Catedral Metropolitana (Guatemala City): It took a long time to build this church, some 86 years, but the elegant main cathedral of Guatemala City has stood the test of time and weathered the effects of some major earthquakes. Today, the most impressive aspect of this church is its facade, which is both big and bold. However, the interior holds a treasure-trove of religious art and icons. Fronting the Plaza Mayor, this is a great place to start any tour of downtown Guatemala City.
Iglesia San Francisco (Guatemala City): This church isn't quite as old as other more famous Catholic churches in the country, but it has arguably the most impressive main altar -- a massive work of carved wood that's almost 92m (300 ft.) tall.
Convento de las Capuchinas (Antigua): Life was pretty difficult and austere for the nuns at this Capuchin convent, but today the grounds and buildings are some of the most pastoral and picturesque in all of Antigua. The large and sprawling complex was abandoned in the wake of the 1776 earthquake, but the damage was relatively minor. The view from the rooftop is not to be missed.
Iglesia La Merced (Antigua): In a city awash in Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries, Iglesia La Merced reigns supreme. It's no small coincidence -- nor small honor -- that the principal procession of the Holy Week celebrations leaves from this church. The ornate baroque facade is painted bright yellow, with white trim, and the interior is full of art and sculptures. The ruins of the attached convent are also worth a visit.
Iglesia de Santo Tomás (Chichicastenango): Dating back to 1540, this modest church serves simultaneously as a place for Catholic worship and ancient Maya rituals. The exterior steps, which possess a privileged perch over the town of Chichicastenango, are believed to represent the 18 months of the Maya calendar. Today, these steps are constantly in use as an altar for Maya prayer and offerings. It was in the attached convent that the oldest known version of the Popol Vuh was discovered.
Iglesia de San Andrés Xecul (outside of Quetzaltenango): The brilliantly painted ornate facade of this church, located in a small town in the Western Highlands, is easily the most psychedelic in the entire country. The facade features the prominent figures of jaguars mixed with religious iconography. Be sure to come in the afternoon, when the sun directly hits the church's front.
La Basílica (Esquipulas): This is the most famous religious site in Guatemala, and the only church in the country to earn the honor of being named a basilica. More than one million pilgrims from around the world come to the 1758 church to pay their respects to the famous statue, the Black Christ.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.