With some 2,000,000 inhabitants, Guatemala City is the largest city in the country of Guatemala. Within the limits of Guatemala City rests the ancient Mayan city of Kaminaljuyu, dating back as many as 9,000 years with some very impressive ruins. However, because the ruins were not protected at the time of Guatemala City’s expansion many of these ancient ruins were covered over by freeways, shopping centers, and even residential areas.Until 1775, Antigua was the capital of Guatemala, but an earthquake led to the relocation of the capital to Guatemala City and a rapid period of expansion soon after. Today, Guatemala City is the country’s main hub both politically and economically; the international airport acts as Guatemala’s most important port of entry.Furthermore, Guatemala City is the country’s most important cultural center as well. The city is home to various historic buildings as well as many museums, galleries, universities, and delicious Guatemalan cuisine. Guatemala City is broken up into roughly 25 different zones making getting around very simple. Zone 1, located in the heart of the town, is known as the city’s historic center with various impressive structures. Some historic structures that are surely worth a visit include the National Post Office, the Palacio Nacional, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Congress, the Casa Presidencial, the National Library, and even the city’s Central Park.Guatemala is also home to 10 different universities, some of which rank among the oldest universities in the Americas. Sports are of course a popular pastime in Guatemala and especially Guatemala City, home to various sports complexes and stadiums. The city’s Zone 10 is commonly known as Zona Viva for its exciting nightlife, pop culture, shopping, and entertainment. This is the location of most of the city’s nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Known as the deepest like in Central America, Lake Atitlan is the site of some of Guatemala’s most beautiful sights. With its three surrounding volcanoes, coffee plantations, crop farms, and rich flora and fauna, Atitlan is incredibly rich in both fertility and beauty. The lake’s long shoreline is home to various Mayan villages and farms growing a wide variety of crops including onions, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, garlic, green chile, avocados, as well as various fruits. The lake also provides a food source for the surrounding towns and villages.In 1955, the area around the lake was declared a national park to both preserve the region’s immense beauty and to put the location on the map and reel in tourists from around the world. Another plan to increase tourism to the area was to stock the lake with a fish popular to anglers in other parts of the world. However, the predatory species ended up eating away two-thirds of the native fish species which also led to the extinction of one of the lake’s endemic bird species.While the lake region is predominantly inhabited by Mayan communities still observing their same ancient cultures and rituals, tourism has become more and more popular during the last decade; the area’s economy is know quite reliant on the tourism industry offering visitors various options for enjoying the beautiful lake region. There are many hotels and restaurants in the region as well as a number of tours in and around Lake Atitlan.
Located on a small island in Lake Petén Itzá is the city of Flores connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Flores is a popular stop by tourists because of its proximity to Tikal, the country’s most famous Mayan ruins. However, the city itself is a very enjoyable stop for the sole purpose of spending time in the quaint colonial town. Flores is full of historic, red-roofed buildings, cobblestone streets, beautiful colonial churches, and Spanish plazas. The streets of Flores are generally quite peaceful and relaxing with various street-side restaurants and cafes. Most travel on the island is by foot as a fifteen minute walk will take you all the way around Flores. Visitors can also rent bicycles or even canoes to pedal through or paddle around the town.For those interested in leaving town to enjoy the surrounding attractions, there are canopy zip-line tours, boat rentals, or you can even visit the taping site of the popular show Survivor. Other popular surrounding attractions include The Cave of the Serpent, home to intriguing cave formations resembling objects like animals and even humans. Also, a ten minute boat ride from Flores will take you to the Petencito Zoo, home to monkeys, jaguars, and other rescued animals.Although the island is very small, there are a surprising number of places to eat and sleep. Flores is home to several delicious restaurants serving delicious stuffed peppers, steaks, chicken, squash dishes, wood-fired pizzas, and much more. Many of these restaurants also complete with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding landscapes. Many of the island’s hotels offer the same beautiful views from bedroom windows or balconies.
Located along the north shore of Lake Atitlan, Panajachel is a small town with a bustling tourism industry. The town is indeed quite small as a ten minute walk will pretty much get you anywhere in the city. There are, however, many taxis roaming the streets should you prefer a ride. A popular hobby in Panajachel is scuba diving in the lake. Visitors can hire a guide to enjoy the underwater like of Lake Atitlan. Because of the lake’s proximity to three volcanoes there are several hotspot in the lakebed; you can feel the heat digging your hands into the lakebed. Another popular attraction is renting kayaks to explore the countless cliffs and crevices around the shore of Atitlan. Kayakers can even pull op on shore and enjoy their own private swimming and diving.Finally, many tourists enjoy a visit to the nearby nature reserve, Reserva Natural, home to a butterfly sanctuary and even an old coffee farm. There are monkeys and other wildlife, hanging bridges, and waterfalls. In the streets of Pana, there are many selling their authentic Mayan handicrafts such as textiles, paintings, and jewelry.The town is also home to a number of delicious restaurants and comfortable lodgings. Restaurants include anything from authentic cuisine to Asian plates and even delicious hamburgers. Panajachel is also home to the luxurious Hotel Atitlan with its 62 rooms, beautiful gardens, and tropical birds.