The 3 Best Ways to Experience Guatemala’s Mayan Culture

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For those travelers seeking to fully immerse themselves in a fascinating, ancient culture in the heart of the Mayan World, Guatemala provides experiences that promise to both enlighten and educate visitors while using all five senses. From seeing ancient ruins and retracing steps of legendary leaders in the jungle to hearing more than 20 dialects, witnessing sacred ceremonies and tasting traditional cuisine, Guatemala offers an authentic opportunity to learn about the Mayan culture in numerous ways. Below are three options to consider when visiting. 

  • Visit an ancient Mayan city
    Home to thousands of Mayan ruins, many that were previously powerful cities, Guatemala provides an interesting glimpse into every single period of this fascinating civilization. Your clients can see countless well-preserved structural remains, such as pyramids, carved stones and other structures. Among the top, must-see sites for your clients to visit is Tikal National Park. In addition to seeing a multitude of wildlife, travelers can explore the ground of what was a major pre-Columbian political, economic and military center of the Mayans. Not too far from Tikal is the site of Yaxha, one of the largest Mayan sites in the country made famous in the “Survivor” television series. Here, travelers are encouraged to climb Templo 216 to enjoy the stunning natural surroundings. On the Caribbean coast, consider visiting Quirigua to see the highest sculpted monument, “Stela E,” and other stelas built by Cielo Cauc, Quirigua’s ancient ruler.
  • See and meet living Mayan descendants
    With 22 different Mayan ethnic groups, each one with its own language, gastronomy and cultural expressions, there is much to experience. Their colorful, traditional dress, textiles, handicrafts and trade practices can be observed in places such as Chichicastenango (Quiche), Huehuetenango, Lake Atitlan and Quetzaltenango.
  • Watch a Mayan ceremony, or consider participating in one!
    When visiting the Chichicastenango market, the scene on the steps of the 400-year-old Santo Tomas Church is inevitable. Visitors will witness the interesting juxtaposition between the Catholic religion and Mayan tradition as the church was built atop a pre-Hispanic Mayan temple. Eighteen steps, each representing a month of the Maya calendar, that originally led to the entrance of the temple now provide access to the church. Travelers will see Kiche Mayan priests performing rituals on these steps, often burning incense and candles while chanting prayers. For more information, visit visitguatemala.com.

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