Guatemala & Belize
Despite being bordered by two oceans, Guatemala isn’t a beach destination, but rather a glorious mix of stunning colonial cities, peaceful lakes, indigenous villages, ancient ruins and pristine rainforests.
Antigua Guatemala is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Latin America and the country’s stand out must-see destination. Cobbled streets with picture perfect pastel coloured houses sit beneath the imposing Pacaya volcano, and as a tourist hotspot, the town is home to fantastic boutique hotels and excellent restaurants.
For something a little more relaxing, the crystal clear waters of Lake Atitlan are another A2A favourite. The lake is surrounded by indigenous villages which are among the most authentic you will see anywhere in the region, and it is a great spot for some light adventure as you can kayak on the lake, horseback ride and hike through the surrounding countryside. Nearby, the fantastic (and fantastically named) Chichicastenango market, which is one of the country’s largest, still serves nearby local villages who walk for hours to pedal their wares. It is also a shoppers dream for visitors, filled with colourful Guatemalan textiles, jewellery and pottery.
The north of the country, Tikal is one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites, with thousands of structures, many of which are yet to be excavated, located deep in the jungle. It is a fascinating place to explore for a day, and it is possible to climb some of the towers, from where you will see the tops of temples poking through the canopy. While Tikal only receives a fraction of the number of visitors that some more well-known Mayan and Incan sites have to deal with, there are much more remote Mayan sites still to be visited. For the ultimate adventure, ‘glamping’ at the remote ruins of Uaxactun and enjoying a candle-lit dinner at the base of the temple is a truly magical experience.
Just across the border into Belize, Cayo district is all about adventure. Hiking, mountain biking, horse-riding, caving and kayaking are just some of the activities on offer, thanks to a dense jungle dotted with caves, rivers and waterfalls. As part of the Maya world, there are also some superb ancient ruins in the region, namely Caracol, which are among the least visited of any Mayan sites. There are several excellent jungle lodges to stay at too, so there is no need to miss out on your creature comforts to enjoy one of Central America’s most adventurous spots.
The Belizean coast is not only stunning and great for a post-jungle retreat with a handful of luxury beachside lodges to choose from, but it is also superb for diving. The reef system here is the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and the incredible Blue Hole is surely on any divers bucket list.
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