Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Your Guide to Porto Quetzal.

The modern port city of Puerto Quetzal is your gateway to the delights of Guatemala. Situated on the Pacific coastline, 67 miles south of Guatemala City, Puerto Quetzal is one of the major ports serving the Central American country. Explore the World Heritage Site of La Antigua Guatemala, head for the highlands to take in Lake Atitlan and uncover a colorful history dating back to Mayan times. On your travels you will see a completely different lifestyle in the roadside villages surrounding Puerto Quetzal and encounter breathtaking landscapes, punctuated with verdant mountains, dormant volcanoes, rolling hills and mesmerizing coastline.

Exploring.

Exploring Guatemala by sea begins in Puerto Quetzal but it is outside the city that you will encounter the region’s most celebrated sights. A short journey to the Western Highlands brings you to Lake Atitlan, one of Guatemala’s most attractive beauty spots and home to around a dozen villages. The former capital of Guatemala, Antigua, is also a short commute from Puerto Quetzal and well worth a visit. Arguably, the most splendid of South America’s old colonial cities, Antigua is now a World Heritage site with much to admire. Many buildings date back to the 16th Century and the museums and architecture offer a fascinating insight into the city’s past.

Eating and drinking.

Guatemalan dishes reflect Mayan, Spanish and Mexican influences. Food is often of a high standard, but the cost of the meal does not necessarily reflect the quality. Comedores (typical Guatemalan restaurants serving local food) can be found all over and are very reasonable although, in the more remote areas, a little Spanish would be helpful to understand the menu. Seafood, tortillas, and black beans are very popular and served most meals. Corn on the cob, grilled beef, chicken and guacamole are other Guatemalan culinary staples. Beer and rum are among the most common alcoholic beverages consumer, while the local firewater—Quetzalteca—is extremely potent.

Shopping.

An artisan’s market is located within the new Cruise Terminal at Puerto Quetzal. These traders, and many others in the local markets, will gladly accept payment in US Dollars. Be prepared to enlist your bargaining skills as the opening price is just the start and negotiation is anticipated. Credit cards are accepted at the Cruise Terminal although less so elsewhere in Guatemala, with the exception of some larger shops such as those found in Panajachel on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Common souvenirs include handwoven textiles, jewelry made from silver or jade, wood carvings, masks and leather belts.

Beyond Puerto Quetzal.

Driving eleven miles east of Puerto Quetzal brings you to Iztapa, the first port of significance on Guatemala’s Pacific coastline. There you will find a pleasant beach as well as tours offering interesting trips through the Chiquimulilla Canal. A further 17 miles east in Monterrico is the Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii, a 12 mile long nature reserve of mangrove swamps, Leatherback and Ridley turtles, crocodiles, a number of birds, and a black volcanic sand beach. The village of Santiago Atitlan, known for local women wearing traditional costume, is across from Panajachel on Lake Atitlan and the boat journey takes about 1.5 hours.