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Guatemala

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Table of contents

Things to do and See in Guatemala

 

Guatemala City


Guatemala City is the capital of the country and it was founded in 1775. It’s a beautiful old city, but due to many earthquakes that the city has experienced many of the old colonial buildings don’t remain. The city lies at the edge of a plateau cut by deep ravines in the Valley of the Hermitage, which makes the surroundings very beautiful. In the city centre (Parque Central) you will find the National Palace, the Cathedral, and the National Library. Also you will find many shops and restaurants in this area. If you would like to see some of its ancient past go to the Popol Vuh Museum, which is a private collection of Mayan and Spanish colonial art and the National Museum of Modern Art. The country is very Catholic and religious, so you should check out the 17th century 17th-century Hermitage of El Carmen and the churches of La Merced, Santo Domingo, and Santuario Expiatorio. Guatemala City is a beautiful city and is best viewed on foot.

The Rest of the Country


La Antigua Guatemala

This is the former capital (originally called Santiago de los Caballeros Guatemala), Antigua is situated southwest of Guatemala City, and was considered to be one of the most splendid cities in Central America before its partial destruction in the earthquake of 1773. The town has now been listed as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. Despite the damage of countless earthquakes, floods and fires, Antigua is a beautiful place of multi-coloured, single-storey buildings, tropical gardens, plazas, fountains and cobbled streets.

This is a very popular city for tourists and it is a great place for Spanish-
Language schools. The main attractions are the Main Square, Cathedral, Palace of the Captains General, University of San Carlos(containing the Museum of Colonial Art), and the churches of La Merced, and Santa Clara. If you are on tight schedule make sure you fit this city into your plans as you won’t be disappointed.

Tikal

Located 550km north of Guatemala City, this why most people come to the country is to see the spectacular Mayan ruins of Tikal, which is referred to as the City of Voices. The ancient site of Tikal was once home to an estimated 100,000 Maya and was first occupied during 800 BC and today is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike many other ancient Mayan sites, the wonders of Tikal are hidden deep within the rainforest and there are believed to be more than 3000 known structures buried under the dense jungle. If you come to the site allow yourself more than one day to view it as the whole site is located in the heart of Tikal National Park, where there are over 50,587 hectares (125,000 acres) of land. It’s definaeltely worth the visit as you will see beautiful scenery and loads of wildlife. Admission for foreigners is Q50, but that is subject to change at anytime.

Petén

The vast tropical lowland jungles of the Petén department share borders with Belize to the east and Mexico to the north and west. It is home to most of the major Mayan sites in Guatemala and many visitors exploring the Mayan sites in all three countries tend to fly direct from either Mexico or Belize into the international airport at Flores. Flores is a former Mayan ceremonial centre that is built on an island in the middle of Lake Petén Itza. Flores is a nice old town, but it is also used to get to the Cerro Cahuí Biosphere, which is a 600-hectare (1482 acres) nature reserve that contains many types of animals and vegetation.

The Caribbean Coast

The country’s coast line isn’t as touristy as some of the other countries in Central America, but it does have some black volcanic sand beaches, which are spectacular. Belize the country’s neighbour has the best dive sites in Central America, but the diving in Guatemala is very good as well. Puerto Barrios is a port city located on the coast and is a great place for sailing and relaxing on the beach. Southeast of Puerto Barrios is the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site of Quiriguá. The Maya carved stelae and altars are 11m high (36ft), is one of the tallest that has been recovered across the former Mayan Empire.

Esquipulas

The town of Esquipulas is one of the most significant in Central America. Second only in importance to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe outside Mexico City is the Basilica of Esquipulas with its Icon of the Black Christ that dates back to 1595. Pilgrims from all over Central America gather here on the feast day of 15 January. Esquipulas is also the seat of the Central American Parliament and is a short distance from the borders with Honduras and El Salvador, it has also been the place where several important peace agreements have been signed. Other attractions include the Franciscan Sanctuary, Belén Convent and colonial Little Bridge (Puente Chiquito). Montecristo National Park (the Tri-State Park) is located nearby and extends over the borders of all three countries. Half of its 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) of subtropical forest are in Guatemala.

Volcanoes

Guatemala has over 30 volcanoes, three of which are still active. Although not the highest, one of the most dramatic is the Pacaya Volcano (2252m/7388ft), which is located about halfway between Guatemala City and Escuintla. During periods of activity, guided tours are organised to watch the eruptions and the lava flows. When inactive, an ascent of the volcano can be made by a marked route from San Francisco de Sales. The area of Lake Atitlán is beautiful and is surrounded by three distinctive volcanoes which are Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro. Lake Atitlán has become a popular tourist destination as tourists come to go swimming and boating.

Quetzaltenago
 
After the capital, this is the second most important city in Guatemala, set amongst a group of high mountains and volcanoes. Although Quetzaltenago (often referred to as Xela) is quite modern, it also contains narrow colonial streets and buildings such as the neo-classical City Hall, Municipal Theatre and the Natural History Museum. It is also an important centre for Spanish language schools. Other places to visit outside the city are the hot sulphur springs at Fuentes Georginas, Aguas Amargas and Los Vahos.

 
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