Where Quetzaltrekkers Dare

Text and photos by Robin Canfield

Written By. Robin Canfield I’d like to blame the altitude; I don’t think I’ve ever wheezed so much in my life as I did on my recent trek in the Western Guatemalan mountains. It’s not as if I was trailing behind the group —I usually kept up quite well. And when I was trailing, it was because my film-crew partner […]

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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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Leaf-cutting Ants Like Flowers

While visiting the Petén, Alta Verapaz or the costa sur, you’ll most likely see leaf-cutting ant trails, which look like miniature highways running through a lawn. One aspect about leaf-cutting ants that is seldom written about is their propensity to carry flowers (rather than leaves). In the last three years I have found ants harvesting and carrying flowers about 90 […]

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El Remate, Guatemala

A hidden gem just minutes from Tikal El Remate is a little slice of paradise along the shore of lago Petén Itzá, only a few minutes by car from Tikal. The pueblo is home to woodcarvers who display their work—beautiful bowls, statues, jewelry and more—in small, open-air stalls along the street. Located within walking distance from El Remate is the […]

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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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Guatemala´s Exotic Pacific Coast

Stone carving at  Tak’alik Ab’aj

Tak’alik Ab’aj and Retalhuleu As we find ourselves right in the midst of this important year for the Mayan cosmovision 2012, one of the most intriguing Mayan archeological sites that can’t be missed is Tak’alik Ab’aj, recently nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. This amazing historical treasure, situated not far from the coastal town of Retalhuleu, […]

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A Perfect Combination Of A Cultural And Natural Experience

Site of the  Royal Palace

Aguateca Written by. Helana Oswald If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track destination where you can visit an ancient Mayan city and experience nature, Aguateca, “the Sun-Faced Mountain,” might be the place. Located in the jungle atop a low limestone hill on the banks of Lake Petexbatún, it is well preserved and features an impressive natural chasm that is a must […]

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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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Refugio del Quetzal

A birder’s delight, this Highlands sanctuary is home to an avian roster of more than 70 species A hidden gem of the Western Highlands, the Refugio del Quetzal (Quetzal Refuge) is an 8,000-square-kilometer sea of green that’s one of the few remaining habitats for Guatemala’s national symbol. Owned and managed by the nearby municipality of San Rafael Pie de la […]

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Guatemala’s Exotic Pacific Coast

Lovely mirador to rest and catch the sights by Tara Tiedemann

Everyone has heard of Guatemala’s beautiful Lake Atitlán, the mysterious ruins of Tikal and colorful Lívingston, but can you imagine a Guatemalan destination overlooked enough to offer a tranquil getaway yet offering something for everyone? Welcome to the laid-back, friendly Pacific Coast of Retalhuleu, a destination that caters to everyone from beach bums and nature enthusiasts to budding historians and […]

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Hiking Laguna Chicabal

View of the lagoon from the top of the ridge

In the Newberry Award-winning book (and Disney movie) Holes, the hero Stanley Yelnats and his friend Zero survive in a barren desert after discovering a hidden lake tucked on top of a mountain. Though Guatemala´s Western Highlands are far from barren, scaling the breathtaking Laguna Chicabal makes you wonder if the author of Holes drew any inspiration from this local […]

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Shake Your Booty: Carnival in Mazatenango

There is the children’s parade in the morning, the parade of carnival floats, a horse parade and the wild nocturnal adult parade.

There are special moments when the sheer exuberance and joy of the human spirit, shining so brightly, transcend all the negative forces and we find ourselves walking on air! Another in a long list of Guatemala’s best-kept secrets is the fantastic annual Carnival of Mazatenango: an event virtually unknown to those outside the Pacific Coast region. I do not recommend […]

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Quetzaltenango’s Mount Olympus

View of Quetzaltenango from the summit of Volcán Santa María (photo by Kristen Moser)

From many viewpoints in Guatemala’s western Highlands, the Volcán Santa María stands like a sentinel overlooking its kingdom. Wrapped in a vortex of clouds, the volcano is a constant reminder to the population of Quetzaltenango and environs of its eruption a century ago that almost completely destroyed Guatemala’s second largest city. Yet today, Santa María stands as one of the […]

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Santa Cruz La Laguna

Santa Cruz La Laguna

text/photos by Carla Berryhill I have been to Lake Atitlán several times since moving to Guatemala. For me, there really is no one town or village on the lake that stands out more than the other because I think they are all interesting, beautiful and unique—but, my personal favorite is Santa Cruz La Laguna. There are no roads to Santa […]

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Private Nature Preserve: Cascadas de Tatasirire

Private Nature Preserve: Cascadas de Tatasirire

If Sacatepequez boasts La Antigua Guatemala, Alta Verapaz offers Semuc Champey and within Peten’s jungles lie the impressive ruins of Tikal, El Mirador and other ancient cities, what exactly is there to see and do in the department of Jalapa? Answer: extreme adventure combined with biodiversity! Just over two hours outside of Guatemala City, hidden in the subtropical mountains of […]

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Getting High in Ixchiguán

Like Shangri-La, the name beckons from the maps–enticing, mysterious and alluring: Ixchiguan! I had noticed the place many years ago, and I was always looking for someone who could tell me more about this far-flung outpost. Ask anyone on the street in La Antigua Guatemala if they know anything about Ixchiguan and 99-to-1 they will say that they’ve never heard […]

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San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta

Located 13 kilometers southwest of the city of San Marcos in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta sits amid forested mountains, coffee farms, rivers and waterfalls. A community of 27,000 residents, San Rafael is especially thriving this month with its annual fair Oct. 13-24. The festivities—music, processions, dance, food and more—peak on Oct. 24, the feast day […]

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Tecún Umán Monument

Tecún Umán Monument (photo by Johannes Blijdenstein)

Heralded as Guatemala’s national hero, Tecún Umán is a symbol of indigenous resistance, a legendary figure of Kaqchikel history who led his people into battle against the Spanish conquest of the Guatemalan Highlands in 1524 and refused to surrender. Remembered for his bravery and dignity—fighting to protect his land and encouraging his people to do the same—he was defeated by […]

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Unicorn Hunting

A photographic quest to the upper cloud forest on Atitlán Volcano’s southern flank in search of the rare and elusive

A photographic quest to the upper cloud forest on Atitlán Volcano’s southern flank in search of the rare and elusive Oreophasis derbianus I reached for my cell phone to turn off the alarm: 12:30 a.m., time to get started. I lit the stove and put some water on for coffee. A few minutes later there was a knock on my […]

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Santiaguito

Santiaguito consists of four domes (from left to right): El Caliente (erupts 10-20 times daily), La Mitad, El Monje, El Brujo (photo: R.W. Sanderson)

    Volcanic offshoot beckons trekkers to the Highlands A mere infant in geologic time, the Santiaguito lava dome is a steam- spewing, smoke-belching spectacle just outside Quetzaltenango in Guatemala’s Western Highlands. Rising more than 8,000 feet above sea level, Santiaguito (Little St. James) is one of the world’s most active lava-dome com- plexes, consisting of several jagged peaks that […]

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The Gallon Jug Rainforest

The ornate hawk-eagle, the most beautiful eagle on Earth

After an expedition to the Sierra Madre of Chiapas, I was returning to Guatemala recently only to be greeted at the border by a glitch in the system and a real-life Catch-22. A new regulation says foreign-plated vehicles have to stay out of Guatemala for 90 days while the driver is welcome to return. So, having some time on my […]

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Big Birds and Fast Slides

Plenty of entertainment at IRTRA, Xetulul and Xocomil The first thing you’ll notice at the resort are the peacocks. Male and female, big and small, it’s like Noah’s Ark hit ground in the Highlands and covered the place with more birds than Ireland has sheep, strutting around like Freddie Mercury at Wembley. A short bus ride out of Quetzaltenango takes […]

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Guatemala in scale

Relief Map is a 3-D wonder in the capital Once upon a time a man made a map. Accompanied by a donkey, he traveled around Guatemala, took measurements of the country and then returned to the capital to scale up. That man was engineer Francisco Vela, and with the help of his assistant, Claudio Urrutia, in 1905 he designed a […]

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All Aboard the Xela Express

Train-like tour hits Highland highlights With so many cultural, culinary and spiritual destinations in and around Quetzaltenango, visitors can enjoy a leisurely sampling of the area’s most interesting attractions simply by boarding a street-wise locomotive. Suited to travelers’ time-challenged schedules, Tranvia de los Altos shuttles visitors to significant sites in Guatemala’s second-largest city (commonly known as Xela, from the Mayan […]

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A traveler’s Perspective of Guatemalan Destinations

I left my favorite shirt on a hammock in Monterrico

text/photos by Tanya Hughes Guatemala is a magical place. I came here the first time on a brief holiday that started on the Caribbean coast of Mexico and took me through Belize and finally into Guatemala. I was impressed with Tikal and Petén, but I immediately fell in love with La Antigua Guatemala. The unique energy that has captured so […]

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