With 37 volcanoes, 23 separate languages, 19 different ecosystems and countless Mayan and Colonial ruins, it is no surprise that Guatemala - a country no bigger than Tennessee - is mentioned four times in the #1 Bestseller, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.
Antigua, Guatemala's most beautiful and historic city, is like having a little bit of Europe, just south of the border, but at a fraction of the cost. Also, with daily direct flights from New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Atlanta and Dallas, Guatemala is easy to get to and in less time than it takes to fly to Europe or Hawaii.
Nestled between three dramatic volcanoes in Central America, Antigua Guatemala is one of the world's oldest and most beautiful colonial cities. This majestic, 400 year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most visited city in Central America and its popularity only continues to grow as recently underscored by its winning "TOP City" at the Wanderlust's 2009 Travel Awards, beating out more than 600 other popular world destinations.
In Antigua travelers explore the ruins, museums, art galleries, restaurants and shops that are dotted throughout the famous cobblestone streets of this former capital of Guatemala. Centrally located, Antigua is also the perfect base from which to take short trips to other popular destinations like Lake Atitlan, the Pacific Coast and the world famous Mayan Temples of Tikal. Known as the "land of the eternal spring", Antigua has a humidity-free average temperature of 75 degrees all year round, so there is never a bad time to visit.
So whether you prefer a leisurely horse carriage ride through this centuries old city, or a day at the outdoor market discovering incredible hand-crafted treasures, or a heart-pounding trip through the tree-tops on a zip-line... whatever might inspire and renew you is likely to be found in Antigua...
ABOUT LAKE ATITLAN
Perhaps it happens when you are gazing at the towering volcanoes disappearing into the distance as you skim across an ancient, blue glassy lake on your way to discover your next lakeside Mayan Village. Or maybe it strikes you when you are admiring the rising sun on a morning in a place so beautiful that it makes you catch your breath. Here, in this magical place, it happens - you disconnect, then reconnect to something that deeply enriches and renews.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Atitlan is a stunning natural wonder that has seduced travelers for centuries. Ringed by three soaring volcanoes, the crystal blue lake of Atitlan is home to more than a dozen lakeshore villages. In many of the villages the Mayan culture is still prevalent and the traditional dress is still worn.
Complementing the traditional villages are a few "funky tourist towns" like Panajachel, San Marcos and San Pedro, where travelers from around the world meet, mix and have fun. Atitlan is truly a unique wonder of the world, or as one recent visitor described it - Lake Atitlan is like having too much of a good thing! Just a short distance away from the lake is the world famous open market of Chichicastenango. In Chichi, tourists get a glimpse into another world filled with Mayan rituals, dances, processions and of course an endless selection of spectacular and authentic Guatemalan handcrafted goods.
The undisputed center of Ancient Mayan Society, Tikal sits in the heart of Guatemala's northern rain forest -making this sacred place the home of Mayan history as well as home to hundreds of species of monkeys, toucans and parakeets.
The Tikal National Park, a protected area some 370 square kilometers, is a moving, mystical experience for visitors - highlighted by the magnificent pyramid ruins of the lost Mayan world. For years visitors from around the world have come to Tikal to transport their minds, bodies and spirits back in time while watching a new day dawn at sunrise as they are surrounded by the ancient Temples of Tikal.
For guests interested in extending their trips, there are plenty of great options. Many guests add a few days to their trip so that they can explore the world-famous ruins of ancient Tikal. Other guests opt to head to one of the two oceans that border Guatemala.
On the Pacific side, you can deep sea fish for Sailfish and Marlin or surf in El Salvador. On the Caribbean side, you can sail around the coastal islands of Belize. Whatever trip options you might be interested in, it is easily arranged.