** Click Images to enlarge **
Guatemala is located between Mexico in the north El Salvador in the south and Honduras in the southeast. To the east of Guatemala is the disputed territory of Belize, claimed by Guatemala. The mountains come down from Mexico through the southern half of the country. This high range provides home for the bulk of the native population, which comprises about 60% of the Guatemalan people. The mountains break up a bit around Guatemala City and Antiqua, where a very temperature climate prevails. Far to the north and east lies the huge department of Petén, Guatemalan's frontier. It's wilderness of swamps, hardwood forests, hills valleys and rivers, The pioneer land is in the first stage of development. In comparison to southern Guatemala, the Peten is underpopulated. Scattered throughout the Peten are the fabulous ruïns of the long gone Mayas which disappearance is still a puzzle to this day.
Most of the tours started from Guatemala city we stay there in hotel Cortijo Reforma and choose Clark tours for operator our guide was a local correspondent of New York Times and well informed. First we visited Antiqua about 45 mins away. One of Guatemalan's real jewels. Colonial architecture, preserved by national degree, but shaken by the odd earthquakes. the most interesting points are San Antonio Aquas Calientas palace, several old Churches Including the ruïns of the Solala church The old city with many markets and have a look at the public washing places where the Indian people washing their cloth, real stone washing!
Our next destination is Panajachel in hotel Tzanjuyu on the border of Atitlan lake with a nice view at the Taliman, Atitlan and San Pedro volcano, where we will stay for a couple of nights. It's a very quit place with a beautiful garden. In the afternoon we try to swim in the lake but due to lack of oxygen we have to stop the altitude is very high. Very interesting is to see that early in the morning the Indians come by canoe from several directions with all their stuff to put upon the market. The Indians are friendly very small people and dressed very colorful.
Today we will visit Chichicastenango a typical Indian village around the 400 years old Dominican Santo Thomas church. We where very lucky that there just a procession was going on. A kind of medicine man in a strange outfit was dancing with a lot of firework and the Indian people are Sacrifices chicken, flowers, liqueur on the stairway of the church, a lot of fire's and smoke was everywhere and it's hard to believe that this is really a Catholic church. Inside the church a thousand candles are lightning and the space was filled up with praying Indians. Inside you are not allowed to take pictures outside it's no problem. Chicicastenango has a nice market where you can buy a lot of souvenirs, it's necessary to bargain thus do it, American people sometimes forget to bargain in which case the fun of the sale is lost.
The next destination is San Francisco El Alto, a little Indian village outside the touristic route. We will visit it for the local Friday market. The first moments after you are dropped on that market you will look dazed over all the colorful people sitting on the ground and trying to sell or change eggs, pigs, dogs, chicken, potatoes, everything. But be carefully otherwise within a few seconds you are the owner of a young doggy or piggy. We tried to drink some coffee in a local restaurant which is really an experience.
Today we are going by boat over de lake Atitlan to Santiago de Atitlan a nice Indian village at the foot of the Taliman volcano. The market over here is more touristic because this place is part of the American tourist route.
Back to Guatemala City we intend to visit Tikal one of the many Mayan gems studding in the Peten forest. World famous for it's extensive and fascinating temples and architectures. We are buying something against the mosquitos and our guide are trying to get tickets for a local flight. At that time we flow with an old Dakota without instruments. Tikal is fascinating, impressive and unbelievable all those pyramids why? How? nobody knows, and why are these pyramids in some cases equal to the pyramids in Egypt? How do they cut the rocks as a slide of bread?
Back in Guatemala city we visit Popal Vuh Archeology and Ethnology Museum, trying to get answers on our questions about Tikal but no response, on most of the questions the answer is simple (religion etc etc.) According to this concept, in the year 4000 when Archaeologists are looking in the ruïnes of NewYork and the Liberty statue will be found they will explain it as follows: In the people of the year 2000 adored the God of fire!
After the museum you have to visit Minerva park with a nice relief map of Guatemala a very old church Cerrito Del Carmen build on hill surrounded by a park and of course Palacio Nacional with exotic gardens, impressive murals and the splendid State Reception Hall used for official visits.
During our visit in 1982 it was still save to travel Guatemala, but there where signs that some troubles are cooking, a small part of the populations extreme rich and the remaining part extreme poor and treated as second class people. A lot of private army's are walking around to protect the rich. Such a situation cant continue.