Every Jauntophile knows... Guatemala is one of Latin America’s hidden gems. Sandwiched between Mexico and Belize in the north and El Salvador and Honduras in the south, the name itself means 'Land of Trees,' and this hot jungle country is every bit as green as it's name suggests. Poised somewhere between the old and the new, roughing it or Ritzing it, this Central American country combines the unique traditions of Mayan heritage with a urban landscape of bustling cities and lush resorts. Wildly beautiful with towering volcanoes, verdant rainforest, colonial architecture and fascinating beaches, fusing these elements together are the people, the majority descendants of the ancient Mayan. Warm and generous, their spirit is one of welcome. This Central American country is also one of the most indigenous in the world, now distanced from it's unstable 36-year civil war. The best part? In this down economy, you can still get an entire meal for $3.00!
This photo contains a piece of deer meat, Tepezquintle meat (this would be a noctural rodent highly prized for it's rich flavor), a piece of wild turkey, and... a piece of Armadillo! Don't worry, not all the food is this daunting.
So where to stay in this wild jungle paradise of woven ponchos and beaded bracelets? Below are a few places to rest your weary head, a homebase from which to take off and land. Ideally located in Guatemala City and Antigua, each hotel below is a destination unto itself, ideal for couples, business travelers, and families.
Guatemala is the country’s cultural, political and economic capital. Founded on the site of the ancient Mayan city Kaminaljuyu, the city is renowned for its abundance of archeological sites and rich cultural history. Now with a population of more than 3 million, it is one of Latin America ’s most vibrant urban destinations.
Hotel Vista Real, a member of Preferred Hotels® & Resorts, is the city’s grande dame. Perched above the city in an exclusive residential enclave, the Hotel Vista Real welcomes guests into an oasis of service and style. This all-suite luxury hotel stands out for its elegant artwork and fine dining. Comprised of 123 suites and eight meeting rooms, the Hotel Vista Real is ideal for a weekend getaway or dazzling wedding.
Rates starting at $145
Hotel Princess, a member of Sterling Hotels™, combines a great location in the bustling zona viva with a friendly staff for a reasonable price. Just off of one of the city’s main avenues, Hotel Princess’s 104 guest rooms encircle an inner courtyard that is a haven for business and leisure travelers. The perennially popular Garden Court restaurant and Clancy’s Bar are the perfect places to sample great food and local hospitality.
Rates starting at $129
An hour from Guatemala City lies the captivating town of Antigua. Situated in the central highlands, La Antigua Guatemala (“The Old Guatemala”) was the country’s third capital and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, if you're looking for a beach close to La Antigua Guatemala, a few hours away is the beach of Monterrico where chickens and pigs roam free. In fact, we've even heard they like to dip in the ocean. Talk about au natural. A range of backpacker pensions and 3 star hotels are also available, if you're interested in staying the night.
La Reunion, Antigua Golf Resort, a member of Preferred Boutique™, is the region's most exquisite hideaway. A sophisticated collection of 26 free-standing cottages, each with their own plunge pool, every suite has been tastefully appointed in colonial style. Nestled amid two volcanoes, La Reunion also offers golf on a memorable Pete Dye-designed course. Gourmet cuisine and numerous activities make La Reunion, Antigua Golf Resort the great destination for a complete couples getaway.
Rates starting at $225
www.preferredboutique.com or www.lareunion.com.gt
Porta Hotel Antigua, a member of Summit Hotels & Resorts™, is located in the heart of the city, an easy distance to explore Antigua’s cobblestone streets, colonial churches and monuments. With 115 guestrooms, the hotel is a lush oasis of soothing greenery. Encircled by trees, the pool area is a popular destination for cooling off after a busy morning of sightseeing or meetings.
Rates starting at $162
Before you start booking your tickets, growing a beard, and thinking you can singlehandedly unite The Americas into one (a la our favorite renegade revolutionary, Che G.), don't forget to visit Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is one of the country’s most prized scenic locations. The tourist friendly fishing town of Panajachel is a great place to take an eco-tour of the area or climb the Pacaya volcano for a glance inside its cone. We also hear that a bus about five kilometers away from Antigua to Pastores is a village known for handmade leather Cowboy Boots.
Here's a handy guide for Guatemala's Eco-Tours:
In addition, a trip to Guatemala wouldn't be complete without a jaunt to the ruins of El Mirador and Tikal in the northern Petén region. The nearby city of Flores serves as the ideal base for any trips into Petén. In the village of Chichicastenango, the Thursday and Sunday market are the best ways to gain insight into Guatemala culture as indigenous groups come from around the country come to sell their handmade multi-colored goods. For hotels in Flores, we recommend checking out:
Oh, and for those of you with, how shall we say, more 'discerning tastes,' here's another list of swanky Guatemalan digs:
Guatemala's Ultra Luxury Hotels
We think Casa Palopo is one fine spot overlooking Lake Atitlan, set against a backdrop of three volcanoes, Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro.