Hear about traveling to Guatemala as the Amateur Traveler talks to Susan Metenosky from brooklyntropicali.com about this Central American country that keeps drawing her back.
Susan says, “It’s a place that just keeps pulling me back in and I feel like can never get enough of it. It’s such a rich culture and such an interesting place. So when I started traveling full time, I ended up going back again for a longer period for two, three weeks. There’s so much to see and learn and do. I think you can do and learn so much in just a week’s time.”
“The country has such a rich culture. Over half the population is indigenous. The Maya culture is the strongest ethnic group there. However, within the Mayan culture, there’s at least 20 or more distinct ethnic groups and languages. You have everything from tropical coasts and rainforest up to super high mountains, there’s a volcano that’s almost 14,000 feet, lots of high lands jungle. There’s so much to see and experience and then also just the history. It has such a long history. There’s a really important Mayan archaeological site there to visit.”
For a week long trip Susan recommends visiting three different locations: Tikal, Antigua, and Lake Atitlán.
Tikal is in the northern part of the country. It is one of the largest and most significant of the Mayan ruins. It covers over 200 square miles in the middle of the jungle. You will have Mayan history but also wildlife like spider monkeys at Tikal. Most people will do Tikal in a one of two day guided tour from the nearby island town of Flores. Tikal is a UNESCOWorld Heritage site.
Antigua is the old colonial capital of Guatemala. The city is in a spectacular location surrounded by volcanoes. The capital was moved from Antigua because the city is subject to earthquakes. What is left is a UNESCO site, a beautiful city worth exploring. Susan also recommends some nearby hikes including one to a of a volcano.
Lake Atitlán is a lake in the caldera of an ancient super volcano. It is ringed with a number of small villages known for their crafts, especially textiles. Some of the villages are known for yoga retreats, some for murals, but all of them offer stunning views over this beautiful lake. The weather is temperate because the lake is at over 5,000 feet in altitude. The way to get around between the villages is by boat.
Susan recommends a climb up to The Mayan Nose before sunrise as one of the most beautiful spots in the country.
If you have more time, Susan recommends a trip to Semuc Champey which is a series of stepped, turquoise pools in the middle of the jungle. The site is beautiful but can take an entire day to reach by bus.
Again if you have more time, the city of Quetzaltenango (Xela) provides a starting point for multi-day hikes of Tajumulco, which is the tallest of Guatemala’s volcanoes.
Surfers may want to add some time on Guatemala’s smaller Caribbean coast near Livingston and Río Dulce.
If Guatemala is not yet on your bucket list… then you have not listened to this episode.
*At 15:10, Susan translates “Finca La Azotea” incorrectly as “Farm of the Village”. She says the correct translation should be “The Rooftop Farm or Estate”.
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Tekal de Venegas Municipality
Antigua Guatemala – UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Cerro de la Cruz (Antigua)
Hike Pacaya Volcano
Finca La Azotea – The Coffee City
Villa Sumaya – Retreat and Wellness resort, Lake Atitlan
San Juan la Laguna
Santa Catarina Palopo
Tour to Mayan Nose
Tajumulco Volcano Hike Tours
Río Dulce, a National Park in Guatemala
Guatemala Itinerary – 1 Week Guatemala Trip to Tikal, Antigua + Lake Atitlan: Travel Daydreaming
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