Guatemala

Planning Your Time in El Oriente and Izabal

The Izabal region features a unique kind of Caribbean experience not at all like Cancún or the West Indies but nonetheless beautiful. Meanwhile in El Oriente, Copán showcases some of the Mayan world’s finest ruins and the surrounding mountainous countryside is becoming increasingly popular with travelers exploring coffee farms, a jungle bird park, and hot springs.

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Balam: Jaguars in Guatemala

The Maya had great respect and reverence for the jaguar, which they called balam. Jaguars were a symbol of power and strength and were believed to act as mediums for communication between the living and the dead. Scientists have been studying jaguars in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, but luckily, you don’t need to go traipsing through the jungle to see one: Guatemala City’s excellent zoo has jaguars, as does Petén’s ARCAS wildlife rescue center.

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Lost and Found: The Mystery of Guatemala’s Site Q

For much of the 20th century, looters worked Petén’s remote sites undisturbed, raiding tombs and extracting precious artifacts before archaeologists had a chance to study and document them. At the height of the looting, in the 1960s, archaeologists marveled at a series of magnificent glyphs making their way into a number of private collections and museums from an unknown site. Archaeologists dubbed the pieces’ origin “Site Q” and the search to find the mysterious producer of the wonderful glyphs was on.

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Outdoor Recreation in Lanquín, Guatemala

Lanquín and its caves are quickly becoming requisite stops for travelers making their way through Guatemala. Recreational opportunities abound, and you may find yourself spending more time here than you had originally planned. Whether it’s exploring caves, white-water rafting, river tubing, or swimming that suits your fancy, you’ll find plenty to see and do in these parts.

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Las Guacamayas Biological Research Station

Las Guacamayas Biological Research Station sits amid verdant jungle on the shores of the Río San Pedro, a 20-minute boat ride from the village of Paso Caballos. It is one of the best places in Petén to combine wildlife-viewing and rainforest trekking while staying in relative comfort, offering easy access to the ruins of Waka’ and the surrounding forests.

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Exploring Río Tatín in Río Dulce National Park

One of Guatemala’s oldest parks, the waterway connecting the Caribbean Sea with Lake Izabal is protected as Río Dulce National Park. Along Río Tatín, you’ll find some excellent accommodations built into the surrounding jungle and in complete harmony with their environment. It showcases the region’s wonderful seclusion while at the same time providing a comfortable base from which to explore the area.

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Featured Central America Travel Guide

Moon Guides Author Spotlight

Photographer and Moon author Al Argueta

Al Argueta

At the age of three, Al Argueta first traveled to Guatemala with his father and was utterly captivated by the country’s landscape and its Mayan inhabitants. He would later live in Guatemala for two years, allowing him to formally learn Spanish and to experience Guatemala’s culture firsthand. During summers in high school and college, Al often took a month off to travel to Guatemala, exploring its jungles, ruins, and villages.

In college, Al majored in Journalism and Latin American Studies, managing to squeeze in two study-abroad programs—one in Manchester and one in Maastricht—and traveled through much of Europe. After college, he interned with Costa Rica’s Tico Times, getting his first exposure to travel writing and photography, in addition to covering then-President Bill Clinton’s visit to Guatemala. Al worked briefly for a newspaper in the Virgin Islands before moving on to photography school in Hawaii. He also taught English to college students in Thailand for a time, continuing to satiate the travel bug that bit him years back.

Al now lives in Austin, Texas, where he’s managed to stay put for an unprecedented six years. In addition to writing, he does freelance travel photography for clients that have included National Geographic Adventure, Caribbean Travel & Life, Condé Nast Traveler, Outside’s GO, and Continental.

Follow Al on Instagram @alargueta75.