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Travel Guide: Guatemala

Updated on September 20, 2011

Guatemala is a country all of its own and to experience some of the best things in Guatemala there are a number of things that you should do when you visit there. These things will greatly enhance your experience as well as the way you view this country. Immersing yourself in this diverse and one of a kind culture will truly be a unforgettable experience. Guatemala bring a lot of the traditional ways into modern times but never loses the reality of where the Guatemalan people came from. Here I’ll show you how you too can become a part of Guatemala and experience these lifetime pleasures for yourself.

1. To truly begin your experience in Guatemala the first thing that you will need to get a grasp of is Guatemala’s Roots. Obtaining some of its history is a great way to understand the present as well as the past. There are a number of historical locations that you can visit throughout the country. One of the best known sites to see is the Peten Mayan archeological site that sits in the northern part of the country. There is also a wonderful old cathedral in Santiago rightly named the “Cathedral of Santiago”. It has been devastated many times by numerous geographical changes throughout time and each time the Guatemalan people have resorted to a more beautiful prospect then before.

2. As you continue your trek around the country on your historical voyage there are numerous places along the way to see some of the divers and unique ecological diversity along the way. Stopping to see these natural surroundings will help you along on your learning experience of becoming more immersed in the culture by seeing, hearing and touching the fantastic natural surroundings that are seen all over Guatemala. There are a number of natural preserves as well and introduce you to different species of animals and plant life not seen anywhere else in the world. my favorite location to experience these is in Biotopo de Chocon Machacas.

3. Continuing your cultural immersion experience further into Guatemala you must remember that the history and the natural environment are only the beginning of the adventure. Hungry by now the next stop on your list is the somewhere to grab a bite to eat with some authentic traditional food. There are a many places to find authentic food even on street corners but be weary of these for gringos tend not to have the same stomach as Guatemalans so start with something light and move your way up. The best place for some traditional cooking is in the town square of Guatemala City here you can start with some paches as well as tamales de frijol con chiltepe. These are some traditional cuisine to get you started and there is a lot more so try a little bit of everything

4. There are times to consider so that when you are traveling through Guatemala that you are not caught in the times where the rain will cancel all your plans or make it difficult for you to travel. Usually mid May to December the unpaved roads that you will surely come across are often flooded or difficult to navigate due to these heavy rains at this time so best to avoid it. The dry season is about mid December to mid may there are really only these 2 seasons no winter or fall in-between like in the states. Its normally hotter during this time and you will get the sweltering heat in April along the coast but will be cooler in the highlands of the country. Of course the dry season also has some of the busiest tourist times at Christmas and Easter so plan accordingly. But, It also might be good to experience the holidays in Guatemala because they will show you how they celebrate their major occasions.

5. Communities gather in Guatemala in the town squares as with the Antigua, Parque Central with its old colonial buildings is a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists. Town squares are always good places to people watch, many dressed in the traditional clothing of their beautiful country. Here you can immerse yourself in the culture with the traditional costumes, crafts and food of Guatemala. Walking through the streets, markets or just sitting you will see all walks of life in Guatemala. You can enjoy and take in the smells and taste of all on offer of the local culture, and with everything you taste or smell you will find yourself wanting more.

6. Of course while taking in the sights and sounds of the colorful town squares you are going to run into people. Take the time to sit down and talk to them even if strangers you will find that most are sordidly and like to get to know you. Always be safe though and use your best judgment when talking with strangers if it doesn’t feel right probably is time to go. But, you will meet local artisans in their shops; learn about their family’s roots and their ancient traditions first hand. This is a good way to relax and unwind, a good time to mingle in an unstressed atmosphere.

7. A final way to immerse you in the culture of Guatemala is to volunteer in one of the programs from around the world involved in rural education, development projects, and other social projects most affected by war. You could get involved with volunteers and teach English to small groups of children, giving them an essential advantage if they are ever going to attain success in Guatemala. In Guatemala City for example volunteers are involved with caring for infants and children, teaching children, caring for the elderly, assisting local health professionals, caring for people with disabilities. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to experience Guatemala as tourists rarely get the opportunity to do so.

Any of these steps above is the perfect opportunity to truly immerse you in a foreign culture. To see the world through the eyes of the inhabitants of that country is often an eye opener, yet a great experience. However, when you choose to take part in this experience, you will be forever changed by your experiences. So plan your trip carefully, making sure you make the most of the time there. Following these guidelines will help make your trip to Guatemala unforgettable.

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