Guatemala is the tropical holy grail of archaeological travel sites, luring in eco-travelers and history fanatics interested in the country’s rich Mayan culture. As a relatively inexpensive country, Guatemala offers clean hotel rooms and cheap meals – perfect for a student’s travel budget. This country has a distinctive and unique culture from the Spanish acquisition and the native Mayan people. Spanning a mountainous slice of Central America, Guatemala offers a great supply of scenic, natural, and historical sites waiting to be discovered.

Photo Credits: Rémi.

The capital of Guatemala, Guatemala City is the largest and most modern city in the country. It has many attractions and restaurants but few tourists. It’s easy to get from place to place within the city with a the bus or taxi. Once here, you can visit antique churches and archaeological sites that show the rich historic architecture of the country. There are numerous museums to visit, featuring traditional woven costumes, archaeological Mayan items, and modern art. Outdoor recreational activities are recommended, from climbing volcanoes to participating in water sports on the lake.

Flores is an island connected to Guatemala by a causeway and many travelers choose to come here because of its proximity to Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala. The city itself, however, is absolutely charming, dense with colonial red-roofed buildings, cobblestone streets, and a Spanish plaza. Study abroad students who choose Flores see it as less of a “take-off” point than a fascinating experience in itself. A quiet and peaceful place, Flores is one of the safest cities you can visit in Guatemala.

If you want the typical and fantastic Guatemalan experience, make sure to visit the city of Panajachel. A small town on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, Panajachel is one of the major tourism sites in Guatemala. Study abroad students have the chance to volunteer at the LIFE school, the only English speaking non-profit school in Guatemala, whose mission is to provide quality multicultural education to all children. For recreation, many choose to go scuba diving in the fresh water lake, kayaking through the lake, and biking around the village to volcanoes and hotspots.

How to Choose a Program
  • Academics: Studying abroad in Guatemala emphasizes immersion, showing students in the rich culture and improving their Spanish skills. Many the curriculums are conversation based, and many offer an introductory spanish courses in reading, writing, and grammar. Archaeology programs are also available, and many programs encourage on-site learning and will take field trips to the Mayan ruins as part of classroom activities.
  • Language: Most universities teach in English, but strongly encourage students to learn and get comfortable with speaking Spanish. Alongside language instruction, programs in Guatemala also teach the literature and cultures of Spanish-speaking regions. Teachers are qualified to teach Spanish beginner and advanced students alike.
  • Housing: Many programs arrange for students to stay with host families while in Guatemala, providing the students with maximum immersion in culture and Spanish language. The families provide three meals a day for the students. There is also limited housing available for students who wish to have private bathrooms. The host families have been carefully selected. A willingness to adapt to, and be respectful of, local customs and traditions is encouraged and expected.
Student Visa

Studying in Guatemala requires a student visa, to be completed online and be submitted to the Guatemala Immigration Department. Visa fees will vary depending on where you apply, but after submitting materials the Embassy of Guatemala will give you a new Guatemala visa. Be sure to also complete all your vaccinations.

What to Pack

Our guide on what to pack for study abroad in Central America will help you decide what to bring and what to leave behind.

Social Life and Student Culture

Modern day Guatemala is a blend of Mayan colonial traditions with the influences of 21st century Latin and North American culture. Students deciding to come here to study abroad can choose to visit Baroque churches dating back to the Spanish Conquest, pagan temples, highland street markets, or vast modernized shopping malls. Even pre-Columbian festival dances are remixed and performed by teenage hip hop fans. Most Guatemalans are friendly and very courteous to travelers.

For a post-apocalyptic experience, students can visit the nuclear disaster area of Chernobyl. Tour companies drive groups into the plant, where they pass through deserted villages and an eerie overgrown landscape.

Maya ruins are the key attractions in Guatemala,but the country also has many volcanoes and natural parks as well. Highlights for students include Lake Atitlan, rimmed with volcanoes and hot spots, Rio Dulce, the majestic “Emerald river” between Belize and Honduras, and open air Sunday markets.

Be careful, however, because Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, and students should take extra precautions while abroad. Avoid traveling alone between cities after dark, pay attention to pickpocketing, and do not use buses at night. Always drink purified water, and be sure to use mosquito repellents when you go outdoors


Don't let the cost of studying abroad deter you- many scholarships are available to help you make your dream of studying abroad into a reality. Be sure to check with your university for other funding opportunities!

Contributed by Sunny Chen

Study Abroad Programs in Guatemala

Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 programs
Augsburg University's Center for Global Education and Experience
Peace, Justice, and Community Engagement
Multiple Countries
10 •5 reviews

Travel to both Guatemala and Costa Rica on this experiential program...

Naropa University
LeapYear Latin America: Naropa University's Gap Year
Multiple Countries
10 •6 reviews

An extraordinary alternative year of college designed to assist you in...

Cristosal's Global School of Human Rights
Seminar: Making the Case for Asylum
Multiple Countries
10 •4 reviews

Participants should be lawyers or other professionals working in...

AmeriSpan Spanish Language Programs in Guatemala

AmeriSpan welcomes students looking to improve their Spanish language...

IPSL Global Institute at NUNM (National University of Natural Medicine)
IPSL Graduate Program: Community Organizing & Social Activism (COSA)
Multiple Countries

COSA, one of two IPSL International Graduate Programs, is designed to...

Global U
Global X Summer Study Abroad for Entrepreneurs and Creatives
Multiple Countries

God has called you to live a radical life. You're an innovator...

IPSL Global Institute at NUNM (National University of Natural Medicine)
IPSL Guatemala: A Holistic Approach to Health & Healthy Communities

COVID-19 and our societies’ reactions lay bare longstanding inequities...

Pacific Discovery
Central America Semester – Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
Multiple Countries

How do you want to experience our world? Join us for a life-changing...

Earth Rights Institute
Sustainable Development Summer Session in

The program weaves conservation, cultural heritage, socio-economics...

Global Degree Academy
Global Degree Academy - Central and South America Study Tour
Multiple Countries

Global Degree Academy is a community of global citizens that value...

Long Way Home
Green Building Academy

Long Way Home’s Green Building Academy offers a variety of hands-on...

IPSL Global Institute at NUNM (National University of Natural Medicine)
IPSL Graduate Program: International Development & Service (IDS)
Multiple Countries

IDS, one of two IPSL International Graduate Programs, is designed to...

Tours & Trips in Guatemala

Looking for something to do during your time in Guatemala? Check out some of these tours and trips!
  • Old Town Outfitters
    Volcan de Acatenango Overnight Hiking Tour in Guatemala
    9.75 •4 reviews

    Hiking Volcan de Acatenango is a must do trip while in Guatemala. From...

  • Frontier
    Ethical Adventure Trail through Central America
    Multiple Countries
    4.5 •2 reviews

    Combine exciting adventure travel with a project placement and...

  • Bucketlist Guatemala
    Pacaya Volcano Tour and Add-ons

    Pacaya Volcano is located between the department of Guatemala and...

  • Guatemalan Adventure
    Mayan Expedition Tour

    The journey begins in Antigua Guatemala, a city inspired by the...

  • Mayaexplor
    Guatemala Adventure Tour

    If you are looking for a resolutely natural way to discover Guatemala...

  • On the Go Tours
    Central America Tours
    Multiple Countries

    Our fully escorted tours to Central America take in the highlights of...

  • Intrepid Travel
    Real Central America
    Multiple Countries

    On this 16-day Central American adventure, you'll explore the...

  • Tucan Travel
    Tucan Travel: Mexico to Costa Rica Tour
    Multiple Countries

    Mexico and Central America will fill your ears with reggae rhythms...

  • Adventures Abroad Worldwide Travel
    16-Day Mayan Discoverer Tour
    Multiple Countries

    The country of Nicaragua derives its name from Nicaro, the name of the...

What People Are Saying

I have attended three Global School programs, and they have all been excellent. As an immigration defense attorney, what I have learned about Salvadoran history, culture, and context has been...

Simultaneous translation in the Centro Historico

This program was one of three that I had applied and been accepted to. The fact that we travel through three different countries - Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua in that specific order - led me...


Oftentimes students travel abroad and wind up drinking a lot, partying, and although they are in a different country, they speak with and live among people who are very much like themselves. This...

 Xela, Guatemala

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