May 13th 2021

Guatemala

Traveler: Kellen Krause
Destination: Guatemala

On a trip with friends, Kellen Krause marveled at the rich, natural beauty of Guatemala, and its mix of Mayan ruins, remote villages, Baroque influence, and celebrated historic towns.

Just before the world shut down, I had the adventure of a lifetime with friends as we traversed Guatemala. The stunning beauty of the country is continual encouragement for days spent at a desk, working to create the most beautiful places we can muster.

Tikal

Guatemala is the heart of the Mayan civilization. We began our trip by visiting the ruins of Tikal, nestled deep in a northern rainforest. The Mayans’ incredible advancements in sciences and technology are as breathtaking as the physical city they developed.

Lago de Atitlán

Our thrills continued with some zip-lining and cliff jumping, and a boat tour of Lago de Atitlán in southwest Guatemala. Tucked around the perimeter are villages where traditional Maya culture lives on, as vibrant as the various languages reflecting their remoteness. To this day, some villages remain accessible only by boat.

Ciudad Cayalá

Standing in gleaming contrast to these historic places is the new town of Cayalá, which continues to grow along an underutilized spine through Guatemala City. Ringed by recent sprawl that sacrificed walkable neighborhoods, Cayalá shines as an example of the wonderful quality of life good urban planning can support.

Old Town of Antigua

Formerly the capital, Antigua is rife with vernacular one- and two-story dwellings with Baroque influence that have survived many earthquakes. Its gridded plan follows the classic Cardo and Decumanus crossing main streets, hallmarks of Roman town planning. Here, the Santa Catalina Arch (originally a passage for cloistered nuns), frames the landscape beyond. A stunning variety of local architectural idiosyncrasies unfold at each new block and enliven the town.

Volcán de Acatenango

On one of our last evenings, we set foot at midnight for Volcán de Acatenango. Reaching the summit just in time for the sunrise, nearby Volcán de Fuego erupted its continual sea of sparks and embers with Antigua in the distance.

Sunrise at the summit; photo by my friend Rodrigo Bollat

For all of the magnificent architecture we saw and experienced, seeing the awesome beauty of nature from the height of Acatenango was a capstone to our adventure. It begged a reminder to be stewards of our environment: to build lasting places that matter.