Territory

Wonders of Guatemala

Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey. / Esmée Winnubst, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

The number of exciting landmarks in Guatemala is very high.

By far the most important landmarks in Guatemala are Maya archaeological monuments and heritage of other Pre-Columbian cultures.

Guatemala together with the nearby Mexican states were the cradle of the Mesoamerican civilization – one of the great civilizations of the world. In some regions of the country it is even hard to single out separate archaeological sites – wast areas are dotted with thousands of ruined structures, roads and other monuments. In Guatemala are located some of the largest prehistoric structures in the world – such as La Danta temple in El Mirador.

Other wonders of Guatemala are:

  • Historical cities – especially Antigua Guatemala.
  • Renaissance and Baroque churches – some of the oldest churches in America.
  • Volcanoes and volcano related features.
  • Ecosystems – this mountainous country has a huge diversity of interesting ecosystems – from mangrove forest to cloud forests, pine forest and scrublands in the mountains. Here live hundreds of species of animals and plants, which are not met outside the country.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Guatemala

Geological wonders

Semuc Champey

Alta Verapaz

Tufa terraces over a 300 m long section of Cahabòn River, forming a group of small, emerald colored pools. These pools are in a deep, dangerous canyon and end with a cave, where the river disappears.

Semuc Champey tufa terraces, Guatemala
Las Conchas

Petén

Series of rimstone pools, formed by a water from karst spring.

Archaeological wonders

Tikal

Petén

One of the largest and most important cities of the Maya civilization. The city flourished in the 3rd – 10th century AD. The city contains an impressive complex of ruined structures, including a 47 m high pyramid. Numerous art values – stelae, burials.

Ruins of Tikal in the endless forests of Petén, Guatemala
El Mirador

Petén

Ruins of Maya city that flourished around the 9th century AD. At times here were living more than 100 000 people – thus it was one of the largest cities in the world then. The central part of the city takes some 26 km². The tallest pyramids are more than 70 m tall (La Danta) and belong to the largest constructions in the ancient world. There are other enormous pyramids: El Tigre is 55 m tall, Los Monos – 48 m tall.

La Danta pyramid in El Mirador - as seen from El Tigre pyramid
Seibal

Petén

Ruins of large and important Maya city. City was inhabited in 400 BC – 200 AD, then for some time it was in decline and flourished again in the 9th century, when here lived up to 10,000 people. Found remnants of thousands of buildings, last monuments were built in 889 AD.

La Danta temple in El Mirador

Petén

Possibly the largest ancient man made structure in the world, 70 m tall Maya shrine, the tallest structure in Pre-Columbian America. 2.8 million cubic meters of building materials have been used for it. Constructed in the 1st century AD.

La Danta pyramid in El Mirador - one of the largest pyramids in the world. El Tigre pyramid is seen in the background, to the left
Quiriguá

Izabal

Ruins of a very interesting Maya city that was founded sometime around 200 AD and abandoned by 850 AD. Here have been preserved some of the most elaborate stone sculptures in Central America and the tallest prehistoric stone sculptures in America. Stela E is 10.6 m tall and weighs approximately 65 tons, it has been brought from quarries 5 km away. Some other steles are very large as well. The site contains sculpted Maya calendars that have provided much knowledge about this civilization.

Iximche

Chimaltenango

Ruins of a large Maya city, capital of a local kingdom from 1470 to 1524. Site contains numerous pyramids, palaces, two ballcourts. The first capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, soon abandoned. Thanks to the alliance of the Spanish with local rulers, this city has been largely preserved.

Xultun

Petén

Ruins of large, little explored Maya city with many interesting monuments, such as 35 m tall pyramid, two ballcourts. Here has been found a mural with Maya calendar that illustrates that Maya did not think that world’s end will come in 2012.

Tikal Temple V

Petén

57 m tall pyramid, built sometimes around 700 AD. Offerings and burials of huge importance for science have been found here.

Río Azul

Petén

Ruins of a large Maya city that flourished around 400 AD. Remnants of 752 buildings, the tallest pyramid in the city is 47 m high. In the city was found a beautiful chocolate pot with a screw for lid.

Kaminaljuyu

Guatemala

Site of large and important Maya city – predecessor of the modern Guatemala City. Kaminaljuyu was settled sometimes around 1500 BC and occupied up to 1300 AD. Much of the ruins have been eliminated by later construction, but many valuable artifacts have provided much knowledge to the science.

Zaculeu

Huehuetenango

Well preserved ruins of Maya city that was established sometimes around 250 AD and captured by Spanish after a lengthy warfare in 1525. Site has 43 structures, many of them well preserved. The largest pyramid is 12 m high.

Dos Pilas

Petén

A city – predator that attacked nearby cities and gradually increased its influence until its maximum flourishing in the 8th century. Abandoned in 761 AD. Several caves – sites of religious importance – have been found at the city.

Naj Tunich

Petén

Unusual Mayan archaeological monument in a cave, extremely rich with artifacts. Buildings inside the cave, the only known masonry tombs of elite inside a cave known to science, petroglyphs, inscriptions.

Mayan hieroglyphs in Naj Tunich cave, Guatemala
Yaxha

Petén

Ruins of important Maya city with more than 500 structures found in it. The site has retained its original name.

Aguateca

Petén

Well preserved ruins of Maya city that was established sometimes around 300 BC and suddenly abandoned at about 800 AD due to warfare. City was built on 90 m tall limestone outcrop and reinforced with 4.8 km long fortification walls. Home utensils were left in haste thus providing rich information for archaeologists.

Tikal Temple IV

Petén

64.6 m tall pyramid, 190,000 m³ of construction material has been used for this structure. Built in 741 AD, possible burial site of Yik’in Chan K’awiil.

Monte Alto

Escuintla

Ruins of a settlement that was established by an early Mesoamerican culture sometimes around 1800 BC, regional center in 400 BC – 200 AD. Here have been found 45 large structures, the largest is 20 m tall pyramid. In the site have been found interesting sculptures that may have been carved according to their magnetic properties.

El Tigre temple in El Mirador

Petén

An enormous structure topped with 55.8 m tall Maya pyramid, constructed in the 1st century AD.

El Tigre pyramid in El Mirador, Guatemala
Tikal Temple III (Temple of the Jaguar Priest)

Petén

Approximately 55 m tall pyramid, built sometimes around 810 AD, possible burial site of ruler Dark Sun. Last major center in Tikal.

Topoxte

Petén

Ruins of once important Maya center that was built on the islands of Yaxha Lake. Islands were densely built with interesting structures from different periods of Maya history.

Architecture wonders

Antigua Guatemala

Sacatepéquez

Historical city with well preserved and beautiful buildings in Baroque and Mudejar style, one of most beautiful historical cities in Americas. This was the third capital of Guatemala, established in 1543 and destroyed by an earthquake in 1717 when more than 3,000 buildings collapsed. The city was destroyed once more in 1773. Since then the capital of Guatemala is in Guatemala City.

Antigua Guatemala and Agua volcano
Tayasal – Old Flores (Noh Petén)

Petén

The last Maya city – Tayasal – existed on the island in Lake Peten Itza. It was conquered in 1697 and contemporary Flores city was developed here instead. Nowadays this small island is densely built area with many historical buildings.

Santo Tomás Church in Chichicastenango

El Quiché

Church in Renaissance style, built in 1545 on the top of Maya temple platform. Steps of Maya pyramid are revered by Maya up to this day. Nearby is a sacred, carved stone Cofradia of Pascual Abaj.

Santo Tomás Church on the top of Maya pyramid in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

WorldYellow Recommended books

Moon Guatemala


Part-time Guatemala resident Al Argueta provides travelers with an insider’s view of Guatemala’s best, from idyllic surf spots to popular volcanoes. Argueta offers in-depth coverage of Lake Atitlan and La Antigua, as well as Guatemala City’s diverse selection of museums. With expert advice on where to eat, sleep, relax, and explore, Moon Guatemala gives travelers the tools they need to create a more personal and memorable experience.

The Rough Guide to Guatemala


The Rough Guide to Guatemala is the ultimate guide to this fascinating Central American country. Fully updated, detailed accounts of every attraction and destination, along with clear, color maps, will show you everything Guatemala has to offer, including ancient Maya sites, colonial cities, rainforest ruins, and stunning lakes.


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