"IN THE END, ANTIGUA REMAINED MUCH AS I REMEMBERED, STILL FULL OF GLORIOUS RUINS. IT SEEMED AS IF ITS RESTORATION WOULD WOULD NEVER BE FINISHED, AND FOR ME THAT IS THE SOURCE OF ITS POIGNANT MAGIC."
Magic is woven into the fabric of Guatemala. Volcanoes rise through the morning mists, markets are marshalled by golden-toothed women wrapped in centuries old outfits and men on chicken buses display superhuman strength to lift boxes on their backs.
In someways, it feels that time has stood still here. The traditions and customs of the Maya people are still strong and visible in every facet of daily life, rural and inner city development is slow and scattered whilst, at least once every day, you will shake your head in amazement at some street scene.
For travellers, Guatemala will encapsulate a lot of the quintessential Central American backpacking experience. You can climb up and over imposing Mayan ruins hidden under the cover of dense jungle. Exotic fruit and veg will become commonplace and market-bought. Chicken buses will be loved, loathed and almost always overfilled. Volcanoes will become a common sight and you may become slightly addicted to climbing them. You will weep at the horrors imposed upon a people for so long and you will smile at their sprit which endures.
If this is your first stop in this part of the world, get ready for an unforgettable experience.
SO, YOU'RE THINKING OF GOING TO GUATEMALA?
Whether you've got weeks, months or days, Antigua WILL be on your itinerary. The mother of colonial beauty, it is a mecca for budget backpackers seeking cheap Spanish lessons as well as wealthier retirees who enjoy the finer things in life.
Another popular spot is Lake Atitlan, home to Guatemala's most beautiful vistas, where you can spend your days kayaking across the beautiful lake or visiting indigenous villages and your evenings indulging in food from home and enjoying a few late-night drinks with new friends.
Those looking for a little more authenticity to their travels should hit up Chi Chi for their world famous market or head to Xela to immerse themselves in the language whilst spending the weekends relaxing in hot springs.
And we can't mention Guatemala without discussing volcanoes - they are literally everywhere! Whether you would prefer to get close to actual lava or summit Central America's highest peak, you can't spend time in the country without taking on at least a couple of hikes.
Head north to one of the country's iconic historical sights - Tikal - and step back in time with the Mayans before enjoying a few days by the lake in tranquil Flores.
Need a break from Latino culture? Don't forget Livingston in the east. This small ocean side town is full of Garifuna culture and a great place to learn how to drum like a local and drown in fish stew!
We've written a lot about Guatemala (we were there for two and a half months!) but here are a few of our most popular posts to help you plan your next adventure!
But, if you're looking for somewhere in particular, just type it in here, we've probably been there!
"LAKE COMO, IT SEEMS TO ME, TOUCHES ON THE LIMIT OF PERMISSIBLY PICTURESQUE BUT ATITLAN IS COMO WITH ADDITIONAL EMBELLISHMENTS OF SEVERAL IMMENSE VOLCANOES. IT REALLY IS TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING."
Every country has them, those secret little towns, beaches or pokey little cafés that no-one seems to have found yet - or at least written much about.
For us, it was this place. So, go ahead and take a look, but just try and keep it between us, at least for a little while....