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Gatemalan weaver
Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo photo        
A Guatemalan tejedora or weaver makes one of the country's famous textiles

12 reasons to visit Guatemala this year

Special to A.M. Guatemala from the Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo

The start of the New Year always beckons new adventures, and Central America's little hidden gem, Guatemala, should definitely be on the list this year.

Most recently listed on TravelChannel.com's "Travel's Best for 2015" as "Most Under the Radar Destination" as well as Fodor's "Go List 2015," Guatemala invites travelers to experience its vast terrain that offers countless unexpected encounters.

Here are just some of the many activities to consider each month of the year, recommended by the Guatemalan Tourism Board:

January: Looking for a way to kick-off 2015 wellness goals? Villa Sumaya Wellness Center, located on Lake Atitlan, is just the place to do it. A retreat center offering a variety of spiritual, yoga, meditation, adventure and spa treatments, Villa Sumaya is the ideal place to disconnect and re-energize for the New Year. Offering both group and individual packages, Villa Sumaya invites travelers to take in the surrounding natural beauty, while focusing on themselves.

February is all about love, and in Guatemala, locals celebrate Valentine's Day as El Día del Cariño. Lovebirds, friends and family who want to show their affection by escaping to one of the country's many romantic, intimate properties should consider the mystical Petén region, known for its many ancient Mayan sites. For charming accommodations that blend nature and passion consider Coppola's 10-room La Lancha abode, located on Lago Petén or La Lagunas Hotel, set on Quexil Lagoon, both in close proximity to the area's impressive Mayan ruins such as Tikal, Uaxactun and Yaxha

March: It's never too early to get ready for the summer and in Coatepeque, a city located in the department of Quetzaltenango, these festivities begin in March. Enjoy La Feria de Verano, or summer fair, that boasts a parade with music and dances. Even horses participate in this one. While in the area, visitors should be sure to visit Xela, Guatemala's second largest city located less than an hour away. Here, travelers can see numerous impressive monuments such as the Espiritu Santo Cathedral or try new things like salsa dancing classes or volcano trekking.

April: While the Easter holiday is widely celebrated throughout the country, Guatemala is also big on ecotourism, a perfect way to celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Consider visiting a coffee plantation, such as Maria del Pintado, an organic coffee farm located in Antigua, to learn how to roast coffee the old fashion way. Another way to connect with nature is with Arcas Guatemala, a non-profit organization that focuses on rescuing and conserving Guatemala's wildlife.

May: Mother's Day on May 10 is the perfect reason to consider a bonding trip to Guatemala with mom. Whether it's learning something new together like making local meals at Restaurante La Peña in Antigua or meeting generations of Mayans near Lake Atitlan, Guatemala presents memorable experiences that are cherished forever. Consider Maya traditions to coordinate a day tour to see a unique Mayan custom like a shaman ritual or textile weaving.

June: For Father's Day June 17, dads will surely enjoy a trip to the heart of the Mayan world and choose to be as active or as laid-back as they'd like. From scenic golf courses with breathtaking volcanic backdrops to outdoor trekking to discover the country's pristine fauna and flora, as well as world-renowned fishing, Guatemala presents something for dads of all ages.

July: After celebrating Independence Day on July 4th, head down to Antigua to celebrate the city's patron saint San Santiago. On July 24 and 25, travelers can enjoy the numerous activities taking place throughout Antigua's colorful streets including parades, music and other celebrations. While there, be sure to take-in the stunning colonial architecture, galleries and restaurants.

August: Enjoy the last month of summer by exploring Guatemala's Caribbean coast in the region of Izabal. Here, visitors can enjoy the country's largest lake, Izabal, either on its beach shores or by boat. Among other attractions in the area are the San Felipe Castle, an old Spanish fortress at the entrance of the lake; Los Siete Altares, a protected natural area with freshwater falls and pools; and Quirigua Archeological Park, one of the country's sites boasting intricate Mayan ruins.

September: Guatemala's Independence Day takes place on Sept. 15, yet celebrations take place all month long. In September, be prepared to experience a festive atmosphere with people displaying continuous patriotism through song, dance, parades, parties and more. Enjoy Guatemala's traditional cuisine such as dobladas, rellenitos or tamales, while partaking in the festivities, including spectacular firework displays in the evening.

October: Cruising season officially begins this month, with ships embarking on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Royal Caribbean or Regent Seven Seas are among the cruise lines that offer routes to the destination. When on the ground, travelers should visit to the Mayan ruins, hike a volcano and definitely try local rum.

November signifies two major activities in Guatemala: the start of fishing season and Dia de Todos Santos Nov. 1. A festive way to commemorate the dead, Guatemala's Dia de Todos Santos, or All Saints Day, can be witnesses throughout the country but in Santiago and Sumpango, Sacatepéquez it's at its most extravagant with impressive kite festivals, each large, and brightly hand-painted. For fishing enthusiasts, head to the Pacific coast to see why Guatemala was named the Billfish Capital of the World where catching sailfish is guaranteed.

December: Get ready for the holidays and gift-giving with a trip to Chichicastenango, or Chichi, Guatemala's famed market that has just about everything. On display Thursdays and Sundays, this market transforms the city center with countless handcrafts, food, textiles, flowers and knickknacks. Travelers will surely find a special gift here for loved ones.

For more reasons to visit Guatemala any time of the year, visit www.visitguatemala.com.

— Jan. 25, 2015

More news of Guatemala HERE!

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