Guatemala The Heart of The Mayan World
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Spread across a verdant and mountainous chunk of land, Guatemala is endowed with simply staggering natural, historical and cultural interest. Through the giant Maya temples and rainforest, cities have been long abandoned, ancient traditions remain very much alive throughout the Guatemalan highlands.
Uniquely in Central America, at least half the country’s population is Native American, and this rural indigenous culture is far stronger than anywhere else in the region. Countering this is a powerful ladino society, characteristically urban and commercial in this outlook.
All over the country, you will come across remnants of Guatemala’s colonial past, nowhere more so than in the graceful former capital, Antigua.
IT’s this outstanding cultural legacy, combined with Guatemala`s natural beauty, that makes the country so compelling for the traveler. The Maya temples of Tikal would be magnificent in any arena but set inside the pristine jungle of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, with attendant toucans and howler monkeys, they are bewitching. Similarly, the genteel cobbled streets and plazas of colonial Antigua gain an extra dimension from their proximity to the looming volcanoes that encircle the town.
This architectural wealth is scattered to a lesser degree throughout the country almost every large village or town boasts a giant whitewashed colonial church and a classic Spanish-style plaza. Though most of the really dramatic Maya ruins lie deep in the jungles of Peten, interesting sites are scattered throughout the land, along with the pacific coast and in the foothills of the highlands.
The diversity of the Guatemalan landscape is astonishing.
Perhaps most obviously arresting is the chain of volcanoes that divides the flat, steamy pacific coast from the cool air and pine trees of the largely indigenous western highlands, with their green, sweeping valleys, tiny cornfields, gurgling streams and sleepy traditional villages.
Further east towards the Caribbean, the scenery and the people have more of a tropical feel and at Livingston, life beside the mango and coconut trees swings to reggae rhythms and Punta rock.
The rainforest of Peten, among the best preserved in Latin America, harbor a tremendous array of wildlife, including jaguars, tapirs, spider and howler monkeys, jabirus and scarlet macaws. Further south, you may be lucky and catch a glimpse of the elusive quetzal in the cloud forest close to Coban. On the pacific coast three types of sea turtle nest in the volcanic sand beaches of Monterrico.
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Named as worldwide cultural patrimony by the UNESCO, Antigua, Guatemala is an exquisite Spanish Colonial town that goads thousands of visitors annually to walk on his cobbled streets, churches, ruins, Spanish schools, charming hotels, restaurants, art galleries and stores of antiques as well as its markets of handicrafts.
The holy week in Antigua is one of the best experiences for all visitor, carpets with various and colored motives wait for the processions carrying their saints and remembering Christos passion.
The atmosphere turns into a world of energy that with the smell of the incense and the music of the drum and the chirimilla make this celebration one of the most memorable and mystic moments of our traditions.
The explosion of colors, fantastic landscapes, Mayan living culture, lakes and volcanoes that form the magical Guatemala that captivates everyone that visits us.
The mixture of indigenous beliefs and Catholicism are shown at every day the ethos that inhabit the surroundings of Atitlan’s lake, to the northwest the Kaqchikel and to the southeast the Tz’utujil.
Approximately 85.000 years the area of Atitlan’s lake I experience an intense and violent cataclysm forming an enormous crater. San Pedro’s, Toliman’s and Atitlan’s volcanoes formed 60.000 years after, giving origin to Atitlan’s lake.
Several activities are possible to practice in this privileged place like Hikes, birdwatching, horseback riding, aquatic sports, etc.
Panajachel, San Marcos la Laguna, Santa Cruz la Laguna, san Pedro la Laguna, Santiago Atitlan, to name some of the places that present a fantastic experience with multicolored markets with a variety of earthenware, wood, and textiles.
The holy city of Chichicastenango was settled by indigenous nobility fleeing the Spanish in Utatlan (Quiche Capital 12 miles away) in late 1520’s. Though the Indians were unable to avoid the conquest, for years they continued worshipping their Maya deities along with those of the Catholic religion, building their famous church of Santo Tomas on the site of an existing Maya Altar.
Today clouds of incense spew forth as fervent worshippers and powerful religious elders from all over Guatemala gather to perform a mix of Maya and Catholic ceremonies inside and on the front steps (which cover the original Maya temple steps).
Market days (Thursday and Sundays) offer by far the most impressive sights to visitors. An overwhelming collage of artisans and their handicrafts crowd the church plaza while elaborately dressed men of the Cofradia (spiritual leaders) perform rituals in front of the doorway. Colorful groups of women line the steps nearly buried under brightly striped weavings and a bunch of flowers.
Guatemala Maya Lowlands
Tropical jungle, mystic Mayan cities, rivers, lakes, its extensive natural reserves, the diversity of flora and fauna do of this destination a tropical paradise in the heart of Mayan world.
The Mayan Biosphere Reserve represents 14 % of the national territory, declared as part of the system of worldwide biospheres by UNESCO in 1990, present a great variety of options for adventure and natural activities within this important reserve where we have an operation in tandem with the communities that inhabit it.
Important destinations such as Tikal, Yaxha, El Mirador, Cancuen, Ceibal, Aguateca and Dos Pilas, Nakum, Biotopes and Private Reserves, El Peru, National Park Sierra del Lacandon. All these areas are an open laboratory where the biological diversity does not pass unobserved, over 500 bird species, 57 reptiles species, 800 species of trees make this destination one of the most visited of Guatemala.
The Peten area presents a great variety of activities like Adventure Tours, Jungle Treks, Bird Watching and Wild Life Observation, Mayan Culture, etc.
An infrastructure of hotels and all class restaurants allow adapting your trip in proportion to your expectations and budget.
Quetzaltenango is also known as Xela or Xelaj, is the second most important capital of the country located in the western highland of Guatemala with an altitude of 2,333 mts. Above sea level, in this region prevails the K’iche’ and Mam ethnic groups.
The relief of Quetzaltenango is mountainous volcanic in the north decreasing towards the south area, the main volcanoes are: Santa Maria Volcano (3,772 mts), Siete Orejas Volcano (3,370 mts.), Cerro Quemado Volcano (3,197 mts.) Chicabal Volcano (2,770 mts.) and Santiaguito Volcano (2,510 mts.) The weather conditions are varied from warm to cold in the highlands and from warm to humid in the south.
The old buildings date from the sixteenth century standing out among them those of neoclassic style located in the central park such as: Edificio Rivera (Rivera Building), el Pasaje Enriquez (Enriquez Passage), Banco de Occidente (Occidente Bank), House of Culture, the Municipal City Hall, the cathedral, municipal theater, Minerva monument among others.
The textiles in Quetzaltenango and its villages are elaborated mainly of cotton where you can produce beautiful huipiles, tablecloths, and crafts; the foot and waist looms are used to elaborate these fantastic products where the main attraction is to observe this process.
Zunil y Almolonga
The weather conditions, the altitude, relief and the quality of the soil allow to have a multiple agricultural productions, especially vegetables, coffee, corn, wheat, among others; the market days are a colorful experience especially in Zunil and Almolonga.
San Andres Xecul
San Andres Xecul has located approximately at 15 km. from Quetzaltenango, one of its highlights is its beautiful and colorful baroque church dated from the mid-seventeenth century, each figure of the fade represents features related with faith.
El pueblo de San Andres Xecul manifiesta un marcado sincretismo religioso lo cual representa la organizacion maya quiche quienes practican la espiritualidad maya.
San Andres Xecul shows a very deep religious syncretism which represents the Maya- Quiche organization that used to practice the Mayan spirituality.
The patron feast is held from November 27th to December 1st every year; the main day is November 30th where San Andres Apostle is commemorated with several syncretic activities in honor of this celebration.
In this municipality are located four sacred places such as: El Calvario, Pacaj, Coymundo, Pacotzil and Cerro.
San Francisco El Alto
This fantastic destination offers each Friday the opportunity to enjoy of the largest open market of the highlands at its central plaza, where you will observe the exchange of animals and different kind of local items, as well as the locals wearing their traditional costumes.
San Francisco has a beautiful baroque church which has remains of mural paintings and altarpieces of San Francisco El Grande church located in Antigua Guatemala after its destruction by the earthquake of 1773.
Maynor Ovando and a driver took us to two places for birding, plus a spectacular breakfast at Cerro San Cristobal. After birding around the restaurant, we went to Finca de Pilar, where there is a path up into the mountain as well as hummingbird feeders. Maynor was very knowledgeable about the birds and the area, really knows (and loves) the birds, and his English was also quite good. Thanks, Maynor!
One more full day in Antigua, Guatemala. I highly recommend travel to this country. If you want to travel in Guatemala safely and comfortably...I recommend having David Reyes plan your tour. Does not matter how many people are in your group. David guides one person...to a group of 16-18 people. I thought that our group of 14 was ideal. David has a degree in Tourism. He is highly knowledgable.
This trip was 5 star! You cannot beat the organization and agenda skills of Kathy partnered with David’s “on the ground” knowledge, skill set and personal interest in every individual. We smoothly sailed into and out of Honduras and for those with special interests such as birding or hiking, David did not disappoint. It was all there!!!