semuc champey

Semuc Champey & Lanquín

Few visit Cobán without making the trip east to Lanquín, a pristine riverside town with a series of fascinating caves and a trio of first-rate backpacker hostels. In fact, nearby Semuc Champey is the well-justified reason most visitors come to Alta Verapaz in the first place. A...
Marimba

The Guatemalan Marimba

Any description of Guatemalan music would be woefully incomplete without a discussion of the marimba. Declared Guatemala’s national instrument in 1978, the birth of this massive wooden instrument is shrouded in mystery. Many believe that it originated in Indochina, underwent...
Maximón

Maximón in Guatemala

Maximón (pronounced ma-shee-moan), a half-saint, half-deity celebrated in several parts of Guatemala, is a mix of good and evil, a combination of the pagan and Christian worlds. A bizarre jumble of Mayan gods, Pedro de Alvarado (the Spanish conquistador), and Judas Iscariot,...
San Juan Comalapa

San Juan Comalapa

This blog post is a guest entry from Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Cyrus Sethna, who served as a Youth in Development volunteer in San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango from 2013-15. Florence of the Americas: San Juan Comalapa San Juan Comalapa is a peaceful mountain town of nearly...
Xinka

The Xinka of Guatemala

The smallest and most mysterious of Guatemala’s four main ethnic groups is the Xinka, a non-Mayan indigenous community that dominated the southeastern part of the country between 900 and 1100 AD. Before the arrival of the Spanish, Xinka territory spanned from the shores of the...
Tajumulco

Climbing Tajumulco Volcano

West of the departmental capital of San Marcos, a winding road follows a broad ridge of the Sierra Madre mountains through majestic highland scenery. The sun shines bright over the innumerable mountains, its twinkling reflection illuminating the peaks, valleys, and rivers of one...
Indigenous Dress

Indigenous Dress in Guatemala

The highlight of many visitors’ trips to Guatemala is the brightly colored clothing worn by indigenous women of the mountainous Western Highlands. Each region or town has a unique, locally made design. All indigenous dress is called traje and is made up of three components. The...
garífuna

The Garífuna of Guatemala

In 1635, a Spanish ship transporting slaves from Nigeria to the New World capsized, and its African survivors took refuge on the nearby island of St. Vincent. Cut off from the rest of the world, the former slaves began to intermarry with the local indigenous people, and over time...
Iximché

Day Trip to the Ruins of Iximché

Near present-day Tecpán, this ancient city was once the capital of the Mayan Kaqchikel people. Originally friendly with the K’iche’ and their capital at nearby Q’umarkaj, the Kaqchikel quickly grew in power, and the two groups became rivals. The Kaqchikel soon decided to split...
el mirador

The Ruins of El Mirador

Far to the north of Tikal, the jungles of the vast Mirador-Río Azul National Park hold what may be Guatemala’s most historically significant site, the ruins of El Mirador. Arguably the oldest Mayan city in Petén, El Mirador lies between Tikal to the south and Calakmul to the...