Visiting any foreign country for the first time can be exciting and a little daunting. My first time in Guatemala was no different, but the beauty, culture and history you’ll find there are well worth taking a chance in this up-and-coming travel destination.
Most Memorable Moments
What impressed me the most when I arrived in Guatemala was the friendliness of the locals and bright color that painted the city of Antigua, the first stop on my visit. From ancient buildings to handmade textiles and traditional dress, the city felt warm and vibrant. The highlight of my time in Antigua was a morning with a local guide I hired in Plaza Central. My guide not only showed me around, explaining the city’s history, but also shared personal stories and recommended the best places for coffee and tamales.
After a couple days, I traveled to Flores via overnight bus for the real purpose of my trip: Tikal. The ancient Mayan ruins were every bit as magnificent as I had imagined them. I opted to take an early morning guided tour at the suggestion of a local. Seeing the ruins in hazy light and soft shadows cast by the massive structures was indescribable and something that photos simply don’t do justice.
Lessons from the Journey
Despite warnings of danger in Guatemala, I learned from my experience that things are not always as they seem. Sometimes you have to take a chance and see a place for yourself before judging it based on second-hand information.
Visiting Guatemala in Retrospect
Knowing now how much Guatemala has to offer, not only in architectural sites, but also adventure and ecotourism, I wish I had given myself much more time. I stuck to a fairly typical itinerary but there is so much more to see and when I return I will definitely plan on a longer trip.
Tips for the First-Timer in Guatemala
I recommend arriving in Guatemala City and heading directly to Antigua where most tourists begin their trip. It’s a safer city and more tourist-oriented. As far as safety goes, use common sense and be a responsible traveler. Know the local customs, don’t wear flashy clothes or jewelry and don’t stay out alone after dark. Be respectful of the culture and nuances of a developing country and I’m sure you’ll enjoy Guatemala every bit as much as I did.