Few countries are as culturally intact as Guatemala, and it is imbued with a gay sensibility that is appreciated by even the most critical of travelers. While no city in Guatemala offers a huge gay community, evidence suggests that gay hands have been at work here over the centuries, shaping Guatemala into a traveler's paradise.
Take, for instance, the grand city of Antigua, once the center of life in the Americas. Over the centuries, the city has been destroyed by several earthquakes, fires, and wars, leaving colossal ruins which tell its history and colonial heritage. Lucky for current travelers, these ruins were not bulldozed to pave way for modern pre-fabricated structures. Rather, someone early on studied the regal marble and stone edifices, the intricate carvings and painstaking masonry, now home to colorful birds and wisps of plant life, and saw it for what is was and still is: beautiful and romantic. Thus these buildings, along with Antigua's history were preserved. Now, you just know gay people had their hand in that.
And apparently they still do. Antigua boasts fabulous restaurants featuring cuisine that is at once inventive and traditional, housed in buildings that retain their original identities. Its many stylish hotels are former convents, colonial homes, and governmental buildings, which fit in perfectly with their surroundings.
Antigua has a small gay community of its own, and while it doesn't have an exclusively gay bar or restaurant, its best clubs have a very mixed clientele where all are welcome.
Antigua isn't the only city that seems to have been under gay aesthetic influence. Drive three hours and you will arrive at Lake Atitlan, one of the world's most beautiful lakes, enclosed by three volcanoes (Guatemala has 33 volcanoes in total). Crystal clear water and rustic, stylish hotels with picturesque gardens beckon you to extend your stay. Santiago, one of the small towns that borders the lake has a homeopathic wellness community, famous worldwide for its alternative medicines.
On the way to Lake Atitlan, you cannot resist a stop at the outdoor market town of Chichicastenango. You would be hard pressed to find a town that sounds more ethnic, and you may never find one with as many quality craft and décor items. Interior designers take note, as hand-crafted textiles purchased for $100 at Chichi's outdoor market can be sold for over $1000 back in the States. This town can bring out the shopper in anyone.
Of course no mention of Guatemala would be complete without discussing its largest city with by far its largest gay community, Guatemala City. Guatemala City also offers more 5 star hotels and restaurants than any other city in the country. Visitors are heard exclaiming, "I can't believe this is Guatemala" as they pass though this city's sensational hotel lobbies.
Guatemala City is offers more by night than by day, and after dining at one of Guatemala City's many gourmet restaurants, it will be time to explore the gay scene. Guatemala is a gay-friendly country, but Guatemala City's gay scene is not located in the safest area, so it is recommended that you do not go out alone. Given the size of the city, it has a surprisingly large gay community, and you may suddenly find yourself dancing the night away.
After exploring Guatemala's gay nightlife, you may wish to end your stay with what just may be Guatemala's most famous attraction, the ruins of Tikal. If you ever dreamed of being Indiana Jones discovering lost worlds and rare, priceless artifacts, then this is your chance to live out your dreams.
Tikal is an ancient Mayan citadel comprised of numerous pyramids and stone buildings, nested within lush tropical rainforest. Mayan inhabitants departed this magnificent city hundreds of years ago in 899 AD, and currently its most famous residents are howler monkeys. One visit to Tikal and you will instantly see where they get their name.
From the top of any of the pyramids, one can look out over the tropical rainforest and see the tops of the other pyramids peering out over a dense field of green. Tikal is the stuff from Hollywood legend, and walking among its ruins you expect one of the stone walls to magically open, triggered by a branch you tripped over, or for arrows to mysteriously fly towards you, or for a mass bolder to barrow down at you from a nearby ruin. It's truly magical.
Archeologists have spent years meticulously excavating the Ruins of Tikal since the mid 1800s. However, the most incredible thing about Tikal may be what isn't excavated, For many of us, it is hard to imagine how a city can simply go missing, hidden for so many years, and at Tikal, one understands immediately. On several open fields huge pyramids have been excavated. A few hundred yards away, across the field, one notices a large hill. Suddenly, it is clear that the mountain and the pyramid are the same size and general shape, and about that time your guide tells you that the tree and foliage covered hill you are looking at is not a hill at all, but an enormous pyramid that has not yet been excavated.
From ancient Mayan ruins to preserved colonial towns to exquisite cuisine, Guatemala's treasures are sure to surprise, delight, and impress. While other countries may have larger gay communities, few offer such a gay aesthetic ideal as Guatemala City. Travels to Guatemala are multi-sensory, embracing visitors with culture, history, luxury, and style.
Zoom Vacations, a gay vacation company based out of Chicago is a certified Guatemala specialist, creating multi-faceted independent and gay group vacations to Guatemala. Join them for their next gay group departure, April 28 to May 2, 2006 where they will give you an insider's edge to Antigua, Guatemala City, and the famed ruins of Tikal. Visit them on the web at www.zoomvacations.com or call 773 935-1728 (toll free from the United States, 866-966-6822).
The following gay bars and restaurants provide a good start for an evening of bar and club hopping in Guatemala City:
Coffee, Bars & Pubs
Coffee of the Arc
12 Street 8-52 Zone 1. Historical Center
Telephone: 502 - 2232,5727
Monday to Friday from 7 am to 6 pm.
Saturday of 7am to 1 0pm.
5ta Avenue, 10-52 Zone 1.
Monday to Saturday, 5 pm to 12 midnight
Route 3 3-08 Zone 4.
Friday and Saturday from 7 pm.
11 Street 5-27 Zone 1.
Tuesday to Wednesday from 6 pm to 1 am
Thursday, Friday and Saturday: from 10 pm to 1 am
Sunday: 6 pm to 1 am
éra Avenue 12-28 Zone 9.
Thursday to Saturday from 8 pm to 1 am
Sunday: From 11am.
17 Street "To" 7-40 Zone 10.
Monday through Friday from 12 pm to 10 pm.
Saturday: from12 pm to 2 am. and Sunday from 2 pm to 8 pm.