Guatemala has long been a ‘must-go’ destination for me, so when I knew that I would be spending some months in Mexico, I just needed to stop by this beautiful and colorful Central American country. Guatemala is for everyone: the adventurous, the nature lover, the culture and history lover and the foodie. I must admit that after being in Mexico for a month prior my trip to Guatemala, I was pretty disappointed with the Guatemalan street food scene as the options are limited and the taste is more neutral than the (spicy) Mexi flavours, but I also discovered some really nice veg restaurants and found out that Guatemala is surprisingly vegan-friendly and the people so warm-hearted. I only manage to stay in Guatemala for 12 days, which is in my opinion enough for a short, but cultural trip where you’ll see the most, but if you do have more time, then I’ll recommend you to go slowly through this amazing and beautiful country, because there is plenty of things to see and do. My travel itinerary was the usual must-go places Lake Atitlán – Antigua – Flores, but if you have more time, I’ll suggest you to do Semuc Champey as well as I heard that it is a must when in Guatemala.
Street art in the streets of Guatemala
Must do in Guatemala = ride a local chickenbus!
Lake Atitlán is a lake in the Guatemalan highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range. It is probably my favorite place in Guatemala. It is an massive old volcano crater that erupted millions of years ago and since then been filled with rainwater over years and created a beautiful lake surrounded by three other volcanoes, beautiful lush jungle and small Mayan villages. Atitlán means ‘at the water’ in Nahuatl, Mayan native language and is the deepest lake in Central America.
Have a swim with the locals or just enjoy the stunning view!
The lake has several Mayan villages, but there is only three villages that are suitable for travelers and adventure seekers; San Pedro, San Marcos and Panajachel. It is also here that you’ll find the best options for vegan food, accommodation and activities.
Panajachel: You’ll probably arrive at Panajachel. It has its charm with small streets, restaurants and a more touristy feeling than rest of the villages. From here you can take a boat taxi (the last one leaves the dock at 6pm) for 25 Q to the other villages. I didn’t spend much time here as we arrived very late from San Cristobal and went directly to San Pedro. A lot of people stay in this village as a base to explore rest of the Lake, but if I was you, I’ll head to San Pedro.
San Pedro La Laguna: I stayed in San Pedro the whole time and it is here the young backpacker crowed gather. You’ll find plenty of accommodation in San Pedro and the village is small enough to walk from one end to the other. If you want to take one of the local tuk-tuks, don’t pay more than 5Q for a trip pr. person. This little village is also well-known for its many cheap, but good quality of Spanish Language Schools. What I loved the most about San Pedro is that the village has banned plastic bags, straws and cups (yaaay) so this little village is going in the right sustainable direction!
Want a nice souvenir? The colorful Guatemalan hammocks will be your best invest!
Where to stay: Hostal Fe is probably the best and cheapest accommodation if you’re looking for an awesome hostel with fellow travelers and a really nice vibe. The hostel has a nice bar overlooking Lake Atitlán and they offer dorms and private rooms.
Fifth Dimension Vegetarian Restaurant
This all-veg restaurant has a lots of vegan options and is located close to the lake with a beautiful view overlooking the Lake Atitlán. They have a large menu with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Most of the vegetarian options can be veganized. The atmosphere is very laid back with a top deck where you can enjoy your meal with some good company, a book or your laptop. The prices compared to the location is reasonable and the staff are very friendly. Try their delicious vegan pizza with fresh sliced avo’s. Can it be more Latin American? I don’t think so! Fifth Dimension is only open during breakfast and lunch time until 5pm.
Crispy vegan pizza with fresh avo’s, onions, bell peppers and olives!
Enjoy your meal in relaxed and quirky surroundings
Salud Para Vida
Salud para vida means ‘Cheers for your health’ or ‘health for life’ and it is actually not an eatery, but a health-oriented grocery store with som light vegan food options, probiotic drinks, basic foods if you prefer to cook and they have a small selection of ‘zero waste’ products. From the food part you can get vegan ice creams, spreads, bread and small meals. Try their homemade peanut butter with different flavours and if you bring your own jar/container, they’ll give you a discount. My favorite is PB with maple syrup (drooling)!
Zero waste items including cotton bags, foods and spices in bulk
Bring your own jar and get a discount on their delish PB!
How about some vegan bread with tzatziki or a mango sorbet?
This little juice shack on the main street squeeze tropical Guatemalan fruit into super nutritious juices and smoothies. You can add superfoods, such as chia, spirulina, maca and plant based protein powders to your juice/smoothie. The prices are cheap and the service super fast! Refill your water bottle here as well for only 2Q pr. liter!
Cheap and delicious fresh pressed juices!
Kámui is a Japanese fusion kitchen with few vegan options. Two of the mains which are vegetarian can be veganized. This eatery is located op the hill from the main dock. Try their tofu bowl or their famous teriyaki tofu burger if you are craving something Japanese on your Guatemalan trip! They are only open for lunch until 5pm and it is a must try when in San Pedro!! PS they also sell homemade tofu in bulk!
San Marcos La Laguna: Once you get of the boat and enter San Marcos its like entering a whole different world. In San Marcos its all about holistic sight of life with heaps if yoga and meditation retreats, holistic eateries (read: plant based) and where travelers and hippies all over the world fled to get a deeper connection with themselves and the Universe. Please don’t be scared away if you’re not into the whole spiritual thing, because this little laid back village also offers a more local vibe than the rest of the ‘touristy’ villages and some really nice rutes and view points for hiking the beautiful landscapes at the Lake!
The little path between the dock and the village
A typical street at Lake Atitlán
Where to stay: Circles cafe & hostel – Why? Because they are sweetest owners and they have a small selection of vegan food at their cosy restaurant! They provide dorms and private rooms for a reasonable price!
Il Giardino is a really lovely vegetarian restaurant serving few vegan options and a bigger selection of vegetarian that can be veganized (clearly marked). They have a really nice and relaxed garden sitting-area where you can enjoy your meal in peaceful surroundings. This spot is also perfect to enjoy a cup of tea, coffee or juice with a good book or your laptop. I can recommend their tropical fruit filled pancakes with sugar glaze and lime juice (its all about the balance right?) with their ginger lemonade! Try a pack of Guatemalan roasted whole cocoa beans that you can buy at the counter. Cocoa beans boosts your natural energy level, provides you with protein and antioxidants and taste super yummy!! (if you’re doing the Acatenango volcano trek, then they’ll be your best energy supply!)
Big and tasty sugar glazed pancakes with a fruit filling and shredded coconuts!
Buy a bag of whole roasted cacao beans for an natural energy kick
I admit. I actually didn’t try Samsara in San Marcos, but I did go there three times in Antigua, but only because I didn’t notice that they opened their second branch in San Marcos. I’ve been told that the atmosphere and the menu is quite similar to their main eatery in Antigua, so I believe that it is worth mention for must east in San Marcos (let me know in comments, please)! It is my favorite restaurant in Antigua as the food is filled with taste and love, so I hope they have transferred that into their location at Atitlán. See my review over Samsara under Antigua below.
Crispy tempeh with rice, veggies and lots of peanuts – from Samsara Antigua!
Antigua is a great place for culture and history lovers! The endless cobbled streets, Artisan markets, churches and colorful Spanish-influenced colonial styled buildings make this Unesco World Heritage Site a favorite for all travelers. Antigua is small enough to get explored by foot and there is a huge coffee culture making it the perfect spot to try some delicious and rich in taste Guatemalan coffee and just people watch. This city also offers heaps if Spanish Language Schools and for the adventurous ones, the Pacaya (the easy) and Acatenango (the tough one) volcano hike must be on their Antigua/Guatemala must do list!
Colorful women selling local handcraft in Antigua
Beautiful colonial churches and cobbled streets
A little walk to the Cerro de la Cruz is a must-do when in Antigua
Want to challenge yourself with the worlds most beautiful volcano trek? I guarantee you its going to be hard, but so much worth it once you see the view from the base camp and summit! Read my blog post here about what to prepare and pack if you want to trek Acatenango!
Trek Acatenango and see the sunrise from the summit
Plant powered and proud! Made it to the summit (3976m above sea level)
Where to stay: Salina Antigua – A lovely and quirky bohemian Hostal that offers cheap clean and spacious dorms and private rooms, an amazing common outdoor area, kitchen and bar! The location is superb and I can recommend you to book the Acatenango trek at their front desk!
Thanks God for Samsara! This is probably one of my favorite eateries in the whole world (Yes, you’ve read it)! Even though that this little eatery is located on a bustling busy street, the calmness and the laid back atmosphere is well captured in some lovely India inspired surroundings. I had the crispy tempeh bowl with peanut sauce and their quinoa ball sharwama here and they were both bomb! Beside lots of vegan dishes, they also sell natural skin-care products, local handcraft and probiotic drinks. Samsara offers breakfast, lunch and dinner for the hungry ones and I’ll bet that you’ll not only visit this eatery one time. For me this is definitely the best place to eat in Antigua!
One of the best meals ever: crispy quinoa balls in a tortilla with spice roasted veggies!
Spicy and savory!
A bowl filled with vegan goodness
Café Union Garden / Café Union
There is two Café Union Gardens in Antigua – which confused me as I tried the first one and thought it was the wrong as the one of them is named Café Union and the other Café Union Garden. However they are both of the same branch and have the same menu card. I was a bit disappointed about the very few vegan options that they provide, but if you want a smoothie, coffee or some vegan tacos in quirky and beautiful surroundings, its a nice place to have a stop while exploring Antigua. I had the vegan pancakes with fruits and their chocolate coffee smoothie first time and I tried their vegetarian (that can be veganized) falafel / hummus platter the second time. The pancakes was good, but the falafel platter is nothing to write about as their falafels didn’t taste as I expected. They were more sweet than savory. I asked for more hummus instead of the yoghurt they provide with the original vegetarian dish. As mentioned they also have vegan tacos on the menu and a tortilla soup that can be veganized, so maybe they are more worth trying. Anyways, its a super cosy cafe and they offer yoga classes and have a small section with homemade nut butters and vegan bliss balls.
Love the deco at Café Union
Vegan pancakes, fruit bowl and choco coffee shake! Perfect way to start the day!
Beautiful sitting area at Café Union Garden
Fruit kombucha and a veganized falafel plate with extra humus (always extra humus!)
Flores is all about exploring the amazing Guatemalan jungle, seeing the mighty Tikal (Mayan temple) and get a few lazy days at the Petén Itza lake where you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings and do some water activities such as renting a kayak or take a boat trip with one if the locals. Flores is an island and there is not much to do as it is so small and mostly consist of hostels and hotels, few good restaurants and some souvenir shops, but 2-3 days here included a day trip to Tikal will do it. There is a bigger city on the mainland (there is a bridge that can be easily crossed) where you’ll find a more local atmosphere and some really nice markets for buying fruits and vegetables.
Take a boat tour, enjoy the sun beams at the lake
or get lost in the Guatemalan jungle…
Colorful quirky streets and tuk-tuks!
Tikal is definitely not to miss when in Guatemala
Where to stay: Los Amigos is a really nice hostel that offers cheap dorms, a beautiful common garden sitting area and they have their own restaurant with surprisingly many vegan options (try their Vegan Queen dish or their homemade vegan brownie!) including soy milk for the smoothies and coffee which is a rare thing in this area. The only thing I didn’t like about this hostel was that they don’t have a common kitchen, but if you’re fine with that, then this is probably the best place to stay for budget and solo travelers. Refill your water bottle for 2Q’s here!
Los Amigos hostel bunny
Tasty vegan brownie at Los Amigos!
Maracuya is probably number one place to eat at Isla Flores. It is an all-veg restaurant with a changing menu offering seasonal dishes that either is vegan or can be veganized (they had 3 fully vegan options when I ate there) and heaps of smoothies, fresh juices and some tasteful desserts. The sitting area is located on a rooftop overlooking the lake with palm trees and a bit of a jungle-feeling surroundings. I noticed that they also rent some private cabañas with fans – not a bad place to stay I would say 😉 Besides food, they also have a small selection of natural skin-care and you can refill your water bottle here!
Bowl of the day: Veggies and lentils in a ginger sauce with peanuts and beetroot!
The nice sitting-area at Maracuya!
Fresh green juice (radiant) with a reusable straw (my own)
This restaurant has some few vegan options including burger, falafels and sandwiches. I heard they also do some vegan cakes sometimes, but I ate here only once and didn’t see any. The falafel bowl was actually not vegan, but vegetarian (I just really wanted some falafels) and it was not worth it (why can’t they make good falafels in Guate?) but I spoke with a vegan girl at my hostel who told me that their burger is worth trying, so if you go there, you should probably give their burgers a try. Otherwise they do some smoothies and juices and has a really nice patio where you can enjoy your meal or drink overlooking Lake Petén Itza and it is a really nice spot for the sunsets!
San Telmo is easy to spot from the streets!
The beautiful view from San Telmo
If you’re heading some other places that are not mentioned in this vegan food guide or if you just want to explore the Guatemalan food scene on your own, then I can recommend you to learn some few useful Spanish sentences, if you don’t already know the beautiful Latin American language:
Yo soy vegana (female) / vegano (male) – I am vegan
Tienes comida vegetariana? – Do you have vegetarian food?
Tienes leche de soya, almendra o coco? – Do you have soy, along or coconut milk? These plant based milk options are very common throughout Mexico and they wont be hard to find in corner stores – OXXO which is the Mexican answer to 7/11 have almond milk!
Sin carne – without meat
Sin leche – without milk
Sin queso – without cheese
Es sin producto animales? – Is it without animal products ?
No come producto animal! – I don’t eat animal products.
And of course you need to say Por favor and Gracias – Please and Thank you
I hope you enjoyed reading my vegan guide to Guatemala and if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.
Hasta luego amigos 😉