Guatemala has been on a stop and start path to tourism development for decades, but a civil war that didn't end until the late 1990s held the country back. Now that things have calmed down, Guatemala is drawing a greater number of travelers, especially in the colonial city of Antigua and the area around the spectacular Maya ruins of Tikal.
Most countries can only dream of having the natural and cultural attractions you'll enjoy in Guatemala. Tikal, the astounding stony remains of one of the largest cities in the powerful Maya empire, is located in the northern jungle. That area alone is home to over 350 kinds of birds, 105 types of reptiles, and more than 100 mammals. The wildlife variety in the rest of the country is equally mind-boggling.
Cobbled streets and impressive architecture help make the 15th-century town of Antigua one of the most enchanting Spanish colonial settlements in all of Latin America. This is where you'll find interesting small inns on every block (we've reviewed the three est hotels) and restaurants with ambiance to spare. If you want to brush up on your Spanish, you'll find dozens of schools and private instructors to pick from.
Many travelers are drawn to Guatemala because of its pervasive indigenous population, presenting a barrage of color around every turn. These are people who strongly adhere to their centuries-old traditions and dress. The costumes here aren't just photo props for tourists—they're the real thing.
Then there is panoramic Lake Atitlán surrounded by volcanoes. Add the world-class deep sea fishing off the Pacific shore, jungle walks, volcano hikes, rafting trips, and yachting on the Rio Dulce to and from the Caribbean. Guatemala has a lot going for it!