Recommend April 2018 - 10


Coban, capital of Alta Verapaz, enjoys
a pleasant mountain setting amid green hills
and coffee and cardamom farms; with good
hotels and restaurants, this is the best base for
adventure touring in the region. Take a coffee
tour and visit Vivero Verapaz (nursery and
botanical garden with more than 650 orchid
species). And in town, for panoramic views,
climb up the stairs to the Templo El Calvario
where K'ekchi religious rituals are held on altars
along the staircase.

35. In the area of the Candelaria Caves
National Park is the gorgeous Semuc Champey
Natural Monument, consisting of a series of
turquoise-clear limestone pools and waterfalls
that rest on a land bridge atop the raging
Cahabon River. Take a swim in the pools,
explore Kan'Ba Cave, and be sure to go
river rafting.

El Petén is to Guatemala what the Amazon
rainforest is to Brazil. This lowland jungle
frontier shelters the remains of many
extraordinary Mayan cities, including the
newest, exciting discovery of tens of thousands
of structures in the lowlands. And much of this
ancient grandeur makes itself at home in the
rainforests of the Tikal National Park.


Built on a small island in Lake PeténItza and connected to the mainland by a
causeway, Flores is the airline gateway to Tikal,
as well as the area's regional transportation and
services hub and for many visitors, a pleasant
overnight on the way to discovering Petén.
There are plenty of shops, restaurants and
comfortable lodgings.


From AD 250 through 900, thousands
of residents once toiled to build Tikal, the
granddaddy of Maya ceremonial cities. Today its
remains cover a 25-sq.-mile area with hundreds
of pyramid temples, palaces, shrines, ceremonial
platforms, ball courts and plazas, and at the
heart of the excavated sections is the Great
Plaza, whose surrounding five temples were the
America's first skyscrapers. There are also two
small museums of interest.


Tikal, which means "Place of Voices,"
extends over 222 sq. miles and is one of
the largest cities ever created in the Mayan
realm. In 1979, the whole area was declared
a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural
Heritage. On this gigantic surface, more than
3,000 archaeological buildings and artifacts

from the pre-classical and classical periods have
been excavated. The Plaza Mayor, located in
the heart of the park, stands out from all the
other temples and sites. The square is framed
by the so-called Temple I ("Temple of the Great
Jaguar") and II ("Temple of the Masks"), as well
as by the northern and the central Acropolis.
The square of the Great Pyramid or the Lost
World, as well as the Palace of Windows, with
its many connected rooms, is one of Tikal's
oldest buildings. Temple III, or the "Temple of
the Jaguar Priest," is famous for its elaborately
carved cornices. Temple IV ("Double Headed
Snake Temple") is the tallest in Tikal, rising
229 ft. in the air. From the top steps, the
dizzy-eyed viewer gets a spectacular view over
the entire park. Temple VI is also known as
"Temple of Inscriptions" because of the glyphs
hewn into the cornice.

Uaxactun, whose treasures include the oldest
known astronomical observatory in the
Maya world.

41. The most rugged region of all is northcentral Petén, where archaeologists have found
El Mirador and Nakbe, neighboring sites
close to the Mexican border. Carved stone
monuments, nine enormous stucco masks and
the biggest pyramid ever found to date have
been discovered; however, while restoration
is still in progress-and will be for many
years-visitors can take a guided look around
by traveling overland (a rugged, multi-day
expedition) or by helicopter on a day trip.


After Tikal and the newly discovered
El Mirador, Yaxha (of "Survivor" fame) is the
third largest ceremonial city in Guatemala;
more than 400 buildings, five acropolises and
three ball courts have been found here. And
special to Yaxha is its location overlooking two
large lagoons and its magical sunsets.
Travelers heading overland to Belize will find
Yaxha en-route.

Petén lodgings offer luxury and
comfort. A sampling: In Flores, a perennial
favorite is lakeside La Casona de la Isla, Las
Lagunas Boutique Hotel and Bolontiku;
the Camino Real Tikal on Lake Petén Itza
(half-way between Flores and Tikal ruins) is
the one international entry in Petén, with all
amenities-from lake kayaking to a traditional
Maya sauna; there are three small hotels-
Jungle Lodge, Jaguar Inn, Tikal Inn-right
at the Tikal ruins; for Petén's ultimate luxury
lodge, head for La Lancha, a Francis Ford
Coppola hideaway.

40. Longer trips from Flores are required


to visit scenic Ceibal, which can be combined
with Aguateca, and an overnight in the area
at the very fine Chiminos Island Lodge on
Petexbatun Lagoon. Another day trip from
Flores takes you to the ceremonial center of

East from Guatemala City is the quietly exotic
Caribbean coast stretching all the way to
the border of Honduras, part of a region known
as El Oriente. Cruise ships, regularly docking at
the new terminal at Puerto Santo Tomas



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recommend April 2018

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