The city of Antigua was built in 1543. It preserves the architectonic characteristics of
the 16th Century, such as stone paved streets, baroque style buildings,
large doors with stone arches, windows with stone base and forged
steel balconies, beams carved in precious woods, large stone fountains
and tile roofs. All houses and buildings are of colonial style.
They prevail in a strange and extraordinary mixture of peace and
active life, forming today a beautiful colonial city where it
seems that time stood still. UNESCO declared Antigua "Heritage
of Humanity" in 1979.
Lake Atitlán is located in the department
of Sololá, 2 hour-drive from Guatemala City. "Atitlán" means place of a lot
of water. The very special deep blue color of the lake is the
consequence of its great depth and transparency. It was formed
by a volcanic caldera. Three volcanoes surround it, Toliman,
San Pedro and Atitlán. It is possible to climb all of them. Lake Atitlán is surrounded by many colorful Villages. Each Village has a dress with
a special design and pattern. Panajachel
is the most important village of the area, and therefore most
of the hotels, restaurants, discotheques and stores are located
there. Many of the villages can be visited by boat.
Santo Tomas Chichicastenango, known
for its Indian market held every Thursday and Sunday, is only
87 miles from Guatemala City. It is the commercial center of the department of Quiché.
Indians from throughout the region stream into town on market
days to buy, sell, socialize and worship.
While buyers and sellers bargain for items such as produce, flowers,
handicrafts (textiles, ceramics, carvings, wooden chests and traditional
masks). Mayan-Christian rites are practiced by devout Indians
on the steps of Santo Tomas and El Calvario Churches that face each other on both end of the
market plaza. The church of Santo Tomás was built in the 1540 over the ruins of a
Mayan temple, now it
is an example of colonial architecture. The Shrine of Pascual
Abaj, where mystical and ancient rites
dedicated to this tone idol are performed, is located on a nearby
Quetzaltenango and the Highlands
the second largest city. It is located 128 miles West of Guatemala City. Situated in a large valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, this
highland city maintains the traditions of its Maya-Quiché
cultural heritage together with its Colonial past and dynamic
Two principal Indian
towns in the region are Salcajá and
Zunil. Salcajá is the main producer
of "jaspe" (knot-tie dye),
and is the site of the San Jacinto Church, the first built in Guatemala. Zunil is famous for its textiles and Almolonga, across the Samalá river,
for its large orchard.
Totonicapán. Over 40 textile,
wooden toy and pottery factories are located there. The nearby
village of Momostenango is a major producer of woolen blankets and the famous "ponchos".
The village of San Francisco El Alto also has a number of attractions. Friday is the market day. San Andres
Xecul, where the church has a face that
reproduces the design in the "güipil"
worn by the local women is also an interesting town to be visited.
Its principal attraction
is the village of Todos Santos Chuchumatán, located on the top of the Cuchumatanes Mountain. The village is known for the brilliant colors in its costumes and the
traditions centered around its annual
festival held on November 1st.
A different Caribbean
The Caribbean Coast has a special ambiance in the area called Costa de Jade. Lovely tourist
sites are found in this region: Lake Izabal, Río Dulce, Livingston
and many others. These places are rich in nature, tropical vegetation,
and many species of seabirds and virgin beaches. Livingston, a
"Garifuna" village, is a unique
place where one can enjoy typical caribe
food and music (reggae). Lake Izabal
is a tranquil lake surrounded in some areas by rubber plantations,
mangroves, banana and livestock. There are a lot of beautiful
rivers and waterfalls with hot springs around the lake. Between Río Dulce river and Lake Izabal the colonial Fort of San Felipe was built, to protect this entrance
to the new Spanish empire from the pirates. The R’o
Dulce river is the outlet of Lake Izabal. It is a navigable river. In the middle of the river the width is considerable
and it forms like a huge lagoon which is called "El Golfete". It is surrounded by jungle with flora and
fauna of unique beauty. The landscape is unforgettable. The Natural
Reserve "Chocón Machacas"
for the conservation of the Manatee and the mangroves is located
on the Río Dulce. The archaeological
site of Quirigua, surrounded by banana
plantations can be visited on the way to Rio Dulce. It has some of the tallest, best preserved
and with neatest relieve stelae of the
The Verapaz region, in the North of Guatemala, contains an abundance of natural beauty, which has made it a favorite
destination for many naturalists, explorers and adventure lovers.
The department of Alta Verapaz has many
rivers, caverns and natural pools. The Cahab—n
river, the Lanquín caves and Semuc Champey pools are the favorite places.
The natural reserve "Mario Dary"
is established in the Municipality of Purulhá, in the Department of Baja Verapaz for the
preservation of the "Quetzal", a beautiful and endangered
species of bird that has become a national symbol for liberty.
The Quetzal can be quite difficult to spot, but there are shallow
rivers, crystalline waterfalls and a thick rain forest with many
bird species. Some Indian villages can also be visited, such as
Rabinal in Baja Verapaz, known for its Pre-Hispanic ceramic production as
well as for the beauty of its hand-painted calabash gourds using
the "nij" technique; the villages of Tactic and San Pedro
Carchá famous for their silver jewelry
and San Juan Chamelco whose artisans
use a special technique of braiding for its textiles.
Tikal and the Petén area
Petén is 475 km (295 miles) drive from
Guatemala City. Thirty to fifty minutes away by plane. Its archaeological sites surrounded
by jungle characterize the department of El Petén.
There are 102 archaeological sites known in this area. The most
important ones are Tikal, Yaxha, Ceibal,
Uaxactún, Dos Pilas, Mirador and Rio Azul.
It has also many lagoons and rivers. For nature, adventure and
archaeological trips this area is perfect.
Tikal is considered the most spectacular Mayan city. It is located in the
tropical humid forest of Petén. It flourished during the 3rd and 4th Century of the Christian era.
Apparently it was one of the most important cities of the Mayan
civilization. In 1979 it was declared "Monument of the
Natural and Cultural Patrimony of the World" by UNESCO.
It is believed that Tikal had approximately 55,000 inhabitants on a 576 sq. km (222-sq. mi.) territory.
Tikal was built for at least 1100 years without interruption. Today hundreds
of different buildings can be observed.
Petexbatún Lagoon. The entire region
of the Petexbatún Lagoon is very rich in archaeological sites.
The closest sites are Punta Chimino, Aguateca, Dos Pilas, Arroyo de Piedra and
Tamarindito. All these centers are characterized for
having a great number of stelae, altars
and sculptured monuments.
Yaxhá Lagoon. Around the lakes in Peten, important prehispanic cities
were built. Yaxha was built on the north
shore of the Yaxha lagoon, 30-km (19
miles) to the Southeast of Tikal. Many small archaeological sites can be visited in this area: Topoxte, El Kuch, La Naya and Nakum. This can be done
horseback riding, by 4WD vehicles and by boat through the jungle.
The Pacific Coast
Between the sea and the volcanic mountain peaks, the "Costa
Sur" (South Coast) is a great expanse of black volcanic sand beaches stretching along
the Pacific Ocean from the Mexican border to El Salvador. This area of Guatemala is much different from the rest of the country. And it's an area not
to be missed. Easily accessed from Guatemala City, the Pacific Highway runs from Escuintla to Puerto San Joséand
nearby beaches. From here, it's easy to take any of the paved
roads branching from the Pacific Highway to the small beach towns where you will find colorful fishing boats
and picturesque sunsets.
The main attraction
of course is the blue Pacific Ocean, its exotic black sand beaches and the mangrove swamps that are unique.
Monterrico. The Monterrico
Nature Reserve is an area set aside to protect the natural treasures
of the lowlands. The reserve's 7000 acres include large areas
of mangroves and lagoons and humid tropical forests that are stopping
points on the migratory routes of unusual birds. Besides the excellent
bird watching, other common animals to watch are raccoons, weasels,
opossums, anteaters and fresh water turtles.