Lying at an altitude of 2030 m above sea level, the foggy city of Chichicastenango is surrounded by picturesque valleys and framed by jagged mountain ranges. Chichicastenango has been known since pre-Hispanic times as the largest trading center of the Maya empire. The rather isolated city turns into a real pandemonium on Thursdays and Sundays, when Chichicastenango becomes an important market center, the largest and most mountainous market in Central America. It brings together representatives of all 14 provinces of Guatemala to trade among themselves. In Chichicastenango, you can see the bright and unique colors of folk costumes, as well as buy masks, colorful fabrics, stunning llama wool products (jackets, ponchos, etc.), Indian bags, figurines, amulets and much more as souvenirs. All products are handmade only
Religious brotherhoods “cofradias” arrange these days colorful processions around the church of Santo Tomas and the sanctuary of Pascual Aba (an ancient Mayan temple dedicated to the god of the earth). And on Dias de los Muertos (“day of the dead”), all the inhabitants of the city gather at the cemetery to commemorate their ancestors. According to local ethnographers, nowhere else in the country can one find such well-preserved Mayan rites as in Chichicastenango. And this is not surprising – in the church of Santo Tomas there is a copy of the ancient book Popol Vuh (“The Holy Book of Creation” or “Book of Council”, in a broader sense – “The Book of the People”), which contains the entire system of Indian cosmography and history. The City Regional Museum contains an extensive collection of archaeological items.
Flores and Tikal
Flores is located in the Petén Plain region and is located on an island in the Petén Itza Lake. The city was built on the site of the former settlement of the Maya Indians – Tayasala. In 1697, the Spanish captured Tayasal and destroyed all the ceremonial buildings. Now Flores is connected to the land surrounding the lake by a 500-meter paved road. The road leads to the two cities of Santa Elena and San Benito.
During the colonial period, the city languished in obscurity until Tikal was discovered, the most convenient way to which from the east lies precisely through Flores. And today this small picturesque town with colorful buildings of the Government House and a church around the main square is famous for its Zoo (3 km east of the city), Aktun-Kan caves or La Cueva de La Sapiente (according to legend, a huge snake lived here), the picturesque villages of San Andrés and San Jose, the Classical Mayan ruins at Motul (4 km south of Flores) and the picturesque views of Lake Lago de Peten Itza, along which pleasure boats ply.
Most often, they go from Flores to Tikal National Park, which is located 60 km from the city and 548 km from the capital.
The ancient city of Tikal was one of the largest cities of the Maya civilization (according to scientists, up to 100 thousand inhabitants lived here). Unlike many other ancient cities of that era, Tikal is located in the depths of a dense tropical forest. The city has more than 3,000 different monuments, including temples and palaces, and lies within the Tikal National Park (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which, in addition to the city itself, protects a vast forest area with a huge variety of wildlife. Six huge pyramids (up to 70 m high), an acropolis, 16 temples, some of which stand on the ruins of more ancient structures, many so-called “small palaces” – one-story houses with excellent finishes, several hundred samples of sculpture and carving have survived to this day. stone and wood.
There are several other large ancient cities in the forests around Tikal, but they are not cleared from the selva, and you have to get there on foot. The most interesting and inaccessible ancient city, code-named El Mirador, lies near the border with Mexico. 24 km north of Tikal lie the ancient ruins of Vashaktun, almost completely hidden under the forest canopy.
The government did not approve direct flights to Tikal, so Flores became the tourist center of the area with an airport, hotels and restaurants. The airport is located in Santa Elena, 3 km from Flores. The flight to Guatemala City takes about 50 minutes and the bus ride takes about 10 hours. There is a good road between Tikal and Flores, the journey will take about an hour.
During the rainy season, which lasts from May to October, in the afternoon there is usually a short but heavy tropical downpour, which can spoil the impression of the trip.
At the mouth of the Rio Dulce, in the very northeast of the country, lies the colorful town of Livingston, famous for its unique fusion of Guatemalan and Caribbean cultures. This area is inhabited by Afro-Guatemalans “garifuna”, who are descendants of slaves taken from the African continent to work on plantations, and local Indian tribes. The mixture of ethnic groups created here such a distinctive culture and language, which includes African and European elements with a strong admixture of Mayan culture. Livingston eventually absorbed these amazing elements, surviving to this day as a pretty town with lots of coconut groves, cheerfully painted wooden buildings, reggae music pouring from all sides, and a fishing economy. It is also the starting point for boat trips on the Rio Quechucha and Rio Cocoli, to the canyons on the Rio Dulce, to the abandoned city of Rio Dulce (Fronteras), to the fortress of San Felipe (XVI century), to Lake Los Duarte, to the ruins of Quirigua, to the waterfalls of Las Siete Altares, as well as to the protected beaches and reefs of Cayos Spodillas. It is also one of the best spots for sea fishing in the region.