The Dragons of Ixlu: Dragonfly Watching in Guatemala


Dragonfly watchers are known to insiders as “Oding” enthusiasts. No other insect is as agile and quick as are these miniature helicopters. They can fly in six different directions. One scientist clocked a particular type of dragonfly flying at 90 kilometers per hour, making them the fastest of all insects! And just as is the case with bird watching, you […]

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Las Conchas Waterfalls, Guatemala


ROADS TO ADVENTURE. text/photos by Capt. Thor Janson, navigator / explorer, Hidden Treasures of Chapinlandia – Alta Verapaz. New highways in Guatemala are opening up to the casual traveler incredibly beautiful, previously little-known locations, now easily accessible for any vehicle in good operational condition. The road between Raxrulha, Alta Verapaz and San Luis, Petén used to be only for bold travelers in 4×4, […]

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The Magic World of the Lacandón Jungle

Chambor K’in Chankayún

Roads to Adventure. text/photos by Capt. Thor Janson. As soon as I arrived at San Cristóbal de las Casas I got directions to the local airfield in order to locate a legendary Chiapanecan bush pilot by the name of Capt. Martínez. The place was abandoned, little more than a grassy strip at the end of which were parked several ramshackle old […]

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Bodacious Buses!

text/photos by Capt. Thor Janson Several years ago a well-known Guatemalan photographer was leafing through one of my books and commented on the many images. Rolando especially liked my photos of the quetzal and the orchids, but when he came to the section that featured ramshackle, rural buses, he asked, “Why would you fill your book with beautiful images of Guatemala […]

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Maya Princesses

Rabin Ajau: The paramount indigenous cultural event of the Mayan world text/photos by Capt. Thor Janson — navigator / explorer ( — Candaleria Coquix grew up in the little settlement of Cantón Zapotál, part of the Municipality of San Lucas Tolimán in the Department of Sololá. Just a stone’s throw from a little bay on the southern shore of Lake Atitlán, Zapotal […]

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Carnival at Sugar City and It’s Raining Ash

Carnival at Sugar City and It’s Raining Ash by Thor Janson

Mazatenango is affectionately referred to by locals as “Sugar City,” as it is surrounded by cane fields and sugar refineries. The growing public antipathy toward everything sweetened and flavored with genetically modified corn syrup has led to a real boom for Guatemala’s south coast producers of real, natural, cane sugar. This current economic upsurge is reflected by the prosperity of […]

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Panic on Pacaya

Pacaya looked like an immense Roman candle as the lava shot more than one kilometer into the firmament and a deep, ultra-low frequency roar emanated from the trembling ground below our feet.

Guatemala is particularly blessed by these immense conical peaks and dozens of them line up along the eastern edge of the Pacific coastal plain. Three of these cones are considered active: Santiaguito, Fuego and Pacaya, while others, like Atitlán, are considered semi-active due to the presence of steam-emitting fumaroles.

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The Cloud Forest Biological Corridor

Old travel mates Brenda and Brian were flying in from Vancouver for a three-day weekend and asked me to show their young daughter, Sophia, some tropical wildlife. Sophia, age nine, was already an avid naturalist and bird-watcher. She made it clear via our Skype chitchatting, that she was dying to see what the cloud forest was really like. Her curiosity had […]

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Ecosystems of the Mayan Rain Forest

An incredible diversity of life exists in the Mayan Rain Forest, the biological crossroads of the Americas For centuries the land of the Mayan rain forest has been of particular interest to biologists because of its unique location. It is at the crossroads of two of Earth’s major life zones: the Nearctic Realm (North America) and the Neotropical Realm (South […]

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The Road To Nakum

The plan was to rendezvous with friends at Yaxhá Lagoon then drive north to the remote site of Nakum. I met up with Belizean Alfonso Galvez and American biologist Harry Drexler for breakfast by the shore of magnificent Yaxhá. A bit of camp-stove magic, and I was serving up steaming plates of black beans, fried mol a’catch (turkey eggs) and […]

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Yellow Beard and other slithering surprises!

On a recent expedition to the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, one of the region’s premier protected areas, located just over the border in Chiapas, Mexico, I was walking up a remote river valley when I saw a slight movement on the path. As I approached I made out the form of a large serpent lying, perhaps sunning, squarely in my […]

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Islands in the Sky

Lake Tziscao and the Islands in the Sky The most endangered of Earth’s forests are without question tropical cloud forests, which make up little more than one percent of the planet’s arboreal habitats. Visionary conservationists like Guatemala’s Professor Mario Dary Rivera and Miguel Álvarez del Toro of Chiapas had the foresight to secure some of these pristine environments before chainsaws […]

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Quetzals and Trogons of the World

The Most Elegant of Avian Tribes If I were to conduct an informal survey on the streets of any town and asked 100 or 1,000 people a few questions about the national bird of Guatemala, it would become immediately evident the extent and the depth of ignorance of the population concerning perhaps the most beautiful winged creature on Earth. How […]

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Rab’inal Achí

Cosmic Dance of the Ancient Maya The Rab’inal Achí dance-drama traces its roots to pre-Columbian times and is probably the best-preserved, authentic Mayan cultural event in Mesoamerica. The choreographed dance/play depicts creation myths, dynastic political rivalries and even predicted the Spanish conquest of the land of the Maya centuries before it occurred. Since remote times the Maya used musical theater […]

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Paab’ Ank

The Traditional Mayan Feast Central to the life of each and every Mayan community in Guatemala are the activities of the cofradía, the traditional religious-political brotherhood, which is in reality a parallel government with its own elected officials and mayors. In many respects the cofradía has more authority than the “official” federal government. It is the cofradía that organizes and […]

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Small Is Huge

Miature Oxyopidae spider

We often overlook the fact that our planet’s ecology is totally dependent upon the health of these teeming hosts of creatures numbering in the billions. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words on behalf of all the “little guys”—all the little creatures that make up the vast majority of the Earth’s animal life. If we […]

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When Giants Roamed The Land

Octavio Alvarado (rt.) has become the enthusiastic caretaker of the  Chivacabé Mammoth site, near Huehuetenango, which now has a small museum.

FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS AGO We were in the middle of one of the Earth’s cool periods. Ice and snow covered much of the land. Massive glaciers grew to blanket vast expanses of South and North America. The highlands of Central America were a winter wonderland, where mastodon and megatherium frolicked. So much water was locked up in the ice that […]

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The Rabin Ajau 2012

This incredible pageant will take place in Cobán, Alta Verapaz on Saturday July 28 – 4pm The annual Rabin Ajau pageant exalts the purity and essence of the indigenous cultures from the four cardinal points of Guatemala and brings together in a harmonic convergence all the Maya ethnicities of the Land of the Quetzal and the Jaguar. The Rabin Ajau […]

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Yaxhá Lagoon and the Crocs

Croc and dragonfly (photo by Thor Janson)

There are two main gateways leading to the Mayan rainforest in the department of Petén, which forms Guatemala’s northern frontier. The main route takes you through the humid lowlands of the Motagua Valley and then north passing the magnificent Sweet River (Río Dulce), the jungle outpost of Poptún, and finally to the departmental island capital of Flores. The other, less-traveled […]

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The Uaxactún Equinox

The Uaxactún Equinox (photo by Thor Janson)

The next major event in the Maya sacred calendar The kickoff for the 2012 cosmic events was the solstice party at the ancient ruins of Tikal. In attendance were dozens of Maya shaman dressed in ceremonial attire soberly attending to their prayer offerings of copal incense, sacred incantations and song, and the sacrifice of doves. The next major event in […]

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