5-day trip to Guatemala
Itinerary that included a visit to Guatemala City, Tikal, Antigua, Chimaltenango, Sololá, Lake Atitlan, San Antonio Palopo, Chichicastenango.
The landing in Guatemala City was impressive because it happened in the middle of the city, flying at very low altitude over poor neighborhoods. In fact, a few years later, a plane fell right on those neighborhoods, causing numerous deaths.
Guatemala City: Plaza Major, Palacio Nacional, Catedral Metropolitana
Guatemala City does not offer many touristic attractions or monuments except for the Plaza Mayor with the Palacio Nacional and the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral). The square is crowded with citizens dressed in their typical costume. Numerous stalls offer everything, especially sweets.
Tikal (archeological site): Grande Plaza, Temple of the Masks and Piramyd of the Great Jaguar
The next day, we woke up before 5:00 a.m. and made the air transfer towards the forest of Peten. We landed on the edge of Lake Peten Itza and then moved to the archaeological site of Tikal (characterized by a damp hot weather and mosquitoes ) discovered only in the 1960s. It is the largest Mayan site in Guatemala and dates back between 600 BC and 900 A.D.
The Great Plaza is very scenic and is overlooked by the Temple of the Masks and the Pyramid of the Great Jaguar. We suffered a lot for the damp and hot weather and the presence of many mosquitoes.
Antigua (ancient capital): Cathedral of Santiago, Vulcan Pacaya and the market
We went upwards along the roads which lead to the central plateau to reach Antigua , the historic capital of Guatemala until the year 1773 when it was devastated by an earthquake .
We visited many interesting monuments, especially churches , although many are still very damaged. Among the most significant monuments, I mention the Cathedral of Santiago and the sixteenth-century Convent of La Merced, several times damaged by earthquakes and several times rebuilt; inside the Convent there is the largest fountain of Central America: 27 meters in diameter.
Chimaltenango Village: women and children with typical clothes
In order to reach the lake Atitlán we had to overcome a mountain pass on top of which lies the village of Chimaltenango. There, we stopped to admire a multitude of women, dressed in their traditional costumes, waiting for their turn to wash clothes at the fountain .
Sololà: the touching way to the cemetary
Few kilometers before the road began to descend to the shore of Lake Atitlán, we stopped in Sololá, a small town famous both for the traditional costumes worn, especially those of men who wear long skirts , and for the colourful cemetery famous for its painted tombs . In that occasion (it was the 1st of November) the tombs were going to be repainted .
At the entrance we read a sign inviting young people not to make love in the cemetery .
The tombs painted with the same colour belong to the dead of the same family group.
It was moving to see some widows, together with their orphans, eating their meal in front of the tombs of their own husbands and then leaving him some as if he were a living partecipant.
San Antonio Palopò: lake Atitlan, religious service in memory of the dead and scenes of life
The spectacular Lake Atitlán formed into the crater of a caldera and it is impressive the view of the three volcanoes, still active, which overlook the lake (they are over 3,000 meters high). We took a speedboat and in less than half an hour we reached the village of San Antonio Palopó. In the church of the village they were celebrating a religious service in memory of the dead; the celebration was accompanied by a small band that played pretty popular music. The rite should have been Christian but, as a matter of fact, it was a mixture between the Christian and the pagan one. The sky was full of a large number of kites. It is a popular habit in order to symbolize a conjunction with our dead.
Chichicastenango: Church of San Tomas, the market and religious rites (catholic and/or pagan)
The next day we went up to over 2,000 meters above sea level to Chichicastenango , a splendid and particular town. It is superb with its narrow streets lined with stalls full of colourful merchandise, so colourful as the costumes worn by the locals.
ChichicastenangoIn particular, women wear multi-coloured and hand-embroidered clothes, made of heavy cotton; it takes many months to make them. Quite peculiar is the mystical atmosphere that we perceived in the churchyard and within the Church of San Tomas where there was a mixture of religious rites: Catholic and pagan.
The pagan rite prevailed especially considering the donations of liquor bottles