If Egypt is dubbed the "Gift of the Nile," Guatemala is considered the cradle of the ancient Mayan civilization. Millions of backpackers and honeymooners jet to this country every year to climb its lush elevations, rummage through its historical and cultural enclaves, and to explore the unique ecosystems tucked in its biodiversity hotspots.
The Hollywood blockbuster, Star Wars, was shot in Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being one of the world's biggest archaeological sites on pre-Columbian Mayan civilization. Tikal boasts of a long list of dynasties and rulers, which equates to a bounty of ancient temples, palaces, and monuments found in the area. Among the most notable of the artifacts is the Mayas' puuc classic architecture, which rivals the wats (temples) of Angkor.
Apart from Tikal that also houses diverse flora and fauna, some of the world's rarest species can be found in Biotopo Chocon Machacas, a biosphere reserve in the jungle countryside of Rio Dulce. Here, tourists may get up close and personal with some of Central America's most untouched rainforests and most varied wildlife, including animals like Guatemalan tapirs and manatees.
The backpackers' haven in the country is the Guatemalan Highlands. This is travelers' ticket to the lush hills of Lago de Atitlan, the towering pines of Wuiche, the emerald greens of Cuatro Caminos, the lively indigena (indigenous) market of Huehuetenango, and the artisan village of Totonicapán.
Among Guatemala's highlands, the Pacific Slopes is notable for its chain of volcanoes that dot the area. The site is very in-demand among honeymooners due to its plenty seaside resorts like Likin, Iztapa and Puerto San Jose.
Getting out of the wilderness might entail exploring the modern side of Guatemala, and the leader in this aspect is Guatemala City. Like any other Latin American city, Guatemala City is a mishmash of scenes, starting from busy grid-like streets to the festive Mercado Central, where shops hum with life and color.
The city shines its spotlight on Parque Central, where the seat of the national government, Palacio Nacional, is located alongside white-spired churches and repositories of Guatemalan relics like Museo Nacional De Historia and Museo De Ferrocarril.
A visit to Guatemala might be incomplete without visiting a balareque, the country's traditional mud-brick house, and without tasting a local empanada sold to small stalls called cafetin.
Guatemala Traveler Advice
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