• Gerard Horgan/GH

Image of the Week: Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán is a stunning body of water in a massive volcanic crater in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands. Ringed by steep, verdant hills, it’s known for its Mayan villages and volcanoes with striking pointed cones. The busy town of Panajachel, where vendors sell traditional textiles and local crafts, is a popular gateway to the lake. On a former coffee plantation, the Atitlán nature reserve offers trails and a butterfly garden. Lake Atitlán has a maximum depth of about 340 metres (1,120 ft) with an average depth of 220 metres (720 ft) - click on any of the photographs to enlarge.


There are few more beautiful countries in the world than Guatemala. Incredible people, stunning scenery, remarkable historical sites and amazing food. I could not recommend Guatemala more highly enough especially for those who like to go off the beaten track. Guatemala, with a population of 17.5 million, is home to volcanoes, rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. Guatemala fortunately has one of the highest indigenous populations of any Central American country, which brings tremendous vibrancy, culture and most of all, welcoming smiles.


The majority of indigenous peoples in Guatemala are of Mayan descent. The Mayans of Guatemala are the only indigenous culture that constitutes a majority of the population in a Central American republic. There are 21 different Mayan communities in Guatemala making up an estimated 51 per cent of the national population.


Geography



Guatemala is largely mountainous, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern lowlands in the Petén department. Guatemala's southern chain of mountains is characterised by steep volcanic cones, including Tajumulco Volcano 4,220 m or 13,845 ft, the highest point in the country and Central America. All of Guatemala's 37 volcanoes (3 of them active: Pacaya, Santiaguito and Fuego), are in this mountain chain.


Guatemala City



Guatemala City, built on a former Mayan city, is the capital and largest city of Guatemala and the most populous urban area in Central America. The city is located in the south-central part of the country, nestled in a mountain valley called Valle de la Ermita. It is estimated that its population is around1 million.


Tikal


Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-ColumbianMaya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site.



Tikal hosts several Mayan temples, which reach over 150ft. As you can see above, these are immense stone structures which have to be seen up close to really appreciate them. Once you reach the top you are greeted by the most fantastic view across the Guatemalan jungle. At its peak, Tikal was spread over 50 square miles (130 square km), while its population was estimated to be as high as 100,000 people. Research has revealed that the city’s inhabitants created a sophisticated water management system to see it through periods when it didn’t have any rain. Tikal’s rulers built six temple pyramids, structures that often marked the burial place of a ruler. Tikal, along with much of the Maya world, collapsed in the 10th century, while the arrival of Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s saw the country ruled from Europe for over three centuries.



Antigua


Antigua is one of most picturesque cities in southern Guatemala and is surrounded by volcanoes. It’s renowned for its Spanish colonial buildings, many of them restored following a 1773 earthquake that ended Antigua’s 200-year reign as Guatemala’s colonial capital. Full of amazing restaurants and cafes, Antigua is a real gem.




For Videos...


Lonely Planet 'Introducing Guatemala', click here


Lake Atitlán, click here


Explorting Guatemala City, click here


Tikal: Ancient Mayan City of Guatemala, click here


Antigua, beautiful UNESCO City in Guatemala, click here



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