With a rich Mayan and colonial heritage and spectacular scenery, Guatemala is one of the most striking countries in Latin America. Overlooked by three volcanic peaks, Lake Atitlan in the central highlands must surely be one of the most beautiful lakes anywhere in the world. The villages surrounding it seem lost in time, with locals wearing hand-woven, vividly coloured costumes. Any holiday to Guatemala should also include the former capital, Antigua, an immensely attractive and relaxing city that serves as Guatemala’s cultural and artistic centre. Many of its painstakingly restored Spanish colonial buildings have been converted into stylish hotels.
Also well worth a visit for a day or two on a Guatemala holiday is the town of Chichicastenango, which holds the country’s largest and most colourful market, and has the intriguing Iglesia de Santo Tomas, a unique church with its own style of worship blended from pre-Columbian and Catholic practices.
Another of Guatemala’s highlights is the Mayan site of Tikal. Surrounded by undisturbed rainforest and home to Howler monkeys and toucans, it has arguably the best setting of all Central America’s Mayan ruins. And if you want to really get off the beaten track on a holiday to Guatemala, take a boat down the Rio Dulce towards the Caribbean coast at Livingston, where you may be lucky enough to spot the elusive manatee.