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Limelight

Wanderlust Wednesday: Guatemala

If you follow us on Pinterest or Instagram, you’ve probably noticed a bit of an obsession with Guatemala. Colorful and compelling, this little gem of a country is wrapped in just enough mystery that a visit still feels like an adventure.

Cathedral of San Cristobal in El Progreso, photo: Saskia Bunge

The first time I booked tickets, it seemed like a simple enough four-day getaway: different language, interesting culture, direct flight. Plus, Tikal had been on my bucket list for a while and I could fit a stop into the four-day itinerary. But three visits and counting later, I keep finding reasons to explore more of this magical little slice of Heaven.

Temple of the Great Jaguar at Tikal, photo: Two Little Limes

Guatemala still feels like a best-kept travel destination secret. It has an authenticity, a texture, and a slow, soulful tempo to it that sets it apart from its neighbor to the north. People seem to truly live in the day: they take their cafecíto in street-level courtyards each morning, chat with their neighbors, stroll to their destinations. It’s a lovely place to slow down, relax, and simply take it all in.

Girl in traditional Maya dress. Photo: Jon Kaplan

The sun shines a little differently down there. Colors present more vibrantly, and the frequent showers make every surface seem more sparkly. The country boasts a long list of impressive must-see attractions. Every region has its own majestic landscape features: pristine beaches, soaring mountains, thick jungles, volcano-ringed lakes. And everywhere are ruins begging to be explored, dripping with history, glorious vegetation, and drama.

Sunshine on a stick

I’ll say more about taking my littles (ages 5 and 4 months) in a later post, but suffice it to say Guatemala was a wonderful family destination. There are children everywhere! And Guatemaltecos adore them. While Antigua offered ample family-friendly activities, lounging with all the other kids and their families in the Parque Central was as fascinating a pastime for my kids as any. My daughter still goes by "Nena" in our house, thanks to the sweet grandmothers cooing over her in the Parque.

Catedral de Santiago, in Antigua, photo: Two Little Limes

Chichicastenango cemetary. Photo: Two Little Limes

There's also a bit of derring-do in a visit to Guatemala. There are areas that can get dicey. The history lessons aren't all wine and roses. And yes, there have been official apologies (more than one!) for American involvement in the country since the 1940's -- two examples of how mystery and drama are part of real life in "Guate." As with most destinations, risk can be avoided with a modicum of good judgment.  But at the end of the day, the tension and contrast in its provocative history and present day add depth to one's experience of Guatemala. It's a place with layers and soul, and a bright future you can witness evolving day by day.

Traditional Maya huipil, photo: Two Little Limes

Tell me in the comments what you think of Guatemala as a destination or what your take-aways were if you’ve already been. Enjoy the wanderlust and Happy Wednesday!

San Pedro volcano over Lake Atitlan, photo: Two Little Limes

 

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