Explore the Map of Guatemala: A Virtual Field Trip
Get ready to explore the map of Guatemala from the comfort of your own home! As we explore each of the 22 departments, keep your eyes out for some recurring themes. Keep track of how many volcanoes, indigenous groups, and natural wonders are mentioned. Also, take special note of the main attractions!
1. Alta Verapaz
Pronunciation: ahl-tah bair-ah-pas
Alta Verapaz is located in the northern section on the map of Guatemala. Because it is a mountainous region, the department has varying climates. The rolling mountains are also extremely fertile, so agriculture is the main economic activity.
If you visit, be sure to check out the incredible cave systems and the colonial capital of Cobán. The city was built in 1543 and has some beautiful old structures still in place.
If you love nature, this department is home to the national bird, the quetzal, as well as some amazing reserves. The Vero Verapaces houses 60,000 orchid plants, various ferns, and other incredible flowers. Also, the Lachua National Park includes 10,000 hectares with a pristine lagoon and trails to explore.
One of the prime tourist destinations on the map of Guatemala is Semuc Champey, a stunning natural limestone bridge on the Cahabon River with picturesque pools to swim in. If you travel to Semuc Champey, be sure to explore the nearby caves while you’re there!
2. Baja Verapaz
Pronunciation: bah-hah bair-ah-pas
On the map of Guatemala, the department of Baja Verapaz is located right below Alta Verapaz and is much smaller than its northern counterpart. It is in the Chuacús Mountains and has a rich agricultural economy.
Baja Verapaz is an interesting department to visit because well over half of the population is indigenous. By visiting villages like San Miguel Chicaj and Rabinal, you can experience the Mayan communities of Achi, Pocomchi, Quiche, and Cakchiquel and learn about their customs.
Don’t forget to stop by the Biotopo del Quetzal Mario Dary Rivera bird reserve to watch the quetzal in its natural habitat. The national bird is hard to spot despite its vivid colors, so this well-managed preserve is the best opportunity to catch a glimpse the elusive quetzal.
Chimaltenango, the name of both a department and a city, is located in central Guatemala. The city is fairly busy as traffic to other areas of the country passes through.
Outside of the main urban area, the views in the highlands are breathtaking. Many of the smaller towns are surrounded by plains with cows and horses grazing.
The towns of San Juan Comalapa and Santa Apolonia Iximche are wonderful spots to appreciate archeological finds, traditional ceramics, and ancient art.
Chiquimula is on the eastern side of the map of Guatemala, on the border with Honduras. Like many other departments, it is sprinkled with incredible mountains and various ecosystems.
While many people travel to cities like Esquiplulas for their famous fairs, the highlight of the area is the Ipala volcano and lagoon. Guatemala is home to dozens of volcanoes, but Ipala is unique because it has a gorgeous lagoon in the crater.
If you’re into hiking, be sure to climb the Ipala and Quetzaltepeque volcanoes. You can rent horses and see breathtaking views from the top of the volcanoes.
5. El Progreso
Pronunciation: ehl proh-greh-soh
El Progreso is located on the eastern side of the map of Guatemala in the area called el corredor seco, or the dry corridor. This region touches several departments, but almost all of El Progreso is affected by the heat. Some areas are desert-like, while other towns in the department have humid forests.
However, the heat of this area provides some wonderful natural tourist locations. Take a swim in one of the multiple natural hot springs, like the Poza de los Plátanos or Irtra Aguas Calientes. If you want to cool off, take a trip to the water park Guastatoya!
Escuintla is a large department bordering the Pacific Ocean. Between the large sugar and coffee plantations and the beach tourist industry, this department has an impressive economy.
One of the reasons that Escuintla draws so many tourists—both national and international—is because they have beautiful black-sand beaches. Thanks to the numerous active volcanoes, the residue changed the sand to black after thousands of years of volcanic activity.
Speaking of volcanoes, one of the key attractions in the Escuintla department is the active volcano, Pacaya. Even though it is active, it is one of the calmer Guatemalan volcanoes. You can hike all the way up to the crater and roast marshmallows over lava flows!
The Guatemalan department is the home of the capital, Guatemala City. Since this is the largest city in the country, it offers many attractions.
Take a trip to the local zoo, complete with free-range monkeys frolicking overhead. Or, visit the local children’s or anthropology museum. Take a trip to the president’s house in the historic plaza and admire the ornate government buildings surrounding a beautiful fountain.
The large department of Huehuetenango is located on the northwestern edge of the map of Guatemala, on the border with Mexico. While the large city of Huehuetenango (Huehue for short) is a large attraction, numerous indigenous pueblos are also worth visiting. The Mam group is the largest, but there are also Mayan people from the Chuje, Kanjobal, and Jacalteca groups.
Juan Diéguez Olaverri Mirador
The mountain range Sierra de Los Cuchamatanes lies on the border and provides incredible views. If you travel to this lookout, you will sit above the cloudline and look over the department. Go at sunset or sunrise for an even more breathtaking view.
Capital: Puerto Barrios
Izabal is the only Caribbean department on the map of Guatemala. As such, it has a unique and diverse culture.
While Mayan indigenous groups are common throughout the rest of the country, the African-Guatemalan Garifuna group is located exclusively in Izabal. With its unique Caribbean subculture, the Garifuna town of Livingston is a popular tourist destination.
Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal
We couldn’t just choose one main attraction for Izabal. Lake Izabal is the largest lake in the country, and Rio Dulce flows from the lake to Livingston. Both of these locations are amazing and provide ample opportunities for diving, exploring, and sailing.
Jalapa is located on the eastern side of the map of Guatemala, next to Chiquimula. It is a mostly agricultural department that cultivates and exports yucca, potatoes, rice, sugar cane, and coffee.
Its popular attractions include several hot springs, beautiful lagoons, and volcanoes. Take your pick from the Jumay, Tahual, Monterrico, or Alzatate volcanos, and hike up them to take in views of the verdant agriculture fields.
Jutiapa is the southeasternmost department on the map of Guatemala, located south of Jalapa and on the border with El Salvador. A small portion of the department reaches down to the Pacific Ocean.
The most notable attractions include the numerous volcanoes in the department. The highest is Suchitan, and some other popular options include Las Viboras, El Tahual, Ixtepeque, Moyuta, Chingo, and Culma.
Volcanoes aren’t the only attraction. Lake Guija straddles the border between Guatemala and El Salvador, and Lake Atescatempa is near Las Viboras volcano. Both are fantastic places to relax and enjoy nature.
Petén is the largest department in the country, located in the northernmost part of the map of Guatemala on the Yucatán peninsula. It is a wild, mystical jungle full of rich history and diverse wildlife.
The main attraction for tourists from around the world is the Mayan city of Tikal. While over half the Guatemalan population is indigenous, not much remains of their once-powerful empires. However, Tikal is an incredibly well-preserved area of Mayan temples and ruins.
In addition to historical wonders, Tikal is home to awesome wildlife, including some endangered species.
Quetzaltenango is a unique department located in the southwestern corner of the map of Guatemala. The capital, nicknamed Xela, is the cultural center of the country. It is home to great schools, music, and art.
The department is diverse geographically. The temperatures can actually reach near freezing in the mountains, but the presence of numerous volcanoes allows for plenty of natural hot springs.
Capital: Santa Cruz del Quiché
Located next to Huehuetenango, Quiché is a large department with a rich history. There is a large population of the indigenous Quiché group that has had an impressive influence on the country as a whole. At one point, their empire covered one-third of the country.
One of the largest attractions is the city of Chichicastenango and its extensive market. You can visit to shop for flowers, weavings, wood masks, ceramics, and other handmade wonders.
Retalhuleu is in the southwesternmost corner of the map of Guatemala with a large piece of the department on the Pacific coast. Because of its location, the department features several popular beaches, especially for surfing.
Even though there is plenty to do at the beach, some of the more popular attractions are the two large parks, Xocomil Aquatic and Xetulul amusement parks. Additionally, take some time to explore the caves and ceremonial sites in Abaj Takalik.
Sacatepéquez is a tiny department wedged between Chimaltenango, Guatemala, and Escuintla on the map of Guatemala. It is the home of the former capital and the tourist center of the country.
The capital of Sacatepéquez is Antigua, a gorgeous colonial town. Even though it is a small town, every corner is picturesque with cobblestone streets and colonial ruins. It is nestled near the dormant volcano Agua with views of two active volcanoes Fuego and Acatenango. The rich culture and colors combined with the impressive views every way you turn make this one of the main attractions in the country.
Prepare yourself to be wowed with our list of 5 Beautiful Places to Visit in Antigua Guatemala When Quarantine Ends!
If you visit Antigua, stop by our Homeschool Spanish Academy headquarters and say hi to your wonderful Spanish teachers. We’d love to see you!
17. San Marcos
Pronunciation: sahn mahr-kohs
Capital: San Marcos
On the western side of the map of Guatemala, the department of San Marcos borders Mexico just south of Huehuetenango. Because this department includes everything from the Cuchumatanes Mountains to beaches, the climate is quite diverse.
The two highest volcanoes in Central America are located in San Marcos. Volcano Tajumulco reaches 4,220 meters, and Tacaná measures 4,060 meters.
18. Santa Rosa
Pronunciation: sahn-tah roh-sah
Another department that has a wonderful coastline is Santa Rosa, located between Escuintla and Jutiapa on the map of Guatemala. The main focus of the department is agriculture and livestock, thanks to the fertile land.
The soil is so rich in nutrients because of the numerous volcanoes in the area. Choose between hiking Tecuamburro, Jumaytepeque, Cruz Quemada, and Cerro Redondo. Don’t forget to visit Monterrico on the coast and enjoy fresh seafood.
Sololá is a small department located in the western highlands of Guatemala. Despite its size, it is full of culture and history. Numerous indigenous groups are found in this section of the map of Guatemala including the Tzutujil, Quiche, and Cakchiquel.
Lake Atitlán battles Antigua and Tikal for the top attraction in Guatemala. The deepest lake in Central America is surrounded by volcanoes, offering absolutely incredible views from every vantage point. The culture of the lake also draws tourists, as it offers an interesting combination of various Mayan villages and international residents.
Suchitepéquez is the last department that has land on the Pacific coast, squeezed between Retalhuleu and Escuintla on the map of Guatemala. Although there are no volcanoes in this department, the land is surprisingly fertile thanks to the volcanos in surrounding departments.
Mazatenango draws in plenty of tourists with festivities throughout the year. The Parque Campestre Xol ‘ja’ is a great place to camp, fish, bike, and skateboard outside the city.
Totonicapán is another tiny department north of Sololá on the map of Guatemala. While cold weather may not come to mind when you think of Central America, some areas of Guatemala, especially Totonicapán, are notorious for low temperatures.
In addition to the chilly weather, the department is famous for textile production, as well as incredible handicrafts and traditional artwork.
Our last department on the map of Guatemala is Zacapa, located south of Izabal and on the border with Honduras. Most Guatemalan departments cultivate coffee, sugar cane, and corn. In contrast, Zacapa harvests tomatoes, grapes, and okra.
Even though Zacapa is part of the corredor seco, it has plenty of natural hot springs and plenty of fun caves to explore.
Explore the Map of Guatemala Even More!
Keep learning about the wonders on the map of Guatemala by taking live classes with one of our teachers from Antigua. They will answer all your questions about the country, and you can practice your conversational Spanish by talking about your favorite places. Take a free trial class today and enjoy Guatemala!
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