Guatemala, ‘the soul of the earth’ as it is known, is an awe-inspiring country.

Despite its compact size it is incredibly diverse, with wonderful cobbled-street towns oozing colonial charm, impressive Mayan ruins hidden deep in lowland jungle and delightful traditional villages with brightly coloured markets.

You will find natural beauty, with highland lakes ringed by perfect volcanic cones, both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, a rugged limestone plateau honeycombed with great caves, and miles of jungle teeming with tropical wildlife and beautiful birds.

From the mountain cultures bright in traditional dress to the funky Garifuna community along the Caribbean coast, the Guatemalan people are fascinating and friendly. At its heart the beautiful UNESCO protected town of Antigua is a delightful pocket of colonial architecture with flashes of highland culture and clothing, a prime place to learn Spanish or explore cobbled streets.

The many years of upheaval in the country have protected Guatemala from mass tourism, deflecting visitors into the more stable resorts of Mexico, and the Guatemalan’s spiritual nature and strong sense of tradition have helped them through to the present day: it touches the heart unlike any other country in Central America.

Andara Travel’s highlights for Guatemala include:

• Discovering the delightful town of Chichi, located in Guatemala’s highlands. Here, one of the biggest markets in Guatemala is worth a visit, not only for the brilliant crafts and food produce, but also for the colourful traditional dresses of the indigenous women.

• Wandering the streets of colonial Antigua, soaking up the wonderful Central American atmosphere in the shadow of smoking volcanoes.

• Relaxing by the shores of Lake Atitlan where time seems to stand still.