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Guatemala is not a country on the main tourist routes, but it has its share of wonders. A holiday in Guatemala, in fact,
allows you to admire a bursting nature and some of the most beautiful Mayan ruins of Central America
(and of the whole world, also because either they are there or nothing :)).
The proposed travel itinerary in Guatemala brings you to a magical colonial town, to the picturesque Mayan markets,
to Lake Atitlan, defined as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, to the jungle with its rivers and its natural pools where to dive, concluding
in the immense Tikal, where the Mayan temples stand in the middle of the forest. Enjoy! Antigua, Chichicastenango, Solola
Antigua is often the starting point of a travel itinerary in Guatemala, both because it is its most beautiful city and because
it's rather close to the airport. Walking on the stone streets between the low colored houses is a magnificent way to spend an afternoon; a background of green volcanoes
completes the picture.
Among the different monuments of Antigua, the ones that surprised me the most are the different churches whose roofs were destroyed by the earthquakes.
They have a very special charm. Even more beautiful is the convent of las Capuchinas, whose photos speak for themselves.
You can use Antigua as a basis for your
holiday and stay a few days, thus experiencing some of the city's many restaurants and bars. By night, in the distance but not too much,
you can also see the red trail of lava coming down from the Volcan de Fuego.
Chichicastenango and Solola are two Mayan towns with colorful markets. The market of Chichicastenango, in particular, is huge
and, between the two churches of the city, really picturesque. Go there on Thursday or on Sunday (keep this in mind when planning
your travel itinerary in Guatemala) and, if you want to shop, try to bargain!
The Chichicastenango cemetery is also colorful,
which contrasts with the greyness of the buildings but fits perfectly with the liveliness of the market.
The market of Solola, a town not far from Lake Atitlan, is smaller and not very touristy: also here, wandering among the stalls is a pleasure.
Lake Atitlan and the volcanos
Lake Atitlan is the second major destination, after Antigua, on a travel itinerary in Guatemala (also Tikal deserves
the second place, but it is very far from Antigua and the airport of Guatemala City). Lake Atitlan is also part of many
rankings of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and rightly so: the shapes of the volcanoes on the lake and the many picturesque villages make
lake Atitlan one of the travelers' favorite destinations.
Panajachel is the main town, full of hotels and restaurants, with a hippy community that is said to be willing to sell a lot of drugs.
The other hippy village on the lake (much smaller and inhabited mainly by westerners who want peace and meditation) is San Marcos La Laguna, where there are several
vegetarian restaurants, massage centers and other very holistic things (I am not prepared on New Age theories).
A boat tour on Lake Atitlan is the best way to visit it and will also include a stop in the beautiful Mayan villages of Santa Cruz la Laguna and, above all,
San Pedro La Laguna. Lake Atitlan is a wonderful place to feel on holiday and relax, so do not miss it if you visit Guatemala.
Among the volcanoes that can be visited in Guatemala,I can recommend excursions to Pacaya and Acatenango: the latter requires a
longer trek, but its views are very rewarding.
At the top of the Pacaya volcano a crazy wind was blowing: it created beautiful shapes with the smoke
of the crater, but it also made our helmets (obligatory for the trip) fly inside the volcano, with great displeasure of our guide.
When you make a trip to Guatemala, you have to keep in mind that the roads are slow and tortuous. This is true
in particular for the beautiful area of Semuc Champey, where we arrived crammed into the back of a pickup at the end of a muddy dirt road.
The main attraction of Semuc Champey is the Cahabon river which forms a series of natural pools in the jungle. The extension of the pools
is remarkable, the water is cool but the temptation to dive and swim is irresistible.
Actually, the thing is even more surprising when you realize that the pools are located on a gigantic natural bridge:
the real river flows underground for several hundred meters!
In the hotels you have absolute peace and you only hear the water and the chirps of the birds,
but if you want to add adrenaline to your holiday you can go canyoning in a cave, the KanBa Cave. Also this
natural attraction is in Semuc Champey. Inside the cave you have to walk and swim in the dark for two hours, holding a candle in your hand: an exciting adventure.
At the end of December, it was freezing, but the experience was worth the trip and the effort.
A river that runs through the jungle to the Caribbean Sea is not to be underestimated. Peace, birds and views here are perfect for a
relaxing holiday. In addition, you can do activities such as kayaking on the Rio Dulce and visit (by boat) the Aguas Calientes, the Siete Altares, Livingston
and the Playa Blanca. Let's say that on a travel itinerary in Guatemala, the Rio Dulce is a bit the icing on the cake.
The Agua Caliente is a small hot spring that creates a pool of thermal water just at the side of the river. This is the attraction that
I liked the most in the area: at sunset it was really fantastic.
The Siete Altares (seven altars) are a series of waterfalls in the jungle: nothing special compared with Semuc Champey, but quite nice and frequented by Guatemalan tourists.
Livingston is a colorful and nice Caribbean town, where to eat fish admiring the mouth of the Rio Dulce.
The Playa Blanca is a long beach bordered by palm trees: the water is not crystal clear as in the "real" Caribbean, but
the place is nice and can be fine for some relaxing time on vacation.
When it comes to Mayan ruins, Tikal is one of the first sites that come to mind. Its pyramids and temples are impressive, well preserved
and located in a lush tropical forest. The photos are worth a thousand words.
The site is vast and to visit it it takes a few hours; obviously it is a touristy place, but not too crowded.
The loudest noise you will hear will be the shouts of the howler monkeys, which are incredibly powerful.
The views from Temple 4 and from Mundo Perdido are worth a holiday in Guatemala.
The central square of Tikal is something amazing. The Mayans managed to buils something incredible!
Reaching Tikal by bus is not very convenient: there are many hours of travel from Antigua. But there is the airport of Flores, near Tikal, which
can help those in a hurry. Tikal is not far from Belize for those who want to continue their holiday on the beach: considering travel time by bus and customs, in about 6 hours you can get
to admire the Caribbean Sea.
How, when and other info
The best months to visit Guatemala go from December to April, the dry season; it must be said that at the end of December the sky is sometimes gray and,
for my taste, it is too cool to dive into the rivers... but you do it anyway.
The "shuttles", that are the mini-buses for tourists, carry travelers to all the main destinations at little cost and are safer and faster than the buses.
Hotel costs are low, while for organized trips you have to negotiate.
To sum it up, for a travel itinerary in Central America, Guatemala is fundamental at least for Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Tikal...
so organize your holiday well and go :)
To find other photos of Guatemala (and at higher resolution), click on this photogallery:
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