Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 12)

Land of Caves in Candelaria. Active Adventures Travelers with a taste for eco-adventure and the sporting life make themselves right at home in Guatemala's great outdoors. From the cloud forests to the two-oceans coastlines, consider these unique experiences. Birding: The best locations for birdwatching trips are in the national parks and reserves, although Mayan archaeological sites are often excellent observation posts. Everyone's favorite birding territory is Tikal, part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve and the rainforest of El Peten, whose most famous and exclusive species is the spectacular multicolored ocellated turkey. However, the forest is also alive with three species of toucan, motmot, several species of parrot including the Aztec and green parakeets, and the endangered scarlet macaw. Birding is also first class in the highland areas of the Alta and Baja Verapaz with a variety of hummingbirds, hawks, flocks of parakeets, and swifts. Near Coban in Baja Verapaz is the Biotopo del Quetzal, a protected area of cloud forest and the breeding ground for the endangered resplendent quetzal, Guatemala's national bird. Deep-sea Fishing: World-class fishing awaits anglers on the Pacific coast, where waters boast the highest concentration of billfish in the world. Only 15 to 25 miles offshore, anglers are catching and releasing 10, 20, 30 sailfish a day. World sailfish records have been set here, while other catches include blue, black and striped marlin between 300 and 700 12 pounds, as well as dorado, yellow-fin tuna and grouper. Peak sailfishing season is between October and May, though large concentrations of local fish are found here year-round. Most fishing outfitters operate out of Puerto Quetzal or Iztapa, the latter offering the best in accommodations. Golf: Guatemala may not be known for its golf, but there are several good 18-hole golf courses. Tops is the Peter Dye-designed Fuego Maya course at La Reunion Golf Resort, 20 minutes outside Antigua. And there are three courses close to Guatemala City: the Mayan Golf Club, the Hacienda Nueva Country Club and the Alta Vista Golf and Tennis Club. Hang Gliding: Lake Atitlan might be called the hang gliding capital of Central America. Lift-off sites are located above the town of Panajachel. Horseback Riding: The largest choices of outfitters are in Antigua, the villages around Lake Atitlan, and rides around Lake Peten Itza in the Peten region. Excursions are usually nature-oriented, and terrain ranges from coffee plantations to cloud forests to archaeological sites. Mountain Biking: Guatemala's mountainous terrain lends itself to worldclass mountain biking, both technically and physically. Favored terrains, both for day outings or longer-range touring, are those around Lake Atitlan and the Western Highlands. Spelunking: While caves were considered sacred gateways to the underworld by the ancient Maya, today caves also offer experienced cavers exciting exploration. Among those caves fitted with lighting, ladders and/or guardrails are those in the Alta Verapaz region-Candelaria (a 15-mile-long network, parts of which are toured by raft or kayak), and Lanquin, two hours from Coban. Also around Coban is the Grutas de Rey Marcos, an underground cave system requiring some wading through water to see the best stalactites and stalagmites. In the El Peten region near the town of Santa Elena is the Gruta Actun Kan (Cave of the Serpent), maintained as a park. Volcano Climbing: Guatemala's 33 volcanoes form one of the most spectacular chains in the world. The easiest climb is an afternoon excursion from Antigua up Pacaya to see the lava flows, while overnight choices include the Acatenango, with camping on the summit, or Agua, spending the night in the crater. The trio of volcanoes framing Lake Atitlan is especially popular with climbers. San Pedro (9,920 ft.) is the only one that can be done in a day; Atitlan (11,565 ft.) and Toliman (10,340 ft.) are overnight trips for the skilled and experienced climber. Whitewater Rafting: Among Guatemala's best white-water rivers (classes II & IV) is the Chabon River, which is a 1- to 5-day trip from Sierra de Chama in the Alta Verapaz to Lake Izabal at Chaboncito. Along the way, enjoy hot springs, waterfalls and seldom-visited caves; there is abundant bird and animal life in the lower reaches. Windsurfing: Lake Atitlan, Lake Izabal and the Rio Dulce are the places to enjoy this popular sport. The ideal season is October to May, with the strongest winds from October through early January. On Lake Atitlan, windsurfing is an afternoon sport, when strong winds come in from the south.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Guatemala Travel Planner

A Colonial Heritage
The Living Maya of the Highlands
El Mundo Maya
Call of the Wild
An Appetite for the Arts
Land of Active Adventures
Tasting Guatemala
Festivals Galore
Marvelous Markets
Marvelous Markets

Guatemala Travel Planner

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