Guatemala is a stunningly beautiful country where lowland
plains and coasts meet rising highlands that characterize
most of the terrain. The Guatemala culture is famous for
its indigenous Maya influence,
and nowhere else in Central America will you find such
an indigenous presence. The Ancient Mayans left behind
once great cities, whose ruins will both amaze and astound
the fortunate witness. Guatemala tourism offers visitors
an experience that is hard to match. With 37 volcanoes
spread throughout the highlands, it seems there is always
at least one volcano to be seen either up close or in
the distance. With beaches that rarely, if ever get crowded,
a Guatemala vacation can see you splashing in the Pacific
Ocean one day and touring a mountain village the next.
Guatemala tourism is definitely on the rise as the country
continues to distance itself from its ugly 36-year Civil
War, which ended in 1996. The rich Guatemala culture and
the warmth of its people is sure to make for an unforgettable
Guatemala tourism definitely benefits from the presence of the enduring Maya people. Ancient Mayans flourished in Guatemala prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1500"s. The ruins of their astounding cities of El Mirador and Tikal in Guatemala’s northern Petén region are among the best examples of Mayan ruins. Tikal is often the destination of choice for those arranging a Guatemala tour, and the nearby tourist-friendly city of Flores serves as the ideal base for any trips into Petén. Many people plan a Guatemala vacation just for the chance to see the surviving Maya, who are known for their withstanding traditions, colorful dress, and coveted hand made wares. Throughout the Guatemala highlands, the Maya continue their largest presence, but they can be found throughout the country. In the village of Chichicastenango, the Thursday and Sunday market gives visitors one of the best chances to gain insight into Guatemala culture, as indigenous groups come from around the country to sell their coveted goods in a colorfully charged atmosphere.
Past Spanish occupation also characterizes much of Guatemala culture and throughout the country some of the best examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found. In cities like Antigua and Quetzaltenango, old churches and cathedrals compliment the surrounding mountains to present a most picturesque setting. Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is the most popular city to visit in Guatemala. You will know why once you get there, and you just might not ever want to leave. Antigua and Guatemala City lie in close proximity and both cities are ideal for visits to Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is arguably the country’s most prized scenic location, and along its shores can be found the ultra-tourist friendly town of Panajachel. From eco-tourists to fishermen, Panajachel serves as the comfortable and friendly base for tourism-related activities in and around Lake Atitlan. Climbing the nearby Pacaya volcano for a glimpse inside its cone is an adventure you are sure to never forget. Eco-tourism is becoming an ever more popular part of Guatemala tourism as a whole, and being a predominantly lush country with mountains and jungles, the opportunities to get outside and explore are numerous.
The Guatemalan people are comprised mostly of “Ladinos” and European ethnicities. Ladinos are of mixed Amerindian-Spanish ancestry. The Mayan peoples, the most prevalent being the Quiché, comprise the bulk of the remaining population. Guatemala culture and Guatemala music, both of which receive influence from the Mayan and Spanish cultures, benefit also from the Garifuna people who can be found along the country’s eastern shore near Santo Tomás and Livingston. The Garifuna are ethnic descendants of Amerindian and African people, and they maintain their own language and many of their traditional customs. For the most part, Guatemala music includes the marimba, which is the country’s national instrument. A member of the xylophone family, the marimba is played throughout the country, often accompanied by percussion bands. Especially during village festivals and Lent and Easter processions, these marimba and percussion bands fill the air with music. The Guatemala music scene boasts an array of performing organizations, especially in the capital of Guatemala City, where you will find a range of music performances. Often upon arrival to a Guatemala destination, you will encounter a welcoming marimba and percussion band, whose typical Guatemala music will fill your Guatemala vacation with an appropriate soundtrack.