First time visitors to Guatemala often comment on the colors on display. I am not just talking about the stunning colors of the flowers, clothing, buses, birds and scenery. There are abundant opportunities to observe the physical colors of the country. But more importantly, the people themselves lead colorful lives and this is woven throughout Guatemalan culture and is the very fabric of their society.
We were fortunate enough to be in Guatemala over Christmas and New Year to celebrate a family reunion. Guatemalans enjoy a party and they make plenty of (happy) noise in going about it. Lots of food, laughter and good times and at night the fireworks and crackers come out to play.
It is a riot of noise and color leaving you wanting more.
I was so impressed, I’m writing about everyday life providing you a glimpse of what Guatemala is like by featuring pictures of Guatemala – Celebrations, Colors, Places, Flowers and The Unusual.
Pictures of Guatemala: Celebrations
If you happen to attend a Guatemalan Christmas function, then you are in for a real treat. Plenty of food, maybe a pig on the spit, and plenty of beverages to help wash the feast down. And presents galore for the children running around playing games.
Guatemalans kiss upon meeting, so partying is a joyous festivity!
Many public activities, especially in beautiful Antigua, allow whole communities to celebrate together. It is a lovely mix of people from all generations and walks of life.
There is also no holding back on fireworks and crackers at Christmas and New Year’s. Here in Guatemala it is completely legal to buy your own fireworks and to set them off. Unfortunately, spoil-sport governments at home have long since banned this activity. Hmmm!
Yes, and a word of warning. Firecrackers explode every 6 hours at 6am, midday, 6pm and midnight, every day it seems from a few days before Christmas until well into the New Year.
Pictures of Guatemala: Colors
It is not just the colorful people on display. You can’t help but notice the magnificent colors of the traditional Guatemalan clothing, especially in places like Antigua, Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan.
Although some of these clothes are now mass-produced, you will still observe many fine examples of them being hand-woven the same way they have for generations, with these skills being handed down from one generation to the next. The textile patterns and style vary by region and even a visitor notices distinct differences in attire from town to town.
Clothing and accessories sell for incredibly cheap prices at the many markets around the country. The colors can be mesmerizing. Simply stunning!
Not to miss out, the local buses, chicken buses, are maybe even more colorful than the clothing. It’s not just the odd bus that is colorful, it is every single one of them. OK they may belch a little oil, but they more than make up for it with their personality and the loads of luggage, market supplies and, of course, chickens being carried on the roof racks. It is one of the great sights of Guatemala.
Pictures of Guatemala: The Places
Antigua, without doubt, the best preserved, Spanish-Colonial town in all the Americas. That’s a big claim. The original, Spanish capital of all Central America, was founded in 1524 but abandoned in its heyday following a severe earthquake in 1773. When the city was re-established, the authorities strictly controlled renovations and repairs. The result is a magnificent town still exhibiting all its Spanish colonial features and architecture. It truly is like walking through a living museum and earns its designation as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Chichicastenango in the highlands of Guatemala, has the largest market in the country, opening from dawn each Thursday and Sunday. Here you will find vegetables, clothing and souvenirs, all with those magnificent colors. Don’t miss the beautiful church, Iglesia de Santo Tomás. Here on the steps of the church, you will find many floral (and alcoholic) offerings as well as clouds of non-stop incense burning. “Chichi” is an institution and something you should not miss.
Panajachel, Lake Atitlan. Here is your chance to visit this magnificent lake, surrounded by volcanoes. It is a stunning sight and one of the best views in all Central America. The main town, Panajachel, also has a great market, albeit smaller than “Chichi”. Sitting at a lakeside restaurant taking in that view, is one of those unforgettable moments.
From Antigua, you can take a day trip combining market day at “Chichi” and then onto Panajachel.
Tikal is the Mayan highlight of Guatemala. Reputed to date back to the first century AD, it is a must see. It is, of course, a world heritage site of some 222 square miles (576 square kilometers). See why the Mayans are so revered and well-studied, even to this day.
Pictures of Guatemala: Flowers
I don’t profess to be an expert on flowers, but the volume and range of flowers on display in Guatemala, especially in Antigua, is just staggering. Especially against those beautifully painted walls.
Behind those walls are many courtyards that are simply beautiful. There are many restaurants in Antigua offering Al-fresco style experiences with magnificent flowers and terraces. It is an opportunity you should not miss.
Oh, and the poinsettias and bougainvillea just must be seen to be believed.
Pictures of Guatemala: The Unusual
It’s not just the flowers, places, colors and celebrations of Guatemala making Guatemala memorable, mother nature helps as well.Guatemala has its fair share of volcanoes as well, with many of them what you would call picture perfect settings truly deserving of postcard status. And 3 of them are still active to this day.
And the country is also blessed with some unusual birds as well. Guatemala’s currency is named after the quetzal, a striking bird with a very long tail. And then there are macaws, toucans and so on. If you are into birding, you will find many exotic species here.
Guatemala has all the sights and is a photographer’s paradise. I hope we have persuaded you it is deserving of your attention as a great place to visit.