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Information on Guatemala
After more than 30 years of civil war, Guatemala is experiencing an increase in the number of foreign visitors once again. Tourists are drawn to this Central American county for its natural beauty, Mayan ruins and its many colourful indigenous markets.
Guatemala City, the country's capital, boasts several interesting museums, including the Museo Popol Vuh, housing an impressive private collection of Spanish Colonial and Mayan art. In addition, the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología features one of the best collections of Mayan artefacts to be found anywhere, and the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno houses a comprehensive collection of Guatemalan art of the 20th century.
Antigua, the country's ancient capital, is located just an hour to the northwest of the capital. It is one of the loveliest and oldest cities in the Americas, where colonial plazas and cobbled streets are the norm. It is encircled by a trio of volcanoes - Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. The week before Easter, known as Semana Santa, is a wonderful time to visit as the streets are elaborately decorated with coloured sawdust and flowers during the biggest festival on Guatemala's calendar.
Also an hour from Guatemala City by plane you'll find the impressive Mayan temples at Tikal, situated in the protected jungles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. The pyramids at Tikal rival those of Egypt in their magnificence, and are the best-preserved ruins in Central America.
Lago de Atitlan, one of the deepest lakes in the world, is a popular attraction with laid-back travellers, and has been since hippies discovered the lakeside town of Panajachel in the 1960s. Lake Atitlan, a three-hour drive from Guatemala City, is actually a collapsed volcanic cone that has filled with water over the centuries. There is a ferry service that will take you on a daytrip from Panajachel to Santiago Atitlan where you will see colourfully-dressed indigenous Guatemalans.
There's much to be experienced in this small country. Many students looking to learn Spanish choose language schools in Antigua, and travellers seeking the 'real Guatemala' often head to Lago de Izabal or Nebaj, which is a Mayan village hidden away in the Cuchumatanes Mountains.
The country's Mayan heritage is evident wherever you choose to go. El Peten's Mayan ruins are remote but accessible. The market in the fascinating mountain town of Chichicastenango draws many visitors, as do the pre-Hispanic rituals that can be witnessed here. Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa is a focal point of the mysterious Pipil culture, where you will find a number of unusual carved stone heads and reliefs in the fields of the plantations that surround the town.