Sean and Mittie | Our Top Three Picks for Off the Beaten Path Places in Guatemala 8

Our Top Three Picks for Off the Beaten Path Places in Guatemala

Less-Frequented Places in Guatemala

I’m always looking for hidden spots, rural stretches with incredible scenery or little towns full of culture and life, which have been minimally touched by tourism. It’s not that tourism is bad, but it lends itself to a different travel experience – one populated with more encounters with other travelers, creature comforts, and often higher prices. Off the beaten path destinations are often host to natural landscapes, less synchronized cultural traditions, and a local social atmosphere.

Sean and Mittie | Our Top Three Picks for Off the Beaten Path Places in Guatemala 9

Here are our top 3.

1. Playa Tilapita

Sean and Mittie | Our Top Three Picks for Off the Beaten Path Places in Guatemala 10

Accessible only by boat, Playa Tilapita shouldn’t be confused with its ugly step-cousin Tilapa. Since adding “ito/ita” to the end of a word in Latin American Spanish indicates a diminutive form of the original word, it’s easy to think they are the same. We certainly did. We started making the best of a so-so situation. It wasn’t until the next afternoon when, roaming be damned, we checked Hotel Tilapita’s website.

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“Accessible only by boat?” Eureka moment.

We took a small boat through the mangroves with Josue, a local fisherman, at 10 Quetzal a piece to the lovely island of Tilapita, a place heralded for its surf potential but relatively unvisited. It was just perfect. Not another tourist on the island. A long, black-sand coastline teeming with fish from the brackish mangroves, fresh water streams and salt water shallows. A wealth of local Gallo beer. And to top it all off, the owner of the only hotel on the island and his family were delightful, preparing us delicious seafood and superb, Guatemalan coffee (which is surprisingly hard to find!)

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The beach itself isn’t as picturesque as the Caribbean side, but we loved its serenity. No one selling anything, bothering you why you try to relax. No expectations or limitations. Just you, the beach and a handful of Guatemalan fisherman casting nets. One thing we didn’t love was the sea-trash that the waves left strewn along the shore.

Sean and Mittie | Our Top Three Picks for Off the Beaten Path Places in Guatemala 12

2. Mountain towns around Los Encuentros and Chimaltenango

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Between Chichicastenengo and Antigua, RN1 winds through the misty mountains of the Western Highlands of Guatemala, boasting of primordial landscapes that can be compared to few. I found it astoundingly beautiful and well-worth the drive, as both destinations are common on the tourist trail. The highway is dotted in sweet camping spots, and local restaurants with truly amazing views.

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We chose this route in order to avoid the capital, Guatemala City, and any of its outlying areas due to safety concerns. We were delighted to stumble upon such a gorgeous scene and interested to learn that its tourism is almost exclusively national.

3. Verapaz

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The lush and verdant Verapaz region receives very little tourism despite being one of the most beautiful jungle paradises I’ve ever seen. Humid mist encourages the growth of unique exotic flowers and sanctuary for birds, including the quetzal.

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We stayed in Chisec, a small town a short distance from some amazing caves, waterways and sites of archeological discoveries. Bom bil pek, about 1 km north of Chisec, just off the highway, is known for the artifacts discovered in these water-filled caves. You pay your entrance fee, get a flashlight and an innertube and depart with a guide to see the “painted caves.” Many ceramics have been found there and they’re still in use for Mayan ceremonies. Candelaria and Los Nacimientos are exquisite caves as well, characteristically white, sometimes transparent, covered in stalactites and stalagmites.

If visiting Guatemala, these are some great selections for a different cultural and natural experience. What do you think? Have you been to these places? Would you like to go? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Justin Kennedy
    Posted at 18:21h, 13 October Reply

    Of course I would love to visit this amazing destination! Those caves look like such a fun and mysterious place to check out. Ive heard nothing but great things about Guatemala in general as well.

  • Mari
    Posted at 14:40h, 13 June Reply

    My husband and I are going to Guatemala at the end if July to celebrate our 30th anniversary! We thank you for sharing these treasures you have discovered! We will follow in your footsteps!

    • Mittie Roger
      Posted at 17:59h, 13 June Reply

      Thank you, Mari! I hope you have a lovely anniversary. Congratulations! 30 years is a long time!

  • Nelly
    Posted at 14:57h, 13 June Reply

    I am Guatemalan, but never been to Playa Tilapita or Verapaz… Been to some towns and the roads around Chimaltenango and Los Encuentros… Passed by there many times as it is on the way to Solola, my grandmother’s hometown…which is, of course, where beautiful Lake Atitlan lays… Next time I will try to go and discover your suggestions! Thank you

    • Mittie Roger
      Posted at 18:00h, 13 June Reply

      I’m happy to hear that, Nelly! I also enjoyed the Lake Atitlan area. The volcanoes are so beautiful over the lake!

  • Alfredo Saravia
    Posted at 00:00h, 14 June Reply

    I am Guatemalan and a little sad to hear that your experience relies on the untouched and pristine, due to the amount paid for the experience. I’ve been to several places around the world and always, happy to support the local economy. So sad to hear you promoting our country on keeping it poor!
    I think our people deserve better!

    • Mittie Roger
      Posted at 00:10h, 14 June Reply

      Alfredo, I do support the local economy! When I’m traveling I buy exclusively from local markets and farmers. And I support small businesses run by locals, not unsustainable tourism initiatives. I am also a nature lover and will pay more to stay in a place that takes care of its natural resources. Taking care of nature doesn’t make a country or its people poor!

  • Al Argueta
    Posted at 02:18h, 14 June Reply

    Your safety concerns over Guatemala City "and its outlying areas are completely overrated. By that definition, Antigua Guatemala, one of the country’s top tourism spots, would be off-limits. I get your desire to go off the grid but you missed out on some of the country’s highlights with your myopic vision of travel to Guatemala. Feel free to read my guidebook, Moon Guatemala, to make the most of your next trip there.

    • Mittie Roger
      Posted at 02:55h, 14 June Reply

      Hi Al, Anitgua was beautiful. We loved it. The focus of this article was to highlight my favorite off the beaten path locations, which is why I selected the lesser-known locations that I did.

  • Nancy
    Posted at 21:25h, 14 June Reply

    Going to Guate next month. Verapaz is on my bucket list. Hopefully i can make it there. Looks beautiful.

  • Fenicks Renasci
    Posted at 22:24h, 20 December Reply

    Im going to guatemala at the end of january!! Im a female traveling solo my first time out of the country(usa). Big plunge!!! Im very excited. I have done much searching on the web for places to visit. I would love to find more of the hidden gems as well as some of the more well known areas. What are some things you might tell me that would be helpful like transportation food and how to find hidden beauty!! I want more of a cultural immersion!! Time spent with the people and landscape. Can i do this as well as go to places like el mirador and semuc champy? Can i do this while using public transportation? So far ive looked into hostel stays. I know that mostly travelers stay there….

    • Mittie.Roger
      Posted at 11:32h, 02 February Reply

      Hi Fenicks! I bet you’re on your trip already. Sorry i’m only seeing this now. We loved Tikal and the Verapaz region most, although, the town around Atitlan and Chichicastenenga are also amazing. Let us know how your trip goes!

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