Tikal is a monumental site with towering pyramids looming out of the thick jungle canopy like stoic sentinels of ancient mysteries. Tikal was once a wealthy metropolis of 100,000 Mayans and the seat of power for the great Jaguar clan lords. Today, Tikal attracts archeologists from all around the globe and the wild-live surrounding the ruins makes it a naturalist's dream. Because of its importance and magnificent combination of nature and archaeological remains, UNESCO declared Tikal a Heritage of Humanity. The ruins of Tikal include more than 3,000 structures extending over six square miles and including palaces, temples, ceremonial platforms, ball courts, terraces, plazas, avenues and steam baths. The ancient Maya began building Tikal around 600 B.C., and for the next 1500 years the area was an important religious, scientific, and political center.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Camino Real Tikal
The busy town of Flores, with its pastel-colored buildings, enjoys a scenic setting on Lake Peten Itza. It is located about half an hour from the entrance of the Tikal National Park and serves as a gateway to explore the immediate area. Flores is also an excellent base to further explore the Mayan treasures of Aguateca.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Peten Esplendido
Antigua is among the world's most conserved colonial cities and a captivating small town that makes you feel time might have stopped some 300 years ago. From its colonial architecture to its beautiful surroundings; strolling through town on the cobblestone streets, you will experience the splendors of ancient times! Antigua offers something for all tastes. Colonial history that is always present combines with an array of cultural activities that include art galleries and exhibits, performing arts, popular arts, films, forums, and cultural tourism in general. It was once the third most important Spanish colony in the Americas and more than 30 monastic orders called Antigua home, building stunning monasteries, convents and cathedrals in and around town. Antigua is nestled between the 3 dramatic volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. Antigua offers accommodation for every taste and budget and has an outstanding variety of international and local cuisine, with restaurants to suit anyone's taste.
Lake Atitlan / Panajachel
Panajachel is in the Guatemalan highlands and provides incredible views to three volcanoes and the Lake Atitlan.The volcanoes, San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlan set an incredible stage for this town. Panajachel is also the gateway to explore the three indigenous villages around Lake Atitlan: Santiago Atitlan, Santa Cararina Palopo and San Antonio Palopo. All of which are famous for its women weavers and their typical clothes. Panajachel (the locals call it Pana), is a town full of interesting sights, sounds, and smells. It has various hotels and is full of small quality restaurants and interesting nightspots. During the day you can visit the surrounding villages, enjoy the breathtaking views onto the volcanoes that surround the lake or visit Panajachel's busy market street. It is one of the best places in Guatemala to shop for souvenirs.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Atitlan
Chihicastenango is a small and stucco-white town, lying on the crests of mountaintops at an altitude of 1,965 meters. It is located about 140 km and 2-3 hours drive northwest of Guatemala City and is home to what is surely the most colorful native market in North and Central America, perhaps in all the Americas. The famous handicraft market of Chichicastenango draws not only the K'iche' Maya of the surrounding region, but vendors from all over Guatemala. This town in the mountains of Quiche has been, since pre-Hispanic times, one of the largest trading centers in the Maya area. Vendors begin setting up portable booths in the main plaza and adjacent streets of "Chichi" the night before and set-up continues in the early daylight hours. Outstanding among the items offered are textiles, particularly the women's blouses. The manufacture of masks, used by dancers in traditional dances has also made this city famous for woodcarving. Another major attraction in Chichicastenango is the 400-year old church of Santo Tomas which is situated next to the market. Shamans still use it for their rituals, burning incense and candles and in special cases a chicken for the gods. Each of the 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Mayan calendar year. The Mayan calendar has 18 month of 20 days each.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Santo Tomas
Guatemala's capital city is the most modern and cosmopolitan city in Central America. Fast paced and vibrant, Guatemala City (or Guate as it's referred to locally) is a wonderful blend of old and new and possesses a distinct Latin charm. Today, Guatemala City has two million inhabitants. Its location, facilities and the International Airport "La Aurora" make it the starting point for visits to the rest of Guatemala.
Guatemala City was founded in 1776, after a devastating earthquake destroyed the former Spanish capital of Central America, "La Cuidad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala", known today as Antigua Guatemala (or simply Antigua). Sitting on top of three tectonic plates, Guatemala City is spread out in a valley with the Agua volcano reigning on its horizon. Guatemala City has an active cultural life throughout the year. Most of the country's museums are to be found here. There are also more than 30 galleries showing Guatemalan artists in painting, photography, engraving and sculpture. Theaters present a wide range of plays, especially national playwrights.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Viva Clarion Suites
Quetzaltenango is a colonial town surrounded by mist-covered mountains, the Santa Maria volcano and the active Santiaguito volcano. Quetzaltenango is called Xelaju or simply Xela (shay-lay) by almost everyone, including its Quiche Maya citizens who still use this original Quiche name for the site where the Spanish Conquistadores built their city. Quetzaltenango is the commercial center of Southwestern Guatemala. It is the center of the Quiche Maya people and the second largest city of Guatemala. The area is also known for numerous eco-tourism organizations offering hiking and camping treks through the mountains, complete with all the necessary gear and professional, experienced guides. Near Quetzaltenango you will find the hot springs of "Fuentes Georginas". The road leading to the hot springs passes through lush plots of agriculture and tranquil scenes of farmers, and sheer drop-offs along the passage create awe-inspiring views of the valley below. Also in the area are two blown glass factories, where locals continue the artful tradition of glass blowing creating beautiful products that are available for sale in gift shops throughout the country.
Suggested Lodging: Pension Bonifaz
On Guatemala's Caribbean coast visitors will see the country's largest lake, the Old Spanish fortress of San Felipe or travel down a lovely jungle river bounded by lush tropical forest to a Garifuna village. Lake Izabal is more than 45 kilometers long and covering about 590 square kilometers. It is surrounded by lush tropical rainforest inhabited by hundreds of bird species, monkeys and many other animals. The Old Spanish fortress of San Felipe is found near the town of Frontera, where a bridge spans the Rio Dulce. This small fortress was built in 1651-2 at the lake's mouth, to keep out marauding pirates. Later it served as a prison and was reconstructed as a historical monument in 1956. The Rio Dulce (sweet river) runs about 40 kilometers from Lake Izabal before it empties into Amatique Bay at Livingston.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Green Bay
Livingston, a charming town located at the mouth of the Rio Dulce, is unique in Guatemala due to its Garifuna culture. Originally a mix between a native tribe, the Kalipuna's and slaves from Nigeria mixed in the 17th century and conserved their own language, music and religion. Livingston can only be accessed by boats traveling across the bay from Puerto Barrios or down the Rio Dulce from Frontera.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Villa Caribel
Puerto Barrios is a convenient base for tours in the region of Izabal and the Caribbean Coast. Boats depart regularly from Barrios for Livingston and Belize. Puerto Barrios is also the capital of the Izabal state and once was a busy place before the modern port of Santo Tomas de Castilla was built nearby.
Suggested Lodging: Hotel Amatique Bay