It’s that time of the year to start thinking about winter vacation — and where else to go for a fun blend of culture and sun but Central America? Peak season is December to May, before the rain starts and school’s out, especially during the holidays—Christmas, New Year and Easter. Why not try Guatemala for a change?
Guatemala, home to fertile lowlands and dynamic volcanoes, has been occupied for millennia. It was the birthplace of the magnificent Mayan empire, culminating in splendid cities, healthy population and countless temples and palaces when Europe was still in its Dark Ages. Its rich Mayan and successive Columbian heritage have made for a unique blend of architecture, markets, food and language. Here are our top five places to visit in Guatemala:
1. Tikal. Tikal is a large archaeological site in Petén, and once one of the largest Mayan cities. Designated a UNESCO site in 1979, the area has been painstakingly restored. The stone temples and pyramids, lying deep in remote jungles, are marvelous testaments of architectural majesty. Tikal has been ranked in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelers’ Bucket List.
2. Antigua. Artsy Antigua is a charming city and great place to practice your Spanish. The coffee industry fuels a sophisticated cultural scene. Visitors are sure to spend a few afternoons here exploring sweet shops, admiring the city’s parks or delving into the ruins of an old convent.
3. Lake Atitlan. Atitlan means “where the rainbow gets its color” in Mayan. This stunning lake covers 50 square miles and is renowned for its beauty—surrounded by volcanoes and many thriving villages. Here you can ease into adventure slowly by hiking one for the many lakeshore trails, or dive right in by paragliding, zip lining, or scuba diving.
4. Chichicastenango. At this famous market you can find an array of colorful wares: everything from handicrafts and textiles to food, pottery, candles, herb, limestones, machetes and incense. Operating on Thursdays and Sundays, the market is also where you’ll stumble on traditional masks used in traditional events like the Dance of the Conquest. Next to the market visitors can wander into the 400-year old Church of Santo Tomas.
Our longterm partners at Avanti Destinations organize custom packages in Central and Latin America—give Willamette Intl Travel a ring to learn more about options to Guatemala.