: Guatemala City

Most travelers opt to skip sprawling Guatemala City entirely. We understand why. The city is dirty and, when you venture outside the tourist trail, dangerous. But Guatemala’s chaotic capital is trying to reinvent itself from a crime-ridden metropolis to a tourist-friendly city; if you stick to Downtown’s pedestrianized streets and world-class museums, you just might find it’s doing swimmingly. Whether you love it or hate it, though, Guatemala City is where you’ll touchdown, so budget a night to explore the highlights.

Mercado Central is a massive, always bustling market selling everything from textiles to ceramics to produce (and more.) Visit for the endless stream of color and noise and to try out cheap, authentic snacks from local vendors. The Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia showcases a top-notch selection of Maya artefacts. The Museo Ixchel is required visiting for anyone who wants a deep-dive into Maya culture reaching through the centuries to today.

Day 2 & 3: Antigua

Arrestingly beautiful with its cobbled streets, restored colonial buildings, and striking volcano backdrop, Antigua is one of Guatemala’s most visited destinations for a reason. Hidden away in the rolling central highlands just an hour or so from the capital, Antigua, Guatemala was once the prominent seat of Spanish colonial government and served as Guatemala’s capital for some 300 years. Antigua’s Spanish Baroque architecture and cultural legacy have earned the entire city World Heritage status. Ambling the candy-colored town feels akin to traveling through time—albeit with a bevy of farm-to-table restaurants, contemporary art galleries, and chic boutique hotels to keep you comfortable.

It’s possible to spend two carefree days in Antigua and never leave its historic center. Las Capuchinas is a former convent and masterpiece by famed architect Diego de Porres that now serves as a colonial-era art museum—don’t miss it. A veritable playground awaits outside Antigua’s doorstep for those after a bit of adventure. Imposing Volcán de Agua has sweeping Antigua views, while Volcán Acatenango is the spot for avid trekkers keen on an overnight climbing experience. Then there’s Volcán Pacaya, an active volcano that offers climbers with crater views (when conditions allow.) Beyond its volcanoes, venture into the countryside to discover quaint villages, family-run coffee plantations, and enchanting textile markets.

Antigua Guatemala | Photo: Angello Pro

Antigua Guatemala | Photo: Perry Grone

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The deepest lake in Central America, the aquamarine waters are surrounded by lush green hills and traditional Maya villages, over which three majestic volcanos proudly loom

Day 4 & 5: Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlan is the stuff of storybooks. The deepest lake in Central America, the aquamarine waters are surrounded by lush green hills and traditional Maya villages, over which three majestic volcanos proudly loom. Here, misty mornings morph into sun-dappled afternoons on the water, and sunsets bring with them a kaleidoscope of colors sweeping across the sky, mirroring in the water below. The ever-changing scene is magical—of the sort it’s difficult to leave.

When you’re not kicking back and soaking up the view from any number of chic waterfront retreats, hop on a boat tour for a unique vantage point of the lake and to get to know the surrounding Maya communities. San Pedro, Panajachel, Jaibalito, and San Juan are the main ones, and each has its own discernible flair. For gobsmacking vistas, the hike to the top of Volcan San Pedro is well worth the effort.

Atitlán Lake | Photo: Marco Antonio Reyes

Day 6: Drive to Semuc Champey (via Cobán)

The next spot on our gay Guatemala itinerary is a bit of a trek, so it’s best to break the seven-hour journey up with a stop at Coban. This is Guatemala’s gourmet coffee and cardamom production capital, and while the city itself isn’t overtly handsome, the region surrounding it is all verdant valleys and lush meadows. But what truly makes Coban an attractive destination is its convenient location near to the natural wonder of Semuc Champey, which you’ll be exploring tomorrow. Recharge at any of the decent restaurants and hotels in the city before a jam-packed day of exploration.

Day 7: Semuc Champey and Drive to Flores

Tucked away deep in the misty Guatemalan rainforest lies Semuc Champey, an incredible 300 meter-long natural limestone bridge with tiered turquoise pools. The isolated stunner is undeniably challenging to arrive at, but once there, intrepid travelers are rewarded with a beguiling tropical paradise—and what might very well be the most beautiful spot in all of Guatemala. Apart from swimming in the cool, refreshing water, there’s a cave you can wade through (you’ll light your way with candlelight!) and a lovely viewpoint. There’s also the opportunity for an easygoing day of tubing down the river, complete with icy cold beers sold by locals along the banks.

Once you’ve completed your adventure at this natural waterpark, it’s time to venture on to Flores. This will be your base for visiting the iconic Tikal Ruins—next up on your gay Guatemala itinerary.

Flores | Photo: Michiel Ton

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This partially restored temple complex lies nestled within the dense rainforest canopy, providing visitors the opportunity to tread along broad limestone paths—with monkeys, agoutis, and other wildlife never far from reach

Day 8: Tikal Ruins

Vying for the title of most awe-inspiring Maya Ruin is Tikal, a major civilization inhabited from the 6th – 10th century B.C. and thought to be the most powerful ancient Maya kingdom. This partially restored temple complex lies nestled within the dense rainforest canopy, providing visitors the opportunity to tread along broad limestone paths—with monkeys, agoutis, and other wildlife never far from reach. Arrive early when the heat is tolerable and the jungle awash in a warm morning glow. The drive from Flores is about an hour, and you’ll need approximately half a day to do the ruins justice. When you’ve fully appreciated the temple complex, hop back in the car and head to Rio Dulce. You’ll want ample time for exploring this idyllic town next up on our list of things to do in Guatemala.

Tikal Ruins | Photo: Reisetopia

Day 9: Rio Dulce

Tucked under a towering bridge and surrounded by lush Guatemalan jungle, Rio Dulce is a charming village—and a gateway to the country’s Caribbean coast. Many arrive via yacht from the popular coastal town of Livingston, ready to seek refuge during hurricane season in what the U.S. coast guard has dubbed one of the safest places on the western Caribbean. As the name Rio Dulce suggests, one of the best things to do here is enjoying the scenic river. Rent a kayak to paddle down the emerald waters, or head to waterfall Finca el Paraiso and combine rejuvenating hot springs with a plunge into the cool, natural swimming hole beneath the cascading falls. Round out your Rio Dulce visit with a stop at Castillo de San Felipe, a late 17th-century Spanish fort built for keeping Caribbean pirates at bay. The impressive ruins are located within the Rio Dulce National Park.

Photo: Juan Rivera

Photo: Yogui Guter

Day 10: Back to Guatemala City and fly home

All good things must come to an end, so today, it’s time to make your way back to Guatemala City to prepare for your return flight home. Unless, like many, the colors and culture of the country have charmed you into extending your Guatemala vacation a bit longer! A Guatemala trip is also easily combined with a visit to neighbouring countries like Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador if you’re keen to keep the adventure going.

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Panajachel | Photo: Mathijs Beks

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