Guatemala is, no doubt about it, stunningly beautiful. There’s something to be said for pristine jungles, volcanic mountains, scenic lakes, and world famous ancient ruins.
It also sounds a little bit like guacamole which—let's face it, you Tex-Mex fiends—is never a bad thing. I was there a couple of months ago for a fast trip and had an amazing mini-cation. So when my sister called me to ask me about a place that she could book last minute that would be wonderful, Guatemala was my answer.
Texans have so many options to get to Central America—whether it is Spirit Airlines, Aeromexico, or even Copa Airlines. Competition has been heating up the last few years with more choices including Southwest Airlines in the area. The point is you can get to Guatemala, sometimes even last minute for the same as what you’d pay to travel to neighboring Mexico. Once you arrive, you’ll be thrilled with the decision.
Antiqua is less than an hour’s drive from the capital, Guatemala City. Few people stay there in the capital, preferring the UNESCO world heritage site of its ciudad hermana. As soon as you walk down the cobblestoned streets, you can often hear the marimba players churning out their tunes.
These instruments look like a xylophone on steroids and take several performers playing together to produce the music. Some residents are dressed in traditional costumes for the tourists, and there’s great places to stop for food and drink. If you love old architecture, you’ll find some of the best preserved buildings in Central America in this vibrant town.
Less than an hour away you’ll find one of this county’s best kept secrets, Lake Atitlan. This breathtaking lake is ringed with three almost perfectly symmetrical volcanoes. The entire area is covered with little Mayan villages and oozes Pre-Colombian culture. It is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. What makes it even better is that there are lots of little ecological jungle hotels where you can relax, stare at the amazing view and not do anything. If not doing anything is not your thing, there’s hiking and get this… you can dive Mayan ruins at the bottom of the lake.
Chichicastenango is also a short drive from Antigua and makes a great stop for a day or even a few hours. If you can visit on Thursday or Sunday, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most amazing markets you can imagine. Chichi transforms itself as sellers and buyers come in from all over the country selling all manner of handicrafts, fruits and vegetables, and even animals.
If you have a long weekend or can get away for a few days, Guatemala might be the perfect mini-cation for you. These three destinations are near to each other, easily accessible and will impress even the most jaded traveler.
Bill Wiatrak is an avid international traveler and renowned local entertainer. To see more of his worldly adventures, tune into Wanderlust for his weekly contributions or check out his personal blog, www.thetravelingwizard.com.