You start your day early and arrive at Tikal while morning’s cool touch still covers the jungle. As you follow your guide down the dirt trails, birds greet you with their chirps and whistles. You pass the great ceibatree, the national tree of Guatemala. If you look down, perhaps you’ll see butterflies gathered around a puddle or ants intent on a destination.
Once you reach the Grand Plaza with the two temples facing each other, you take a break as you also take in the history and scenery around you.
Then you’re off to reach Temple IV further on in the jungle. Not fully excavated, Temple IV can be climbed by wooden ladder-steps. Somehow these look safer than the steep, uneven stone steps you saw at the Grand Plaza.
Up you go, step by step. When you finally reach the very top, you sit down and look. You are above the canopy of the jungle, so nothing impedes your view. What was that deep roar? A howler monkey? You read that they can be heard 5 miles away…
As you sit there, you welcome a sense of wonder. Wonder over the beauty before your eyes. Wonder over the diversity of the animals and plants you’ve seen. Wonder over the intelligence and skill of a people who built and understood so much centuries ago. As you make your way down the wooden steps and drive to a hotel for dinner, you certainly have plenty to think about.
I have been to Tikal 22 times and there was always something to wonder over. This part of Guatemala reflects the rest of the country in that it is a place of wonder. You could say it’s wonder-full.
When people picture Central America, many of them probably envision balmy tropical weather. However, thanks to high elevations, parts of Guatemala can be chilly, especially in the winter months. A favorite of these just-right-for-chocolate-caliente places is Tecpán.
Located in the departamento de Chimaltenango – Guatemala has “departments” instead of “states” – Tecpán offers a rural escape from the bustle of Guatemala City near enough to make it a one-day outing. After the drive, start with brunch at a restaurant…
…then hike the pine-lined hills, and, of course, browse the shops filled with the eye-catching Guatemalan artistry we love.
You can also visit the nearby Iximché ruins or perhaps learn about the culture of the Kaqchikel Maya people. Top off your outing with a treat, like a choco-banano (a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts) if all that activity has warmed you up or enjoy a steaming cafecito. ¡Buen provecho!
A lake surrounded by volcanoes and shaded by sunset-streaked clouds. Maybe this scene can be found around the world, but if you know Guatemala you probably know just the lake we’re talking about.
Some favorite memories of this place include breakfast on the shore surrounded by beautiful flowers under Guatemala-blue skies, playing along a “beach”, appreciating the crisp morning air after having been in the humidity-laden Petén, chatting with old friends and dreamily admiring the landscape and thinking it seemed like Hawaii. (Anyone who has actually been to Hawaii might see it differently…)
So what is the name of this place? Like we said, to those who know Guatemala it will seem simple, but perhaps not for others. Write an answer in the comment section and don’t forget to tell your favorite memories of this place! Let’s share the wonders of one of the most beautiful places on earth that happens to be in our loved Guatemala.
After winding along the hairpin curves enroute from Guatemala City to Chichicastenango, you might need to stretch your legs or enjoy an extra cup of coffee. Ahead is a brightly-colored sign. Maybe this is a good place to stop. Here in the mountains, the morning air can be chilly. A hot cup of coffee definitely sounds good! As you walk up to the door, the smells of wood smoke and hot corn tortillas beckon to you. Once inside, rustic tables and chairs offer space for many travelers.
What would be good to order with a cup of coffee? Homemade pie – what could be better? Well, pay de papaya y piña! What about the cake with chocolate sauce? Mmmm. Decisions, decisions.
If you’ve traveled this way before, perhaps the story is giving it away. Do you know the name of this place?
¡Sí! ¡Muy bien! El Chichoy has welcomed travelers for decades. Nestled right by the road, it is the perfect stop for a meal or just a refreshment.
In the Guatemalan mountains where the Chichoy is located, Guatemala’s indigenous languages – totaling 22 – are still spoken. Although many of the people now also speak Spanish, some words are slightly different or are used differently. These people and their unique use of language were part of the inspiration behind Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. We hope they will be just as clearly understood by those who serve them as their completely bilingual neighbors.
Once you get to know Guatemala, it’s hard to pick just one favorite place. However, a favorite (among many) is the Isla de Flores in Lake Petén Itzá.
Friday night pizza and ice cream in the central square are special memories.
(Ice cream bars were the usual, but some days call for something fancier!)
Walking the rim of the island is another.
Then there’s the ever-changing beauty of the lake itself!
What about you? Do you have a favorite spot in Guatemala? Share a name, photo or memory with us in the comments/reply box or on Facebook. Maybe we’ve been to the same places, and your favorite could be the feature of a future post! Stay tuned!
The team behind Understanding the Guatemalan Patientseeks to share not only our love for Guatemala, but also our knowledge of her words and culture. Whether you’re traveling near Flores on a medical mission team, you dream about doing so or you serve Guatemalans around the globe, let us share our knowledge with you. Check out Understanding the Guatemalan Patienton Amazon or contact ustoday for other buying options!
A recent conversation with a fellow Guatemala lover brought back many memories of favorite Guatemalan meals. Ah, the spicy-sweet smells wafting from Doña Luisa’s in Antigua! It seems that few visitors can pass by without stopping in, perhaps for a slice of cinnamon raisin bread, a chocolate ice cream or a piece of the reportedly excellent carrot cake. Then there’s the American Hotel in Guatemala City with their coconut cream pie – Dr. Hammer’s favorite and the subject of legends!
However, when it comes down to it, Guatemala’s more traditional flavors are her best. Warm corn tortillas, frijoles (black beans), platanos fritos (fried plantains) with miel (honey) and queso fresco (Farmer’s cheese) make an amazing breakfast!
Feeling hungry? Same here! Maybe it’s time to cook up some Guatemalan deliciousness. Then there’s only one thing left to say, “¡Buen provecho!”
What about you? Do you have a favorite Guatemalan or Latin American food or meal memory? How about a favorite restaurant? We’d love to hear from you, so please drop us a comment in the box below!