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Guatemala is famous for the vividly colored handwoven textiles that locals expertly craft into everything from hammocks to purses. And there’s no better place to shop for these fashion finds than at Central America’s largest indigenous market in Chichicastenango, a highland community two hours north of Guatemala City. Rivaling the most extensive of malls and unfolding on the cobblestone streets of the central plaza Thursdays and Sundays, the market draws more than 300 vendors from all over the country. A vast array of wares — including handcrafted instruments, baskets, ceramics, blankets, and produce — fill the stalls from every angle. But what to buy? For those shoppers keen on souvenirs that reflect Guatemala’s rich Mayan heritage, here are our five key picks.
Being able to speak the language in a foreign country allows you to interact with locals and experience their culture on a deeper level. If you’re looking to beef up your espanol, try turning your next vacation into a learning experience by enrolling in a full-immersion program at one of these Spanish-speaking countries around the world.
Tikal National Park, home to what was once the capital of a powerful Mayan kingdom, has been uninhabited by anyone but spider monkeys for more than a thousand years. If you’re looking to be transported — or hankering to get back to nature — this UNESCO World Heritage Site provides the perfect off-radar escape.
Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1 to honor the deceased. The festivities run from October 31 through November 2 and are also observed outside of Mexico in other Latin American countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador — as well as in regions with large Latino populations, such as the U.S. If you haven’t yet had the chance to see the revelry in person, these stunning photos will give you a taste of the lightheartedly macabre celebration.
We’re game to celebrate nearly every food- or drink-focused holiday (National Margarita Day, anyone?), so we’re excited that August is Rum Month. Rum is the elixir of both swash-buckling pirates and bleary-eyed Caribbean travelers alike. But some folks have rum misconceptions: They think only of umbrella-topped super-sweet frozen drinks or unimaginative soda mixes from their young-adult years. We’re here to open your eyes to a brave new world of this sugar cane-based liquid miracle. Beyond plain Bacardi, there are hundreds of varieties of rum — some as premium as any top-shelf cognac.
These 21 bars from coast-to-coast (and points in between) are serving up choice cocktails this month using rums you may not have heard of before. And don’t forget that Saturday, August 16 is officially National Rum Day. So raise a glass and say, “Aaar!”
Cyber Monday is too long to have to wait for snagging great hotel deals, so we are pleased to see that a group of hotels have put together their own promotion and are calling it CyberSummer. On June 21, starting at midnight, 21 hotels and resorts in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean will be offering online deals, including four-diamond resorts for $99 a night, five-star hotels offering 50 percent savings, and free nights. Featured hotels include Casa Palopó in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (pictured above); the JW Marriott, Cusco, Peru, and the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort in Florida. Read more
Most travelers in Guatemala head straight to Antigua for the Volcan Pacaya, the area’s most popular attraction. But there’s much more to explore in and around the city. From learning the art of chocolate making to immersing yourself in artisan culture to enjoying free live music shows, Antigua has a little bit of something for everyone. Here are a few simple suggestions to help you plan your trip: Read more
Last month we gave you a pictorial run-down of 11 Otherworldly Snow and Ice Festivals Around the Globe. Now, in honor of the brave folks who are dealing with the snow and cold that’s cutting directly through the northeast, we bring you another slideshow that’s a little toastier: Fire Festivals from Around the World.
Included are festivals from Scotland, to Japan, to Guatemala. A few of these festivals are celebrated to mark the beginning of spring – such as Iran’s Sadeh festival, which honors fire and light over darkness. So settle in, warm up, and remind yourself: there are less than 40 days until the end of winter.
The approach of Thanksgiving usually means readying yourself for the shopping frenzy that comes immediately after. Luckily, with these Cyber Monday hotel deals, you don’t have to brave the cold and the lines and can snap up a bargain, and mentally transport yourself to a sunny beachfront hotel (or the snowy ski slopes, if you prefer), from the comfort of your own home.
For all offers, conditions and blackout dates may apply; read the fine print. Read more
Just because you don’t yet have vacation plans as the first day of summer approaches doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Get in on a hot hotel deal with CyberSummer, a one-day only sale that begins at midnight EDT on the summer solstice – this Friday, June 21! Travelers will be able to find exclusive online deals, including four-diamond resort stays from $99/night, five-star hotels offering 50 percent savings, free nights, and more. Want examples? Here are a few, just to whet your vacation appetite. Read more
The date – which marks the end of the Maya long-term calendar and, so say doomsday theorists, the end of the world – is expected to bring a surge of visitors to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador, the countries of the Mundo Maya. But even if you’re not headed there, you’ll surely be hearing about the hype of 12/21/12: the good, the bad, and the completely unfounded.
Enter Shannon Kring Buset, a world traveler, director, and tour guide to Maya lands who spent 18 months researching her award-winning documentary, 2012: The Beginning. In the film, Kring Buset dispels various doomsday myths through interviews with the world’s leading Maya archeologists, scholars, astronomers, shamans, and living Maya. “The people, places, stories, rituals, and even animals of the Maya world, both past and present, have enriched my life and the world in ways those of us in Western cultures are just beginning to understand,” she says. “I believe we owe it to them to enter their lands with respect and reverence, and to bring home the truth about this still great culture.”
Here are five of the most persistent myths, debunked. Fascinating stuff, no matter where you’ll be on the big day. Read more
March 20, the spring equinox, marks the first major date of 2012 for the Maya Long Count calendar. The hype has already caused a bump in tourism at many already-popular sites throughout the Mundo Maya, but with a little advance planning, you can carve out some solitude (and preserve your sanity) while contemplating the enduring mysteries of the Maya civilization at their remarkable ruins.
While visiting the sites of Chichén Itza, Cobá and Tulum in the Riviera Maya, I was fortunate enough to have access to Dr. Julia Miller, an archeologist specializing in Maya culture and architecture and tour guide for the Mérida-based operator Catherwood Travels. Below, a rundown of some of Miller’s input from my incessant questions, as well as some practical tips on how to maximize your visit to the Mundo Maya. Read more
If your hometown is suffused by a wintry chill, the idea of a family vacation to Antigua may pack appeal. But before your thoughts turn to beachside resorts, let’s clarify that I don’t mean the English-speaking Caribbean island of Antigua, but the relatively warm colonial town of La Antigua Guatemala, where speaking English will be secondary to learning Spanish at one of several schools.
“The great bonder for families is all to plunge into a new activity from scratch, and for many kids seeing pop stumble over a new language can be fun, memorable, and educational,” suggests Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor at Lonely Planet. A few Spanish-language schools in La Antigua provide not just traditional instruction but also an immersive home stay, where Reid says “four hours of study, room and board with a local family runs from $125 per person.” That’s per week.
You gotta love a woman who tells her boss that she refuses to make coffee for him – in the 1970s, no less. No surprise, then, that Carole Latimer, an adventurous entrepreneur from California, was subsequently fired from her job – and went on to found Call of the Wild (www.callwild.com), a women-only outfitter that blended her passions for adventure travel and empowering women.
Latimer, who now serves on the advisory board, was clearly on to something when she started the company in 1978. Women’s-only travel has since exploded, especially in the adventure sector, and Call of the Wild was a pioneer in that growth. It’s the longest-running company of its kind, with an impressive repeat client booking rate of 55 percent.
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