Belize and Guatemala are two stunning (and relatively secret!) Central American gems. They’re home to one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, the world’s largest Mayan ruin, one of the world’s tallest Mayan pyramids – the list goes on!
Here are nine gorgeous photos that show why Belize and Guatemala are prime candidates for your next family vacation.
1. The Santa Catalina Arch and Volcán de Agua, Antigua Guatemala
Feel the magic in Antigua’s cobblestone streets! In this photo, the famous Santa Catalina Arch stands in front of the looming Volcán de Agua.
Antigua is one of the best-preserved Spanish colonial cities in the Americas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many buildings feature Mudejar style (Spanish Muslim) architecture dating to the Baroque period.
2. Chichicastenango Market, Chichicastenango, Guatemala
The weekly Chichicastenango Market is a magnet for vendors and buyers from all over the Guatemalan Highlands. The stalls and tables brim with native fruits, vegetables, textiles and handicrafts. It’s a great place to practice your bartering skills and even get a souvenir!
3. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Bordered by three volcanoes, Lake Atitlan is often considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The shores are dotted with Mayan villages that have served as a center of indigenous culture for thousands of years.
On the Belize & Guatemala Family Adventure, boat across this pristine water to visit some of the villages. San Juan is a quiet, traditional town known for its weaving cooperatives and naïf art galleries. In the markets of Santiago, you’ll find wooden carvings and beautiful beaded embroidery.
4. Yaxha, Guatemala
Yaxha is a Mesoamerican archaeological site and former center of pre-Columbian Mayan civilization. Deriving its name from the Mayan term for “blue-green water,” Yaxha is home to over 500 immense and intricately detailed ruins, including about 40 steles, 13 altars and 9 stone pyramids.
5. Sunset at Yaxha, Guatemala
When you visit Yaxha, make sure to watch the sunset from atop Structure 216, Yaxha’s tallest pyramid. There’s nothing quite like it.
6. Tikal, Guatemala
The ancient ruins of Tikal feature over 3,000 individual structures, temples and courtyards that cover 6 square miles, making it the largest Mayan ruin in existence. Temple IV, the site’s tallest pyramid, towers 209 feet above the ground. It’s also a great place to spot howler monkeys, parrots, macaws and toucans!
7. San Ignacio, Belize
This colorful slice of Belize is home to sprawling commercial sectors and diverse cultural history. Visit the markets on the banks of the Macal River or check out the restaurants offering rice and beans with chicken, beef, pork and fried fish. Even though it’s the second-largest city in the country after Belize City, it’s still a rustic and uncrowded town, making it ideal for family travelers looking to get off the beaten path.
8. Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize
Also known as the Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher, this Mayan archaeological site houses millennia-old Mayan skeletons, ceramics and stoneware. Getting inside is half the fun: a hike through the lush jungle leads to a gaping cut into the side of the earth. Vines and foliage dangle over the entrance. A short swim leads you inside, where stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones sparkle and shimmer.
9. The Crystal Maiden, Belize
Actun Tunichil Muknal is home to the well-known Crystal Maiden, a calcified skeleton of a Mayan girl. The famous Monkey Pot and other ceramic artifacts also reside in this beautiful and eerie site. Mayan kings and shamans once ventured here to communicate with their gods and ancestors.