Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 15)
For travelers who love to immerse themselves in a country's colorful
culture, there is no corner of Central America more fascinating than
Guatemala's highland villages, whose residents are living proof that they
are direct descendants of the Quiche, Mam and Cakchiquel people.
Each wears distinguishing dress, speaks its own Mayan dialect, observes
special fiestas, and creates crafts particular to their traditions. Weekly
markets are the places to be for the panorama of today's Maya
people...and of course to shop. Following is just a sampling:
Chichicastenango is the highland region's most famous market.
Thursday and Sunday are market days in Chichi, a time when Maya
craft sellers from across the highlands set up makeshift booths around
the central plaza. Among the good buys are carved wood masks and
religious figures, ceramic wares and an immense selection of native
textiles. Craft stalls take their place next to vendors selling fruits,
vegetables, flowers, and medicinal herbs.
Eleven miles from the Western Highland city of Quetzaltenango-a.k.a.
Xela and the country's second largest city-is San Francisco El Alto, the
place insiders know to shop for some of the best and largest selection
of textiles and garments; part of the market is reserved for live animals,
everything from dogs and cats to pigs and chickens.
Just outside Xela is Almolonga where the women, dressed in bold,
orange huipiles (blouses) and beautifully woven headbands, steal the
show; they are the principal vendors of the most luscious, scrubbed,
gleaming vegetables you'll ever see. Take time to go into the little yellowand-white church to see the gilded altar.
San Miguel Totonicapan is a pretty highland town, known for its
artisans, shoemakers, wavers, tinsmiths, potters, leather workers and
carpenters, all serving local market-goers who gather in on Tuesdays and
Saturdays. The village has a project that introduces visitors to the local
community, with visits to various artisan workshops to see how traditional
costumes, ceremonial masks, musical instruments and textiles are made,
and extends to sharing dinner with families, playing games, and staying
in simple accommodations-a feature on some U.S. tour programs.
Visitors staying in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan will enjoy another
panorama of crafts when taking a boat trip to the lakeside village of
Santiago de Atitlan, where Friday and Saturday are principal market
days. Yet any day one can see women wearing huipiles, intricately
embroidered with birds and flowers.
Market Days Weekly Calendar
MONDAY: Antigua, Zunil, Chimaltenango
TUESDAY: Solola, Comalapa, Totonicapan
WEDNESDAY: Almolonga, Momostenango
THURSDAY: Antigua, San Andres Xecul, Chichicastenango,
Chimaltenango, Santa Cruz del Quiche, Totonicapan
FRIDAY: San Francisco el Alto, Solola, Santiago Atitlan
SATURDAY: Antigua, Alamonga, Santa Clara la Laguna,
Totonicapan, Todos Santos Cuchumatan
SUNDAY: Chichicastenango, Momostenango, Totonicapan,
Santa Cruz del Quiche, Tecpan
LOCATION: Guatemala is the northernmost country in Central
America, bordering Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize.
CLIMATE: Guatemala enjoys a temperate 75°F year-round. In the
highlands, days will be sunny, nights, cool to cold. Temperatures
can reach as high as 100°F in coastal and jungle regions; in the
mountains, it can fall below freezing. The dry season in both the
central highlands and El Peten lasts from November to April.
LANGUAGE: Spanish is the official language, but ethnic groups
speak in many Maya languages; English is widely spoken in most
GETTING THERE: Most international flights land at La Aurora
International Airport (code: GUA), 20 minutes from Guatemala City
center. A few international and regional airlines fly into Flores
Airport (code: FRS). Airlines flying from the U.S. to Guatemala City
include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, and United.
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Passport required for U.S. and Canadian
citizens. Passports must be valid up to 6 months beyond departure
date from the country. No visa required for stays up to 90 days.
FLIGHT TIMES FROM U.S. GATEWAYS:
Miami: 2:20 hours
Los Angeles: 4:45 hours
Atlanta: 3:30 hours
Houston: 2:40 hours
New York: 5:30 hours Dallas: 3 hours
Chicago: 4:30 hours
New Orleans: 2:30 hours
GETTING AROUND: There are two commercial daily flights between
Guatemala City and Flores (for Tikal), although most travelers get
around the rest of the country by bus and shuttle bus. In Guatemala
City, buses and taxis make every area easily accessible. Organized
motorcoach sightseeing, car rental and guide services are available
for popular destinations outside the capital.
ACCOMMODATIONS: There are lodgings for every budget
and taste in Guatemala, from deluxe to mid-market to hostel.
Accommodations most popular with the U.S. market are
international chain properties and boutique hotels in the capital;
colonial inns in the interior and eco-lodges in the rainforest. As
in most Latin American destinations, rates are highest Christmas
COUNTRY TELEPHONE CODE: 502
TIME ZONE: Same as U.S. Central Standard Time (GMT-6). Daylight
savings time is not observed.
ELECTRIC CURRENT: 110 volts. Standard American plugs are used.
MONEY MATTERS: Guatemala's currency is the Quetzal in honor of
the national bird. The U.S. dollar is accepted almost everywhere.
ATMs are fairly common throughout Guatemala, particularly in
Guatemala City, Antigua, Quetzaltenango and Flores, and there
is an ATM at the Guatemala City airport. Major credit cards are
accepted, but Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted.
DEPARTURE TAX: International: $30 (although usually incorporated
in air tickets); domestic $3. Taxes may be paid in quetzales.
INFORMATION PLEASE: Guatemala Tourist Commission (INGUAT),
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
Guatemala Travel Planner