Welcome to the heart of the Maya world, where the ancient secrets of Tikal are buried deep in the jungle vines, the carved heads of Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa keep a vigilant eye on surrounding sugar cane plantations, and Mayan spirits roam their motherland villages in the Ixil Triangle. A visit to Guatemala is virtually a time steeped in the pre-Columbian history, a wondrous encounter with magic, and a never-to-be-forgotten experience of truly indigenous culture. As if that wasn't enough, the gushing clouds of sulphuric steam spitted out by boiling Santa Maria intensify a mystery that hangs in the air.
Guatemala is also fit for those who don't feel like parting with up-to-the-minute civilization. Give your clumsy Spanish an authentic flair in lovely Antigua, where Volcan de Agua presides over top-class colonial architecture. Haggle to you heart's content in Chichicastenango, home to what is surely the most colorful native market you've ever seen, and if parties make your world go round, head to Guatemala City's Zone 10 to have it driven home to you they don't call it Zona Viva ("lively zone") for nothing. Sure the city has less than desired crime rates, but which capital doesn't struggle with one or another problem of broadly defined modernity?
In general, visitors are greeted with sincere friendliness, orchids spring at the feet of those who venture off the beaten path, exotic species come up close and personal with daring explorers, and Spanish-influenced music inspires all senses. Choose a five-star hotel overlooking the coast for a touch of luxury or stay in a jungle-nested bamboo hut to get the creeps of a lifetime. Guatemala has all this...and a lot more.