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Overview to Guatemala: Travel Guide and Tourist Information


The Central American country of Guatemala is defined by antiquity. A combination of natural wonders, formed thousands of years ago, and crumbling relics of ancient Mayan civilizations, Guatemala is both a backpacker's and, especially, an ecotraveler’s paradise.

The highlands towards the West of the country capture this dual appeal. Amongst lush forestry and mountainous peaks, a scattering of Mayan villages await exploration. The mountains surrounding the huge Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan) also prove a highlight.

The highlands are not all remote and uninhabited, however. Many backpackers choose to congregate in the trendy town of San Pedro de Laguna, or the lakeside retreat of Panajachel, while the city of Quetzaltenango also provides easy daytrips to nearby volcanoes.

As a general rule, Guatemala’s beaches don’t compare with, say, Costa Rica’s, but around Monterrico, the perfect sand is often used by nesting sea turtles. Elsewhere, along the Pacific Coast, muddy mangrove swamps rather than sandy shores provide the main attraction.

The capital, Guatemala City, sits in the middle of the country, a smattering of fine churches and museums. Most backpackers, though, tend to make the short trip to colonial Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with gorgeous buildings and a great café culture.

Back in the rural heartland, the area of Peten is home to a collection of Mayan ruins scattered amongst cattle ranches. Surrounded by rainforest, Tikal and El Mirador are two of the more striking historical sites in the Americas; even alone they make a trip to Guatemala worthwhile.

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