The eastern highlands, known as Oriente, connect Guatemala City with El Salvador and Honduras and are probably the least visited part of the country. The landscape is dry, with sun-baked mountains and heavily eroded volcanoes. From this region, it’s a short drive to the ruins of Copán in Honduras.
The eastern region of Guatemala offers a huge contrast of desert landscapes, rainforests, mountains, and lakes. The population in this area is mainly ladinos, a mix of indigenous peoples and Spaniards or Europeans, and isolated communities of Mayans.
Esquipulas, the Central American capital of faith and home to the famous Cristo Negro (Black Christ), hosts the largest annual pilgrimage in Central America. The Ipala volcano and the beautiful volcanic crater lake are also located in this area.
Izabal, our green Caribbean, has a distinctive tropical atmosphere. It was densely populated in the Maya era, served as an important trade route, and was one of the main sources of jade. After the decline of the Maya civilization, the area remained virtually abandoned until the end of the nineteenth century, when the United Fruit Company established massive banana plantations.
One of my favorite stops on the way to Río Dulce is Quiriguá. Quiriguá hosts the largest stelae of the Maya world, which is why UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site.
You cannot pass through Río Dulce without stopping to eat mojarra (fish) on the riverbank. Once here, tapado cannot be missed. Tapado is the region’s signature dish, a seafood soup that is an exquisite mix of fish, shrimp, coconut milk, bell peppers, plantains, and spices.
Castillo de San Felipe, a castle built by the Spaniards in 1652, protected the city and the lake from pirates. It later served as a prison. The current building was reconstructed in 1956. It’s worth a visit, with its small rooms, old cannons, and fantastic views of Lake Izabal.
Río Dulce is the perfect place for water adventures. Go on a kayak expedition and navigate through the river canyons. Immerse yourself in the crystal-clear water and discover the underwater life while snorkeling. If you dare, go tubing in the river and enjoy the excitement and fun.
Finca El Paraíso is a short day trip and a hidden gem. Here, a 12-meter-high warm waterfall descends into a pool cooled by surrounding streams, with some caves above the waterfalls that can be explored.
Livingston, only accessible by boat, is the only place in Guatemala where you can experience Garifuna culture. To get there, take a breathtaking boat trip through the lush tropical forest and deep limestone canyon walls.
Playa Blanca is said to be one of the best beaches in Guatemala. It’s a private beach only accessible by water. Here, you’ll enjoy white sand and turquoise water. It’s a peaceful beach where you can relax, swim in the warm Caribbean sea, and enjoy a seafood lunch.
Normally, this tour includes a morning visit to Siete Altares, a series of natural freshwater pools and waterfalls formed by nature, surrounded by lush vegetation.
I love that Guatemala speaks to you and you want to know more about it. Let me know how I can help you!