Lake Atitlan, once described by Aldous Huxley as being “possibly the most beautiful lake in the world” is definitely that. Surrounded by three perfect cone topped volcanoes with loads of tiny village dotted along the water’s edge, the lake’s surface is literally like glass. Perfect for kayaking and is warm enough to swim in.
Climbing Volcano Pacaya is an absolute must do. After a stiff steep hike, one is rewarded with the close-up view of the flowing river of bubbling red hot lava sliding down the grassed sides of the volcano. It truly takes your breath away and you can get so close to the lava that your face also glows red with the heat, but just watch out you don’t melt your shoes.
Isolated Livingston is with its mix of Garifuna culture is a world away from the rest of Guatemala. The colorful Rastas and laid back lifestyle with impromptu musical performances drummed out on tortoise shells. Coconuts grow in abundance here and are evident in local dishes. A mouthwatering specialty is the creamy Topado soup with seafood and spices, which can be washed down with a potent Coco loco – local rum inside a coconut.
Relaxing in wooden huts on stilts with the river lapping below in Rio Dulce amongst tropical vegetation is a real retreat. Out on the river itself offers the opportunity not only to see many birds and iguanas sunning themselves but also unique jungle flowers and giant fruits. The river is dotted with lily pads and local children eager to show you the latest crab they’ve caught.
Wandering the colorful colonial grid-like cobbled streets of Antigua surrounded by three massive volcanoes deserves its world Unesco heritage site status. It’s wrought iron grills on the windows of the uniformly painted buildings with indigenous locals gathered around the churches and markets.
Shop until you drop at the intensely colorful Chichicastenango market where locals from all around the highland villages around descend every Thursday and Sunday to sell their crafts. It is also a local produce market. On the steps of the central Catholic church built on top of the original Mayan place of worship, modern-day Mayans perform rituals that date back centuries.
A cute colonial settlement on the tiny island of Flores with a real Spanish feel. Sunsets with cocktails overlooking lake Peten is the order of the day.
Tikal is the mecca of Mayan ruins and pyramids, located deep in the steamy tropical jungle of the Peten district. Star Wars was filmed here and they just keep unearthing new buildings daily. The steep pyramids you’ll see on a Tikal tour are well worth the effort for commanding views. Can also find monkeys, toucans and many tropical birds in abundance here. And the termites taste great; just like carrots.
Santiago de Atitlan on the Lake of the same name is one of its many interesting villages, all with different qualities and all worth visiting in their own right. What makes Santiago special is the interesting effigy of a Catholic saint fused with an indigenous chief called Maximon who is honored and housed in a different family home each year and visited by hundreds to be healed. The wooded figure surrounded by twinkling musical fairly lights, smokes, drinks, and heals people.
Quetzaltenango meaning “place of the Quetzal”, Guatemala’s national bird, is a bit of a mouthful so it’s called Xela for short. It’s a very popular alternative to Antigua for people wanting to learn Spanish with lots of language schools with less touristy businesses and a more local flavor.
Explore jungle temples and waterfalls. Mayans, markets and mountain villages. See pelicans along the Rio Dulce and relax on Belize barefoot island. We’ll help you build your own Mexico, Guatemala and Belize adventure.