Guatemala's landscape includes jungles, forests, beaches, and mountains, packed with diverse flora and fauna. Fortunately, the Guatemalan government is dedicated to expanding sustainable tourism throughout the country. There are more than 30 Guatemala national parks and preserved areas, encompassing 19 different ecosystems. Here are some of the most visited national parks in Guatemala.
Tikal National Park
The Mayan ruins of Tikal are undoubtedly among the world's most incredible archaeological sites – it's no surprise the national park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site decades ago. The park includes the ruins and the dense jungle surrounding them, home to Guatemala wildlife like gray foxes, spider and howler monkeys, toucans, harpy eagles, and even jaguars (don't worry, they're nocturnal). If you visit the park for the famous Tikal sunrise, you're almost certain to spot a few critters roaming the ancient city.
Sierra Del Lacandon National Park
Located in the northwest region of Guatemala, Sierra Del Lacandon National Park is one of the country's most important national parks in terms of biodiversity. The park runs up against Guatemala's border with Mexico, joining up with Mexico national parks like the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas. Two tracts of land (77,000 acres total) of Sierra Del Lacandon National Park are owned by The Nature Conservancy. Called “Naranjitos I and II,” the acreage represents some of the most biologically diverse rainforests in Guatemala. The park also includes a number of Mayan ruins: Piedras Negras, La Pasadita, El Ceibo, Macabilero, El Hormiguero and El Porvenir.
Río Dulce National Park
One of Guatemala's oldest national parks (it was established in 1955), Río Dulce National Park protects its namesake "sweet" river, which runs from Lake Izabal to the Caribbean. The river's banks are densely forested, especially as it nears the sea. Travelers voyaging via motorboat from the village of Río Dulce to Livingston are likely to glimpse numerous colorful birds, and possibly monkeys. The park also protects the long, skinny El Golfete lake.
Pacaya National Park
Due to its proximity to both Guatemala City and Antigua Guatemala, the Pacaya volcano has always been a favorite of tourists, and Pacaya National Park was established to monitor and protect it. The 8,373-foot volcano has been erupting continuously since 1965. Most eruptions are small; however, a 2010 eruption caused the Guatemalan government to shut down the La Aurora National Airport and recommend the evacuation of villages near the volcano.
Lake Atitlan National Park
Lake Atitlan National Park (Lago de Atitlán) is another of Guatemala's oldest national parks, established in 1955. The centerpiece of the park, of course, is Lake Atitlan itself. It's often called one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, due to the three volcanoes on the lake's southern shore: Volcán Atitlán, Volcán San Pedro, and Volcán Tolimán. At 340 meters, Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America and is surrounded by Mayan villages.
Laguna Lachuá National Park
Laguna Lachuá National Park safeguards the stunning Laguna Lachuá, a nearly circular Karstic lake located northwest of Cobán. However, deforestation continues in the area and even in the park itself, despite its protected status. The lake is truly a sight to behold: its waters are colored turquoise by minerals, contrasting with the surrounding forest and calcified tree branches. Around 120 species of mammals live near the lake – 50 percent of the mammals in all of Guatemala.