Ultimate guide to heart of the mayan world
Guatemala may be a small country but it truly has a world to offer: Due to its natural diversity, it is unique as a travel destination and its cultural treasures are unmatched in the world. Myriads of archeological mysteries of the Mayan civilisation are waiting to be discovered, as well as monuments from times of colonial splendour that unrivalled in artistic quality.
Guatemala is located at the center of the Americas, it is heart of the mayan world and is known to be land of ever spring due to its consistently mild climate all-year round.
The distances are short in Guatemala, which makes it very easy to visit different regions of the country even on a tight time schedule. Guatemala is rich in natural and cultural treasures and its visitors will find vivid, magical, mystical and colourful traditions throughout the country.
Guatemala’s wealth and diversity make it easy for any traveler to enjoy the stay – regardless if for leisure of business. Each region is a world of its own and worth a visit.
Heart of the mayan world – Modern and Colonial
The country’s main entrance is the international airport La Aurora in the capital Guatemala City, also known by its official name ” Nueva Guatemala de la Asuncion“. It from here all that all the adventures begin, upon which all visitors are welcomed by the Guatemalans with great kindness and discreet hospitality.
Guatemala City on of the most modern and international metropoles in Central America, preserves its roots while modernity merges with colonial legacy.
A city in constant change, offering chic shopping centres, state-of-the-art aesthetics centres, as well as world class venues fro exhibitions, conferences and meetings, theme parks and golf courses.
The capital is divided into 25 districts connected by the major roads such as Los Proceres, Vista Hermosa, Avenida de las Americas and the Avenida Reforma.
The “Historical Centre” is booming with an abundance of local shops in carefully renovated colonial houses that are part of a protected historical city quarter. It is also home to other historical buildings, such as the “Ermita del Carmen”, the oldest church in the city dating back to 1620, as well as the “Cathedral Metropolitana” a national monument from 1968.
Other architectural highlights are the “Portal del Comercio”, the churches “Iglesia de la Merced” , the “Iglesia Santo Domingo”, dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary, the “Iglesia del Calvario”, and the “Iglesia San Francisco” a well-balanced mix of classicism and baroque.
The “Centro Municipal de Arte y Cultura”, is the national temple for the fine arts. It is housed in the former Post and Telegraph offices, two neocolonial twin buildings that are connected by an arch. The Numismatic Museum offers an impressive collection of coins and banknotes as well as significant artefacts from the precolonial period.
The National Library is an eye-catcher not only because of its stringently design modern facade, but also because of the prominent relief of Efrain Recinos. Inside, there are wall paintings depicting the Mayan codices by Antonio Tejada Fonseca, Guillermo Grajeda Mena and Jose Antonio Oliveirio.
The “Centro Civico” is the administrative heart of the city where government and other public institutions are located, amongst which the Guatemala City Administration, the National Mortgage Bank, the Treasury, the Justice Palace and the Central Bank.
The Railway Museum is surely also worth a visit, It documents the importance of the railroad system for the country’s economic development. Those interested in painting, sculpture and architecture should book a guided tour of the “Centro Cultural Miguel Angel”.
A wide variety and of cultural and culinary delights await the visitors in ” Cuatro Grados Norte”, where several theatres and cultural centres such as the “Casa del Aguila” and the Artemis Edinter have opened their doors.
The city never sleeps in “Zona Viva”, where local and foreign night owls flock to the numerous restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels. Several art galleries as well as the Museum Popol Vuh with one of the most important collection of ancient Mayan art also have their place here.
The “Financial District” is spread over several zones housing most of the foreign embassies. Nearby lies the “Parque Mundo Petapa”, an amusement park with attractions for the whole family.
The urban zoo “La Aurora” awaits its visitors with carefully designed habitats for a variety of native and foreign animals. It neighbours the “Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno Carlos Merida”, as well as the Archaeological Museum which offers insights into the Mayan civilization.
For all shopping aficionados, the commercial complex “Las Majadas” is the place to look out for. In this extensive area you can find 15 shopping centres and supermarkets, as well as a number of five stars hotels.
The Central Market is an absolute must when it comes to catching local authenticity. The market displays variety of clothes, shoes, handbags, leather goods, handicrafts or jewelry from local production, most the items being hand-made.
Heart of the mayan world – An open air museum
La Antigua Guatemala preserves a centuries-old history in numerous churches, museum and ruins, which are to be explored along the cobble streets while walking through the city. The ancient legends and traditions are alive in all corners.
Among the numerous museums that can be admired are the Ancient Book Museum, the Museum of Colonial Art with displays of paintings of the 6th and 17th centuries, the Capuchin Museum with works of colonial and modern art , and not at least the Archaeological Museum “Casa Santo Domingo”.
Out of the multitude of churches, the pilgrimage church of the Aposte Philip, the Temple of Saint Bartolome Becerra, the Church and Monastery of Our Lady of La Merced, Santa Clara Monastery, the Church of the Apostle St. Peter and the Monastery of the Society of Jesus stand out and are worth a visit.
On the axis between the impressive “Plaza Central” and the “Palacio del Noble Ayuntamiento ” (dating from 1743), “The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales” deserves special consideration. Nearby the square with the Sirens Foutain from 1737 and the parish Church of San Jose at the entrance of the original Cathedral of Santiago de los Caballeros form the historic heart of the city.
In the back part, surrounded by a few lively restaurants and bars, lie the ruins of Santa Catalina Monastery with elaborately carved angelic figures and a striking archway, which give inspiration to its street name “Calle del Arco”.
The city has many quaint colonial-style boutique hotels and a good variety of restaurants, which are not only attractive to visiting tourists, but also for business events and congresses. From a culinary point of view, Antigua is a cosmopolitan city where culinary delights are to be found alongside local specialities such as Tamales, Chuchitos, Pepian or Hilachas,
For those passionate about exercise there are spectacular mountain biking trails through the hills and mountains surrounding the Panchoy Valley. There is also a wide offers for tours to the idyllic farms in the surrounding area. Zip-lining, bird watching, coffee plantation tours or baths in hot volcanic springs add to the huge offer of extraordinary activities.
In Antigua Guatemala you can find great spots for your Instagram collection such as the ruins of San Jose el Viejo, the churches of La Merced de Santa Clara, Las Capuchinas, the Jardin Real de Santiago, Casa Santo Domingo, Finca Filadelfia or La Reunion Golf and Resort, among others.