The ultimate guide to travelling in Guatemala with kids

Guatemala might not be an obvious destination for a family holiday but this Central American country is, in fact, a great destination for family travel.

We travelled to Guatemala when our children were aged nine-, seven- and just under two-years-old and spent 10 days discovering the country’s highlights. If you’re wondering if you should visit Guatemala with kids then this post is for you.

Updated for 2021. Disclosure: This post contains affiliate and commercial links. For more information see our disclosure policy.

Guatemala with kids
Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

 

Officially called the Republic of Guatemala, the country is bordered by Belize, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. It’s a land of bold colours and ancient civilisations, rich in wildlife and with stunning scenery. What’s more the people are incredible friendly.

There’s also a lot to do in Guatemala for kids from zip-lining and diving from cliffs to learning how to cook a typical Guatemalan meal or the traditions and techniques behind the country’s beautiful textiles.

The distances between the most popular destinations of Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango and Tikal are relatively short, meaning that it’s easy to plan a Guatemala family vacation.

 

Related posts:

A brilliant cooking class on Lake Atitlan 

Enjoy the best of Guatemala with this 10-day itinerary 

Amazing Lake Atitlan 

The best things to do in Antigua 

Discovering Tikal with kids 

 

Guatemala for kids: Highlights

Guatemala with kids
San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan

 

  • Wander the cobbled streets of Antigua, one of Latin America’s prettiest colonial cities
  • Discover the origins of chocolate and how to make your very own in a Bean to Bar class
  • Shop for colourful crafts and visit one of the largest artisan markets in the region at Chichicastenango
  • Explore the ancient Mayan civilisation of Tikal (and see where Star Wars was filmed!)
  • Stay in a family-friendly boutique hotel owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola
  • Jump on a boat for a tour of Lake Atitlan, described as “the most beautiful lake in the world”
  • Go shopping at a local food market and learn to cook a traditional Guatemala meal
  • Watch how Guatemala’s colourful textiles are created, from the natural dyes used to colour the yarn to weaving using a traditional back strap loom.
  • Take a ride on a colourful chicken bus.
  • Go zip lining, ride a horse up a volcano, try stand up paddleboarding and more in Lake Atitlan!

 

Where to go in Guatemala 

Guatemala with kids
Examples of local weaving in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

 

If you’re wondering where to go and what things to do on your Guatemala family adventure then you can follow our 10-day itinerary that takes in Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Tikal with the option of including the characterful mountain town of Xela.

 

Guatemala with kids
Antigua, Guatemala with kids

Antigua with kids

Antigua is a beautiful colonial city located just a couple of hours from the capital, Guatemala City. It’s one of the country’s most popular destinations with visitors and is great for children too. For ideas on what there is to do in Antigua for kids then take a look at this post.

This post will give you some recommendations of places to eat in Antigua. Here are a handful of family-friendly hotels in Antigua that I recommend.

 

Guatemala with kids
Staying on the edge of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Lake Atitlan with kids

From Antigua we headed straight to Lake Atitlan, once described by German explorer Alexander von Humboldt as “the most beautiful lake in the world”.

The clear blue waters of the lake fills the cone of a collapsed volcano, making it not only picturesque but the deepest lake in Central America. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by three volcanoes and more than a dozen Mayan villages.

It’s a really fun place to discover with colourful villages lining the lake’s edge. Step on board one of the many boats that crisscross the lake and try a brilliant cooking class in a local home or visit one of the many weaving cooperatives. Tuk Tuks zip around the narrow village streets, making for a fun way to travel.

Take a look at this post for more information on visiting Lake Atitlan with kids.

 

Guatemala with kids
The ancient civilisation of Tikal in Guatemala

Tikal with kids

If you’re looking for adventure then few places can match Tikal. Stepping into this ancient Mayan civilisation is like arriving onto the film set of an Indiana Jones movie or stepping into the pages of Katherine Rundell’s book The Explorer.

It’s an incredible place to discover and kids will love it. For more details on visiting take a look at this post Tikal with kids, which also tells you the incredible hotel that we stayed in (clue: it’s owned by an award-winning film director)!.

 

Guatemala with kids
The city of Xela is a good place to get off the beaten path in Guatemala

Xela with kids

If you want to head somewhere a little off the typical tourist trail then you should consider a visit to Xela. This mountain town sits at an altitude of almost 8000ft at the base of Volcano Santa Maria. It’s a great place for learning Spanish but also for getting a look at a truly indigenous community where the traditional way of life remains strong.

For more information on visiting Xela, take a look at this post.

 

When to visit Guatemala 

Guatemala with kids
Lake Peten Itza, Tikal

 

December to April is Guatemala’s High Season, also known as the ‘dry season’. It’s well worth booking hotels in advance for this period, especially if you’re travelling over Christmas, New Year or Easter (Semana Santa). Some hotels in Antigua are booked as much as a year in advance during these periods.

April to September sees a lot of rain, especially in the afternoons. However, if you can put up with the odd deluge you’ll find bargain hotel rates and fewer crowds. The rains might impact the roads, however, making travel more difficult.

October and November sees less rain and brings mild temperatures.

 

Guatemala useful information 

Guatemala with kids
Visit one of the weaving cooperatives in the villages around Lake Atitlan

Time: GMT – 06:00

Capital: Guatemala City

Language: Spanish

Visas: Many nationalities will be given a 90-day visa upon entry into Guatemala although some countries will require a tourist visa. Make sure to check with the Guatemalan embassy or consulate in your own country prior to travel.

Health & Vaccinations: Visitors need to take special precautions against illnesses not normally encountered at home. Contact your doctor well in advance of your departure date to ensure that you receive all the necessary vaccinations. Make sure to check the Covid-19 situation in Guatemala before travelling.

UK health authorities have classified Guatemala as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. Chikungunya has been confirmed in Guatemala as has Dengue fever.

This post has information on avoiding Dengue Fever and this post has advice on the best mosquito repellents for kids.

Water isn’t generally safe to drink unless filtered.

Make sure you have up-to-date travel insurance that includes medical treatment.

Getting There: Airlines La Aurora International Airport (GUA) serves Guatemala City and is located 6.4 km (4m) south of the city centre.

The flight time from London, U.K. is approximately 11 hours. Flores Airport is the gateway to Tikal. There are daily flights from La Aurora International Airport to Flores.

There are also regular non-stop flights to Guatemala from the United States.

Money: Guatemala uses Quetzales (Q). ATMS are found in most towns and cities and credit cards are accepted. Make sure you have cash when shopping at markets, preferably in small denominations.

Safety: Crime statistics for Guatemala don’t make for pleasant reading but while crime does happen, violent crime does not tend to be directed at tourists. You’re most likely to be a victim to pickpocketing, bag-snatching or bag-slitting in crowded streets.

Be careful in particular when visiting busy areas such as the market in Chichicastenango. Similarly, Semana Santa in Antigua is a prime target for pickpockets. Guatemala City is home to some dangerous neighbourhoods.

Guatemala is home to active volcanoes; in June 2018 the Volcan de Fuego (meaning fire volcano) in Antigua erupted suddenly killing hundreds of people.

To get the latest reports on safety please consult your own government’s travel advisory such as fco.gov.uk and travel.state.gov.

Dress: What you pack very much depends where you’ll be going in Guatemala. In general, however, layers are your friend. High altitudes mean that the mornings and evenings can be cool.Good walking shoes for Tikal are important.

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