The Guatemalan people have an extremely rich culture and heritage. They are also known for being very welcoming and friendly, and it is no wonder that native Guatemalans who live abroad often return home to visit. In this article we will explore three cities that capture the heritage of the Guatemalan people, including the ancient ruins of Tikal, the European-conquered city of Antigua and the more modern Guatemala City, all spots where Guatemalans visiting home can explore to reconnect with their heritage.
Mayan Ruins of Tikal Tikal is one of the most impressive ceremonial cities in all of Latin America. Visiting this city that was lived in from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D will give Guatemalans a deep understanding of how their earliest ancestors lived. Set squarely in the middle of a remote jungle, visiting Tikal is a unique tropical adventure. This UNESCO Heritage Site was home to over 100,000 people and contained 3,000 buildings, including more than two dozen major pyramids, many of which you can still walk among today. At one time the capital of all of Mayan civilization, stepping foot in Tikal provides a perspective on how it dominated the surrounding regions economically, militarily and politically. You can check out pyramids, tombs, palaces, temples and other buildings, many of which remain extraordinarily well preserved thanks to efforts from archaeologists over the decades. Strolling around this city that has been largely overtaken by the surrounding jungle is truly a special experience, teaching you about your roots and reminding you how far the Guatemalan people have come.
Antigua To learn more about post-Mayan Guatemalan heritage, Antigua is a great city to visit (or revisit if you have already spent time there). Antigua has stunning scenery and architecture, and was once the capital city of Guatemala. Visiting is like stepping back in time to get a sense of how your colonial-era ancestors lived. The city is UNESCO World Heritage-listed and even chain stores and restaurants must operate out of buildings with traditional facades. You will gain an appreciation for Guatemala’s colonial history as you wander the beautiful pastel-colored colonial buidlings and occasional ruins still left behind. Despite the colonial feel, Antigua is very much alive and offers a ton of new places you might not know of, including great bars, restaurants, shops and markets to visit. You can also stop by a cooking school to make sure you learn or relearn to prepare some traditional Guatemalan dishes, it will make living abroad just a little easier if you can replicate some of your own childhood delicacies.
Guatemala City Many Guatemalans love to spend time in Guatemala City when they visit their home country. As the biggest city in Central America, and with a more modern feel than Antigua, visiting will immediately remind you of how energetic and friendly the city is. Make sure to spend time seeing the beautiful architecture, eating some caldos and tamales colorados and enjoying the weather of your childhood. You can also stop by one of Guatemala City’s museums, where you may learn something new about Guatemalan history, culture and more. And since the city is fast becoming a cultural landmark with its growing music and art scenes, it may have changed since your last visit. Set aside some time to support local talent and enjoy a show, or stop by an art gallery to see up and coming Guatemalan musicians and artists. A Thanksgiving visit to Guatemala is the sort of trip you may need to recharge and get in touch with your roots. Check out these three Guatemalan cities for a dive into the ancient, colonial and modern times of this vibrant country that will always be home for you, no matter where in the world you currently live.