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Those lost cities are hidden in the Petén, a remote rainforest region in the north. But the rest of Guatemala is no less dazzling: from the museums of the capital to the bustling markets of the Maya town of Chichicastenango, from colorful textiles to the relaxed coastal rhythms of the Garifuna people in Lívingston, this Central American kingdom is wondrously diverse.
Once an intimidating travel destination, volcanic Guatemala has now become a laid-back country filled with rainforests, ancient ruins, vibrant markets, and steamy beaches ideal for a Central American hiking adventure.
From the small stretch of Caribbean beaches in the east, over the central mountains, to the black sands of the Pacific coastline, Guatemala is a wild country of coffee, sugar cane, cotton and banana plantations, picturesque colonial towns, and magnificent Mayan heritage.
Bordering Mexico, Guatemala is heavily influenced by the ancient Maya and more recently, the Spanish. The rugged landscapes here are dotted with pre-Colombian relics, such as the ancient ruins of Tikal. These tiered limestone palaces, pyramids, platforms, and monuments topped with shrines sit on open grassland in the middle of tropical rainforest. It is an atmospheric and utterly mesmerizing primeval town.
As for cities, the cobbled streets and pastel-colored, Spanish-style buildings of colonial Antigua nestled between volcanoes in the south are a must-see. With this as a base, visitors can climb volcanoes, venture through Petan’s jungles, and trek to Lake Atitlan in the highlands. Moving to the central Quiche mountains, the stucco-white town of Chichicastenango hosts a colorful Indian market on Thursdays and Sunday: a great insight into Guatemalan tradition and daily life.
Here are just a few of the jewels in this vibrant land of volcanoes:
This culturally off-the-beaten-path trip starts in Antigua then travels to towns, villages and local markets throughout the country, followed by a couple of nights at Lake Atitlan.
Duration:: 14 days, 13 nights
This trip combines the highlights of Guatemala with two nights each in Antigua, at Lake Atitlan and Flores/Lake Peten Itza.
Duration:: 8 days, 7 nights
A cultural and natural circuit of Guatemala: colonial Antigua, the Chichicastenango Market, volcanic Lake Atitlan and the Mayan ruins of Tikal, Yaxha and Topoxte.
Duration:: 11 days, 10 nights