Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a representative democracy and is the most populous country in the Central America region, with an estimated population of 15,806,675. It shares borders with Mexico in the north/northwest, Belize in the northeast, Honduras in the southeast, and El Salvador in the south. It also has a Pacific coastline to the southwest, and a tiny piece of Caribbean coastline to the east. Its capital is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City. The country has an abundance of biologically significant ecosystems that contribute to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot.
What to see & do
The key attractions in Guatemala are the Maya ruins, most notable of which are El Mirador, considered as the cradle of Maya civilisation, and Tikal. The country is also home to plenty of volcanoes, many of them over 3,000 metres high. There are three are definitely worth checking out. One of them is Volcán de Pacaya, an active volcano located approximately 30 minutes outside of Antigua. There’s the twin-peaked Acatenango, also the highest of the three. And finally, Fuego, the one with the most beautiful and exhilarating peak. Visit Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo, which was founded in 1542 by Dominican friars. It’s the biggest and richest monastery in Antigua, with the archaeological zone restored as a cultural route. It is home to six museums which you can get in with one admission ticket. Go to Nim Po't and see a vast collection of Maya clothing, as well as hundreds of masks and wood carvings displayed on the sprawling hall.
How to get around within Guatemala
There are several ways to navigate around Guatemala: by bus, van, picop, rental car, plane, and trolley. There are a number of first-class or Pullman inter-city and international bus companies that serve Guatemala. Also, you can’t miss chicken buses, or camionetas, as they are colourfully decorated. However, they are only common in the south-central and south-western region of Guatemala. Vans serve around central and north-western Guatemala, especially the Ixil Triangle region and the area surrounding Coban. Vans are slightly more expensive than buses since the latter are publicly owned while the former are not. Another alternative is private "picops" (pick-up truck) around rural areas. These are usually small Hyundai or Ford trucks. Renting a car is best if you wanted to reach far-flung areas not normally served by public transport, like secluded beaches and mountain areas. If you wish to get around by plane, know that regular domestic flights offered are only between Guatemala City and Flores via Avianca and TAG airlines. The green Transmetro buses (trolley) in Guatemala City run on dedicated lanes to bypass the parallel traffic, with limited stops along the road. Although there is a rail network, no trains have run since 2007.
How to get there
Guatemala is served by two international airports: the main airport, La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City and the secondary airport, Mundo Maya International Airport in Flores. Most of the non-domestic flights in La Aurora International Airport arrive from Central American countries and North America. Mundo Maya, on the other hand, receives flights from a small number of close destinations including Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala City. The main airport is served by Aerolíneas Sosa, Aeroméxico Connect, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Copa Airlines Colombia, CM Airlines, Iberia, Interjet, Spirit Airlines, Transportes Aereos Guatemaltecos, United Airlines, and Maya Island Air flying to and from San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, Mexico City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Bogotá, Flores, San Salvador, Managua, Panama City, San José (CR), Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Newark, Washington, and Belize. Other ways of getting in are by car, from Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador access is via the Pan-American Highway; from bus, from Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico; by boat via several ferries to and from Puerto Barrios and Livingston, and Punta Gorda, Belize.
Images by Flickr\Pedro Szekely
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