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You Don’t Know Squatemala

Some countries have all the luck.  Just think of what the film ‘Lord of the Rings’ did for New Zealand tourism.  Or how about ‘A Year in Provence’?  One petit book and all of a sudden the world wanted to relocate to rural France and spend a year renovating an old stone house.

Sometimes even bad press eventually turns out to have amazing marketing power. Vietnam, for example. It’s remarkable how fate and dash of circumstance can literally put a place on the map, and sow the seeds of a destination desire. All of this gives me hope that some day, some way Guatemala will eventually be called out of the shadows.

Until then, I’ll do my best to spread the word that Guatemala is a country you should know about. Not because they had the longest civil war in Latin American history. No, that horrific chapter ended almost 15 years ago and is better left in memoriam. What you need to know, and deserve to know, is that this relatively small Central American country (sandwiched between Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador) is an absolute gem. It’s a beautiful blend of culture and scenery, a land of epic Maya history and compelling colonial past.

What’s most remarkable about Guatemala is that it has managed to preserve authentic personality and genuine character in the face of so much adversity. The average Guatemalan doesn’t have a lot of money, but they sure are rich in tradition. Whether it’s the colourful woven textiles (which vary in design from village to village), the legacy of Maya stories and motifs, or the stupendous Holy Week celebrations during Semana Santa, Guatemala is simply packed with flavour.

In this respect I often think of the country as a filet mignon. It has a density of culture and physical beauty (volcanoes, farmland, jungle, lakes) that rewards even a 6-8 day bite. Mexico is an unwieldy rack of ribs, Costa Rica is a mildly flavoured flank steak, Belize an uncomplicated hamburger, and Honduras and El Salvador are somewhat gristly. All good in their own way, I suppose, but none strike such a refined balance of ease and good taste.

Still need more convincing? Okay, here goes: it’s close, it’s cheap, it has charming hotels…and nobody seems to know about it. Blaze the trail and reap the rewards.

Once upon a time, Charlie Scott built a luxury camp in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle. There are few things about the country that he doesn’t know (and love). 

A beautiful blend of culture and scenery, epic Maya history and compelling colonial past.

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