Guatemala has a rich a varied culture that is present in many places. Our villages are filled with Spanish colonial architecture, colorful traditional dances, women wearing hand-woven typical dresses, religious ceremonies and festivities, pre-Columbian shamanic rituals, indigenous traditional culture and delicious typical foods can be found all over Guatemala.
Former capital of Central America and then of Guatemala, Antigua was founded in 1542 under the name Santiago de los Caballeros. It was many times destroyed by strong earthquakes and Antigua lost its status as a capital city in 1773. After this, the town remained almost abandoned which helped to conserve its colonial style that you'll be able to appreciate walking throughout its paved streets. Antigua has a peculiar atmosphere and you will discover it if you stay for a few days.
In 1979 Antigua was declared a cultural heritage site by UNESCO and started a new "life". It is the most visited town in all of Central America, for the simple reason that it is full of charm and surrounded by three tall volcanoes. The legend pretends that it is here that Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote the book "The little Prince". Filled with beautiful private residences, ruined churches and convents, handicraft shops, superb hotels and excellent restaurants, this town really deserves a stop for a few days. Antigua's coffee is also the best of Guatemala as well as being classified among the bests of the world. Market days are Monday, Thursday and Saturday.
July 14th: patron day.
This town was built on the site of a 15th century Kakchiquel city and is the "headquarter" of the biggest and the most colorful market of Mesoamerica. Besides the traditional market for the local Quiche Maya you will find samples of all the handicraft produced in Guatemala. In the Santo Tomas church religious ceremonies are held by catholic priest as well as Mayan shamans and you can witness the syncretism of the Catholic and the Mayan religion. In this town the sacred Maya Tzolk’in Calendar is still observed. Also it is possible to witness original shamanic ceremonies visiting Pascual Abaj, a Mayan ceremonial altar.
Patron festivities are from December 17th to the 21st.
This is the capital of an area currently populated by the Q’eqchi, Pocomchi and Achi Maya, which has been inhabited for more than 3,000 years. After the Spanish conquistadores defeated the Quiche, Kakchiquel, Tz’utujil and Mam Maya of the highlands, they failed to conquer this north-eastern area of Guatemala. Finally Fray San Bartolome de las Casas succeeded to peacefully convert the indigenous to Christianity combining many of the traditional Maya and Christian beliefs. This has led to a unique syncretism between pre-Colombian and Christian religious practices which are still in place.
In the 19th century Coban was the base of many German people who had come to Guatemala to grow coffee for export.
COMALAPAIndigenous village at less than one hour from Antigua. It is the cradle of the naïve art in Guatemala. Andres Curuchiche (1891-1969) had the idea to represent on canvas the scenes drawn from the everyday life of the indigenous people of Comalapa. There are many "art galleries" in town, one of them held by the granddaughter of Andres Curuchiche as she continues the family tradition.
LIVINGSTONGarifuna village (Afro-Caribbean population) situated at the river mouth of Rio Dulce and the Caribbean Sea. It is characterized by its Caribbean laid back atmosphere and when visiting you should enjoy the ‘Tapado’, a local traditional dish consisting of seafood, plantain and coconut. Livingston is the only place in Guatemala that offers a white sand beach, which can be reached via boat.
PANAJACHELPanajachel is the main touristic center at the Atitlan Lake. Along the Calle Santander, its main street, you find many souvenir stores, restaurants and bars.
QUETZALTENANGOThis is the second most important town in Guatemala, better known as Xela or Xelaju, attributes itself a cultural vocation. 60% of its population of approximately 300,000 is indigenous predominantly of the ethnic groups Mam and K’iche and the city is a good base to visit authentic local markets in small rural towns surrounding it, which are characterized by little presence of tourists. The name ‘Xelaju’ means ‘unter 10 mountains’ and Quetzaltenango is surrounded by some of Guatemala’s major volcanoes, like Santa Maria volcano, the Santiaguito volcano and the Chicabal volcano which can be climbed. Also near Quetzaltenango you find the hot springs of Fuentes Georginas which invite to a relaxing bath.
SAN ANTONIO AGUAS CALIENTESThis Kakchiquel village situated at 10 minutes from Antigua is well known for its good quality textile. Here we can organize a lunch in a house of a Kakchiquel family where Lilian, the hostess will talk about the customs of her ethnic group and her daughters will teach you how to make tortillas. The house is very simple but the welcome is very warm and authentic.
SAN ANTONIO PALOPOSmall Kakchiquel village on the lakeshore of Atitlan, essentially agricultural. Its terraced onion cultivated fields overhanging the lake are quite impressive. The local women distinguish themselves by their particular style of clothing and some local textile women’s cooperatives can be visited. The patron saint of the village is St. Anthony of Padua.
SAN FRANCISCO EL ALTO
The Friday market is one of the most important and authentic ones of the country and is a very picturesque attraction due to the variety of traditional dresses that are worn by the local Quiche women. From its 2630m you'll be able to witness a magnificent panorama.
SAN JUAN LA LAGUNAThis Tz’utujil town on the lakeshore of Lake Atitlan is well known for their local cooperatives. You can visit the houses of local people to watch them weave, dye threads using traditional methods, and paint. You can also visit a local coffee cooperative using organic methods of coffee cultivation and a small medicinal plants garden.
SANTA CATARINA PALOPO
This is a small Kakchiquel village on the lakeshore of Atitlan with about 5,000 inhabitants. Subsistence agriculture, fishing and weaving are the means of survival for most families within the community. Perhaps the most easily recognizable characteristic of Santa Catarina Palopo is the blue huipil, or traditional blouse, which is worn predominantly by the women of the community.
This is the biggest village on the lakeshore of Atitlan, famous for its embroidery and naive paintings. The town in situated in a bay between three volcanoes, the volcano San Pedro and the volcano Toliman. The majority of the residents are indigenous Tz’utujil Maya. Santiago was the place of the former pre-Columbian capital of the Tz’utujil, Chiutinamit. The Catholic village church is a symbol of the people’s resistance during the 36-year civil war. Santiago is famous for the original typical headdress of the indigenous women, its naïve paintings and local weaving.
It is the capital city of the department of the same name. This city is well known for its market which is held on Tuesdays and Fridays, the black-purple-blue color of the traditional costume is pretty unusual. In Solola some men still wear traditional woven pants and shirts.
This is one of the most authentic places in Guatemala. Located in the mountains of the Cuchumatanes, the road to get there sometimes takes you over 3,000m high through sumptuous landscape. Todos Santos is one of the few places where also the Mam men wear their traditional hand-woven shirts and pants. The Saturday market seems to take you back one century ago.
TOTONICAPANTotonicapan means ‘the place of hot water’ and is inhabited by local Quiche Maya. In 1820 the town declared itself independent under the leadership of the indigenous Atanasio Tzul, who was declared ‘king of the Quiche’. His ‘reign’ only lasted 29 days after which troops from the Capital city quickly suppressed the Maya rebellion. In Totonicapan the extensive local market can be visited on Tuesdays and Saturdays.