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Guatemala

Antigua street in Guatemala

Guatemala has a reputation as being Central America’s most diverse country, so do not be surprised if its landscapes and experiences captivate your heart.

 
If you are looking for adventure, then Guatemala is the place for you.
 
Visitors can embark on stunning trekking routes through the jungles and up volcanoes. There is also world-class white-water rafting, and miles of caves to explore. But if you want to push the excitement level up a notch then you can go paragliding into a volcanic crater at Lago de Atitlán, or go scuba diving in the same place. You might even luck onto some good swell on the Pacific coast. But if all that seems too strenuous, then do not worry as there are plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. In fact, if you would rather chill out, then simply head to the beach and unwind in a hammock where you can sip cocktails all day.
 
Less than 2 per cent of this country’s landmass has been urbanized. So, that means Guatemala offers some superb natural scenery. National parks are impressive, particularly in the Petén region, and the lush canyons of the Río Dulce make for an unforgettable boat ride. The natural beauty of the volcano-ringed Lago de Atitlán has been captivating travelers for centuries, while the Verapaces are riddled with more caves than a spelunker could explore in a lifetime. Be sure to check out Semuc Champey, which is the famous swimming hole that has been pictured on thousands of postcards. So, if it is stunning scenery you are after, then there will be plenty of opportunities to get happy-snappy with your camera.
 
It’s also the perfect place to spot colonial grandeur as the Spanish left behind some stunning architecture in Latin America. You can see it all from Antigua’s crumbling ruins to the stately cathedral in Guatemala City’s central plaza. Even in the smallest towns you can find picturesque buildings, so be sure to check out  the small coastal town of Retalhuleu, which has a charming central plaza – while larger coffee-boom towns such as, Cobán and Quetzaltenango, maintain vestiges of their glory days in their cathedrals, town halls and other public buildings.
 
If you’re interested in Maya archaeology, then must-see sites include Tikal, Copán in Honduras, and Guatemala City’s superb selection of museums. Living Maya culture can be witnessed in towns such as Rabinal and sacred sites such as Laguna Chicabal. And if you want to see the Maya themselves, then you can visit traditional villages in the highlands. In fact, the Ixil Triangle is a good place to start. Be sure to also check out the ruins of the ancient K'iche' Maya capital of K'umarcaaj. This remains a sacred site for the Maya, and contemporary rituals are customarily enacted here. Archaeologists have identified more than 80 large structures, but only limited restoration has been done. This means the ruins have a fine setting as they are shaded by tall evergreens and surrounded by ravines. A trip here is one you are unlikely to forget.