The House of Jade
The House of Jade opened its doors to the public on July 9th 1977 and was founded by Gerald Leech and Amalia Dorigoni de Leech. Gerald was one of the four founders of the modern industry of jade in Guatemala.
The store initially opened selling a variety of diverse textiles and a small amount of jade jewelry. Now its one of the best places in Guatemala where you can obtain certified unique pieces of jade.
On arrival at the Jade Museum you are offered a glass of wine and then taken to see the process of jade jewelry making from the jade stone to the finished product. You may design your own piece of jade jewelry. The cost depends on the piece you design. Depending on the size, you may take it with you or it will be sent to your home.
When the Mayans abandoned their large cities in the department of Peten, they moved south to areas with a mild climate and fertile land. This region became the land of the Cack´chiqueles, Que´chies, Mames and Tzutujiles. Their traditions and culture continue to this day.
Lake Atitlán is located in a volcanic crater, surrounded by three volcanoes. According to geologists, this area was a large mountainous volcano that exploded 85,000 years ago and the legend is that rocks from the explosion were found as far as in Panama and it caused worldwide climate change. That is why the Lake is located in the remains of the volcano.
The Lake is 125 Km Square, 18 Km wide and 400 meters deep. It is surrounded by 12 indigenous villages named after the 12 apostles. They are: Santa Catarina Palopó, San Antonio Palopó, San Lucas Tolimán, Santiago, San Pedro, San Juan, San Pablo, San Marcos, Santa Cruz la Laguna, Santa Clara, San Jorge and Panajachel.
Local Dishes: Patín and Cecina
Outdoor and activities: The Lake offers a variety of water sports like skiing, fishing, kayaking and boating. The best way to visit the 12 surrounding villages is by boat.
The Cult Of Maximón Or San Simón
The cult of Maximón is venerated by the descendants of the Mayas, ladinos and Guatemalans in general as well as foreigners.
The origin of Maximon is from the XVIII and XIX centuries. It is a mix of Christian and Mayan religious traditions and depending on its location, personifies San Judas Tadeo, Pedro de Alvarado or Judas Iscariote.
The name Maximon has its origins in the word made up of max (tobacco in Mayan) and Simon for Saint Simon. This character is a full body image and face made from carved wood. The face may be of a young man as in the image in San Andres, Itzapa, or of an old man called grandfather in Santiago.
He dresses in a dark military or indigenous suit, wears a hat and sometimes wears a handkerchief, glasses or gloves. The most visited Maximón is in San Andres Itzapa in Chimaltenango, in Zunil, Quetzaltenango and Santiago, Atitlán.
The difference between the first two and the last one is that the San Simon of Santiago Atitlán is called Maximón. He has an ancient face and is dressed in the typical Mayan costume with tobacco and liquor as common denominators.
His devotees believe in his miracles and go to him asking for protection, love and health and even vengeance. One receives his favors by praying to him and giving him money, tobacco, alcoholic beverages, resin and colored candles representing different wishes.
The red is for love, the yellow and white for protection, the green for prosperity, the blue for good luck, the pink for health, the light blue for good luck, the black for jealousy an to cast a spell and the purple to eliminate bad thoughts.
The name of the Municipality of Comalapa comes from the kaqchiquel (a Mayan language) word “Chi royal xot” that means next to the fountain of the earthware pot.
After the Spanish conquest, the Nahuatl Indians accompanying the conquistadors, named the town in their own language.
When mentioning Comalapa, one thinks of art, paintings and color. The artistic talent of the inhabitants is innate. As you arrive in Comalapa you will see a mural painted by the school children depicting the most important historic events in the country through 1996 when the peace Accords were signed.
It seems that everyone in Comalapa is an artist and, therefore, the town is famous for their naïf paintings.
In Comalapa there is a Museum dedicated to Rafael Alvarez Ovalle, the composer of the National Anthem and native of its town.
Private Tour of the Chichicastenango Market
The Chichicastenango Market, as it is known is the second largest in Latin America and the most famous in Guatemala.
The Mayan villages from the surrounding towns bring their wares to the market every Sunday and Thursday. You will find a variety of handicrafts as well as fresh fruits, vegetable and flowers.
The 400 year old Santo Tomás Church is located to one side of the Market.This church is the fusion of the Catholic and Mayan religious traditions.
To this day, Chamanes perform their ritual on the 18 stairs of the church, one for each month of the Mayan calendar that include candles, incense and at times, the sacrifice of a hen to honor the gods.
The Department of Peten is the northern most Department in Guatemala borders Mexico to the west, Belize to the east and the Departments of Izabal and Alta Verapaz to the south.
It is located approximately 488 Km from Guatemala City.
Traditions: Peten has many local dances that are part of their tradition like the dance of the deer and the dance of the bull. Cock fights are popular as well as the procession of the Holy Skull and the procession of Holy Week.
Peten is the birthplace of the Mayan civilization and according to archeologists, the demise of the empire was due to long periods of draught, hunger and plagues.
Territory: Peten is the largest Department in Guatemala with an extension of 35,854 Km2
Climate: The topography of the Department is varied and, therefore, there are different temperatures but it is always hot.
The original languages of this Department are of Mayan origin. They are Itza and Mopan, spoken in the northern parts, bordering Mexico. Lacandon and Yucateco Mayan are also spoken.
However, the official language is Spanish. The most popular Mayan language spoken is Q´eqchí.
Tourism and Archaeological Sites: Peten is considered the birthplace of the Mayan civilization and the vestiges of this grand civilization can still be found at sites like El Mirador, Yaxha, Tikal, Dos Pilas, Aguateca, Río Azul, San Bartolo,
Uaxactún and many more. The largest pyramid is La Danta found at the Mirador site.
At the Tikal National Park, spider monkeys swing from tree to tree. There are many types of flora and fauna in the natural surroundings of the park.
There are numerous caves in this Department. The Mayas thought that the way to the afterlife was through the caves.
The first one to be discovered was Naj Tunich, getting the attention of the archaeologist There are many lakes and rivers that snake through the forest.
The Mayas chose the tropical jungle of Petén as the site for their cities. Here is wher the birth, evolution and demise of the Mayan civilization took place in cities like El Mirador, Tikal, Aguateca, Yaxha and others. Thousands of years later, the structures still stand.
MAIN ATRACTIONS IN TIKAL
Tikal means the place of voices and is one of the largest and one of the most magnificent Mayan sites. The temples and pyramids reach toward the sky and from the Temple IV you can see the tops of the other pyramids pushing through the forest surrounded by rich flora and fauna.
Tikal was inhabited by the Mayans from 800 BC to 900 AC. From the 11th to the 20th Century, it was covered by the tropical forest.
Private Plane to Peten
On arrival in Petén, a private guide will take you to the marvelous and mystical sites to learn about the culture and traditions of this Department.
Alta Verapaz, Cobán.
It´s name comes from the Q´eqchi word meaning in the clouds. The city was founded by Dominican monks in 1543. Years later, it was declared Carlos V Imperial City. Cobán is located in the center of the country with a population of approximately 70,000. It is a coffee growing region specializing in hard coffee and is the largest cardamom exporter in the world.
The imperial City of Cobán is known for its eco tourism surrounded by hundreds of varieties or orchids, flora and fauna.
There are caves going down hundreds of meters, caverns with endless underground rivers that may be explored.
Every year, at l the end of July, the Rabin Ajau or Daughter of the King festival is celebrated. Approximately 100 women of Mayan descent participate and compete for the title.
Climate: Cobán is surrounded by the rain forest and drizzles continually, sometimes for days at a time. The locals call this drizzle: Chipi Chipi.
Territory: Cobán is 2,132 Km2 and is in the Department of Alta Verapaz.
In Cobán, there are numerous local dishes like Kaq Ik, a stew with the main ingredient being the creole turkey or chunto. During festivities and the celebration of special occasions, a drink called Kakaw is consumed. This is a bitter drink made from the seeds of the cacao bean ground and mixed with spices to make a type of milkshake.
During the past 25 years, at the end of July, the Folkloric Festival of Coban is celebrated. It is a festival in which the indigenous people exalt the spirit of their ethnicity, try to conserve their traditions and exalt their arts and race.
This is a one of a kind festival, admired for the richness and beauty of the dress, the folklore and tradition of the indigenous people of Guatemala. This festival is closely linked to the celebration of the Saint Santo Domingo de Guzman from the 31 of July to the 6 of August during which the brotherhood rituals and folkloric dance like the Deer, the Turkey, the Moors and the Devils are performed.
OUTDOORS SPORTS AND ACTIVITIES
Every year during the third weekend in May, the Coban half marathon is run with the participation of more than 2,500 national and international participants. It is one of the most recognized sporting events in Latin America and is well known for its world class organization and the difficulty of the course.
Population: 8,000 people
Tour of the Candelaria Caverns
The ancient Maya believed that through the Candelaria Caverns you would reach the after world. The caverns are approximately 33 km and are known for the beauty of the stalagmite. The descendants of the Mayas visit the caverns as a holy pilgrimage.
Tour of the Quetzal Biotope
About 5Km from the center of Coban, is the Quetzal Biotope located in the cloud forest surrounded by large waterfalls and natural giant ferns. After visiting the Biotope, you may visit the 61 Km cave system located in the Park, 6Km from the center of Coban. There are two trails where you will see 50 different species of trees and a variety of birds like tucans, hummingbirds, guacamayas and the Quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala.
Tour of Las Verapaces Greenhouse
Las Verapaces Greenhouse is an orchid greenhouse. It houses more than 60,000 orchids belonging to 750 varieties, including 200 miniature orchids.
A forest of ferns is used as shade. The stem is carved into flower pots to grow the orchids. There are also Licopodios and Bonsais.
It´s open to the public from 7:00 to 18:00.
The best time to visit is from October to February when the orchids bloom. The Greenhouse is located five minutes from the center of Coban.
Rafting in the Cahabón River
An adventure filled weekend of activity, nature and caving full of adrenalin down the Cahabón River. Visit some of the seven wonders of Guatemala like the turquoise and refreshing waters of Semuc Champey.
After visiting Semuc Champey, you will visit the mysterious caves of Kan Ba. Your guide will be a candle.
To end the day, you will go rafting down the 12 Km of the Rio Cahabón for about four hours. This activity is for all.
A Day Of Fishing Billfish
Travel to the Marina on the Pacific Ocean, passing by the sugar plantations. Once you arrive you will board a private yacht for a perfect day of fishing in open seas. Guatemala is known as the best place in the world for Billfish fishing.
On average, 22 billfish are caught and released per day per yacht. After a full day of fishing, enjoy a beverage at the Marina before returning to Antigua or La Reunion.
You may choose a small 31 foot yacht for one to five passengers or a larger 39 foot yacht for five to eight passengers.
Type of Fishing: Sports fishing and billfish catch and release.
Camping At The Fuego Volcano
The altitude of the Fuego Volcano is 3736 meters above sea level, surrounded by ash and rock from its eruptions. The crater is in constant activity. You may climb the volcano from the town of Alotenango. The tour is two days and the camping site is at the Yepocapa cater.
Leave the hotel in the early morning y helicopter or by car to the town of Soledad in Chimaltenango. The climb starts at 2025 meters above sea level and the Yepocapa crater is at 38000 meters above sea level.
At 5:00 you will start the climb of Acatenango volcano with an altitude of 3824 meters above sea level. You will have breakfast at the plateau between the volcanoes. After lunch at the crater you will descend to Antigua.