You could list a million reasons to fall in love with this enchanting country. After spending a couple weeks in Guatemala in 2021, I found another ten to add.
Guatemala easily tops the chart of best countries to visit in 2021, flouting success battling the pandemic, largely open tourist attractions, a forward-looking travel system, and no required quarantine.
With nearly everything still on discount, Guatemala also makes an extremely budget-friendly destination for 2021. If you’re not already convinced, keep reading!
Guatemala Allows Vaccinated Passengers to Enter Without a Covid Test in 2021
Just this month, Guatemala announced that vaccinated passengers would no longer need a Covid test to enter the country. Plus, with no quarantine required (regardless of your vaccination status), you can hit the ground running. Or hiking, if that’s your thing.
This adds Guatemala to the small, but growing list of countries that are anticipating and staying ahead of the curve. Vaccinations are probably the future of travel – and that can be a good thing, as Guatemala shows.
You Can Explore (Most) of Guatemala’s Volcanos Right Now, Even Active Ones!
If you don’t mind filling your shoes with rocks and sand, sleeping in near freezing temperatures under a tent, and hiking up several thousand feet, Guatemala’s volcanos are for you.
Personally, I love the adventure. And watching the Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) erupt under a clear night sky filled with millions of stars was an experience I cannot compare to anything else I’ve done in my life.
You may have heard that Pacaya is so active that it shut down the airport for a day. If you’re brave enough, you can actually visit Pacaya National Park and experience the lava up-close and personal.
The Safety and Health Precautions in Guatemala Were Comprehensive but Not Annoying
As an airline pilot, I’ve been to over 20 countries during the pandemic. Here are my thoughts on Guatemala’s measures in 2021:
Just as it does with its delicious coffee, Guatemala does a great job finding the perfect blend. In this case, of enforcing sanitary measures without handicapping the country.
After landing at La Aurora International Airport, I was truly impressed by the high-tech temperature screening Guatemala uses. It’s far more advanced than anything I’ve seen in the US of A, so that says a lot. Almost everyone wears KN95 masks, and if you don’t have one, they have plenty to give away. Again, far ahead of the US, which surprised me enormously.
I Found Awesome Hotels on Discount, Even in Antigua and Lake Atitlán
Honestly, this was probably the biggest perk of traveling to Guatemala in 2021. We never had to spend heaps of time searching for our hotels; we simply ranked everything by “Guest Rating” on Hotels.com and picked from the top discounted accommodations.
Although the name is corny, we fell in love with Good Hotel in Antigua. This isn’t an ad or anything – we literally couldn’t believe how nice it was, especially considering they’re a nonprofit that donates to schoolgirls in need. It was really heartwarming to hear the stories.
Almost Everything is as Open as it Was Pre-Covid
After traveling around the world in 2020, I’ll no longer take places being open for granted again. We experienced everything from running from restaurant to restaurant on empty stomachs and ending up sleeping hungry, booking hotels just to find that were shut down, to not being able to visit National Parks that google promised were open. Luckily, everything was open in Guatemala.
- Tikal: Open M-F 6AM-6PM
- Semuc Champey: Tu-Su 8AM-4PM
- Volcan de Acatenango: open for tours
- Lake Atitlán: open (include La Fortuna)
- Antigua Guatemala: almost everything (hotels, restaurants, museums) is fully open and functional
- Guatemala City: almost everything (hotels, restaurants, museums) is fully open and functional
The Sights Weren’t As Crowded as Usual
Hilltop restaurants with vast views of the seemingly endless volcanos – and no reservation needed. Hipster cafés serving rich, fresh Guatemalan coffee with no line out the door. Experiencing the Mayan acropolis of Tikal as if you were the one discovering it.
All of this is possible thanks to the depression in travel we’ve seen this year.
We were able to book all of our tours and hotels, even during the normally super busy “Semana Santa” (Holy Week/Easter), literally the night before. We hiked up the incredible (and active) Acatenango Volcano on a tour that’s normally full for months ahead. And lastly, we would have never been able to experience the rich culture of Guatemala so finely in ‘normal’ times.
Guatemalans Were Extremely Welcoming of Tourism in 2021
Even though I had heard great things about Guatemalans before, I was genuinely surprised when I arrived. The locals seem like the kind who would give the shoes off their feet to make sure you enjoy your time in Guatemala.
Despite the pandemic, the locals truly were warm and inviting. We had no issues conversing in my poor Spanglish and their mostly well-spoken English.
Transport Was Easy, Safe, and Quick
The tourism industry definitely took a toll during the pandemic, and a lot of businesses went under. Luckily, Guatemalans are extremely resilient and found ways to survive the downturn. As a result, most of the shuttle operators are still running as before without any price increases.
This makes traveling across the country quick, easy, and convenient. Shuttles and any public transportation are capped to 50%, so you’ll find it a bit easier to spread out and find room. Face masks are required and almost everyone wears KN95 face masks.
It Was Super Easy to Get an Exit Covid Test in Guatemala
There are plenty of Covid testing centers in Guatemala. We found that the Blue Medical Centers in Guatemala City were most convenient. They have a lab about 5 minutes from La Aurora International Airport in Las Americas.
We received our PCR results by e-mail in only 6 hours, far faster than we would almost anywhere in the states. Rapid/antigen results, the kind required to return to the US, only take 15 minutes.