For some a trip to the Californian coast might be on the cards this summer. Lounging on a beach in the glorious rays of sunshine is rarely a bad idea. But for some, a week on the lounger just doesn’t quite get the blood pumping enough; enter Guatemala.
Guatemala is the northernmost Central American nation, bordering Mexico. It’s rich beauty, and biodiversity, along with it’s deep rooted cultural heritage which makes it an extremely desirable country to visit. But the country has a bloody history of civil war, and has suffered political tensions right up until the present day.
The civil war ran some 36 years from 1960-1996. The result was, 200,000 people killed or missing. The 83% of which are believed to be indigenous Mayan people. Of these crimes, the vast majority were carried out by state forces and military groups against rebel groups or civilians.
In 1996 peace contracts were signed between the rebels and the government which involved greater human rights. Despite this, the country remains largely in turmoil; violence and threats play a part in government and in the lives of civilians, and streets gangs operate with relative immunity.
To top it all off travellers to Guatemala are also advised to be aware of the climate and of the extremely active volcanoes and earthquakes. Although admittedly this could be an attraction for some!
Underneath it’s political tensions, warnings of dangerous gangs and occasionally provocative weather, lies a unique and rich culture; one that the avid traveller cannot overlook. The avid traveller may recognise that he cannot understand the country fully until he visits and that if the dangers are recognized and avoided. A stunning and unique country awaits exploration.
But it might be worth it…
If stepping off the lounger and out of your comfort zone, sounds appealing. Guatemala has more to offer than nomorerack! Here are a few Guatamala reasons to get you moving;
Mayan Ruins; The country boosts many Mayan temples and city ruins including the Tikal National Park, which is the largest archeological site of Mayan civilisation. Set in rainforests of a recognized national park; featuring spider monkeys and wild. Colourful parakeets, this is an experience that can’t be missed. There is also the Yaxha, which features dozens of temples set on the banks of the Lago de Yaxha.
Extreme Nature; The country features many mountains and volcanoes, trail walks through the rainforests, and 14 eco-regions. Try a tough hike up Volcan Santiaguita, or a walk within touching distance of molten lava at Pacaya. Or spend a week by the acclaimed lake Lago de Atitlan; considered by some, including Aldous Huxley, to be the most beautiful on the planet. Or gaze out over the turquoise lagoons of Semuc Champey.
The Culture and People; It’s not often you get the opportunity to explore Mayan heritage, or a culture so different from your own. Check out the Ixil region to see living traditions of Maya in practice. Be sure to catch some traditional markets to see the hustle and bustle of local life and look at some home-made traditional products. Chichicastenango is a great example, and just about anything can be found there, from food to tapestries. Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals, and be curious about their ways!
Is Guatemala worth a visit? If you can come to terms with the dangers, then it is a place that would warrant many months of travelling! If danger isn’t really your idea of a good time, then a week on the sun lounger might still be a good idea.