Let us start saying that Guatemala is divided into 22 departments and each one of these departments has its own capital. For our purposes, I decided to use the division as presented in the INGUAT (Guatemalan Institute of Tourism) official Website, which will guide us through 7 amazing regions:
1. Guatemala Modern and Colonial: Guatemala City and Antigua Guatemala. In terms of tourism, Guatemala City is probably the less visited destination in Guatemala while Antigua Guatemala is exactly the opposite. Despite the above statement about Guatemala City, I wait anxiously for the moment to describe it in detail, for now, I will just mention that within its limits is the ancient Maya city Kaminaljuyu, which dates back around 9,000 years and is one of America’s most notable archaeological sites. About Antigua Guatemala, one of the most beautiful places on earth, I have to say now that is one of the three Guatemalan places declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
2. The Living Maya Culture: Atitlan, Chichicastenango, Huehuetenango, Panajachel, Quetzaltenango, Tecpan, Totonicapán, Zunil. The whole region that we know as The Highlands is an area of extraordinary natural beauty and invaluable cultural richness where anyone can witness the Maya legacy and become part of a mystical experience.
3. The Ancient Maya World: Aguateca, Ceibal, Dos Pilas, Flores, Nakum, Rio Azul, Tikal Archaeological National Park, Yaxha, and Topoxte. In this region, we will appreciate the greatness and splendor of the Maya civilization. In 1979 Tikal, the largest excavated Maya city, and declared World Heritage Site by Unesco.
4. The Green Caribbean: Amatique Bay, Chocon Machacas Biotope (a nature reserve protected as one of the few remaining habitats for the endangered Caribbean Manatee), Lake Izabal, Livingston, Quirigua (another site declared World Heritage Site by Unesco), Rio Dulce. In this region we will find exuberant tropical nature surrounding Lake Izabal, which flows into Rio Dulce and then into the Caribbean Sea. This is the area where we will learn about the Garifuna culture, its music, and outstanding gastronomy.
5. The Natural Paradise of Las Verapaces: Candelaria Caves, Coban, Chilasco Waterfall, El Quetzal Biotope, Rabinal, Salama, San Jeronimo Valley, San Juan Chamelco, San Pedro Carcha, Tactic, and Semuc Champey. I will confess that this region is one of my favorites: it is house of the resplendent Quetzal –the national bird, some of the most impressive orchids including the rare Monja Blanca (Lycaste virginalis var. alba.), and several natural breathtaking monuments. In addition to that, the textiles are magnificent, the food is to die for, the coffee is outstanding, and the weather just gives you the perfect excuse to light up the chimney, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy either a good conversation or your favorite book.
6. The Exotic and Diverse Pacific Ocean: Monterrico (important for the sea turtle conservation), Pacaya Volcano National Park, Takalic Abaj and El Baul Archaeological Sites, and Xetulul and Xocomil Theme Parks. Guatemalans call this area The Coast. Bordering the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by impressive volcanoes, some of them active, beaches of volcanic sand, mangroves, and two important archaeological sites.
7. The Mystical and Natural East: Esquipulas Basilica, Ipala Volcano and Lagoon, Jalapa, Jocotan, and Jutiapa. This is a hot and seductive region, and one of the most impressive ecosystems one can imagine. I included a link in Jutiapa for personal reasons: it is not just my mother’s hometown, but also what gives me the White in my Maya-Mestizo-White origin.