What to see in Guatemala: Mayan ruins, volcanoes and colonial cities
Jungles, lakes and volcanoes. It’s still beaches and archaeological sites such as the Tikal temple, waterfalls where you can dive and triumphs of nature. These are just some of the attractions of one of the most magical destinations in the Central America. But perhaps also one of the even less known ones. So here’s a short one guide of what to see in Guatemala. To be enchanted by the heritage of the Maya and its colonial past.
What to see in Guatemala: the capital
Obviously it is the most obvious starting point for a trip to the country. Though it certainly isn’t the hippest or coolest Guatemala destination compared to other prima donnas like Antigua or Tikal. Despite this, however, it is certainly the first on the list of what to see in Guatemala, so take a day to visit them and discover the most evocative corners of this city, the most populous in Central Americawhich was born only in 1620. A recent history of which the concentrate is found in what is known as Zone 1, the historic and tourist center of Guatemala City.
In this area you will see the main square with the Metropolitan Cathedral built between 1782 and 1808. Since then it has dealt with fires and earthquakes. And he always resisted. A short distance away is also the governament Palace. A few hundred paces further on is the Central Market, the right place to walk among colors and scents, also looking for handcrafted objects. In this area, especially along the Sixth Ave most of the theatres, cultural centers and a long line of shops are also found.
Antigua, the symbol of the colonial city
Antiguasurrounded by volcanoes over 3,000 meters high is one of colonial cities best kept in Latin America. Founded in 1543, it is famous for its splendid Baroque palaces and its ancient churches which have earned it recognition by Unesco as World Heritage Site since 1979. Antiguaabout an hour’s drive from Guatemala Cityis a city where you can stroll aimlessly, enjoying the spectacle of its palaces and squares.
Not only. The Central Park it is the heart of the city and is always frequented by locals mingling with tourists. During the Easter period the streets are filled with life with the evocative and noisy celebrations for the Holy Week. A tip for those who love shopping: Antigua is the right city to stock up on inspirational souvenirs Maya.
What to see in Guatemala: Lake Atitlán
Not just a lake. But the very heart of the Mayan way. In the department of Sololam, in the highlands area, about 50 kilometers from Antigua, is the the needle Atitlanthe deepest ofAmerica Central, around which many groups of ethnic populations reside. And they are probably the true heirs of the Maya. The area is peaceful and makes you want to explore. Around they rise three great volcanoes, precisely Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro. And the lake is the way to travel to discover the Indian villages.
In fact, there are no roads and the boats they are the fundamental tool for trade and daily life. Which, as mentioned, respects many of the traditional aspects of the Mayan custom. The inhabitants still wear traditional clothes and the same is true for the dialects still spoken today. The largest community is that of Santiago where a truly unique idol is venerated, the Maximon, which blends Catholic and Mayan aspects. Besides Santiago other communities that are worth a visit are San Pedro and Santa Catarina. The country of Panjachel instead it was deeply marked by tourism: now the economy largely depends on the money brought in by tourists. And this too, in the list of what to see in Guatemala, serves to understand how this country is changing.
While Panjachel, has been overwhelmed by Guatemalans and foreign tourists over the years. It has attracted many hippies in the 1960sand although the war caused many foreigners to leave, the end of hostilities in 1996 once again saw visitor numbers rise and the city’s economy is now almost entirely dependent on tourism.
This lake is one of the paradises of underwater archeology because the remains of at least two Mayan settlements.
Chichicastenango and its market
Chichicastenango it is a sacred city in the department at two thousand meters high. And whoever arrives will be fascinated by it. In fact, time seems to have stopped, as if the valleys and peaks that surround it had protected it from what is happening around the world. The landscape in the small town it is very suggestive, made up of cobbled streets and houses with red roofs.
This alone would justify the visit: but the real attraction is what happens every Thursday and every Sunday when the chi-chi market it fills with life. And of vendors, colors and perfumes. Side by side in an overwhelming palette we stroll through expanses of wicker, fabrics, pottery, flowers and vegetables. Without forgetting the multicolored clothes of the people who crowd and bargain. Entering the market means diving into the daily life of this land, a cauldron that is so confusing that after a while it is natural to seek shelter and peace under the vaults of the nearby church of San Tommaso.
A unique church because it stands on the ruins of an ancient one Mayan pyramid building. Pagan and Christian, different eras mixed. A concrete symbol of a culture based on many layers.
What to see in Guatemala: the ruins of Tikal
Do you quickly get tired of seeing ruins? Don’t worry: Tikal might change your mind. Yes, because the archaeological site of Tikal is regarded as one of the largest and most important of the Mayan culture in central America. This is in fact the city that represented the capital for those populations. In fact, here, despite the ravages of time, everything is great. Tikal, which reached its maximum splendor between 700 and 800 AD, was built respecting a symbolic code based on Mayan astrological beliefs and offers visitors the opportunity to wander among the most high pyramids of the Mayan world and it is no coincidence that it is included in the list of World Heritage Sites ofUnesco.
At the time of its splendour, the city occupied an area of thirty square kilometers and housed around one hundred thousand inhabitants. Then it was abandoned and rediscovered by an expedition in 1848. Among the things to see, the Grande Plaza with the Temple of the Great Jaguar and the Temple of the Masks and the remains of the upper city. The effort to climb the ruins will be rewarded by the panorama and the possibility of experiencing that extraordinary atmosphere filled with the cries of monkeys and colorful birds.
Flores, relax on the lake
Not far from Tikal is the town of Flores, another of the things in the list of what to see in Guatemala. Flores is located on an island in the center of the Peten Itza lake and offers an excellent point for a relaxing break. the town is organized around a small central square with its buildings characterized by red roofs, the modern part of the city stands on the ruins of the Mayan buildings. And from here it is possible to reach the nearby border with the Belize.
The beaches, among the things to see in Guatemala
Of course, Guatemala has its beaches, both on the Pacific coast and towards the Caribbean. But it is also true that the beaches are certainly not the strong point of the country and it is certainly not for what lies on the seashore that tourists come to Guatemala. Monterricofor example, located on the Pacific coastis probably there most famous beach of Guatemala.
Around it there is a nature reserve of about twenty km with large areas of mangroves and marshes while the sand on the sea is mainly black and volcanic. In the zone then there is an area where turtles reproduce and where it is very easy to see these animals. Monterrico on top of that it’s quite easy to reach from both Citta del Guatemala and from Antigua and also for this reason it is often filled with visitors during the weekend. Not far away is also the town of Puerto San Jose which offers a pleasant beach where you can spend a couple of days relaxing.
Then it is worth mentioning Livingstone, a place where perhaps the beaches are not unforgettable but which offers a unique encounter with populations found only here: the garifunas, an ethnicity born from the encounter between African natives and slaves. TO Livingstone Latin American Spanish is spoken with Creole influences and here for centuries people lived on fishing while now tourism has arrived with force. Here, now a strange mix of tropical atmospheres and reggae music. And also for this Livingstone it is something unique.