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Published: December 10th 2004
A NEW CONCEPT OF TRAVEL AND TOURISM. FOR THE WHOLE OF CENTRAL AMERICA! ...
Launched about a year ago in order to put online consumers who seek travel and tourism experts in El Salvador, Guatemala and the rest of Central America, the Polyglots "Freedom in Paradise" Tours is gradually becoming an online destination both for business people and tourists who plan to visit El Salvador and the neighboring countries, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in addition to Costa Rica and Panama. Our local travel expert network offers you in detail knowledge of travel activities starting from vacationing, surfing and diving to honeymoon journeys, adventure tourism, visiting the marvelous Maya World and more.
What makes us different...
Most websites related to the travel industry and tourism only offer online self-service options where consumers can book their flights and hotel rooms or even rent cars and make arrangement for some tours. These online reservation engines cannot offer personalized recommendations with a human touch, which most often improve the quality of a trip, save the consumer time and money and eventually make sure that a traveler get the most out of his business or vacation trip. Central America Language Tours offers such personalized services directly to the consumer through strategic alliances and links with other tourism operators in the area, offer personal services of guides and interpreters on the terrain not just in English but also in French, German and Spanish by natives speakers and students.
The guides employed by Central America Language Tours are not just “journey companions” or “drivers”. They are Experts, are well experienced in travel and very knowledgeable of the different areas visited. All the guides of Central America Language Tours live and work at the destinations that they represent and can offer advice from first hand knowledge about how to ‘improve’ a vacation. A guide, with a vast knowledge of the culture, climate and attractions that should be seen and such that should be avoided, helps the traveler construct his most ideal vacations.
The personalized services of tourist guides offered by Central America Language Tours have proven to be especially useful for visitors interested in new and unique destinations such as El Salvador and Guatemala. They need recommendations replete with knowledge if they wish to undertake a new activity such as “white water rafting”, diving or escalating volcanoes. In addition to that, Central America Language Tours offers its vast travel experience to the community of international volunteers, students of the Spanish language, incapacitated travelers, people of the third age and travelers in a family group
"Central America Language Tours" is part of The Polyglots www.thepolyglots.com a multilingual organization which provides direct guiding and interpreting services to business or pleasure travelers who arrive, or already have their base, in El Salvador or Guatemala. Through our strategic alliance with other local tour operators, Central America Language Tours as a focal liaison point, can make arrangements for the traveler in his own language directly and not through an intermediary and provide all the ground services, including accommodation, transportation and tours for a price that can be adapted to the traveler’s budget. We also offer group discounts, discounts for international volunteers and their family members and for incapacitated people or third age travelers.
Central America or Meso-America is the continent that connects North America from Mexico to South America at the northern tip of Colombia, which borders on Panama.The countries that make up Central America are Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. All Spanish speaking countries. Belize at the north-eastern part of Central America is English speaking. The total population of Central America is about 30 million people made up of a mixture of indigenous and European races.
Although Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken in many parts of the region, especially on the Atlantic(Caribbean) coastlines of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and in the cosmopolitan Capital Cities of the region for business. Before independence from Spain was declared in 1821 all the nations except Panama(which was a Province of Colombia until 1900) were ruled from the Colonial Capital or “Capitanicy” in Guatemala, and these 5 nations share the same Independence Day holiday celebrated every September 15.
The Central American nations share in common the same colonial heritage, common land borders and often blood family connections as well as inter-Central American trade and tourism, with the exception of Costa Rica, visitors from one Central American nation to another make up the majority of “foreign travellers”, as well since the late 1970s over 4.5 Million Central Americans have emigrated abroad to study and work, the great majority to the United States, and during holiday periods especially Christmas-New Year’s Thousands upon Thousands known as “hermanos lejanos” (Brothers Far Away) return home to visit loved ones. These Brothers Far Away also send Billions of Dollars to families at home, in El Salvador these Remesas (remittances) from abroad represent some 35% of the yearly Gross National Product. Each nation has a distinct culture from Guatemala with it’s huge Highland Indingenous Maya-Quiche population, with 28 distinct dialects that are still spoken to the Black Garifuna North Coast of Honduras, where English Creole is the native tongue. However, the great majority of Central Americans are of the “mestizo” or mixed-race and dominate in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The Region therefore offers the foreign visitor great diversity within a relatively small area, boasting hundreds of miles of Beaches, Lakes, Tropical Islands, Rain and Cloud Forest, National Parks and Nature Preserves, and with the exception of Honduras, hundreds of Volcanoes, some still active. One of our great treasures is our “Mundo Maya” - “The Mayan World” which El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras share with Belize and Mexico.
El Salvador boasts the Ruins of Joya de Ceren, called the “Pompeii of the Americas”, the only non-royal Mayan Site, a typical Mayan village buried under volcanic ash some 1400 years and preserved today, in Guatemala do not miss the majestic ruins of Tikal and in Honduras we have the “Jewel of the Mayan World” Copan and much much more. Nicaragua entices the visitors with it enormous inland lakes, charming colonial cities such as Granada and Leon, Market town of Masaya, miles of Pacific Beaches and the exotic Corn Islands in the blue Caribbean Sea. Costa Rica, which has seen a stable democracy since 1948, is the number one destination for visitors on the Isthmus and Costa Rica’s tourism infrastructure ranks second to none in the region although it’s southern neighbor, Panama is developing this rapidly and “catching up” to it’s northern neighbor in both attracting visitors, business travellers and investors and retirees.
WOMEN EX PATS LIVING AND WORKING IN CENTRAL AMERICA PLUS SOME ADVICES FOR WOMEN TRAVELING TO THE REGION................
I asked a close Woman ex-pat friend of mine living in El Salvador for some time now to write her own experiences and thoughts to share with you, so we temporarily leave “Mars” and go to “Venus”:
By Ms. Kristie L. Utzler, native of USA, resident in San Salvador, El Salvador
“After leaving the USA due to lack of job prospects, I discovered a new world in El Salvador - a land of opportunity for the ex-pat entrepreneur..at first things appear difficult: the language: the lack of connections(which is mandatory to get things done here) and being in a country where ex-pat Women are on sight noted as different. However, with perserverance and a postive attitude both in business and traveling about, El Salvador can be a world like no other. I have found that being an “outsider” has its advantages too - I look upon this country with fresh eyes and have traveled over more of the land than the majority of those who have lived their entire lives here. From the Volcanoes, to the Beaches to the quaint Colonial Towns, there is so much to do and see, and all is possible within in short day drives on newly paved roads out of the capital city. At first I was worried about the “reputation” of El Salvador and the State Department warnings regarding traveling around, but so much has changed here since the Civil War ended in late 1992, over a decade ago. The economy is strong for business investors and just keeps moving upward and the Government is currently working on funding for Travel & Tourism to attract more visitors. El Salvador may be considered remote and “ground level” now but like the Stock Market - always best time to buy in” If you wish to E mail me please do so at email@example.com with subject =Ref: Donald Lee to. Kristie Utzler.(Kristie now is operating a sucessful catering business and has a baby on the way)
SAFETY.....AND A SUPRISE!
There is no mass tourism in El Salvador, Guatemala Nicaragua, Honduras as exists in parts of Mexico and Costa Rica(resort areas) and foreign visitors, especially Women, do attract attention, however from “Mars” again who knows(I was young once too) “Machismo” is only skin deep and you have nothing to fear but perhaps a bruised ego when young men on the street stare and whistle, they feel they are “complementing” you. Simply stare ahead and ignore, they will go away. In situations involving social contact with strangers do politely decline offers of “dates” or “rides” and never give out your address, hotel room number or planned itinerary to anyone except your Tour Operator, Travel Agency and Guide. While on tour, leave your Passport(carry a photocopy with you), Credit Cards and other valuables in the Hotel Safe, carry enough cash for small purchases in the countryside and in general use common sense, if there are any disputes on tour of any kind with locals let your Guide or Driver handle them. (For example on a recent excursion to Nicaragua police demanded a bribe from our Driver, I handed him the money, he paid off the police and we went on). We utilize only Insured Vehicles and none of our drivers “hot rod”, we also provide Guide and Transport in the capital city at night if requested. And now the Suprise......
Some two years ago, in reaction to assualts on some tourists in remote areas the government of El Salvador instituted a special program whereby all foreign vistors in groups of 2 or more people either renting vehicles or hiring Tour Operators are entitled to a uniformed Salvadorian National Tourist Police escort of 1 or more officers depending upon group size from dawn until dusk anywhere with in the borders of El Salvador at no charge. If officers, of course, must stay overnight with you, then expenses of food and lodging are paid. Tipping is encouraged at end of tour. This service is unique in Central America and includes Adventure and Eco Tours such as Volcano climbing, often so dangerous in the past because of assaults, still common in neighboring Guatemala.
Now our El Salvador “Mini Guide”
By the way “one photo is worth a thousnad words” so check out Salvadorian-American Sr. Douglas Ortiz’s great El Salvador travel site with several “virtual tours” at http://www.4elsalvador.com By the way if you live in Southern California and wish to fly here out of LAX, Douglas operates a Travel Agency in Los Angeles specializing in budget flights to Central American points do take the virtual tours then c’mon down amigo or amiga!
25 volcanoes, one-Izalco-which can be viewed from nearbyCerro Verde Park - is still smoking!: A cloud forest with a stunning view of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from the Summit: Museum of the Revolution and El Mazote-Arambala Civil War Memorial Massacre sites: 200 miles of unspoiled and uncrowded Pacific Coast beaches, coves and bays; The best surfing in Central America; Colonial and indigenous villages where time has stood still; humungous arts and crafts, visit several towns dedicated over to the making of these native crafts, such as La Palma in the North and Ilobasco in the East of the country; You will find throughout all of El Salvador friendly and industrious people, always ready to assist you and to practice their English(almost 60% of El Salvadorians have relatives living and working abroad). Most importantly, El Salvador is an uncrowded, exotic and suprise destination: no tourist hordes here!
WHEN TO GO?
Best time of year is the dry season from November through March. The weather is very hot and humid in April and May. Rainy season is late May through October, usually raining during the evenings. The sun shines 350 days a year in El Salvador! Don't go Easter Holy Week(Semana Santa), the first week of August(religious holidays) or mid-December through early January.(Christmas-New Years) unless you have family to stay with or prior reservations.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Flights are available from gateway cities in US: NY,DC, Atlanta, Miami, NO, Houston, Denver, LA and SF on TACA, Continental, Delta, American or United Airlines. Get a "Coupon Ticket" for Central & South America on TACA www.taca.com and stop over in El Salvador from Guatemala, Honduras ,Costa Rica, Mexico or South America at no extra charge. El Salvador has the most modern and efficent Airport in all Central America and therefore is the Hub of TACA Central American airlines.
Useful sites http://www.taca.com
By Land From Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua by land take the King Quality or TICA Bus Lines from all countries to San Salvador, The Pullmantur Bus from Guatemala only and the Trans-Nica Bus from Nicaragua only. All Buses are a/c with snacks, video and wc, prices vary so see a local Travel agent.
Useful site http://www.ticabus.com
The country is small, less than the size of the State of Maryland in the USA, and most attractions within the country can be visited within 3 to 4 days with rental car or on Tour. A word of advice - El Salvador is not kind to "low budget" backpackers nor independent travelers. Local transport is cheap, but crowded and there are no luggage racks. If traveling around on public transport leave luggages and valuables in hotel. Luxury, first and second class international bus services to and from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua daily with space for luggage.
Central America Language Tours is able to provide either coaster or minivan with driver for small to medium size groups at moderate prices. All vehicles are insured throughout Central America. Local guide service optional but suggested if you do not speak Spanish. Central America Language Tours for reasons of insurance and safety, does not accompany it’s clients on local public transport. Taxis are recommended in San Salvador evenings, frequent. Fix price with driver before entering the vehicle, generally $1.00 per km. $1.50 at night. Minimum fare $3.00, all taxis are yellow and clearly marked. Taxi Fare to Airport is approx. $25-30 however most First Class Hotels now have Airport Shuttle services from $6.00 for guests.
Montecristo Cloud Forest in Triunfo International Park, with views from the summit of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Orchid Farm. Guides. Camping. Permit required for vehicles 4WD recommended. Best dry season November-April.
Cerro Verde National Park, with its view of the smoking cone of Izalco Volacano. See item on ISTU below. Nearby Volcanic Lake Coatepeque with boat excursions and charming lodges.Beaches, Beaches and more Beaches. 300 Km.(200 miles) Of them including Bays, secluded coves and Mangroves. World Class Surfing at La Libertad’s Punta Roca, Sunzal and El Zonte Beaches, Deep Sea Fishing (Sailfish, Tuna, Dorado, Marlin) and Deep Sea Diving from Los Cobanos Beach in Western El Salvador and Sun Surf and Fish in Eastern El Salvador also from the famed Costa del Sol onwards to El Cuco and the exotic pristine pacific haunts of the “Wild East”.
BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION
Museum of the Revolution in Perquin, the former "Rebel Capital" during the Civil Conflict 1980-92. Located in Northeastern El Salvador near the Honduran border, tour the Musuem, Town and nearby massacre sites(1981-1982) of Aramabala and El Mazote, where there is a memorial to the fallen, Guide and 4WD vehicle recommended.
BEST ACTIVITY AND GUIDE
For the Eco Traveler we recommend El Imposible National Park with Visitors Center-Camping Areas-Nature Trails and Crystal Clear Rivers in a protected enviroment with guides on site. The guides do not charge fees but work on a basis of tipping from the client. Reservations and permit for each visitor required in advance. Contact Central America Language tours for more information. Recommended for physically fit, some trails are steep and involve strenuous activity. For those who prefer cultural, historical and walking tours Central America Language Tours will provide you with a bi-lingual guide if required to such marvelous destinations as Indingenous village of Panchimalco the restored colonial city of Suchitoto, the Mayan Ruins of Joya de Ceren (The “Pompeii of the Americas”), the Pyramids of San Andres and Tazumal and the newly renovated Ruins of Cihuatán Archaeological park all within a short drive of San Salvador.
Donald Lee, Manager of "Central America Language Tours" offers visitors to San Salvador a Free half day welcome tour including the Archaeological Musuem, Botanical Gardens and Arts and Crafts Market(Mercado de Artesinias) - guide service only - client provides admission fees and transport - the three locations are all located within 3 km. (2 miles) of one another. Reserve in advance E mail firstname.lastname@example.org for full particulars.
If a little bit nervous about visiting El Salvador for the first time due to it’s undeserved reputation and in a group of 3 or more persons, Central America Language Tours can hook you up with ISTU (Salvadorian Institute of Tourism) with a bi lingual Guide and Tourist Police escort at no extra charge to either the Nature Preserves of Cerro Verde in Western El Salvador near the volcanic Lake Coatepeque or Walter T. Denninger Tropical Forest at the slopes of the Pacific Ocean with it’s amazing bio diversity. No mass tourism Costa Rican style here enjoy but reservations ARE required in advance. National Tourist Police escorts are available for ALL groups of travelers ALL YEAR, ANYWHERE in El Salvador, however we must be notified at least 3 weeks in advance of your departure in order to make your arrangements. No charge for Police escort, however tipping is encouraged.
• For backpackers, try Ximenas Guest House in San Salvador. www.ximenasguesthouse.com Spanish language instruction available.
• For moderate travelers, there are dozens of charming Guest Houses and small family run B & B's located in tree lined residential neighborhoods of San Salvador, the capital city, some with pool. Contact Central America Language Tours for information and reservations. Also countryside and beach hotel/beach house and long term rentals. Rates from $25-$70 Double Occupancy depending services and location.
• For business and luxury travelers, The San Salvador Marriott 5 Star with a special rate $90 Double if reserving in advance from The Polyglots. If coming from Guatemala on the “Pullmantur” Bus which departs the Holiday Inn in Zone 10 of Guatemala City, there is a special $99 per person 2 nights in Marriott plus RT Transportation on weekends. See any Travel Agent in Guatemala and ask for the Pullmantur Special in El Salvador, a great way to experience both countries.
• The Salvadorian "Pupusa" is a must try, Pupusa places are everywhere, the best Pupusas come from “Olocuilta” south of San Salvador and are sold in the city.
• There are lots of the familiar fast food spots in San Salvador, in Metrocentro and other Malls try KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds. However try the Bohemian Zone near the National University for best specialty restaurants such as La Ventana, the most popular in town. Open late night on weekends to 3AM. For those with a taste for upscale international fare and late night disco dancing check out Colonia San Benito, San Salvador’s “Zona Rosa” patrolled by the PNC Tourist Police day and night.
BEST CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT
La Luna Casa de Arte- Ongoing Art Exhibitions and many, many cultural, artistic and musical endeavors. Stop by La Luna any night but Sunday to get oriented or check the Arts, Culture and Entertainment section of the papers and visit their site for schedules at http://www.lalunacasayarte.com Owned and operated by Salvadorian Women.
BEST LOCAL HAUNT
La Ventana near the National University. With a European cafe atmosphere, they do not mind if you sit and chat, nursing a beer. Located in the heart of San Salvador’s “Bohemian” district. Also Nancy’s American Bar, Santa Elena, 2 Blocks on right from US Embassy, operated by Ex Pat Nancy Farlow and The British Club, on Paseo Escalon, British Style Pub open every night at 5PM..all these places safe havens for Women travelers.
There are two great arts and crafts markets in San Salvador, The “Ex-Cuartel” a huge crafts bazaar located in downtown San Salvador and the smaller “Mercado de Artesinias” near the San Salvador Fairgrounds(be ready to bargain hard at both locations) along with dozens of towns dedicated to Crafts aound the country, such as Ataco, Ilobasco, La Palma, Nahuazalco and San Sebastian. Knock yourself out!
There are several large modern Shopping Malls, with security patrols, such as MetroCentro, MetroSur, Gallerias and Las Cascadas located in and around San Salvador. There are also MetroCentro Malls in the cities of Santa Ana and San Miguel.
MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS
US Dollar, including small change, is now legal tender and circulating in El Salvador since January 2001. All Credit Card transactions are in USD. No need to change money to/from US Cash. ATM Machines give dollars on Cash Advances. The local currency, the Colon, which as of this writing has almost disappeared, is pegged at 8.75 to 1USD Fixed Rate and interchangeable in stores, on transport etc.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
El Salvador is the most densely populated nation in the Western Hemisphere and, as a result, 97% of the country has been deforested in the last 30 years. Litter and garbage abound on highways, roads and in slum areas. Salvadorians are hard working and aggressive people, some cases of rudeness have been reported in the crowded and very densely populated capital city of San Salvador, however the traveler will find the people in the countryside exceptionally friendly and corteous, eager to please and practice their English. If heading to Beaches to relax, the Comalapa International Airport is located on the newly paved Litoral(Coastal) Highway less than an hour from La Libertad and Costa del Sol Beach points, so the visitor need not even transit the capital city os San Salvador if they desire. Take caution when driving a rental vehicle here, as there are many cases of hit and run in minor accidents (fender benders) especially scrapes in crowded parking areas. Most motorists in Central America drive uninsured and one has an $800 deductible upon your rental contract, which means you pay for any minor damages to the vehicle on report to the rental car company. It is often better to form a group and take a Tour in an insured vehicle with Driver, as then the company has liability. Contact Central America Language Tours we contract with several Transportation Companies based in El Salvador and Guatemala with fully insured Coasters and Mini-Buses able to transport you from El Salvador to Guatemala and Belize north and west or Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica south and east from their base near El Salvador’s international airport. As well, King Quality Transport of Guatemala offers air conditioned luxury Buses for both International Transport (Guatemala - El Salvador - Honduras - Nicaragua - Costa Rica) and pre arranged excursions for large groups.
Great links from a company that offers volunteer and learning vacations in El Salvador
Amulti faceted portal site based in El Salvador and Guatemala servimg he prospective traveler to Central America the most suitable land programs, local guides, lodgings, Spanish Language instruction available online directly from our site and volunteer/work opportunities. The Polyglots also offers special consulting services to the Business Traveler and those wishing to invest or retire in the region. Our Company is owned and operated by an international linguists association based in Sweden. Translation services available from English to Spanish and any other language.
A Portal about El Salvador elaborated by El Salvadorians in both English and Spanish, offering the viewer six distinct virtual tours of the country with breathtaking photos. The Webmaster operates a Travel Agency in Los Angeles, California USA and will gladly book your air packages to anywhere in Central America if flying out of LAX.
A BIT ABOUT GUATEMALA......Get on a luxury bus in San Salvador’s “Zona Rosa” Terminal at 6:30AM in the morning and roughly 4 hours later you are in Guatemala City, the largest city between Mexico City and Bogota, Colombia with a population of roughly 4,000,000 in the sprawling Metro Area and Central America’s leading business and commercial center with a lot to offer the traveler as well as the business person........
Small with much to offer....
Guatemala is a small country, but it has much to offer the traveler. Guatemala is a natural paradise offering some truly breathtaking scenery of mountains, lakes, volcanoes and flora and fauna. Guatemala boasts a number of very beautiful tropical black volcanic sand beaches on the Pacific Ocean, and some large coral reefs on the Caribbean side. Guatemala ranks very high in biological diversity, and has numerous tropical low rainforests and mountain cloud forests. Guatemala also has some of the largest and most fascinating Mayan ruins found anywhere in Latin America, the most famous of which is Tikal. The Mayan population, composed of several distinct groups, such as the Quiche, Kakchiquel and Mam in the Western Highlands, still proudly cling to their ancient culture and traditions, for many Spanish is a second language to be learned in primary school.
Guatemala City and it's metropolitan area is home to more than 30% of the country's population and is the capital of Guatemala. The city lies in a deep valley called Valle de la Asuncion where the dormant Agua volcano dominates the horizon. With a population of about 4 million (metro area), it is the country's commercial, financial, and cultural center. It is a city where colonial architecture, sits side by side with modern skyscrapers and shopping malls. For visitors, there is much to see and do in Guatemala City. Worthwhile is a visit to the Zona Viva, the trendy and very modern center of Zona 10, where numerous upscale restaurants, bars, and clubs stay open long into the night. Those interested in Spanish colonial architecture should visit Zona 1, the city's historic center. Visitors interested in handicraft will find a wide variety of authentic Guatemalan wood carvings, textiles, leather, ceramics, jewelry and basket work in the downt!own Central Market. Also worth seeing is the National Palace and the Ixchil Museum of Guatemalan Handicrafts. Arrival in Guatemala is at the Aurora International Airport located in Zona 13, only 10 minutes by Auto from the Zona Viva, Zona 10, there are also several moderate 2 and 3 star 'guest houses' in Zona 13 located only minutes from the terminal, that will take you to the airport at dawn in their vehicle as part of the price of the room, popular with travelers returning from treks in Antigua, Lake Atitlan, The Highlands and Tikal. Many Business Travelers venture to Guatemala City, so Central American Language Tours has awaiting some very special services for you including reservations, transportation, interpreters and tours for free time. Last but not least.. Quetzaltenango: Guatemala's "second city" and cultural center. Known as "Xelaju", the indingenous name and called "Xela" by the locals.
For complete Quetzaltenago information and reservations visit our associate there "Xela Pages" http://www.xelapages.com Enjoy your Guatemala trip E-mail us Info regarding any inquiries.
When in Guatemala City and staying in or near Zone 10, known as the “Zona Viva” with a lively night life and great international cuisine visit a Woman Ex Pat Bar Owner near and dear to our hearts for over 23 years....Ms. Valerie Randall, who still tends bar herself every Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights 5PM till 1AM closing at the “William Shakespeare Pub” - No tragedy, no comedy-Just Good Times! 13 Calle y 1 Avenida Zona 10 local 5 (downstairs) Torre Santa Clara 1 Tel: 3312641 Catty corner and downstairs from the Holiday Inn. mixture of young bilingual Guatemalans and slightly older “Gringo” regulars, very lively Friday nights, everybody speaks English and everybody has a good time. Valerie came to Guatemala in 1979 as an illustrator for a famous archeologist and after the dig was over she fell in love with Guatemala, bought the bar and has been around ever since. Some of Valerie’s paintings hang in the bar and are for sale.
From the capital city then your first trip should be......
This beautiful 16th-century city was founded in the early 16th century by the Spaniards. Built 1,500 meters above sea-level in the highlands of Guatemala, it was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the original monuments are still preserved as ruins. Antigua has some of the most gorgeous Spanish-style colonial architecture found anywhere. Its cobblestone streets, built in the 16th century lead you past dozens of great restaurants, flowered courtyards, and the preserved ruins of numerous churches, monasteries and other structures. Antigua's natural setting is spectacular, with several majestic volcanoes surrounding the city on all sides. The Colonial Museum, located in a building which at one time housed the third university founded on the American continent, is well worth visiting for its vast collection of colonial art. For those seeking Spanish Language Programs, the town is host to more than 75 Spanish Language Schools and Institutes, please f!eel free to contact us for more information regarding the best School to suit your budget and requirements. The lodgings and restaurants in Antigua range from basic to luxury 5 star and there are many rooms and apartments to rent in the area for those planning long stays. Antigua boasts a large and stable American, Canadian and European 'Ex Pat' population as well as being a major tourist attraction, if planning to visit in "high seasons" such as Semana Santa(Easter Holy Week) or Christmas-New Year's make your reservations well in advance. For more detailed Antigua information view 'Antigua Tours' website at: http://www.antiguatours.net Antigua Tours is owned and operated by a Woman Ex Pat, Ms. Elizabeth Bell, who came to reside in Antigua when her parents moved here from Palo Alto, California in 1969. Ms. Bell obtained a degree inteaching ESL in Guatemala City and in the 1980s after completing her first book on Antigua “The Colonial City and its Monuments” opened up Antigua Tours, for complete information and reservations view the Website or in Antigua visit Antigua Tours Offices in the 5 Star Hotel Casa Santo Domingo E mail email@example.com
For on the spot travel and tour assistance throughout Guatemala visit another dear friend of mine in Antigua, Ms. Nancy Hoffman, Nancy is a native of the USA resident many years in Guatemala, proud mother of a Guatemalan-born daughter
Visit her able bilingual staff Monday-Saturday at Rainbow Travel Center in Antigua 9AM-5PM 7a Avenida Sur No.8 or view on Web; http://www.GuatemalaReservations.com
E mail Nancy@GuatemalaReservations.com
Now to the land of the “Living Maya”
Lake Atitlán, which is of volcanic origin, actually an "upside down" volcano itself, is located 140Km. (90 miles) from Guatemala City, in the mountainous province of Sololá, deep in the Guatemalan highlands. Aldous Huxley once called this lake "the most beautiful in the world", and many would agree with this statement. The lake is located about 5,000 feet above sea level, has a depth of over 1,500 feet and covers an area of about 50 square miles. It is the deepest lake in Central America. The water of the lake, usually crystal clear and a vivid blue, changes in color as the light varies. The lake is set against a dramatic backdrop of three spectacular 10,000-foot volcanoes - Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro. Lake Atitlán is a is a great venue for a wide variety of water sports, including swimming, diving, water skiing, hang gliding and boating. It is also a great place for fishing, as the lake is home to numerous species of edible fresh water fish. Along the !shores of Lake Atitlán are a number of small Indian villages where the traditional Maya lifestyle is followed. Usually the visitor will arrive by Shuttle, Tour or Rebuli Line Bus from Antigua or Guatemala City to the main lakeside village of Panajachel, a vibrant little place boasting an incredible outdoor indingenous crafts market along with some 70 Lodging Places from 'backpacker basic' to luxury 5 star, dozens of restaurants offering fare from typical Guatemalan to International and Vegetarian and Discos and Clubs open to the wee hours of the morning, thus the town with it's mixed European, North American, Indingenous and Mestizo population is known affectionately ad "Gringotenango". From Panajachel leave approx. every 15 minutes during daylight hours public boats or "lanchas" for hire to one of the several villages along the lake such as San Pedro, Santa Cruz and Santiago de Atitlan which have recently seen an upsurge in tourism due to the fact that many unique lodging places have been constructed to serve those desiring to be away the hustle and bustle of Panajachel.
In “Pana” stop by and see long term Ex Pat Penelope Sterling, E mail firstname.lastname@example.org who for the last 15 years has operated a Shipping and Receiving , Mail, Phone and Fax Service for many of the Lake’s Foreign residents some beyond a telephone. You simply go to the corner of Calle Pricipal and Avenue Santander in the middle of town and across from the Bank “BAM” enter the small yard and ask for “Penelopat” Office, Penelope, before coming to Guatemala had lived in Colombia and is fluent in Spanish, a rarity among the “Pana Ex Pats”, a rather eccentric group that mixes well with the native Mayans and Guatemala City Ladino refugees here. Very casual and laid back atmosphere as opposed to almost “up tight” Antigua.
The Hotel Maya Kanek A really nice budget hotel, less than $15 a double, especiially when driving, huge guarded courtyard, motel style, very friendly, corteous and honest owner and employees(once returned $1000 in cash to an Italian Guest a year later)..I lived there I know...Go up Calle Principal about 3 blocks up on left from the Bank “BAM” ask for owner Arturo Lavarreda, tell them all in Pana that “Pato” sent you...they’ll know. Great website dedicated to travel in and around Lake Atitlan is http://www.atitlan.com online chat service direct with the Webmaster in English.
Tikal, at one time the largest Mayan city in the world, is now a world famous site of Mayan ruins. The ancient Maya began constructing Tikal around 550 B.C., and for many centuries thereafter the city was an important religious, and political center. Today, the largest number of Mayan ruins in the world are to be found in Tikal. The ruins, extending over six square miles, include temples, pyramids, terraces, palaces, ceremonial platforms, plazas, steam baths, and other stone structures. It is estimated that only about 30% of the ruins have been excavated - the remaining 70% lie buried underground. Visitors can visit the Tikal site by taking a short flight(approx. 1 hour) from Guatemala City to the rain forest area where Tikal is located or an overnight ride(approx. 12 hours) in an air conditioned luxury pullman if one prefers traveling overland. Our associated Guatemalan Tour Operators are able to arrange in advance trips to the ruins including Guide, Lodging and Tr!ansport from a day to a week.
Tours to Tikal can be arranged by Antigua Tours in Antigua http://www.antiguatours.net , or any Travel Agency throughout the country. Central American Language Tours can also book you excursions in advance at a discount. Not to be missed, nor Copan Ruins in Honduras, however due to space limitations our article must end now and we will pick up on Honduras and Nicaragua next month......
About the Author.....Donald T. Lee
"One Man’s Love Affair Between El Salvador and Guatemala"
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