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Attractions and Things to See and Do

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Guatemala Facts Guatemala is the northernmost country in Central America. It borders on the Caribbean Sea, between Honduras and Belize, and also borders on the Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico. It has a territory of about 42,000 square miles (slightly smaller than the US State of Tennessee) and a population of about 11 million people, the majority of which are Mestizo (Amerindian or mixed Amerindian-Spanish). The official language is Spanish, but some 28 indigenous languages are also spoken. Guatemala enjoys a warm climate throughout the year, with an average temperature above 20C (75F) in the Mountainous Valleys, somewhat warmer along the South Pacific Coast and the Tropical Lowlands of the Peten Region and Caribbean Coast and cooler in Quetzaltenango and the Western Highlands. Small with much to offer.... Guatemala is a small country, but it has much to offer the traveler. Guatemala is a natural paradise offering some truly breathtaking scenery of mountains, lakes, volcanoes and flora and fauna. Guatemala boasts a number of very beautiful tropical black volcanic sand beaches on the Pacific Ocean, and some large coral reefs on the Caribbean side. Guatemala ranks very high in biological diversity, and has numerous tropical low rainforests and mountain cloud forests. Guatemala also has some of the largest and most fascinating Mayan ruins found anywhere in Latin America, the most famous of which is Tikal. The Mayan population, composed of several distinct groups, such as the Quiche, Kakchiquel and Mam in the Western Highlands, still proudly cling to their ancient culture and traditions, for many Spanish is a second language to be learned in primary school. Antigua This beautiful 16th-century city was founded in the early 16th century by the Spaniards. Built 1,500 meters above sea-level in the highlands of Guatemala, it was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the original monuments are still preserved as ruins. Antigua has some of the most gorgeous Spanish-style colonial architecture found anywhere. Its cobblestone streets, built in the 16th century lead you past dozens of great restaurants, flowered courtyards, and the preserved ruins of numerous churches, monasteries and other structures. Antigua's natural setting is spectacular, with several majestic volcanoes surrounding the city on all sides. The Colonial Museum, located in a building which at one time housed the third university founded on the American continent, is well worth visiting for its vast collection of colonial art. For those seeking Spanish Language Programs, the town is host to more than 75 Spanish Language Schools and Institutes, please f!eel free to contact us for more information regarding the best School to suit your budget and requirements. The lodgings and restaurants in Antigua range from basic to luxury 5 star and there are many rooms and apartments to rent in the area for those planning long stays. Antigua boasts a large and stable American, Canadian and European 'Ex Pat' population as well as being a major tourist attraction, if planning to visit in "high seasons" such as Semana Santa(Easter Holy Week) or Christmas-New Year's make your reservations well in advance. For more detailed Antigua information view 'Antigua Tours' website at Tikal Tikal, at one time the largest Mayan city in the world, is now a world famous site of Mayan ruins. The ancient Maya began constructing Tikal around 550 B.C., and for many centuries thereafter the city was an important religious, and political center. Today, the largest number of Mayan ruins in the world are to be found in Tikal. The ruins, extending over six square miles, include temples, pyramids, terraces, palaces, ceremonial platforms, plazas, steam baths, and other stone structures. It is estimated that only about 30% of the ruins have been excavated - the remaining 70% lie buried underground. Visitors can visit the Tikal site by taking a short flight(approx. 1 hour) from Guatemala City to the rain forest area where Tikal is located or an overnight ride(approx. 12 hours) in an air conditioned luxury pullman if one prefers traveling overland. Our associated Guatemalan Tour Operators are able to arrange in advance trips to the ruins including Guide, Lodging and Tr!ansport from a day to a week. Lake Atitlán Lake Atitlán, which is of volcanic origin, actually an "upside down" volcano itself, is located 140Km. (90 miles) from Guatemala City, in the mountainous province of Sololá, deep in the Guatemalan highlands. Aldous Huxley once called this lake "the most beautiful in the world", and many would agree with this statement. The lake is located about 5,000 feet above sea level, has a depth of over 1,500 feet and covers an area of about 50 square miles. It is the deepest lake in Central America. The water of the lake, usually crystal clear and a vivid blue, changes in color as the light varies. The lake is set against a dramatic backdrop of three spectacular 10,000-foot volcanoes - Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro. Lake Atitlán is a is a great venue for a wide variety of water sports, including swimming, diving, water skiing, hang gliding and boating. It is also a great place for fishing, as the lake is home to numerous species of edible fresh water fish. Along the !shores of Lake Atitlán are a number of small Indian villages where the traditional Maya lifestyle is followed. Usually the visitor will arrive by Shuttle, Tour or Rebuli Line Bus from Antigua or Guatemala City to the main lakeside village of Panajachel, a vibrant little place boasting an incredible outdoor indingenous crafts market along with some 70 Lodging Places from 'backpacker basic' to luxury 5 star, dozens of restaurants offering fare from typical Guatemalan to International and Vegetarian and Discos and Clubs open to the wee hours of the morning, thus the town with it's mixed European, North American, Indingenous and Mestizo population is known affectionately ad "Gringotenango". From Panajachel leave approx. every 15 minutes during daylight hours public boats or "lanchas" for hire to one of the several villages along the lake such as San Pedro, Santa Cruz and Santiago de Atitlan which have recently seen an upsurge in tourism due to the fact that many unique lodging places have been constructed to serve those desiring to be away the hustle and bustle of Panajachel. Guatemala City Guatemala City and it's metropolitan area is home to more than 30% of the country's population and is the capital of Guatemala. The city lies in a deep valley called Valle de la Asuncion where the dormant Agua volcano dominates the horizon. With a population of about 4 million (metro area), it is the country's commercial, financial, and cultural center. It is a city where colonial architecture, sits side by side with modern skyscrapers and shopping malls. For visitors, there is much to see and do in Guatemala City. Worthwhile is a visit to the Zona Viva, the trendy and very modern center of Zona 10, where numerous upscale restaurants, bars, and clubs stay open long into the night. Those interested in Spanish colonial architecture should visit Zona 1, the city's historic center. Visitors interested in handicraft will find a wide variety of authentic Guatemalan wood carvings, textiles, leather, ceramics, jewelry and basket work in the downt!own Central Market. Also worth seeing is the National Palace and the Ixchil Museum of Guatemalan Handicrafts. Arrival in Guatemala is at the Aurora International Airport located in Zona 13, only 10 minutes by Auto from the Zona Viva, Zona 10, there are also several moderate 2 and 3 star 'guest houses' in Zona 13 located only minutes from the terminal, that will take you to the airport at dawn in their vehicle as part of the price of the room, popular with travelers returning from treks in Antigua, Lake Atitlan, The Highlands and Tikal. Many Business Travelers venture to Guatemala City, so Central American Language Tours has awaiting some very special services for you including reservations, transportation, interpreters and tours for free time. Last but not least.. Quetzaltenango: Guatemala's "second city" and cultural center. Known as "Xelaju", the indingenous name and called "Xela" by the locals. For complete Quetzaltenago information and reservations visit our associate there "Xela Pages" Enjoy your Guatemala trip E-mail us Info regarding any inquiries. Another resource recommend is no matter where in the world you are traveling, one of us trekshare members has been there and "done that". Excellent travelouges including photos, one regarding a Pan-Central American journey soon to appear on these pages.

Edited bycalanguagetours on 05.02.2004

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