Guatemala is a great trip that takes you back in time twice. What do I mean by that? Because of two distinct historical events in Guatemala’s history that are observable today. First, there is the amazing ancient Mayan Tikal pyramids and then later, the dramatic arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Not only do you journey back through time to ancient Guatemala and experience life in the rain forest, you also feel like you are experiencing European Spain, as many small towns have been built around the Spanish settlement churches, squares and European style buildings. This is just not something you would expect perhaps in Central America, a taste of Europe mixed in with native indigenous Mayan peoples.
Having lived with a family in Guatemala City when I was in high school, and now returning years later, another section of the Tikal city has been unearthed with pyramids and ruins revealed. Guatemala is doing a wonderful job of restoration. My first visit to the ruins, I flew in a small plane and landed on a grass runway strip at the base of the pyramids. Now it is more sophisticated, flying in a commercial aircraft to the nearby city of Las Flores and driving in with a guide to the ruins. Perhaps not as exotic feeling as flying over the tree tops and landing in a remote, untouched area, the adventure still remained and a sense of awe seeing the ancient pyramids did not change. I learned a great deal about the history of Tikal and the Maya peoples. Of course, the Mayans are still in Guatemala everywhere, the modern day people live in small towns throughout the country with their colorful woven clothes and amazing array of pottery, carvings, and musical instruments.
Tikal was one of the major cultural and population centers of the Maya civilization. Dating back to the 4th century BC and reaching it’s height during 200AD to 900AD, during which time the site dominated the Maya region. Events, drought and a gradual population decline, culminated with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century. Standing at the ruins of Tikal you can easily imagine what life was like living in the rain forest, sacrifices at the ruins, hunting for game, listening to the sounds of the birds, monkeys and small animals that still inhabit this area today. You are transported through time as you enter the great city of Tikal and you can feel the mystical aura of the region.
On my last trip to Guatemala, I hired a guide for our party. I used a wonderful travel service MayaExotica.com. Francisco, our tour guide spoke excellent English and even though we know Spanish it was still helpful conversing in both languages. We were able to plan a very unique 10 days of travel across the country. Francisco arranged for our pickup at the airport, drove us to many of our locations and took us to local restaurants and places we would not have found without him. Guatemala’s roads have greatly improved over time, however, there is still a little stigma about safety in Guatemala, even though their 36 year civil war ended in the 1990’s. So it was very nice to have this special guide service. We did not experience any difficulties in Guatemala, but of course you must exercise care when traveling. Could you backpack and ride the bus in Guatemala? I think so as we saw many travelers doing this very thing. With the tour service however, it was so nice to really relax, be catered to and not worry about much of anything. I highly recommend it as a way to see Guatemala. You can go as fast or slow as you choose, use the service on certain days or not. As Guatemala is small, you can see and do a lot in a short amount of time.
Guatemala City- night life and a stay at Hotel Otelito, a lovely boutique hotel with pleasant breakfast and cafe. There is a friendly bar and restaurant in the front of the hotel that closes at midnight. So if you like a quieter room, ask for the back room area which is very pleasant. Rooms are spacious and have two double beds per room. There is hot water, clean towels, clean rooms and a room heater which takes the moisture out of the air if you are traveling in the rainy season between July and October. There is free internet access available.
Antiqua- the old capital of Guatemala, Spanish settlement situated closely between three volcanoes. I could live in this town. The Capuchin Convent built in the 1700’s is very special and something to see. The grounds are beautiful, a place of repose, prayer, history, an on-site museo, a restaurant and resort rooms to stay.
Lake Atitland- stay in a hotel by the crater’s lake surrounded by volcano peaks. There is nothing but beauty and spectacular views at this amazing lake with many local villages situated on the Share
Last Updated (Saturday, 24 November 2012 15:13)