One of Guatemala's most mystical features is its archaeological heritage, the heart of the Maya World. There are countless sites throughout the country that represent the prehispanic Maya Civilization. The signature site is majestic Tikal and Yaxha with its main walk ways and beautiful lagoon; El Mirador, the largest pyramid by volume in the world; Takalik Abaj with the terraces rising 1500 meters from the Pacific and spanning the Olmec to the Maya Civilizations. As archaeologists learn more about the way the Maya lived in harmony with nature and on a sustainable basis, sites like El Pilar, by the Beliza border, recreate a Maya forest garden. It is no coincidence that the newly renamed Peten airport is now the Mundo Maya Airport and that Guatemala is more and more validating her claim as the hearth of the Maya World. The names roll off the tongue: Topoxte, Nakum, Cancuen, Kaminal Juyu, Quirigua, Uaxactun and Iximche, the ancient Kaqchiquel capital.
Buses or camionetas
Public buses in Guatemala are named ;camionetas;. They cost Q1.00 (Quetzal), which is about USD0.25. The service is available from 05:00 to 21:00 hours.
Guatemalan natives do not like to be called Indians. Guatemalan peaple is very friendly.
If there is a single feature that makes Guatemala unique, it is the living indigenous culture which envelops daily life, specially in the highlands. Color, traditions, language, ritual and custom dominate in almost half the country as Guatemala's 23 ethnic groups proudly cling to their ancestral ways, differentiating their hometown by wearing their distinctive hand woven attire. "Vibrant", "kaleidoscopic", and above all "authentic" are adjectives that stand out when describing highland life. Saints' names superimposed on traditional indigenous names dominate the country`s geographical atlas: San Francisco Panajachel, Santiago Atitlan, San Pedro Carcha and San Jose Poaquil join tongue-twisting Chichicastenango and illustrating the blendings of venerable indigenous with more modern Christian traditions.
There is a rainy season in Guatemala between May and October.
DID YOU KNOW ?
Altitude: 1.499 metros. Latitude: 14º 37' 15" N Longitude: 90º 31' 36" O 3,942,348 hab. Population: 3,942,348 hab Extension: 228 Km2 Weather: Tempering
There is an active volcano in Guatemala called Pacaya and you can climb it to watch the lava. It's good to see it during the day, but for a truly extraordinary experience, take a trip to watch it at night. If you want to take the adventure ask to the Concierge
In October many kite enthusiasts descend on Guatemala to take part in the competitions at Sumpango. Some kites can be as large as five metres. If you are interested, contact the concierge.
Nature - Parks and Reserves
Guatemala is host to one of the richest biological treasures in the world, the habitat for 10% of all species registered on the planet. This encompasses 19 ecosystems, 300 microclimates and 33 volcanoes, five of which are active. Travelers can go from cloud forest to a black sand beach on the Pacific Coast in just a few minutes. There are 93 protected areas and 25 classified as special protected areas, which range from mangroves on both coasts to mountain cloud forests. They all add up to 1.4 million hectares in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, one of the most important ecologically in this hemisphere.
Avenues run south to north while calles or streets run west to east.
WHAT TO PACK
Don't forget to keep Q.20.00 or $3.00 for your trip home, as there is a departure tax payable at the airport, on the first floor, at Banco de la Republica.
Exploring and studying caves can be as exciting and adventurous as any experience can get in nature. A weekend or even a single day in a cave can transport you to another world as remote as the ocean bottom or even the surface of another planet. For the Maya, caves were the sacred entrance to the underworld. As a result of many porous limestone deposits, Guatemala is honeycombed with caves of every conceivable size, shape, length or depth. These caves can be visited by walking, swimming, boating or rappelling. The Verapaces boast the Candelaria, the Rey Marcos and Lankin Caves, and Peten is home to Actun Kan (Cave of the Serpent's Mouth), just minutes outside Flores, and many others throughout the country.