Tikal National Park

Tikal translates to Where Spirit Voices are Heard. This famous ruin is located in the middle of Tikal National Park that is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Here, magnificent jungle and wildlife can still be found. Amid the ceiba, zapote and mahogany trees are over 285 species of birds, troops of spider and howler monkeys, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, pecarry, small deer and other rare animals. Tikal is considered one ofthe most important Maya cities, as well as one ofthe largest. It is vast and...

Hotel Pricing Chart

more than US 125 US 86- 125 US 51- 85 US 26- 50 less than US 25 Hotel Valle Azul, 15 rooms, . This is the first hotel you will come across. It's to the right from the Pana Pier. It's a large lump of cement with cell-like rooms that's quite popular with the backpack crowd. The big draw must be the terrace, which offers some amazing stargazing. Casa Mar a, s 502 206-8852, 2 rooms, . This is one of the newer places, also to the right from the Pana Pier. It's a hideous orange color, which makes it...

Cerro San Gil Tour Companies

Fundaci n para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservac onde (FUNDAECO) offers an excellent three-day, two-night tour for only Q200. Accommodations are at Chandler Robbins Biological Station, named after the famous author of the North American field guide to birds. The station has 12 dormitory-style beds and two shared baths. The trip is offered on weekends and you must reserve three days in advance. Equipment is not supplied. Bring a sleeping bag, rain gear, hiking boots and bug repellant. The women of...

The Scarlet Macaw

With its wide, strong wings, brilliant coloring and raucous call, the scarlet macaw is the most magnificent parrot. It has a vivid scarlet breast with yellow on its upper wings that blends into blue. The rump is a light blue and the tail a deep shade of royal blue with streaks of red. Its face is pinkish white with a black lower bill. Macaws can reach up to 35 miles an hour (56.72 kph) in flight and prefer to perch high up in trees, where they make their nests. The scarlet macaw is one of the...

San Andrs San

He small town of San Andr s sits on the northeast shore of Lake Pet n and has a small Maya community. The most pleasant way to reach either village is by boat from Flores. It's a half-hour ride to San Andr s and 45 minutes to San Jos . The cheapest option is via the public lanchas that leave whenever they are full and cost between five and seven quetzals. If you are in a hurry, negotiate the fare for a private boat. Rates start at Q250. Buses leave twice a day from Santa Elena, one in the...

Flora Fauna

Guatemala's unique position between two continents and two oceans makes it one ofthe most bio-diverse countries in Latin America. This land of eternal spring has the perfect climate for over 19 ecosystems ranging from the mangrove forests on both coasts to the pine forests and cloud forests of the mountains to the desert thorn forests found in between. For the most part, it is an incredibly lush country, with over 8,000 species of plants, including 600 species of orchids. Orchids are plentiful...

Municipality of Chisec

Located in the northern part of Alta Verapaz, Chisec forms part of the Northern Traverse Route (Franja Transversal del Norte). This huge territory stretches west to Ixc n in the department of Quich , north to Sayaxch in El Pet n, south to Cob n and east to Fray Bartolom de las Casas. It is even more remote than El Pet n or the Cuchunatan mountains area. Before the franja was built in 1972 for oil exploration, this area was virtually inaccessible. Chisec is the main city and it's quickly...

METERS

Taurants are located within walking distance of the central plaza and taxis are cheap and plentiful. H Spanish language schools have become big business in Xela and there are dozens of them. Originally, most offered participation in volunteer programs as part of the curriculum. The idea was to use part of the tuition fee to help finance the organization, while helping students learn Spanish by participating in community building. It was a win-win situation for all, but greed took over and some...

Punta De Manabique Tour Company

FUNDARY also offers a variety of overnight trips. Accommodations are at El Saraguate Eco-hotel near the community of Punta Manabique. This rustic lodge offers comfortably equipped shared rooms with mosquito nets and baths and an area for tents or hammocks. Fresh fish and seafood dinners are outstanding. The beach here is incredible and the lodge offers a variety of aquatic sports, including kayaking, trekking, snor-keling and scuba diving. The basic package includes only accommodations and...

The Legend Of El Cerro Cotzol

Nearby is a huge mountain known as El Cerro Cotzol. Long ago, a few of the first settlers decided to have a party on El Cerro. It was a loud and long gathering that went on all night. When the party-goers didn't come back, their relatives went out looking for them, traveling across valleys and mountains, calling for them on drums. Three days passed and party-goers returned as mysteriously as they had vanished. They had been kidnapped and held captive by the spirit of the mountain, who was...

Ixcan Ecotour Operators

The Ixcan Scientific Station offers eco-tours with local guides. You can customize wilderness treks, day hikes and rafting excursions or explore the little-known ruins of Chanatun along Rio Tzendales. This is rugged country with few creature comforts, but it offers the chance to explore one of the last true wilderness areas. For more information, contact Akianto Travel ( 011 52 9 612-2256 or 614-8333, akianto prodigy.net.mx) or Viajes Marabasco ( 011 52 9 613-9776, Chiapas, Mexico, mmorales...

Geography Land

uatemala is a relatively small country covering 42,355 I square miles (108,430 square km), but it has a very diverse landscape. Limestone plateaus sit next to majestic mountain ranges dotted with pristine lakes and rivers active and inactive volcanoes are located alongside rainforests and tropical beaches. What's great for travelers is that they can easily move from one environment to another in a short period of time. Because of it location and geography, Guatemala possesses great biological...

Department of Quetzaltenango

The department of Quetzaltenango is west of Lake Atitlan and rests in a large basin on the southern side of the Cuchumatanes Mountains. Because it has the most fertile land in Los Altos, many people have made their homes here. It was originally settled by the Quiche Maya in the Early Classic period (AD 200-500), and was ruled by Zaculeu in the north, now the site of Huehuetenango. The Quiche invaded the area in AD 1400 and ruled it until 1524 when the Spanish arrived. The Dominicans and...

Piedras Negras Tour Companies

Trips to Piedras Negras are conducted by Maya Expeditions, 15 Calle 1-91 Zone 10, Guatemala City (local 104), s 502 3634955, fax 502 337-4666, http mayaexpeditions.com Monkey Tours, s 501 926-0807, www.nitun.com, in the Ni'tun Eco-Lodge, San Andr s and Posada Maya Bethel ( 502 8011799 or 801-1800). A popular side trip from the Pet n is a visit to the ruins of Yaxchil n, Bonampak and Palenque in Mexico. SThe easiest way to get here is to take the bus from either Flores or Sayaxch to the frontier...

History Of El Castillo

Early in the 16th century when trade was set up between Spain and Guatemala, this area was known as Golfo Dulce. Marauding pirates sailed in from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of Honduras to plunder the warehouses. In 1595, the governor petitioned King Philip II of Spain for a tower equipped with 12 cannons and 12 soldiers to defend the trade route. Torre de Sande was completed a few years later, but it was destroyed by pirates in 1604. Pedro de Bustamante rebuilt the tower and it was named Torre...

Staying Healthy

A full range of modern medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the city is limited. Most villages will have some kind of health clinic, sometimes without a doctor. For anything of a serious nature, you will have to go to Guatemala City. The state hospitals are extremely crowded and often suffer from a shortage of supplies and medicine. You will be better off in a private hospital. The care will be more than adequate for most common illnesses and injuries. However,...

The Ixil Triangle

Three villages in northern Quiche make up the Ixil Triangle. Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and Chajul are home to the Ixil Maya. This is the most remote and traditional part of Guatemala in the Cuchumatanes Mountains. Few tourists travel here, although it offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, along with some genuine and colorful Maya communities. The Ixil have always been isolated. Initial excavations of ruins here show they developed independently of the other Maya groups....

Tajumulco Tour Company

The best tour is with Quetzaltrekkers, Casa Argentina, Diagonal 12, 8-37, Zona 1 s 502 761-5865, www.quetzal-trekkers.org. You leave early Saturday morning for the village of Tuichan, where the trail begins. You spend Saturday night camping at the lower summit here. Just before dawn on Sunday you begin the ascent to the summit to watch the sunrise. The rest of the day is spent hiking back down. The cost is US 40 per person, including all transportation, vegetarian meals, camping equipment and a...

Hiking Outfitters

Contact Richard Morgan, Adventures in Education, Posada Los Encuentros, Calle Santander, s 502 762-2326, or the LARA (Lake Atitlan Resort Association), Calle Tijon by the cathedral, s 502 219-2755, fax 502 762-2322. You can also create your own route and itinerary with Old Town Outfitters, 6a Calle Poniente 7, s 502 832-4243, www. bikeguatemala.com. Ahalf-day tour costs US 20 per person a full-day trip is US 30 per person and a two-day trek around the lake runs US 125 per person (minimum of two...

Info

C), and heavy rainfall year-with an average temperature Guatemala doesn't really have any terrible seasons. There is invierno (winter) from April to November, followed by verano (summer) from November through April. The true rainy season starts in June and lasts until the end of September. During this period, the sunny mornings are followed by rain and cloud in the late afternoons. If you don't mind getting up early in the morning to do your sightseeing before the rain, then travel during this...

Melchor de Meneos

Melchor de Mencos is an unattractive, chaotic border town with little to offer the visitor. Its main highlight is the stelae from the ruins of El Naranjo on display in the central plaza. Melchor makes a poor introduction or exit to Guatemala and most tourists don't linger. Everyone makes sure their transportation is arranged to bypass the town once their business at the Guatemala-Belize border is finished. It's unfortunate the introduction to this area is unpleasant. Away from the town are some...

Shuttle Services

A number of companies offer shuttle services in and around Guatemala City, Copan Honduras, Panajachel, Chichicastenango and the surrounding areas. The companies listed below are all based in Guatemala City Adventure Travel Center Viareal, SA, 5a Avenida Norte 25B, s fax 502 832-0162, e-mail viareal guate.net. Authentico Paraiso Maya, 5a Calle Poniente 6, s 502 8322071, e-mail paraisomaya yahoo.com. Mayan Paradise Tour and Travel Service, 5a Calle Poniente 6, s 502 832-2071, fax 502 832-1838,...

Dc

Irect buses come from Guatemala City to Retalhuleu ' City. If you are arriving from Panajachel, Lake Atitlan or any of the northern highland villages, catch a bus in Quetzaltenango for a short (36-mile 59-km) ride to the capital. There is a good public transportation in the city and taxis are cheap and plentiful. Most of the hotels are within walking distance of the downtown central plaza. To visit the ruins or get to the beaches, use local buses. tThe name Retalhuleu is Quiche Maya and it best...

Chicabel Lake Tour Companies

Adrenalina Tours, Pasaje Enriquez, 5a Avenida Sur, Zona 1, s 502 761-0924, 761-0922, http adrenalinatours.xelaenlinea. com, offers daily tours to the lagoon for US 18 per person (US 13 for groups of four or more). Price includes transportation, a guide and drink. Santa Mar a Volcano & Santiaguito Volc n Santa Mar a dominates the landscape around Xela. It is part of a larger volcanic system that includes Siete Orejas (Seven Ears) and Chicabel volcanoes. Locals call this volcano Gagxanul,...

Salam

Baja Verapaz is the much smaller department in Las Verapaces. It has remote Achi Maya villages. Sections of the region are dry and flat and form part of the Salam Valley, but the department does eventually become mountainous and there are some incredible mountain trails to explore, along with caves and the wonderful Quetzal Biotope. Since it is so lush and green, producing some of the country's best fruit, the area has been dubbed the Green Heart of Guatemala (la Corazon Verde de Guatemala)....

Getting Here

The majority of travelers arrive in Guatemala overland via Mexico or Belize. There are three main border stations from Mexico Ciudad Cuauhtemoc La Mesilla in Huehuetenango Tapachula El Carmen in San Marcos and Ciudad Hidalgo Ciudad Tec n Um n in San Marcos. The most convenient route is through Tec n Um n. The road from Huehuetenango (the Pan American Highway) is really mountainous and travel is slow going. There are direct buses from the border to Guatemala City and certain tourist shuttles...

Famous Tikal Explorers

ANDRES DE AVENDANO Considered the first white man to visit Tikal. In 1695, Avendano had been living with the Itz when he discovered a plot to have him sacrificed by the seeming friendly King Canek. He fled the area and inadvertently stumbled onto Tikal while trying to make his way back to Merida in Mexico's Yucat n Peninsula. In his chronicles, he mentions passing through a city filled with grand white buildings. AMBROSIO TUT & MODESTO MENDEZ Ambrosio Tut, a chiclero, rediscovered the ruins...

Cuevas De Candeleria Tour Companies

Two companies offer guided tours to these caves, but both are expensive. You can arrange your own tour, but only if you speak Spanish. Hostal d'Acu a, Calle 4 3-17, Zona 2, Cob n, s 502 952-1547, runs a two-day one-night tour leaving from Cob n for US 270 per person. Cost includes transportation, lodging, food, entrance fee and guide. Maya Expeditions, 15 Calle 1-91, Zona 10, local 104, Guatemala City, s 502 363-4955, fax 502 337-4660, www. mayaexpeditions.com, offers the Candeler a Caves as...

El Remate

El Remate is a small village community on the east end of the lake. It's also on the same road as Tikal, which makes it a good place to stay if you are planning to visit the ruins. It is generally more tranquil and cleaner than Flores, with nicer hotels and restaurants at half the price. The Cerro Cehaui Biosphere, just outside of town, offer spectacular hiking and nature trails. This side of the lake is also cleaner, making swimming more pleasant. Fishing and kayaking trips are also available...

Department of Escuintla

Escuintla is the commercial heart of Guatemala. The slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains have been turned into cattle and dairy ranches and planted with sugarcane, coffee, cotton, fruits, corn, beans and other vegetables. This is also a manufacturing area that produces articles for fishing, marimbas, furniture, shoes, leather goods and food products. The popular ice cream manufacturer, Sarita's, has its headquarters here. The department's capital of the same name has little to offer the...

Department of Solola

The department of Solola is bordered to the north by the departments of Totonicapan and Quiche to the east by Chimaltenango to the southwest by Suchitepequez and to the west by Quezaltenango. It has the largest and most varied Maya population with the highest number of indigenous languages still in use. It covers 19 municipalities in total, although most tourists usually visit only Lake Atitlan. This department remains primarily agricultural, cultivating corn, beans, squash and some fruit....

Legend Of Puente De Los Esclavos

Legend has it that during the construction of the bridge exhausted slaves made a pact with the Devil their souls in exchange for a completed bridge. The bridge was completed and the Devil went to collect, but during the night one of the slaves had regretted his actions and challenged the Devil using a blessed crucifix as his weapon. The Devil crumbled and could not collect his souls. In a fit of rage, he kicked the bridge so hard that one of the stones fell to the ground. The bridge has been...

The Quetzal Kid Dilemma

There are lots of quetzal kids in the villages that get a lot of tourist traffic, especially Santiago and Panajachel. They run up and ask for a quetzal, usually to spend on candy. Locals are trying to encourage these children to stay in school and not pass their childhood on the streets, but the lure of quetzals and candy is too strong. It's hard to say no to them, but when you give them money, remember that you are encouraging them to beg in the streets and lose out on their education. Your...

Huehuetenango

Huehuetenango is a dusty town whose streets are usually filled with huge trucks. It has a mixed population of Ladino and Maya. The town has two distinct personalities. The center is pretty sedate, with most commerce being done at one of the 40 banks lining the streets. A few blocks away is the huge Indian market, where the streets are crowded with people dealing and trading. The main bus terminal is located here. There is very little to see in Hue-Hue, but it makes a good base for exploring the...

Fear Of Foreigners

What happened in the market of Todos Santos in April, 2000 was a tragic misunderstanding between two cultures. On April 29, a busload of23 Japanese tourists arrived to shop at the markets. A young local woman and her elderly friend were stopped at a stall. A Japanese man responded to the woman's crying infant by placing a comforting hand on the baby. The young mother began screaming that they were trying to steal her child. The couple immediately walked away, but a mob had already formed,...

Villages of Huehuetenango Todos Santos Cuchumatan

Located at 9,000 feet in a valley of the Cuchumatanes Mountains, this isolated village is one of the most traditional places in Guatemala. Residents speak only Mam and use the original 260-day Maya calendar. The women dress in red huipiles with red shawls and the men wear striped pants, shirts with beautifully embroidered collars and straw hats with bandanas. Groups of marimba players can be seen in the streets. Todos Santos is a very picturesque town. Notice the small mud brick hut attached to...