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Things to Do in Central Highlands - page 2

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Popol Vuh Museum (Museo Popol Vuh)
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The Popol Vuh Museum located within the Francisco Marroquin University campus exhibits one of the largest collections of Mayan art in the world. Extraordinary artifacts are here, including masks, ceramics, pre-Hispanic statuettes, traditional fabrics, and more. One of Guatemala City’s must-visit destinations, some pieces date back to 9000 BC.

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National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (MUNAE)
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There are two ways to experience Mayan treasures when traveling across Guatemala: Either traipse through the jungles, down bumpy dirt roads, to ancient village sites and temples, or visit the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, or MUNAE) in Guatemala City. Inside this exceptional museum, visitors will find over 20,000 pieces of ancient Guatemalan treasures, from Mayan pottery, artwork, and crafts to traditional textiles and dress. With thousands of years of human history have taken place in these hills, Guatemala is comprised of a fascinating mosaic of different cultural identities. From the first settlers who built villages to thriving days of the Maya, all the epochs are represented inside Guatemala's national archaeological museum, with relics from archaeological sites having made their way to these halls. Learn how people first settled Guatemala as they migrated through Central America, and formed different languages, farming techniques, and ways to honor their dead. And, with so many discoveries still being made in Guatemala today, a museum that’s been open since 1898 continues to grow and improve.

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Antigua City Hall (Palacio del Ayuntamiento)
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Constructed in 1743, Antigua City Hall (Palacio del Ayuntamiento) once served as the seat of the Spanish colonial government seat as well as an 80-person jail. Today, the building is the city’s administrative center and home to the Museo del Libro and the Museo de Santiago. The hall’s visually striking two-story façade has a double layer of stone archways and Tuscan-style columns.

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Biotopo del Quetzal
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Named after Guatemala’s colorful national bird, Biotopo del Quetzal is a vast nature reserve in central Guatemala encompassing Lanquin Caves, Rey Marcos Caves, and the rock pools of Semuc Champey. Abundant wildlife populate the expanse, including howler monkeys and elusive birds such as emerald toucanets, highland guans, and the endangered quetzal.

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Semuc Champey
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Tranquil, tiered turquoise pools suspended over limestone are what you can expect to find when visiting Semuc Champey. A natural limestone bridge supports the pools, which change their shades of turquoise according to climatic variations throughout the year. While backpackers have been coming to the remote pools for a while, one of Guatemala’s best-kept secrets is now accessible via tours.

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Quiriguá
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Quiriguá (sometimes written Quirigua) is an ancient Mayan site in southeastern Guatemala. Although it’s considered a small Mayan city, it is without a doubt one of the most important. It was here that the tallest stela from the Maya world was discovered. The monolithic stone stands 35 feet high (10.6 meters), 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide and 5 feet (1.5 meters) thick, weighing over 60 tons (53.6 long tons).

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Quiriguá once controlled the jade and obsidian trade route. During the same time, the city had a fierce rivalry with its neighbor Copán in Honduras. Researchers believe Quiriguá was inhabited starting in the second century, and the bulk of the most important monuments were carved between A.D 426 and AD 810. It is unknown why Quiriguá entered a period of decline, but evidence suggests that when the Europeans arrived, the jade route was under the control of Nito, a city closer to the Caribbean coast.

The stelae, or monolothic sandstone monuments, at Quiriguá were carved without tools and contain hieroglyphic texts that provide information on the Maya city’s rise and fall, along with details during the most important years. These monumental structures also tell an important tale of Quiriguá’s relationship with Copán and were built around the Great Plaza. The Ceremonial Plaza and the Plaza of the Temple are renowned for their complexity.

The last known hieroglyphs from Quiriguá date back to A.D. 810, which was around the time of the entire Classic Maya collapse. Researchers believe that the reduction in trade along the Motagua may have caused Quiriguá to ultimately be abandoned.

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Lanquín Caves (Grutas de Lanquín)
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Lanquín Caves (Grutas de Lanquín) are limestone caverns near Cobán. Considered sacred to the Mayan people, they are believed to be the ""heart of heaven” and possess the ""secret of the ages"" deep inside. Mayan priests still perform spiritual rituals here, while tourists enjoy the experience of spelunking and the amazing site of droves of bats flying out at dusk.

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IRTRA Mundo Petapa
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IRTRA Mundo Petapa is more than just another theme park; aside from it's large size, it also features botanical gardens, Guatemalan history, and a zoo. Exceptionally clean and well maintained, Mundo Petapa even features an Olympic sized swimming pool for beating the midday heat, and a towering, 175 ft. “skyscraper” with a thrilling vertical drop. Parts of the park are devoted toward preserving a slice of Guatemalan history, and quieter parts of the sprawling park are built in an old, 1950s style of small Guatemalan villages. You’ll also find a zoo on site with dozens of species of mammals, as well as 60 species of birds that flit and squawk in the aviary. Before you leave for the day, be sure to ride the ferris wheel that towers above the park, where the view looks out over Guatemala City and the surrounding volcanoes beyond. Even the grandiose rainbow archway is an entertaining sight, and Mundo Petapa is a guaranteed day of family fun.

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Museum of Colonial Art (Museo de Arte Colonial)

The Museum of Colonial Art (Museo de Arte Colonial) is known for its extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, and furniture from the 16th to 18th centuries. The museum is housed inside the former University of San Carlos, a beautiful colonial building situated right in front of the cathedral, in the heart of Antigua, Guatemala.

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