Guatemala travel offers everything for the culturally curious to the active adventurer. Though it has had a turbulent past, the beauty of this region and the welcoming local hospitality of the Maya people have beckoned travelers to flock to this country again and again. Wondering what the region has to offer you? How about a journey to lively markets, lakeside villages, and meet the thriving Maya culture. Discover the heart of Guatemala!
Settled in the shadow of volcanoes, Antigua is one of the America's most beautiful cities. Once the capital of Guatemala and all of Central America, Antigua resembles a living ruin. Mammoth churches and palaces tell the story of Antigua's past glory, and restored facades speak of a bright future for the city. Visitors are free to explore the bustling markets, a coffee finca, a macadamia nut plantation, or simply mountain bike throughout the countryside. During East Holy Week, Antigua's cobblestone streets fill with celebration. Semana Santa is Guatemala's grandest festival. Eleborate and colorful ceremonies occur re-enacting Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.
In the northest region of Guatemala is the steamy dense jungle of El Peten. This million-hectare biosphere reserve is filled with howler monkes, gray foxes, red coatis and spectacular bird life. During their Guatemala travel, visitors to El Peten can enjoy a stay at Chiminos Lodge, an eco-archaeological preserve. Also hidden within the jungle is Tikal, the largest, and possibly oldest, ruined city of the Maya's Classic Period. The site encompasses at least 3,000 buildings, including temples that loom above the forest. It consists of nine groups of courts and plazas built on hills above surrounding swamps, all interconnected by bridges and causeways. Before its decline, Tikal was home to an estimated 100,000 Maya.
Lake Atitlan comfortable boasts the title, "most beautiful lake in the world" with its sweeping views of volcanoes. Along with its beauty, the lake offers hiking around the foothills of Volcano Atitlan and great kayaking, horseback riding and mountian biking in the area. Villagers in Santiago Atitlan still adhere to traditional lifestyles of the Tz'utuhil Maya. They are easily recognized in their brightly colored, hand-woven clothing.
One of the best places to experience modern day Maya culture during your Guatemala travel is at the famous market of Chichicastenango. This lovely town has many shamanistic and ceremonial overtones. Its large market brings villagers from throughout the region. Rising early, villagers set out their colorful fruits, vegetables and handicrafts. Rich aromas, native weaving, songs of local musicians -- this sensational market is not to be missed!
One of our favorite features to a number of our Guatemala tours is the homestay with a local Maya family in Totonicapan. Here a community of over twenty K'iche families reaches out to visitors with the vision of bringing people into their homes to share their culture with the outside world. The village is eager to introduce you to all aspects of their life on Totonicapan. Learn to weave and practice some of the Mayan K'iche language.