As many of you know, Rachel and I recently completed a two and a half week research trip to Guatemala. We fell in love with the country and believe that it should be on everyone’s travel list! I've already written about why you should resolve to travel more this year, but why should you make the trip to Guatemala?
1. The people. The people of Guatemala are wonderful, inviting, and resilient. From the young children to older adults, people are all curious about foreigners and very welcoming. If you make the effort to speak Spanish, you’ll be amazed how generous and kind Guatemalans will be. Some of our best memories come from interacting with local families, especially artisan women eager to share their talents and ideas.
2. The scenery. Guatemala is a truly beautiful place. The landscape is littered with volcanoes and sweeping mountain vistas, and Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. It seems that pretty much anything can grow in Guatemala, and you will be rewarded with an insane amount of interesting plants and gorgeous flowers. Guatemala also boasts beautiful beaches and forests.
3. The coffee. Guatemalan coffee is among the best in the world. The nation has supreme growing conditions in the highlands, particularly with volcanic soil and a moderate climate. Most of the high quality coffee is shade-grown, which contributes to its extensive flavor profile. Honestly, having a fresh cup of coffee is worth traveling to Guatemala alone! But be careful, because Guatemalans do not drink or serve coffee the American way for the most part. The Guatemalan version of coffee is generally very weak and loaded with cream and sugar. If you are searching for a strong, flavorful cup, head to a cafe or shop that serves one of the brands from co-ops in the area. They’re more likely to also serve coffee that’s fair trade and grown sustainably. And if you're in Antigua, check out our experience at the De la Gente Coffee Cooperative and plan your own tour!
4. The shopping. Guatemala is a shopper’s dream. The country is known for a variety of high quality products, but look for textiles, ceramics, and handmade leather and wooden goods. Mayan women weavers are famed for their beautiful textiles woven on traditional back-strap or foot looms. The artisans create wonderful scarves, purses, household goods, and other articles of clothing. Certain villages are known for various products, so you should do your research before your shopping spree. For instance, San Antonio is a village known for its beautiful ceramic work and San Juan for its natural dyes. Don’t worry, though. You can get almost any type of product from Antigua, the most popular colonial town in Guatemala. Just be sure to verify that your gifts are made ethically.
5. The culture. Guatemala has a high population of Mayan peoples, many of whom keep with various Mayan traditions left over from before the Spanish conquest. People still speak their ancient languages, practice Mayan customs and religious ceremonies, and wear traditional clothing. One of the most interesting parts of Guatemala was seeing women and girls wearing their ancestral clothing, which consists of a huipil (embroidered blouse), corte (skirt), and faja (belt), all of which are regional in design and colors. Mayan people are understandably proud of their cultural heritage and are willing to share it with foreigners. Some Guatemalans however, particularly from more remote areas, are more reserved. Remember to always be respectful of local customs and behaviors. If you’re interested in Mayan culture, you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice in regards to traditional villages and Mayan ruins.
6. Antigua. Yes, it’s touristy, but there’s a reason for that. Antigua is a beautifully well-preserved colonial town less than an hour away from the bustling and hectic capital of Guatemala City. Find yourself transported back in time as you walk through the cobblestone streets and brightly painted buildings. Antigua is a town meant for wandering, and you can easily spend all day strolling around, admiring the architecture, volcano views, and various ruins. You will also never go hungry, as Antigua boasts a plethora of wonderful restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries. Sure, they might be expensive compared to the rest of Guatemala, but the quality (especially if you’re sick of rice and beans) is unbeatable and you’ll be surprised how far $5 will go. Antigua is also a wonderful place from which to launch adventures throughout Guatemala and the rest of Central America. You’ll find numerous travel agencies, along with world-class hotels, museums, and other attractions.
7. The adventure. The landscape in Guatemala lends itself to adventure. Though the country is only the size of Ohio, the variety of adventure activities that are available is astounding. Between hiking, camping, cycling, bungee jumping, rafting, scuba diving, zip lines, and more, you will certainly have trouble deciding how to spend your time.
If that’s not enough to convince you to book a flight to Guatemala next week, consider how easy it is to travel there from the U.S. The country is just south of Mexico and served by direct flights from multiple American airports. Plus, the weather is in the 70s pretty much year round. What are you waiting for?
Be sure to check out our other posts on Guatemala and start planning your next getaway!
Carry the beautiful,