Antigua: In an easy 30-45 min. drive from Guatemala City one reaches colonial Antigua. Founded in 1543 as the country's original colonial capital, Antigua's cobblestone streets are testament of the grandeur that was 16th and 17th century Guatemala. The capital was moved to its present location in 1773 after a violent series of earthquakes virtually destroyed the city. Many of the main buildings can still be seen as they were left after the quake. UNESCO has declared Antigua a "Monument to the Americas" since it contains some of the finest examples of surviving colonial art and architecture. During the week prior to Easter, pilgrims come from all around the world to witness Antigua's impressive Holy Week religious processions. Here also, over 40 language schools teach Spanish to international students. Intensive courses are designed to meet individual student needs and run from a week or two to much longer. Antigua has excellent hotels, restaurants, and shopping.
Chichicastenango: Ninety one miles from Guatemala City, this is one of Latin America's most popular travel destinations. Chichicastenango is world famous as a great market center for Indians of the Western Highlands and allows visitors a glimpse of centuries-old Indian ceremonial customs within the setting of its colorful marketplace. Every Sunday and Thursday year 'round, hundreds of Indian merchants from surrounding villages bring their handicrafts, produce and livestock to a lively open air market in the town square. It is a treat for shoppers and spectators that should not be missed. Lake Atitlán: Guatemala's most majestic natural wonder, Lake Atitlán, has been described by many veteran travelers as the world's most beautiful lake. Framed by three massive volcanoes and towering mountains, its shores are lined with colorful Indian villages and dotted with comfortable hotels. The lake is perfect for all water sports; fishing, swimming, diving, windsurfing and water skiing. It is also popular with hang gliders, climbers and trekkers.
Tikal: Located 190 miles (1 hour by air) from Guatemala City, ancient Tikal has been restored over the past quarter century and stands today as an ancient site of towering temples and sophisticated stone dwellings. Tikal is Classic Mayan. Here the visitor will discover elaborate carvings and evidence of ancient mathematical and astronomical excellence. Tikal reflects the splendor of a 2,500 year-old civilization. Tikal National Park extends over 222 sq. mi. and is considered one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Americas. Outstanding Mayan Art treasures have been uncovered here.
Rio Dulce: This tropical river provides an outlet into the Caribbean from Lake Izabal, Guatemala's largest lake. It also offers access to Livingston, a town first settled in 1802 by the Caribe Indians and African slaves escaping from western Caribbean islands. Good hotels here and Caribbean reef diving trips offered. At the entrance of Rio Dulce stands the fortress of San Felipe, built in 1652 as protection against pirates. Rio Dulce is also gateway to a biological reserve protecting the endangered manatee.
Quetzaltenango: Named for the country's national bird, the Quetzal, Quetzaltenango is the nation's second largest city, and is bordered by a unique attraction - hot sulfur baths, created by active volcanic hot springs. In the mountains, visitors will discover Fuentes Georginas thermal baths, one of the region's loveliest and best spas. It boasts beautifully landscaped grounds and hot springs swimming pools. Here one may also rent cabins each with private hot tub and fireplace.