Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 15)

Marvelous Markets 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 Fast Facts 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 tourist destinations. 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 through Easter. 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), 15

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