Traveling for GOOD in Guatemala

Annie and Zita
Jul 23, 2023

Guatemala is a unique destination with breathtaking landscapes, Mayan ruins, various cultures, unique gastronomy and colonial architecture. This beautiful country offers endless sights and opportunities to enjoy the mountains, volcanoes, lakes, beaches, and much more.

Guatemala destinations include:

Antigua: Antigua is Guatemala’s scenic colonial village surrounded by volcanoes. The city is full of colorful buildings, colonial architecture, beautiful churches and picturesque ruins. The surrounding pueblos (villages) offer a unique opportunity to visit local communities and get off the beaten path. You can also find volcano hikes, coffee tours, and much more!

Monterrico: Monterrico, located on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast offers incomparable nature and adventure where you can enjoy unique flora and fauna, breathtaking views, and outdoor activities. When visiting this unique ecosystem you can also learn about the conservation efforts taking place to preserve this environment.

Tikal: Tikal, located in the rainforests of northern Guatemala, is the world-renowned ruins of an ancient Mayan city hidden within the jungle. Once a prominent center of the Mayan empire, this impressive archaeological site consists of a large complex of step temples, plazas, and pyramids that once made up this great city. You can take a morning hike to see the sunrise at 6AM, enjoy jungle walks, and take in the local flora and fauna - including hearing monkeys howl!

Semuc Champey: Semuc Champey is Guatemala’s picturesque limestone bridge of 6 tiered pools of turquoise water hidden deep in the jungle. You can also explore nearby Lanquin, a small pueblo and its famous caves.

Rio Dulce & Livingston: On Guatemala’s “sweet river”, Rio Dulce, you’ll encounter jungle surrounded waterways, mangroves, unique flora and fauna, and village life. You can visit beautiful natural sights, relax alongside the river and Caribbean, and visit Livingston, a town only reachable by boat with its own unique culture (garífuna), gastronomy, language, and lifestyle, you won’t find anywhere else in Guatemala.

Lake Atitlan: Lake Atitlán, a crater lake formed around two million years ago, is nestled between three majestic volcanoes, mountains, and twelve different Mayan villages. Here you can find breathtaking sites, lakeside relaxation, nature hikes, and authentic Mayan culture.

Wherever you choose to go, you certainly won’t be disappointed with the views, people, and experiences you encounter!

What are some things that visitors can do to be a GOOD Traveler in Guatemala?

1. Get off the tourist trail! Guatemala offers an amazing variety of sights and experiences however, tourism tends to be concentrated within a few destinations which contributes to overcrowding. Choose unique destinations that take you away from the tourist center and when visiting common tourist destinations, make sure you are choosing responsible tour operators and experiences.

2. Choose responsible tour operators and experiences: Guatemala has a wealth of social businesses and nonprofit organizations offering unique experiences for travelers that benefit the local communities and environment:

  • Impact Experiences - Impact Experiences is a social business tour operator offering off-the-beaten-path excursions with an impact in the areas surrounding Antigua and nationwide in Guatemala. Unique experiences include visiting a chicken bus factory and making your own worry doll. Impact Experiences gives back to the communities it visits, connects travelers with industries and locals traditionally excluded from the mainstream tourism industry and donates 100% of net profits to the education of Guatemalan children via nonprofit Niños de Guatemala.
  • Kukul Tales - Offering unique culinary experiences in Antigua, Sololá, and Petén, Kukul Tales focuses on rescuing and promoting Guatemala’s culinary heritage. Kukul Tales connects travelers with locals to show them the real story and effort behind traditional Guatemalan dishes. Kukul Tales supports local Guatemalans in developing their talents in local gastronomy and use 100% Guatemalan biodegradable or reusable hand made materials that are part of our artisan and culinary heritage in place of plastic and other waste.
  • Quetzaltrekkers - Quetzaltrekkers is the only non-profit, all volunteer-run trekking and outdoors association in Guatemala, offering unique treks and tourism experiences in the Western highlands of Guatemala including the Volcano Tajulmulco hike and a 3-day Xela to Lake Atitlan trek, that that spread awareness of Guatemalan culture and support local communities. All profits go to Escuela de la Calle (“School of the Street”), an organization that provides education, housing, and social support to disadvantaged children in the city of Xela.

3. Choose responsible accommodation: You can find a variety of eco-friendly or socially responsible accommodation options in Guatemala. Responsible accommodation options include:

  • Good Hotel Antigua - Located in a former private mansion just a 5 minutes’ walk from Antigua’s Central Park, Good Hotel offers a premium hotel experience, minimalistic design infused with local touches, personalized service and the opportunity to do something for the local community while travelling. Good Hotel features 20 rooms, ranging in size and bed-type, with re-designed traditional washing skinks, private patios, open air showers and lofty mezzanines. Their social business model provides a unique Good Training program to unemployed locals and single moms and 100% of profits are donated to nonprofit Niños de Guatemala to support the education and empowerment of nearly 500 children.
  • Earth Lodge - Located high up in the mountains on the grounds of a 400+ tree avocado farm, Earth Lodge is an eco-lodge offering cabins, treehouses, and dorms with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and volcanoes. The lodge is very much involved in the local community, particularly the village school, for which they fundraise to buy school supplies and food for the breakfast program and have assisted in getting running water and funding a computer lab.
  • Local Family Homestays - In most destinations around Guatemala, you can find options to stay with a local family in their home. This experience gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, connect with locals, learn about the country’s history and current daily life, enjoy local cuisine, and practice the language.

4. Practice cultural sensitivity and follow local customs: Make sure you do some research before arriving in Guatemala and familiarize yourself with local culture, customs, and social issues. You should also read up on the country’s history and current events before your trip. When traveling around Guatemala, make sure you follow local customs, practice respect and cultural sensitivity by not taking pictures of locals or children without asking, and dress conservatively.

5. Eat locally: In Guatemala, you can find an abundance of international foods and chain restaurants - especially in Antigua. Although sushi or crepes might be tempting, try to eat foods grown in Guatemala such as beans, rice, corn, the world’s best avocados and more! Guatemala has a rich culinary history and offers unique, flavorful dishes. Support local small business restaurants and shop for your fruits and veggies at the local market, which is a paradise for us produce lovers!

6. Practice environmental sustainability: When traveling in Guatemala, try to avoid using plastic and recycle wherever possible. Plastic-use and littering are unfortunately still common in Guatemala, however, more initiatives to fight plastic use and to recycle are popping up, such as schools and other buildings made from eco bricks - a plastic bottle packed with plastic to a set density to create a reusable building block - and small towns that have banished plastic bags, straws, and utensils completely and use alternatives like banana leaves and glass containers. Bring a reusable water bottle, and fill it at your hotel with the local water purifying system, called an Ecofiltro.

7. Shop locally and responsibly: When shopping for souvenirs or gifts, make sure you are shopping locally and paying a fair wage for the work that goes into the item. Select responsible local vendors and when bartering, keep the price fair and know when to stop - think about the impact that extra dollar that you probably won’t miss can make on the provider’s family. We can recommend shopping at local cooperatives such as Manos Preciosas in Antigua or Ixoq Aj Keem in Lake Atitlan where prices are set and fair.

Note: GOOD Travel scans the globe for organisations and individuals committed to doing GOOD work in the tourism sector. In order to elevate the great work we learn about, we occasionally have guests bloggers recommend organisations and individuals we do not know personally in order to share their story and inspire change. Do you know of other organisations or individuals doing GOOD work that we should highlight? Let us know! For more details on how and why we feature different tourism businesses, please see our terms of service.

July 23, 2023
5 min read