Guatemala

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Quetzaltenango

Quetzaltenango is Guatemala's second city. It has a great atmosphere – not too big, not too small, enough foreigners to support a good range of hotels and restaurants, but not so many that it loses its national flavor. The city center has an interesting mix of architectural styles – once the Spanish moved out, the Germans moved in and their architecture gives the zone a somber, even Gothic, feel.

Central & Eastern Guatemala

Stretching from the steamy lowland forests of El Petén to the dry tropics of the Río Motagua valley, and from the edge of the Western Highlands to the Caribbean Sea, this is Guatemala's most diverse region.

Caribbean Coast

This is a very different Guatemala – a lush and sultry landscape dotted with palm trees and inhabited by international sailors (around the yachtie haven of Río Dulce and the working port of Puerto Barrios) and one of the country's lesser-known ethnic groups, the Garifuna (around Lívingston).

The Highlands

The highlands – El Altiplano – stretch from Antigua to the Mexican border; they comprise Guatemala's most breathtaking region by some degree. Maya identity is stronger here than anywhere in the country and over a dozen distinct groups dwell within the region, each with its own language and clothing. Indigenous tradition blends most tantalizingly with Spanish, and it is common to see Maya rituals taking place in front of and inside colonial churches.

Western Highlands

The mountainous departments of Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán and Huehuetenango are generally less visited by tourists than regions closer to Guatemala City. But with extraordinarily dramatic scenery and vibrant indigenous culture, this part of the country presents an invariably fascinating panorama. Highlights of any visit include Quetzaltenango ('Xela' for short), Guatemala's second-largest city, with an ever-growing language school and volunteer work scene; the nearby town of Zunil, with its volcanically heated springs and Maya deity; ascents of the volcanoes around Quetzaltenango; and the remote mountain enclave of Todos Santos Cuchumatán, north of Huehuetenango, with a strong traditional culture and excellent walking possibilities.

Santa Cruz La Laguna

Santa Cruz fits the typically dual nature of the Atitlán villages, comprising both a waterfront resort (home of the lake's scuba-diving outfit) and an indigenous Kaqchiquel village. The village is about 0.35 miles (600m) uphill from the dock (there are tuk-tuks if you don't fancy the stiff walk). It's a lovely spot, with relaxing accommodations, activities on the water and a complete lack of hustle.

Guatemala City

Depending on who you talk to, Guatemala City (or Guate as it's also known) is either big, dirty, dangerous and utterly forgettable, or big, dirty, dangerous and utterly fascinating. Either way, there's no doubt there's an energy here unlike anywhere else in Guatemala. It's a place where dilapidated buses belch fumes next to BMWs and Hummers, and where skyscrapers drop shadows on shantytowns.

Lago de Atitlán

Lago de Atitlán leaves even the most seasoned travelers marveling. Fishers ply the lake's aquamarine surface. Fertile hills dot the landscape, and over everything looms the volcanoes, permeating the entire area with unique and striking beauty. It never looks the same twice. No wonder many have fallen in love with the place and made their homes here.

The Pacific Slope

Separated from the highlands by a chain of volcanoes, the flatlands that run down to the Pacific are universally known as La Costa. It's a sultry region – hot and wet or hot and dry, depending on the time of year – with rich volcanic soil good for growing coffee, palm-oil seeds and sugarcane.

Redaktionens favoriter: Turkosa naturpooler i Guatemalas regnskog

Mitt i Guatemalas hjärta gömmer sig en oas. Inbäddad i regnskogens djup, långt ifrån civilisation och bekvämligheter. Semuc Champey, den feta vattenparken varje resenär med barnasinnet kvar drömmer om.

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