Atitlán Lake and Chichicastenango
Few visitors leave Guatemala without seeing has Atitlan
and the Maya - Quiche town of Chichicastenago, both found about
two hours from Guatemala City. There are enough activities around
the lake to keep visitors busy fir several days, as they explore
Maya villages, shop, go horseback riding ir birdwarching, tour nature
reserve and butterfly garden, and visit local artist in one of the
world’s most beautiful natural settings. In Chichastenango, famed
fot its Thursday and Sunday markets, visitors can witness Mayan
religious practices first - hans, while in Santa Cruz del Quiche
the will tour Gumarcaaj, the former capital of the Maya - Quiche.
Arguably the most beautiful lake in the world, Atitlan
owes its grandeur to its enormouns size and spectacular, volcanic
setting. Measuring more than 17 kilometers in diameter and covering
about 130 squares kilometers.
Lake Atitlan was formed when a volcanic caldera, depleted
of its magma, collapsed following the Chocoyos eruption 85,000 years
ago. There stately volcanoes - Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro- rise
gracefully from its southern sho9re, their perfect cones reflected
in the azure mirror of the lake. The tallest of these volcanoes.
Atitlan, towers 3,537 meters ASL. Fishermen from Maya villages ply
the lake in dugout cabies, chile larges boats ferry passengers from
one town to another, all wary of the “Xocomil” wind that rises some
afternoons and chops the Lake’s usually placid maters into treacherous
The largest town on Lake Atitlan is Panajachel, a laid
- back place with excellent hotels, restaurants and lots of places
to shop for Guatemalan, crafts. Boats leave Panajachel to ferry
passengers across the lake or conduct tours. Some interesting places
to visit around includes the San Buenaventura butterfly garden and
wildlife reserve, and the Lacustrine Museum, with exhibits of ceramics
recovered from the lake. An excellent art gallery offers exhibits
by local artits, as well as works by internationally renowned painter
Nan Cruz. Panajachel celebrates its town fair on Octuber 4 every
year, with a procession, firewords and carnival rides.
Santa Catarina and San Antonio Palopó
A pleasant walk east from Panajachel, around the lake’s
northern shore, brings visitors to the picturesque, Maya - Cakchiquel
towns of Santa Catarina Palopo, and, further on, San Antonio Palopo,
with gorgeous vistas of the lake at every turn. Santa Catarinas’s
women wear a distinctive., brights blue huipil. In San Antonio,
the men still plots of onions and anise on the hull sides above
A 30 minute boat ride across the lake from Panajachel,
is a Maya-Tzutujil village at the base of the Toliman Volcano. The
women’s huipiles, with embroidered birds, are some of the most beautiful
in Guatemala. Coincidentally, Santiago Atitlan is great place for
birdwatching. The rare Horned Tguan can be found near the top of
the volcano, while Azuere-rumped Tanagers and Pink-headed Warblers,
two species that are endemic to Guatemala, are commonly seen around
the volcano’s base. A visit to Santiago’s church with carved wooden
panels depicting the twon’s religious traditions, including the
local cult of Maxiomon, is highlt recommended. Horseback rides,
combined with gourmet meals, are available near Santiago.
The area around Quetzaltenango, in the western highlands
of Guatemala, is a fascinating land of volcanoes, hot springs, mountain
forests . Maya communities, colorful markets and gracious people.
The city of Quetzaltenango has fine hotels, restaurants and Spanish
schools and is a convenient base for exploring Guatemalans
Los Altos region. A large percentage of the people around
Quetzaltenango are Maya, speaking Quiche, Mam and Spanish languages.
Visitors to this area will share some unforgettable experiences,
like shopping in native markets, soaking in volcanic hot springs,
visiting a mysterious mountaintop of a volcanoes, and much, more!
Quetzaltenango, Guatemalas second largest city,
is the commercial and cultural center of the western highlands,
a beautiful town of narrow, cobblestone streets and graceful, neoclassic
architecture. Temperatures frequently dip below freezing at night,
and the citys inhabitants wait to start their day until the
mountain sun has warmed the morning air.
Quetzaltenango, a Nahuatl word meaning place
of the quetzals, was named by Spanish conquistadors impressed
by the number of quetzal feather worn by Maya-Quiche soldiers. The
city is also known as Xela, or Xelaju, an abbreviated from of an
older name for the city - Xe Lajuj Quiej.
Two striking monuments that visitors will see as they
enter Xela are a statue of Quiche captain Tecun Uman, fiercely guarding
the road climbed by the conquering Spaniards into the highlands,
and a monument to the marimba, which commemorates the important
role Quetzaltenango has played in developing and writing music for
the double marimba. The city has produced some of Guatemalas
finest musicians, poets, and artists.
In Quetzaltenago`s central park, known as Parque Centro
America, crafts fairs are held on the first Sunday of every month.
During the second weekend of each month, the park hosts an event
called In Your Xela, with local crafts, native food
and cultural activities. The town fair occurs on September 15, to
commemorate Central Americas declaration of independence from
Spain in 1821.
The Maya town of Zunil, found a half hour south of
Xela, is set in a narrow valley, where inhabitants grow vegetables
in irrigated plots. A visit to see Maximon (or San Simon) is highly
recommended. This local personage, a dummy dressed in room filled
with incenses, is regaled with rum and cigarettes by local diviners.
The Fuentes Georginas hot springs is located just
a few kilometers Zunil. Set in a lush forest which is great for
bird watching, the park has a restaurant and cabins that way be
rented for night.
San Francisco El Alto & Momostenango
At the Friday market in San Francisco el Alto, just
a few minutes from Xela, buy and sell textiles, ceramics, Livestock
and many other goods. The views from the town, which looks down
a long valley toward Quetzaltenango, are spectacular.
At Momostenango, beyond Sam Francisco, woolen rugs
are woven on foot looms for sale throughout Guatemala. Just outside
of town, there are some interesting formations, know as riscos,
eroded from tuff. Every 260 days, the community commemorates the
day Wajxakib Batz, or 8 Monkeys , in the Maya calendar, with prayers
and rituals at many of the outdoor altars around Momostenango, whose
name means the Place of Altars.
The department of Huhuetenango harbors some of Guatemala`s
most spectacular scenery. The Cuchumatanes Mountains, part of the
Sierra Madre mountain range, soar to 3,600 m ASI and contain beautiful
lakes, pine forest and highlands pastures sheep graze. From the
low-lying town of Huhuetenango, a road snakes up the rocky face
of a mesa that marks the entrance into the mountains. From a lookout
point on top, there are impressive views of Huhuetenango far below
and of several of Guatemala’s tallest volcanoes. Eight different
Maya languages are spoken in this fascinating region of Guatemala,
which shelters some of the country’s most remote communities.
The Zaculeu archaeological site, , just a few minutes
from Huhuetenango, was an important ceremonial center for the Maya-Mann
group for more than 800 years, and was still active when conquistadors
arrived in Guatemala. Zaculeu, which means “White Earth”, may have
referred to the city’s white structural buildings. Forty-three structures,
such as small pyramids and places. Are found at the site, as well
as plazas and ball court. The site was built on a promontory of
land between deep ravines, which pave it an excellent defensive
position. When Spaniards attacked the city in 1525, they were repelled
by Zaculeu`s leader. Kaibil Balam, and forced to lay siege. The
city did not surrender until six weeks later, when its inhabitants
were on the verge of starvation. At Zaculeu`s small museum, ceramics,
a burial urn and other items discovered during excavation are on
Todos Los Santos Cuchumatanes
One of Guatemala`s best-loved tourust destinations
is the little of Todos Santos Cuchumatàn, set in a spectacular valley
of the Cuchumatanes, set in a spectacular valley of the Cuchumatanes
Mountains at 2470 m ASL. Both the men and women clothing . The men’s
clothing includes red and white striped trousers, a colorful shirt,
straw hat, and a black capixay, or woolen cape to guard against
the chilly mountain climate.