Let’s talk about Guatemala! It is often referred to as “Land of Eternal Spring”. It is bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The highlands offer some of the best weather in Central America.
Antigua is one of the most charming towns you’ll ever see. The Santa Catalina Arch is a visual cue to let you know that you’ve arrived! As you stroll down the cobblestone streets, you can observe locals going about their daily lives, visit handicraft shops and just enjoy a lovely, authentic local experience. If the light is right, you might gaze upon the reflection of the Fuego volcano in the puddles on the street, an instagrammable photo to be sure. A UNESCO World Heritage city, it’s among the most well preserved of all the colonial European towns in the Americas. It’s a true jewel of a city.
Santa Catalina Arch, Antigua
Tikal is one of the top attractions if not the top. Tikal translates as ‘place of voices’ or ‘place of tongues’. It is probably the largest and most complete ancient Native American site on the planet. As you wander amongst the Mayan ruins, you can just imagine the bustling metropolis it once was with a population of a quarter million or more. It sits in the lowland rainforest of northern Guatemala and is surrounded by a large wildlife preserve full of monkeys, parrots, deer, macaws and more. You’ll need to set aside a minimum of two days for a thorough exploration of this gem.
The volcano-ringed Lake Atitlán is a jewel in the crown of Guatemala’s tourism industry, but it is also interesting below the surface. At 340 meters deep, Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America. In the Mayan language, “Atitlán” means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors”. There’s lots to do around here, too… hiking, markets, participating in a cacao ceremony, swimming, SUP paddle boarding and kayaking just to name a few.
Are you a shopper? The Chichicastenango Market… ”ChiChi” is THE shopping destination of Guatemala. It may be home to the brightest and most vibrant native market in all of the Americas. With a vast array of local fabrics, textiles, clothing, masks, wood-crafted items, pottery and even fireworks, I challenge anyone to leave Chichicastenango Market empty handed.
Antigua is, perhaps, Guatemala’s best-known coffee growing region. Rich volcanic soil, low humidity, lots of sun, and cool nights characterize the region and make for some of Guatemala’s most extraordinary coffees. If you’re a coffee lover, make sure you set aside time to spend with a local coffee farmer. Handpicked beans and volcanic soil rich in minerals make a difference in the flavor of coffee. Did you know that, despite its small size, Guatemala is one of the top ten coffee producers in the world with more than 204,000 metric tons of coffee beans a year?
Hand-picked coffee beans
There’s so much more that I could talk about here, but I’ll just leave it at this. Guatemala is a magical destination with amazing sites and incredibly friendly people. My hope is that you will give it a visit and fall in love with it just as I did. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to spot the elusive Quetzal…