GUATEMALA - With its stunning Maya artefacts, villages and monuments, and incredible natural landmarks such as Pacaya Volcano and Lake Atitlan, there is little wonder that the country, which borders Mexico and Honduras, is fast becoming a tourist hotspot, with more than $1.42 billion generated through tourism last year, and increased figures expected at the end of 2013.
Lileana Martinez, Director of Martsam Travel, a Guatemalan holiday specialist with a variety of leisure and corporate travel options, says, "The cultural heritage of this wonderful country, combined with the natural landscapes, the historic explorations and authentic shopping experiences provide a fantastic opportunity for tourists to enjoy. Guatemala is creating a tourist infrastructure that allows thousands of holidaymakers to experience this vibrant country in all its glory, whether they want a cosmopolitan city break or a trek through the wilderness by an active volcano. There is something for everyone in this beautiful country."
One of the greatest attractions in the country is the Guatemala Highlands, which are a region of incredible natural beauty. The cultural differences here offer a unique experience for travellers, who are welcomed with open arms into Maya villages, and are taught how to weave and paint according to ancient techniques. Coffee plantations and active volcanoes provide great backdrops for hiking with all the family, in an area that is largely untouched by modern man.
For those who want to immerse themselves further in Maya traditions, one of the largest Maya handicrafts markets in the world takes place every Thursday and Sunday in Chichicastenango, in the El Quiche region of the country. Handmade gifts and goods are sold to travellers and tourists alike, and those visiting can get a feel for the real traditions and conventions of those who live and work in the country.
Perfect for children is the All Saints Day Giant Kite Festival of Guatemala, which takes place on November 1st. The people of Santiago Sacatepequez celebrate the 'Day of the Dead' by flying huge colourful kites around their town. The kites are treasured possessions to the people of the town, and they bring inhabitants much honour and the respect of their peers, so preparations start for the festival months in advance. The colourful designs fly against a blazing sky in a show that would be the highlight of any family holiday in this beautiful, highly cultural and unique country.