A MEETING OF THREE WORLDS
Three different traditions come together in today's Guatemala: a pre-Columbian world of the Maya, a Spanish colonial heritage, a modern, forward-looking society. This diversity is central to the country's great appeal as a tourist destination.
Guatemala City, for instance, is a cosmopolitan capital in every way. Yet, there are remembrances from the 17th century and even Mayan ruins just at the edge of the city.
In La Antigua Guatemala, visitors stroll the same cobblestone streets, enjoy many of the same buildings and monuments that stood when this was regarded as one of the most beautiful capitals in Spanish America. In Antigua and Guatemala City, the celebrations for Lent and Holy Week are still spectacular and attract people from all over the world.
It is still possible to experience the clamor and color of an outdoor Indian market where handicrafts are made and sold in the same manner as in days gone by.
Early inhabitants of Guatemala's Caribbean coast required stern fortitude and bravery to defend themselves from the pirates which sailed those waters. These traits, as well as unfailing good humor, are part of the rhythms of the traditional dances of the Garifuna who inhabit the region today.
- GUATEMALA DE LA ASUNCION (GUATEMALA CITY)
- LA ANTIGUA GUATEMALA
- THE HIGHLANDS
- CARIBBEAN COAST
- EAST OF GUATEMALA
GUATEMALA DE LA ASUNCIÓN
This is the present formal name for Guatemala City, the capital of the Republic. It is the nation's commercial, administrative and financial center. The Plaza Mayor, the heart of the historic center of the city, is surrounded by architectural monuments:
The National Palace:
One of the most important buildings of the first half of the 20th century. The building is eclectic in style, but with a definite neoclassic influence. The building houses some of the best works of Guatemalan artists such as Alfredo Gálvez Suarez, Julio Urruela, Guillermo Gradeja Mena, Dagoberto Vásquez, Roberto González Goyri, Rodolfo Galeotti Torres and Carlos Rigalt.
General Archives of Central America, National Library, National Newspaper Morgue:
Located across the Centenary Park, they hold valuable bibliographic information including documents from the ancient "Goathemala Kingdom".
A unique engineering masterpiece created in 1904 by Fransico Vela. It shows in detail the topography of the country. A hydraulic system brings the rivers, lakes and oceans life. The map is located at the end of Simeon Canas Avenue in the northern section of the city.
A marvelous big market located behind the cathedral. Handicrafts from all over Guatemala are purchased here: ceramics, textiles, baskets, toys, articles of wood, silver, brass and copper. Foodstuffs and other perishables are also featured.
Construction began in 1782, in the neoclassic style, and was completed in 1815. The domes and bell towers were added later. The main altar is adorned with pilasters and spires. The Cathedral also houses a valuable collection of paintings and religious figures. The palace of the Archbishop and the San Jose de los Infates College are adjacent to the building.
There are a numerous Catholic churches in the city's central zone offering an interesting sampling of neoclassic architecture. The art of styles of the 16th centuries can be studied in these churches. The most important are La Merced, Capuchinas, San Fransisco, El Carmen and Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo has a valuable collection of paintings in the Zurbaran style.
"Miguel Angel Asturias" Cultural Center:
Located on the hill alongside the old San Jose Fort, it forms a part of the Civic Center. The original architectural design in the work of Guatemalan artist Efraín Recinos.
The complex also includes the Grand Theater, Chamber Theater, Outdoor Theater and exhibition places. Miguel Angel Asturias was a Guatemalan writer who won a Novel Prize in 1967.
A complex of modern buildings combining murals and sculpture with architecture and depicting elements identified with the tradition and millenarian culture of Guatemala.
Located in Zone 10, it is the most popular entertainment center with the country's most exclusive nightclubs, restaurants and boutiques. It is also the location of the best art galleries.
LA ANTIGUA GUATEMALA
The city founded in 1541 in Panchoy Valley, Department of Sacatepéquez. Antigua is a jewel of city planning and colonial architecture. The city was declared "Patrimony to Humanity" by UNESCO in 1979.
This marks the center of the city according to traditional grilled city planning of the Spaniards. The Mermaid Fountain, built in 1739 by Diego Porres, still functions in the center of the Plaza and is an identifying landmark of La Antigua Guatemala.
The Captain's Palace:
Its facade is a two-story archway. The building was used from the 16th to the 18th century as the residence of the King's representative.
Palace of the Noble City Hall:
This structure is unchanged since it was built in 1743. The two story facade has a stone archway, and has one of the few remaining finishes in carved stone.
Originally built between 1534 and 1690, it was rebuilt several times due to damage by earthquakes. In 1743, Pope Benedict XIV gave it the "metropolitan" classification. The interior is decorated with beautiful retables and religious images. Splendid stucco high reliefs from the latter 17th century can be observed near the main entrance.
It is located in the northern part of the Cathedral's ruin and dates from the beginning of the 18th century. The architecture of the building can be best admired by studying the remains of its cloister, the enormous door and the stone doorways on the east side.
Built during the 18th century, and partially restored in 1944, the convent's fountain is the largest of those still standing in La Antigua Guatemala. The building's facade is the best example of the baroque style which was predominant in the buildings of this city. The delicate ornamental plaster work shows the quality of craftsmanship which was achieved in the city.
One of the largest and most elegant churches in La Antigua Guatemala. The columns and arches are a combination of massiveness and grace. It is located on Nativity Street. The beatified Friar Pedro de Bethancourt is buried in the restored chapel.
Built during the beginning of the 18th century, the interior features large double archways surrounding the cloister. The facade, richly ornamented in stucco, is in the interior. It was specially designed to be seen from the inside because the nuns were not permitted to go out in public.
The large walls are an example of the greatness achieved by the Order of the Recoletos. Notwithstanding natural disasters and depredation, the architecture offers an interesting perspective into the convent life of the colorful period.
This was the fifth and last convent founded in Santiago de los
Its most outstanding structure is the "Retreat Tower", a three-story round building. It now houses the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala.
The second largest city in Guatemala, it is also the name of the department in which the city is located. This department still preserves its colonial architecture. It is a hub of Guatemala's commercial activity and the communities within the department preserve the ancient Maya traditions.
It is an architectural jewel and the pride of Quetzaltenango.
The impressive facade is neoclassic. The theater has a seating capacity of 1,050. The award ceremony of the Annual Floral Games has been held on its stage since 1916.
Central America Park:
Located in the center of Quetzaltenango, it is also the center or social activities. A magnificent handicraft market comes alive the first Sunday of every month.
Located across from Central America Park, it connects 12th and 13th avenues. Its west archway features graphite figures and a large gate, which together with an identical one at the other end, are the largest in the city.
Espíritu Santo Cathedral:
This cathedral, across the east side of Central America Park, consists of two structures: the ruins of the facade of the Parroquia del Espíritu Santo (1535-1898) and behind it, the Cathedral of the Los Altos Diocese, built in 1899.
The House of Culture:
Built in the neoclassic style, it houses the House of Culture of the West, a library and an archeology, history and nature museum.
Other attractions are the unfinished Minerva Temple, started in 1917, and the City Hall, where in the ceiling of its Honor Room, it has the six coats-of-arms of the Federation of the States of Central America (1830-1840) carved in stucco.
San Cristóbal Totonicapán:
Nine miles from the department capital, it has a church and convent richly ornamented with retables from the 17th and 18th century.
Four miles from Huehuetenango, Chiantla is a religious pilgrimage center. Its town church has an image of the Virgin of Candelaria sculpted in silver and wearing a filigree dress.
The Afro-Caribbean people (called Garífunas) who settled this area at the mouth of Río Dulce, are the major importance to the region. The best opportunities to visit this region and the town of Livingston to fully appreciate the folklore are during Holy Week, the festivities of San Isidro Labrador (November 29th) and of the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12th).
Castillo de San Felipe de Lara:
This historic old fort was built at the mouth of Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal as a defense against the pirates who raided Guatemala's Atlantic Coast during the 16th century.
EAST OF GUATEMALA
Six miles from Zacapa is the town of Estanzuela, famous for its hand-embroidered products and its Paleontology, Archeology and Geology Museum. Skeletons of large prehistoric animals, archeological pottery and lithic fragments are on display. The material at this museum comes from Estanzuela and surroundings, and the northeastern part of Guatemala.
Undoubtedly, the major attraction of the Department of Chiquimula is the town of Esquipulas, 34 miles from Chiquimula and 104 miles from Guatemala City. Its impressive Basilica houses the image of the Black Christ, revered by Guatemalans and others alike.
National Museum of Modern Art
Building 6, La Aurora, Zone 13,
Guatemala City Open:
Tue/Fri, 9 to 4; Sun, 9 to 12 & 2 to 4
Permanent collection of contemporary Guatemalan art,
particularly painting and sculpture.
Fray Francisco Vasquez Museum
6th Avenue and 13 Street, Zone 1,
Open: Mon/Sat, 9 to 12 & 2:30 to 6:30; Sun, 3 to 6
Permanent collection of paintings, religious sculptures,
furniture and books belonging to the Franciscean Order.
City Hall, La Antigua Guatemala
Open: Daily, 9 to 12 & 2 to 6
Interesting collection of weapons, paintings,
sculptures and colonial furniture.
Ancient Book Museum
City Hall, La Antigua Guatemala
Open: Daily, 9 to 12 & 2 to 6
Collection of original books and documents
edited in Guatemala from 1660 to 1821
Museum of Colonial Arts
Located in the building that was the seat of the
University of San Carlos de Guatemala,
in La Antigua Guatemala
Open: Daily, 9 to 12 & 2 to 6
Artistic treasures of the colonial period
including a painting of Pedro de Alvarado.
La Antigua Guatemala
Built during the first half of the 17th century.
It has furniture and objects as well as one of the most
interesting kitchens of the colonial period.
Open: Mon/Sat, 3 to 5