One of Latin America's smallest countries, Guatemala is geographically diverse with topography ranging from conical volcanic peaks and terraced coffee plantations to wetlands and emerald rainforests alive with the screeches of howler monkeys. Indeed, its rich biodiversity means that visitors may be rewarded with sightings of wildlife such as jaguars, pumas, coyotes, iguanas and various snake species. Active adventurers will love the opportunity for rugged adventure, with challenging walks in the national parks of the Peten region, and zip-lines through the jungle canopies. The Mayan Empire flourished during the first millennium long before the first Spanish conquistadors arrived. Today sites such as Tikal, Yaxha and Zaculeu bear witness to an extraordinary era of architecture which saw the creation of remarkable pyramids and temples which still peak above the rainforests. Mayan culture still thrives, in the ancient sites as well as in the traditional dress of local communities, and crafts such as basket and textile weaving.
Spanish colonists and coffee traders similarly left their mark on Guatemala. Towns such as Antigua are a riot of colour, with pastel hued buildings embracing cobblestoned piazzas which bustle with trade and conversation on market days. Neighbouring Belize shares Guatemala's rich natural beauty, with fascinating flora and fauna, and incredible national parks. It's also the place to go to explore a beautiful marine environment whether that be snorkelling over the stunning Blue Hole, diving through underwater caves, or simply relaxing on the beaches or exploring the artisan shops of Placencia.