Encircled by the three majestic volcanoes of Agua, Fuego and Acatenango this pastel-hued town and once upon a time capital of the country has become one of the indispensable destinations when in Guatemala. It holds all culture, history and a seemingly low key and laid-back cosmopolitan atmosphere at the same time; joining the vibrancy of both local indigenous and ladino traditions with that of curious foreign visitors coming from different parts of the world.
Lago de Atitlán
Perhaps the most luring of stops and according to German geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt “the most beautiful lake in the world”; Lake Atitlán features a one-of-a-kind scene surrounded by lush mountains, three imposing volcanoes and long-standing villages and towns. Now a days still abode to the Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel Mayas, this site holds an abundant historical background with archeological excavations dating back to the years 1,000 to 600 B.C.
Belonging to the department of Quiché and home to a large indigenous Maya K’iche’ population, bewitching (…and certainly perplexing to pronounce) Chichicastenango runs at its own unhurried pace while congregating vendors during their popular Thursday and Sunday markets. From elaborated handicrafts to medicinal plants and from machetes and chickens to pottery this is the place to go for buying valuable handmade items or souvenirs.
Central America’s highest peak at a 4,222 meter elevation offers heavenly views for those who are willing to climb it. This inactive volcano and protected area usually presents a sweet and sour challenge for those who decide to accept it, as the trail includes rough and rocky parts and motion sickness tends to invade some hikers as the air gets thinner and thinner when reaching the summit. But patience, a positive attitude and a diligent mindset are the key for enjoying both the journey and destination alike.
A stream of turquoise and blue water flowing in between thick jungle connected to the Río Cahabón that is succeeded by six natural pools. Semuc is located around 11 kilometers south of Lanquín in the department of Alta Verapaz. This region is predominantly inhabited by the Maya Q’eqchí people whose ancient worldview encompasses a deep respect towards the environment.
Up north howler monkeys jump from branch to branch growling with their low pitched voices; some jaguars are said to roam secluded zones despite human encroachment and the mecca of the glorious ancient Maya civilization still glows with most of its splendor. Ruins left behind by these remarkable mathematicians and astronomers make up this revered age-old metropolis destination; consisting of the Grand Plaza where the Grand Jaguar pyramid towers above tree tops, by the North and Central Acropolis, a few other temples and the Seven Temples Plaza. A visit to Tikal makes up for a special time travel experience compared to no other.
About the author
Maria André currently works as a freelance writer while taking on a personal environmental documentary project on the side.