This is an imposing collection of massive stone heads- each one a stone portrait of a king or priest. The heads are now conveniently arranged around the town plaza (moved from the site of Monte Alto- an important city in the Late Formative Period that traded in southern Mexico and with Copan in Honduras).
La Democracia is 40 KM from Esquintla off the Pacific Highway (CA-2.) Tour agencies in Guatemala, Antigua or Lago Atitlan have packages including El Baul in Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa and also the beach (Pacific Ocean). There is a very good museum in Democracia but other than dubious pensions no place for staying overnight.
LOOKING across the lake from Panajachel (5200'), you will see San Pedro (9920') standing off to the right of Volcan Atitlan. You can cross, climb, descend and return in one day. The trees at the top sport numerous orchids and bromiliads. The views are panoramic (See photo).
Parts of the ascent are steep and muddy; but there is only one short part that takes grit (or rather grip) to get up a slippery section. No need for ropes. The summit is broad, is divided into several flat areas and there is plenty of space for setting up a tent and spending the night. There is no water.
You should bring water with you from the town of San Pedro. The road and path out of town are easy to find- although there is a fork in the fields so get clear directions.
A guide isn't necessary but you will appreciate knowing where you are going and what to look for if you do hire a local. It is extraordinary how much the rural Guatemalan can tell you about animals and plants.
Those who heed warnings about robberies should know that there have been incidents reported. What you should do for peace of mind is to go with two or three companions and hire a local guide.
Iximche is a soon to be restored Quiche hill top fortress in the pine clad mountains surrounding Solola and Tecpan. It shows significant Mexican (Teotihuacan) influence. You'll find some more information and pictures as a travelogue on my GUATEMALA page.
You can get here by bus (CA-1 Pan American Highway). The side road is signed and then a mile and a bit more walk.
This is the Mayan site that President Bush visited in March of 2007. The Mayan priests were prevented from holding a scheduled ceremony (blessing seeds) at the site. Subsequently they held a cleansing ceremony to purify Iximche following the controversial presidential visit.
PS: If you are interested in these pre-Hispanic era sites make sure to see Utatlan which is within walking distance from Santa Cruz del Quiche (capital of the Department of Quiche)
El Castillo de San Felipe is a fortress built in 1652 to protect Izabal from pirate raids, but pirates actually overrran the fort and burned it 1686. It was later rebuilt and used as a prison.
It stands on Lake Izabal, 3km west of Flores, and boat trips between Flores and Livingston take you past it. As you can see from the photos, it has a beautiful setting.
Quirigua is one of the least visited of the Mayan sites. It is best known for its elaborately-carved stelae, which are the first things you will see as you enter the site (see photo 3). At the back is a partially-excavated temple complex, which looks as though it will eventually reveal a large pyramid.
Quirigua was settled during the Mayan classic period from 200 to 850 AD. Its great rival was Copán and they seem to have vied for power throughout this period. Quiriguá reached its peak in the 700s when in 738 AD Quiriguá's King Cauac Sky scored a great military victory. Copán's King 18-Rabbit was defeated, captured and then sacrificed in the grand plaza at Quiriguá. Before this Quiriguá was probably a vassal state of Copán. Afterwards the situation was irrevocably reversed and Quiriguá was probably destroyed by the armies of Copán aound 850 AD.
The site is 1.5 km east of Los Amates, on Route 9 to the Caribbean.
Admission: Q 25.
The market day at San Francisco el Alto is huge and varied and visited by few tourists. It's easy to get to. It lies just off the Pan American Highway along the turnoff for Momostenango. There is a large sign at the Y shaped junction. - so it's not likely you'll miss the stop. The market starts early and gets crowded by 10 (see photo) and runs into mid afternoon. Livestock sales are a big part of this market. Also, fabrics, untensils, produce and all kinds of agricultural items- you'll be fascinated for hours. I've set up a page which will give you more directions to get there.
See my Travel Page SAN FRANCISCO EL ALTO
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Most people when visiting Guatemala head straight to Tikal, the largest and most developed ruins of the region. And the splendor is not without warrant. But if you're looking to try something a bit different, I suggest heading a bit south, towards Sayaxche. There are a couple of ruins in the area which are beautiful and inviting, and not heavily touristed at all.
One of these is Aguateca, a set of ruins along the Rio Sayaxche about 1.5 hours from the town of the same name. The water weaves through jungle, and you can see Ceiba trees and various cranes and waterfowl on the approach. Then you hike a bit uphill to reach the ruins.
They are built along a great chasm, which was used to repel invaders. It is a collection of quaint ruins, but fascinating to see and interact with. The tour is not too expensive for a guide, who may or may not know the ruins (often it is just a boatman to get you there), but there are also self-guiding maps and brochures at the ruins.
No one stays in Puerto Barrios, and that's a shame. It is a rough and tumble port, yet if you're not inclined to rush off to the Rio Dulce, or you miss the last ferry service of the day, no worries, you are in for a real adventure. The Hotel Del Norte is a bygone relic of the days of the Banana moguls, and though it is a shambles, it's a romantic place to spend an evening on the wide set verandas looking across the water. The Garifuna cuisine is tasty (outside the hotel) and the people will be happy to talk to you in Spanish or English, most people have relatives in New York City though they have been speaking English since the time of the British presence in Central America. PB was one of the fondest memories I have from Guatemala.
See the link below for more details.
The ruins were on a mountain top between Antigua and Pana. The structures were fairly low and the park was being expanded. We were treated to a Mayan ceremony of purification I think. The whole family and a priest started a small fire with lots of smoke and performed a ritual waving of the smoke to each member of the family. We stayed away and watched from a distance. The ceremony concluded and as we were leaving we saw the family leaving.
After finding a place to sleep in Panajachel,Guatemala, I decided to take a stroll down the main street to try to get a feel for the place. I was enjoying casual conversations with several merchants of the town when I noticed three Europeans walking down the middle of the street. The girl in the middle took our her cell phone and loudly said, "I bet you can not guess where I am?" She went on to explain to family, friends and those of us within ear shot, that she was in this 'out of the way place' in Guatemala.
So, I guess that being in the middle of a street in Panajachel is 'off the beaten path' for some people. I am sure for others all of Guatemala qualifies. If can depend not just where you are, but when you are there. Perhaps it also depends on how easy it is to contact home. My first thought when I heard the lady call home on her cell phone, was that her activity was contradicting her words. Of course, if she had been 5 miles away she still would have had good reception, but would certainly have been 'off the beaten path'.
Momocastenango is further into the highlands of Guatemala, and has a captivating market. The draw here is animals, primarily livestock. Not really a shopping mecca for travelers, but a great place to embrace the local color and atmosphere of rural Guatemala.
WELL, ZACAPA IS ABOUT 3 HOURS AWAY IN BUS FROM THE CAPITAL. THERE IS A GREAT RIVER CAMPING PLACE CALLED PASABIEN. ON WEEKENDS THERE ARE MORE PPL. THAT GO THERE. PPL. SELL FOOD LIKE FRUITS, BREADS, & TACO TYPE FOODS. ALSO, YOU CAN GO ANYTIME OF YEAR B/C IT'S ONE OF THE HOTEST YEAR ROUND STATES IN GUATE.
2 Villages on the Lago Atitlan. Nothing really exciting, but probably the way to see the soul of Guatemala. Can take a boat from Panajachel, or take a tour 3 villages (San Pedro de la Laguna also included) (ca 80 Q, 6 hours)
La Cordillera de Los Cuchumatanes, con un tipo de paisaje totalmente diferente. El Pueblo Todos Los Santos Cuchuman, es especialmente interesante, el 1 de Noviembre, festividad del D?a de los Santos...
The Cuchumatanes mountains, a totally diferent landscape...the Todos Los Santos Village, with special interest the 1th of November.
El rio La Pasion...desde Sayaxche hasta Ceibal. Con una flora muy interesante, especialmente las grandes ceibas del parque...tiene el inconveniente que la mayoria de las ruinas estan cubiertas de vegetacion...
The La Pasion river from Sayaxche to The Ceibal Ruins...Beautiful flora, impressive ceibas, the ruins are mostly covered.
so gorgeous! something i highly recomend seeing. this lake is in a crater of a volcano, named chicabal volcano. i can't remember exactly how i got there, but after driving from xela and a hike of maybe an hour, then a decent on over 600 stairs, you get to see this....
Really beautiful and small. Close to parque central but not in the center of things. Nice...more
We stayed two nights here, choosing it because of its nearness to the ruins. The plan was to be able...more
Nice hotel in a comfortable safe neighborhood in Zone 9. An easy walk to the Los Procures Mall and...more
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