Though small in size, Guatemala—meaning ‘land of many trees’ in ancient K’iche Mayan—manages to stand out amongst its Central American neighbours thanks to the overwhelming density of natural beauty, architectural marvels, enticing flavours and intact cultural heritage preserved within its borders. Majestic volcanoes, tranquil lakes, lush forests and jungles, deep Pacific lowlands and an unassuming strip of Caribbean coastline, set the stage for a journey through the depths of ancient Mayan civilization, the relics of Spanish colonial rule, and a contemporary fusion of culture, beliefs and way of life that remains rooted in millenary tradition as if time had stood still.
Guatemala’s biggest draw might well be the mesmerizing Mayan ruins of Tikal, standing tall above a dense canopy of jungle that once housed the most advanced civilization in Mesoamerica. The Mayas, who are believed to have arrived in the region around 11,000 BC crossing over from Siberia, developed highly complex systems in every realm of life, from architecture and astrology, to sciences and social construct. They are also to thank for providing us with some of the most popular foods to this day, such as coffee, chocolate, guacamole or tortillas. Expeditioning through the almost-impenetrable foliage of the hot and loamy jungle with the sound of the hoaring monkey in the back, in search of toweirng, steep-sided temples looking for the answer about what happened to the Mayans is an adventure in and of itself.
Yet, what actually happened to the mighty Mayas? Many, if not all, are surprised to find out that unlike other ancient civilizations, the Mayans never disappeared; they’ve continued to evolve to this day. Mayan culture is not only ancient and millenary, but also living and thriving. Witnessing this wonder first hand—in the fields of the highlands, the small villages perched on the slopes of the volcanic Sierra Madre, the local markets of Chichicastenango and Atitlan—is the reason Guatemala enchants travelers time and time again.
The greatest living legacy of the Mayas is found in the intricate textiles and designs of the Guatemala’s traditional costume, worn with a graceful sense of pride across the country, especially in the highlands. Each garment, from the embroidered blouse and corte, to the shash and shawl, reveal through their motifs a narrative of their history as a people and a distinct identity kept within the hues of its threads, which vary from region to region.
While there’s a debate whether Guatemala was ever formally a Spanish colony, the presence of the Spaniards during the -- century has notably left a mark, best appreciated in the distinct style of architecture in towns like Antigua, riddled with cobble-stoned streets
Tikal & El Peten
Rio Dulce & Livingston
Inspire Your Journey
Tracing the Mayas
Flora & Fauna