Guatemala has been featured in both editions of The World’s Cheapest Destinations and there are a lot of reasons to put the country on the short list. It’s a screaming bargain, it’s easy to get to from the U.S. or Canada (or overland), there’s a distinctive local culture, and you have a lot of options on how to travel and where to go. Plus there’s Tikal (pictured here) which is probably reason enough on its own.
To see a good rundown, check out this new article from SmarterTravel called Six Ways to See Guatemala. It’s a good overview on the possibilities (though I’d advise skipping past the cruises page.) It touches on volunteering and Spanish language immersion classes, with some useful links. As they note, “Basic accommodations are cheap; a night in a hostel often costs less than $5, while staying in a more private guesthouse generally runs under $10 per night.” With those prices, you can travel for weeks as a backpacker without blowing much cash.