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Guatemala is a small country in Central America, but do not be put off by its small size! This tiny nation has much to offer in the way of travel and tourism. Blessed with natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage that combines elements from both Spanish and Mayan culture, Guatemala is a must-visit country on any seasoned traveler’s list. Whether you are into cultural sights or natural scenery, Guatemala will have something for you.
Volcan de Pacaya
Guatemala’s most famous volcano, Volcan de Pacaya, is situated half an hour away from Antigua. Be awed by the majestic peaks of the mountain and the lush green surroundings. Before the recent eruption, tourists could stand near the crater and grill hot dogs and marshmallows, but sadly due to safety concerns, the activity had to be halted.
Lake Atitlan is a beautiful blue volcanic lake in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Surrounded by numerous small towns, the region is a favorite of backpackers. There are several thriving cottage industries in the area, some of which produce beautiful dyed fabrics. The magical side of Guatemala is also evident in these misty, dreamlike surroundings. Shrines to deities of times long gone by remain well preserved, and are definitely worth a hike.
One of the largest Mayan Ruins, El Mirador is a must-see for anyone curious about Mayan culture. The site is still undergoing the process of restoration though, and has yet to regain its former grandeur. During the Maya Pre-Classic period, El Mirador was formerly an important trading post, and was one of the largest cities in North America. However, the area soon saw rapid depopulation, and fell into ruins by the 2nd century AD. Today, the site is still open to tourists, but may be a bit hard to navigate due to the ongoing restoration work. Using a guide is advised.
The beautiful black volcanic sands of this beach will delight any beach-lover. A comfortable distance from the hustle and bustle of Guatemala City, Monterrico offers a whole host of activities for the traveler. During the turtle season, there is a daily release, which costs Q10 per turtle. The proceeds go to the Turtle Hatchery, which then aid in the conservation of turtle eggs. The nearby mangrove swamp offers a fantastic view of volcanoes, and tours are easily arranged for a small fee. Do note that, however, as the drop in the ocean floor is very deep, only strong swimmers should attempt to swim at Monterrico.
Castillo de San Felipe
Situated near the picturesque Rio Dulce on Lake Izabal, Castillo de San Felipe was originally a fort that was constructed in 1595 to defend the town from pirates. The fort is easily accessible, just ask any local for “Castillo” and they should be able to point you in the right direction. It costs Q15 to go inside, but it’s well worth it. Take some time to enjoy the beautiful Spanish architecture and explore the scenery of the Rio Dulce National Park as well, and cruise down the river for an excellent view of the balmy tropical sights of the Caribbean.
Do you live in this beautiful country? Tell us which destination is worth visiting in Guatemala!
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