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Indigenous customs thrive in the towns and villages that dot the unblemished mountain countryside of Guatemala’s Western Highlands. Shop for souvenirs at market days, watch time-honored religious ceremonies, join hikes to volcano summits and rejuvenate the body at hot springs. The Western Highlands region stretches from Antigua to the Mexican border. Its natural beauty is made up of pine forests, placid lakes, lush green valleys and soaring mountains.
In Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala’s second city, Maya customs blend harmoniously with colonial relics and a lively nightlife that buzzes with the energy of the large population of university students. Treks to Volcán Chicabal and Volcán Santa María present opportunities for outdoor adventure. Bathe in volcanically heated springs at Almolonga and Zunil. More Maya activities await in Olintepeque while San Francisco El Alto is popular for its markets.
Head into the Cuchumatanes mountain range, home to Central America’s tallest non-volcanic peaks. The lifestyle of the Mam people, who are Maya descendants, is visible in San Juan Atitan and Todos Santos Cuchumatan. Spot men wearing typical striped red shorts and women in purple huipiles (woven tunic).
Visit Chichicastenango, in the El Quiché department, for one of the country’s best craft markets. About an hour’s drive from here are the Maya ruins of K’umarkaaj. The villages of Nebaj, San Gaspar Chajul and San Juan Cotzal form the isolated Ixil Triangle. Ixil Maya heritage thrives here and native dialects are more common than Spanish.
Below El Quiché, volcanoes and the expansive Lake Atitlán dominate the Sololá Department. On the lake’s eastern shores, Sololá, Panajachel, Santa Catarina Palopo and San Antonio Palopo have thriving arts and crafts scenes. San Pedro la Laguna is a haven for backpackers and the jumping-off point for excursions to Volcán San Pedro. Browse Maya art in San Juan de la Laguna and join scuba-diving tours at Santa Clara la Laguna.
Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport is most visitors' entry point to Guatemala. The airport at Quetzaltenango also welcomes flights from major cities across the USA and Central America. Get around via the colorful intercity “chicken” buses for authentic travel adventures by road.
*Savings based on all vacation package bookings with Flight + Hotel on Expedia.com from January through December 2017, as compared to price of the same components booked separately. Savings will vary based on origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings not available on all packages. For Free Flight or 100% Off Flight deals, package savings is greater than or equal to the current cost of one component, when both are priced separately.