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The Western Highlands Overview

Location:
Guatemala

Guatemala’s western highlands are one of the country’s most picturesque and breathtaking regions. Rugged hills and mountains are home to the largest concentration of indigenous communities in Guatemala. Traditional dress, customs and values are best observed in the highlands. Despite its tumultuous past—a significant amount of the fighting during the 36-year civil war took place in the highlands—the region has picked itself up and attracts thousands of visitors every year with its stunning scenery and natural landscapes. Trekking around some of the area’s 30 volcanoes, the infamous November 1st horse races in Todos Santos and a visit to the military designed “model village” of Acul are just a few of the memorable excursions travelers to the western highlands can take.

The colorful indigenous markets at Chichicastenango, Momostenango and Todos Santos are certainly worth a visit. These villages are known for the beautiful and great quality textiles that are woven there. Indigenous art and crafts can also be found at the markets, along with locally grown food produce. Laguna Chicabal, Lake Atitlán and the spectacular Ixinché ruins of the former Kaqchikel capital are also not to be missed.

It is important to be respectful of the local indigenous, refrain from incessantly photographing them, particularly children. Taking an interest in children can be misinterpreted. The abduction of local children by westerners is a fear that, on occasion, has led to violent attacks.

Accommodation in the highlands is generally more basic than in the cities. However, there are also plenty of upscale haciendas offering luxury accommodation to be found. For the more adventurous and budget-minded traveler home-stays with indigenous families are an option, and a great way to immerse oneself in the local culture. In terms of food, visitors will find plenty of vegetables and corn-based dishes in the highlands. Most of the accommodation options offer meals or have on-site restaurants serving typical Guatemalan fare.



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29 Jul 2010


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