It is no secret that Guatemala is an amazing country that keeps people coming back time and time again. But, what makes it so special to visitors and residents alike? Here are just 10 of the many reasons to fall in love with the beautiful country of Guatemala.
#10. Its Rich History
One of the first things that you think of when it comes to the Mayan culture is the beautiful ruins that are scattered throughout Guatemala. While the Mayan empire stretched throughout Central America, Guatemala was its center and where you can find many of the ruins and ancestors today. In fact, there are 21 Mayan dialects still spoken today. If visiting Mayan ruins is on your bucket list, Tikal National Park is the place to go. The park, a registered UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to 575 square kilometers of ancient buildings, tropical forests, and a variety of species that call the protected grounds home.
Speaking of history, Guatemala is home to many different museums that represent the history and culture of the country. Art museums, botanical gardens, and even chocolate museums are great places to visit and learn about Guatemala. Some notable museums include ChocoMuseo in Antigua, Museo Popol Vuh, and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, both in Guatemala City.
This favorite delectable treat of many has origins in Guatemala. The Mayans worshipped the cacao tree and called chocolate “the food of the gods.” The cacao pods were ground and turned into a drinkable liquid and used for enjoyment and its medicinal properties. Today, Guatemala produces 10,414 tons of chocolate, with 9,172 cacao farms across the country. You will find many shops and restaurants offering tasty varieties of chocolate.
#7. Vibrant Textiles
Beautiful fabrics in various shades of red, yellow, and other colors of the rainbow line the streets and markets of many towns. These handmade items are a representation of the Mayan culture as well as a source of income for many. The art of weaving dates back to the time of the ancient Mayans.
Guatemala is home to 360 degrees of beautiful, lush landscape. Vast mountains and lush tropical forests cover a majority of the landscape throughout the country. Black sand beaches line the coastal regions that border the Pacific Ocean while a small section of coastline borders the Caribbean Sea. One place you may want to visit is Lake Atitlán, regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Geology and adventure lovers unite! We can’t mention the Guatemalan landscape without mentioning its many volcanoes. There are more than 30 volcanoes that dot the scenery in Guatemala. Three are considered to be active volcanoes — Fuego, Pacaya, and Santiaguito. There are also a handful of volcanoes that are considered semi-active. If hiking, science, and adventure are your thing, these volcanoes are great for exploring.
Because of Guatemala’s diverse landscape, the climate varies depending on location. Below 3,000 feet in elevation, temperatures are pleasantly tropical between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Up in the mountains, between 6,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level, the average temperature lies between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Guatemala also experiences both a dry and rainy season as well, with more rain falling near the Caribbean coast.
Another staple even more popular is Guatemalan coffee. This flavorful, caffeinated drink has been around since the mid-1700s and accounts for 40% of agricultural exports from Guatemala. Coffee is grown year-round due to the tropical climate. There are smaller, diverse regions within the country that allow for both subtle and bold differences found in the taste of the beans.
Food, festivals, and sports make up some of the most prominent traditions in Guatemalan culture. Celebrations for “Semana Santa” or Holy Week at Easter, Guatemala’s Independence Day on September 15, and Christmas have citizens and visitors in the streets watching the many cultural processions, dances, and fireworks. Sports and events such as football, bullfighting, and cockfighting are attended by many.
What stands out the most about Guatemala are the people, which is why we saved the best for last! The Guatemalan residents are some of the hardest-working, most resilient people in the world. Their desire to preserve history and culture, coupled with dreams of growth, is a huge part of why Guatemala continues to move forward while celebrating the past. They have a desire to learn new things and a passion to share their culture and lives with others.
These are just a few of the many reasons why Guatemala is the place to visit, not only as a tourist, but as a volunteer. Being immersed in a rich culture and having the opportunity to help these amazing people can be the experience of a lifetime. To learn more about volunteering, visit Buena Onda.