Intrepid Travel’s resident photographer, Damien Raggatt, explores Guatemala to find an underrated destination rich in beautiful vistas, welcoming people and stunning photo opportunities.
While Mexico is no stranger to media attention and sun-loving travellers, little-known Guatemala next door slips relatively under the radar of most.
So following a recent visit to the country’s spotlight-hogging neighbour, I was delighted to cross the border and explore Guatemala and its underrated gems.
As soon as I arrived, I was struck by the immediate and genuine warmth of the people. Every face welcomes you with a huge smile, ladies dress in intricate traditional attire, and kids run around with enthusiasm and infectious energy.
When we arrived in Panajachel, the imposing views of the volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan resembled something straight out of Jurassic Park. The scenery is a surreal fusion of the Italian lakes and the Hawaiian highlands – and a short boat ride across the water drops you off at remote hippie hideaways that are frozen in a time.
Local women showed us around their weaving cooperative, and introduced us to the plant-based dying techniques that they use to create their bright clothes.
The men took us on a tour of the gardens where all the medicinal plants for the village are grown. Returning to the other side of the lake on the boat ride home feels like a Tardis back to the real world.
Expecting to leave Lake Atitlan and re-enter modernity, Guatemala surprises yet again, as Antigua throws you back into a bygone era where horse-drawn carts clip-clop along cobbled streets, and laughter sings out from local bars and cafes as the working day melts into an evening of salsa dancing and Zacapa Rum.
With charm and authenticity like this, I hope Guatemala stays little known for a bit longer.