Even though Guatemala is a relatively small country, it offers travelers a stunning number and variety of world-class attractions — from quaint colonial towns to Mayan ruins, from sandy beaches to active volcanoes.
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Guatemala is a land of living heritage and natural wonder. It is the heart of the Mayan world, coursing with centuries-old traditions. Today, an estimated 40% of the population is of Mayan descent, their rich culture expressed in rites and teachings, as well as in the blazing colors of local markets and everyday dress. Each June and July, the city of Coban hosts the National Indigenous Festival, which culminates in the election of the favorite daughter (or “Rabin Ahau”) of the indigenous communities. This celebration brings participants from nearly every Guatemalan town, displaying colorful costumes of each region.
In the north, spectacular Tikal was one of the most important cities of the Maya Classic Period. Within this site more than 3,000 structures have been rediscovered, including temples, palaces, altars, stelae and ball courts. Beyond Tikal, several other locations of archeological and natural richness are hidden in the jungle of Petén: Yaxhá, Uaxaxtún, Ceibal, Aguateca, Piedras Negras, El Mirador, Rio Azul, Naj Tunich caves and Topoxté.
The pastel-hued city of Antigua highlights Guatemala’s colonial importance. In the 16th century, Antigua was the seat of Spanish colonial government for the Kingdom of Guatemala. This charming city of ornate churches and cobblestone streets lies at the base of three majestic volcanoes.
Guatemala’s verdant landscape is dominated by volcanoes—34 in all, 19 of which are active. The caldera lake of Atitlan is bordered by three conical giants: Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro. The northern regions of Alta and Baja Verapaz reward visitors with even more beauty: a mixture of mountains, cloud forests, orchids, waterfalls, crystalline rivers and caves. Guatemala’s Pacific coast is known for world-class sail fishing and surfing. Throughout the lush country, bird watchers will be thrilled by 680 different species.