If there is one thing that sets Guatemala apart from other Central American destinations, it has to be the culture. Not reproduced versions of historical traditions…living Mayan culture that represents nearly half of the country’s population. 23 different dialects of language are spoken here, sometimes changing from one village to the next. Most indigenous women and some men continue to wear traditional dress, each piece exploding in color and significance.
Some remark that Guatemala feels like a place where time has stood still. Vendors scoop ice cream cones to kids in parks, horse-drawn carriages rumble down cobblestone streets, and countless farmers and their families till their land with the same hand tools used for centuries.
In the late 20th century, Guatemala suffered through a long civil war that targeted indigenous peoples, leaving many Mayan communities – especially in rural areas – quite insulated. Yet through all of the trials they faced, Guatemalans – both indigenous and non-indigenous – are known for their warm and welcoming character. Smiles and salutations are exchanged openly and often. Along hiking trails, visitors are both a curiosity and an opportunity to stop for a rest and share a few stories.
We encourage you to experience culture and the warmth of the people of Guatemala for yourself. In Antigua, take a cultural walking tour with a famed local historian, or meet a real Mayan coffee farmer on the De la Gente Coffee Tour. Lake Atitlán offers a number of fascinating cultural destinations: visiting a Mayan shrine and market in Santiago Atitlán, learning about textiles in San Juan la Laguna, cooking a famous dish call “Pepián” in San Pedro, and exploring ceremonial Mayan caves above Panajachel.
If you’re serious about experiencing Guatemala, we suggest you consider the following sample 2-week cultural itinerary.