The foothills of the Cuchumatan range are the defining
geological feature of Alta Verapaz. This region, one of the
greenest and wettest, extends northward along the altiplano. The
administrative center of the department, Cobán, also known as
the Imperial City, is an excellent point from which to visit the
nearby towns and tourist attractions. Cobán's cathedral and
convent constitute a magnificent example of colonial
The plains descending from the Río Salamá valley create the
Baja Verapaz, which is marked by river-cloven valleys and dry
hills in a country of tropical vegetation as it extends
southward. Excellent examples of religious images and
altarpieces from the Hispanic period can be found in the
colonial temples of the Baja Verapaz department. The
colonial-style parish church of Salamá, the department capital,
is a national monument.
Chimaltenango is characterized by its broken earth, deep
ravines, beautiful valleys, and extensive plains. The
Panamerican Highway runs through this department of mild climate
which sits on a high mountain plateau of the Sierra Madre. The
capital city of this department, in which Ixchimé and Mixco
Viejo are located, is Chimaltenango.
This department's major attraction is Villa de Esquipulas. Its
impressive basilica, which holds a Black Christ Crucifix, is
venerated by Guatemalans and foreigners alike, and it is without
a doubt the main draw of the region. Also, in Chiquimula, the
capital of the department, one of the busiest and largest
markets can be visited on any day of the week.
El Petén is a vast territory of savannas, swamps, and tropical
jungles. It stretches from the south of Mexico, around Lacandón,
to the mountains in the north of Belize. A great wildlife
refuge, part of this territory remains virgin, and old
silk-cotton trees and mahoganies co-exist here. Considered one
of the lungs of the planet because of its exuberant vegetation,
this department has many protected areas such as the Maya
Biosphere Reserve with more than a million hectares of tropical
rain forest. Flores, sitting on a picturesque lake island, is
the department capital of El Petén. In El Petén, in addition
to Tikal National Park, there are other archaeological sites of
interest such as Uaxactún, Dos Pilas, Yaxhá, and Topoxté.
Integrated into the Guatemala por Descubrir range, the capital
of the department of El Progreso is the municipality of the same
name. In this territory numerous cactus species proliferate, and
the dryness of the countryside contrasts with the tropical green
color of the crops on the eastern side of the nation.
Valleys, peaks, deep ravines, and elevated plateaus comprise the
topography of this rugged area whose rough terrain creates a
great variety of striking natural sights. This is also one of
the departments in which the mix of natural resources and
cultural heritage are evident. Twelve miles (19 km.) away from
Chichicastenango is the capital of the department of El Quiché,
Santa Cruz del Quiché, which sits 6,560 feet above sea level
Escuintlá is the capital of the department of Escuintlá. In
the municipality of La Democracia, nineteen miles away, there is
a museum named Rubén Chávez Van Dorne, where giant Olmec heads
found in nearby areas are on exhibit. Some Olmec-style monuments
were found at a ranch called El Baúl, two-and-a-half miles from
Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa.
The New Guatemala of the Assumption is the name of the current
capital of The Republic, a center of commercial and cultural
activities. This metropolis of more than three million people is
a panorama of contrasts where colonial architecture mixes with
modern buildings and where important museums and historical
monuments present a unique experience for the visitor.
Principal places of interest in Guatemala City: The Metropolitan
Cathedral: located in the Main Plaza, it was built according to
neo-Classical architectural standards. It holds paintings,
altarpieces, and expressive samples of colonial religious
The Cerrito del Carmen: considered a historical jewel, it
possesses the first temple built in the Valley of the Chapel.
Inaugurated in 1620, it displays a beautiful altarpiece in true
colonial style. The Main Market: it is situated in back of the
Metropolitan Cathedral, underneath the Plaza of the Tabernacle.
Here, besides basic consumer goods, a great variety of
handicrafts made throughout the country can be purchased:
ceramics, textiles, leather goods, wood products, and
Relief Map of Guatemala: made in 1904, it shows in detail the
great altitude variations in the Republic of Guatemala. It
occupies an area of approximately 2,160 square yards (1,800 sq.
The National Palace: this is one of the great works of
Guatemalan architecture. Its eclectic style is a mixture of
Guatemalan colonial architecture with French and neo-Classical
influences. It is one of the best expressions of Guatemalan
artists of the 1940s.
Miguel Ángel Asturias Cultural Center: the cultural center is
located in the city's civic center where there are buildings
with murals painted by the great personalities of Guatemalan
plastic art who first integrated art into architecture. It has a
large opera house, a theater, an open-air theater, small plazas,
rehearsal halls, workshops, conference rooms, and a museum of
Centenary Park: Some fountains and an unusual musical kiosk
accompany pleasant gardens here. Concord Park: This park is the
best stage to enjoy the widest variety of street spectacles from
puppet shows to pantomimes to evangelists, not to mention
United Nations Park: Located to the north of Lake Amatitlán,
recreational areas, forests, and a panoramic view all are here,
in addition to an area in which reproductions of Guatemalan
architectural monuments can be seen, like a colonial plaza, the
Main Plaza of Tikal, and typical homes of the Guatemalan
The Main Plaza constitutes the heart of the historical center of
the city, and it is surrounded by significant monuments: the
National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Portal of
Commerce, and the Centenary Park. A few steps away is the
National Library, the Newspaper and Periodicals Library, and the
General Archives of Central America. The principal museums of
the city are the following: the Museum of Handicrafts, the Fray
Francisco Vásquez Museum, the Native Clothing Museum, the
Archaeology and Ethnology Museum, the National Modern Art
Museum, the Arts and Popular Industries Museum, the National
Museum of Natural History, and the Popol Vuh Museum.
This land of stunningly beautiful countrysides and high
mountains has been inhabited for time immemorial by different
indigenous groups. Huehuetenango, a Nahualt name meaning the
City of the Ancient Ones, is the capital of the Huehuetenango
department, and it is built over what was once a suburb of the
Mam Kingdom capital in the pre-Conquest period.
Located in the wet Tropics, the department of Izabal is the
essence of the Guatemalan Caribbean. This land of plains and
hills is flanked by the incredible Sarstún and Motagua Rivers.
In the fertile valley near the banks of the Motagua River,
Quiriguá flourished. This magnificent city of the Ancient Maya
Empire is today one of the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO. The
capital of the department is Puerto Barrios.
This department is famous for its glazed pottery. In the central
park of Jalapa, the capital of the department, there is an
interesting, ancient petrified tree.
Located in the Guatemala por Descubrir range, this department's
capital is Jutiapa, one of the most important commercial and
transportation centers in an area which produces tobacco,
coffee, sugarcane, and dairy products. In this department,
located on the El Salvador-Guatemala border, is Lake Güija, a
refreshing spot in an otherwise hot climate.
In the nation's Southwest, extending from the cold altiplano to
the hot Pacific Coast, is the department of Quetzaltenango,
famous for having the oldest colonial buildings in the nation,
as it was here that the first conquistadores settled. This
lovely department also stands out for its impressive and varied
geography; numerous volcanoes, hot springs, valleys, mountains,
and rivers allow for the production of an assortment of crops
like coffee, wheat, and vegetables as well as for cattle and
The department capital, Retalhuleu, can be found at kilometer
184 on the International Pacific Highway. Its ancient parish
church is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the
department. In the municipality of Al Asintal, nine miles away
(15 km.), is Abaj Takalik, an interesting archaeological site
among whose superb archaeological pieces are some from the
oldest glyptic year of the New World. In the south of the
department of Retalhuleu is the municipality of Champerico which
has black-sand beaches and one of the most important ports in
the southern part of the Republic.
This country of lush vegetation is at the mercy of rough, sudden
changes: two of the main faults of the continent are found in
this area. The capital of the department is the city of Antigua.
Este departamento es famoso porque posee el pico más alto del
país y de Centroamérica: El volcán Tajumulco . Su cabecera de
departamento es San Marcos.
This department is famous for having the highest peak in the
country and all of Central America: Tajumulco Volcano. San
Marcos is the department capital.
Located in the western part of the nation, Sololá is
characterized by its indigenous folklore and traditions. Under
clouds and volcanoes, the Tzutuhil and the Cakchiquel, ethnic
groups of Mayan descent, carry on with their traditional
indigenous culture. Handicrafts, especially fabric-making, are
their principal industry. The capital of the Sololá department
is the city by the same name.
The city of Mazatenango, department capital, is a recommended
visit, as is the municipality of San Antonio Suchitepéquez,
seven miles away (11 km.). Located here is the largest sugar
refinery of the Republic: Ingenio Palo Gordo.
Because this is one of the highest departments of the country,
it is also one of the coldest. The beautiful religious and civic
buildings preserved here coupled with the fact that the
inhabitants of the area still carry out religious rituals passed
down from their ancestors make Totonicapán one of the main
draws for tourism. The department capital is Totonicapán.
Heading towards the Zacapa department on the Panamerican
Highway, enormous tobacco plantations and vineyards can be
visited. Zacapa, the department capital, offers hotels,
restaurants, and spas with restrooms for guests. Zacapa is known
for its parish church, named San Pedro de Zacapa