Guatemala is since recently trying to develop surfing as a sport on its Pacific Beaches. Of course, this is not a government policy but a private initiative.

"I've been taking pictures of surfing and lifestyle for 4 years. I spent the first year taking photos only from the shore because I was terrified. Then I went in with my camera in hand and started to take captures, "said photographer Paola Nuñez.

The artist commented that one of the things that attracted her most towards surfing and lifestyle is that the essence of that culture is the connection with nature. She added that sharing that experience with others creates a sense of brotherhood.

"The culture of surfing in Guatemala is still beginning to flourish, there is a lot of talent that could stand out in international competitions. We have beaches with proper waves to practice, so it is important that the authorities also promote it since it is positive for tourism, "said the photographer.

Professional surfer Rita Murga said that surfing in Guatemala is growing and there are already approximately 450 people who practice it.

"For me surfing is meditation, it allows me to free my mind of stress, tension, anxiety. It is an activity that forces the concentration of all the senses. It is a sport but it is also a connection with nature.

Surfing | Guatexplorer

Photo: BeachCo Guatemala

Alarmed by one photo on the Facebook, some news portals started spreading the word that in the lake Petén Itzá there might be piranhas present. To the people that swim in the lake, especially during the holidays, it caused an alarm.

The ex-governor of the department, Rudel Álvarez, published on Facebook the finding of the fisherman  Mario José Tut.  He encountered some “fish with teeth” and published two photos of his finding. It was obvious that the species is not native to the lake in Peten.

"There are people who accidentally empty the exotic species of their aquariums, - said Álvarez. On the other hand, deputy minister of the environment Alfonso Alonzo commented that the species is known as the pacu, South American freshwater serrasalmid fish that are related to the piranha and are not carnivorous. "In the event that the final reports determine that it is in the lake, we will take the corresponding mitigation actions," he announced.

So, no piranhas in the lake, no panic. Just a fish species that is known to infest the many US states water flows and spread along both Americas.

No piranhas | Guatexplorer

The World Economic Forum (WEF) published the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report for 2017, where Guatemala maintains its rating of 3.5 out of seven but declines six places compared to 2015.

The current position, 86 of 136 countries, is the same as in 2011. After that it fell to the 97 position in 2013, to have a rise in 2015 reaching the 80th position. The highest rating by Guatemala is related to the price competitiveness, where it reaches 5.6 points out of a possible maximum of seven. Relatively positive are also the business environment (4.4), health and hygiene (4.6), human resources and labour market (4.1) and prioritisation of tourism and travel (4.4).

Cultural resources and business travel have a very low rating of 1.6. Guatemala has a lot of things to do in the field of digital demand, a number of World Heritage cultural sites (so far only 3) and in a number of international association meetings. The other weak spot is air transport infrastructure, where Guatemala get low 1.9 points. Truth is that some new terminals and runways had been opened recently (Puerto Barrios airport in Izabal department, airports in Retalhuleu and Quetzaltenango). The main problem is international airport La Aurora in Guatemala City ( the airport is literally cramped without a space to enlarge), but also non-existence of the smaller airports in some very touristic areas (Atitlan, Coban) that could be used for domestic flights.

In the field of safety and security, Guatemala gets 3.7 points, ranking 121st among 136 countries. Large homicide rate plays an important role here, but to be fair, crime is not aimed at the visitors of the country. Still, this element presents a big problem in tourism promotion.

Large discrepancy is shown in the area of natural resources (3.9). Guatemala is 18th by a number of protected areas and 27th by the number of known species. But, when it comes to the number of World Heritage natural sites, Guatemala ranks in 78th place with just one site – Tikal, that is in fact mixed site (cultural/natural). And that is simply outrageous knowing how many places have high value in this sense.

Graphic source: WEF

Guatemala tourism ranking 2017 | Guatexplorer

As  Holy Week 2017 (Semana Santa) is approaching, there is a growing optimism over financial effects from tourism in Guatemala. Experts estimate that domestic and foreign tourists will spend around 1.3 billion quetzals, meaning customers will leave revenues above 10 percent, which normally occurs in an average week.

Despite the increase, annual growth will not be good, says Antonio Malouf, president of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF), expert analyst. According to Hugo Maul, an analyst at the Center for National Economic Research (CIEN), Easter is generating a rebound in tourism, but this is only a temporary increase.

Fernando Trabanino, consumer advocate for the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) explained that an increase in the price of fuel has already been reported and that the Department of Consumer Affairs (Diaco) and the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) have already been notified.

Holy Week generates a movement of people within the country well above the normal, because the Guatemalans move to the beaches, take part in processions, enjoy their holiday season. It is now what we consider the summer in Guatemala. Traffic jams occur in the days prior and after the Holy Week, so be careful and make your way to the desired vacation spot on time and safely.

Traffic | Guatexplorer

The young Guatemalan author Denis Guerrero became a part of the “Minimalism” photo category history of National Geographic's digital publication NatGeo, it was chosen from more than 19 thousand photos from around the world.

NatGeo highlights the best 20 photographs to be part of Minimalism category presentation, where Guatemala is represented by Denis Guerrero, who is passionate about photography. "I didn't know it nor I imagined it and I had no information until I began to receive emails with the comments on the publication", shared in his social networks the Guatemalan photographer. He took his awarded photo in Yuxquén, Huehuetenango department.

The Spanish Royal Academy defines minimalism as: "Aesthetic and intellectual tendency that seeks the expression of the essential by eliminating the superfluous." Whole Minimalism story is here.

Here is his work:

Denis Guerrero | Guatexplorer

Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular places in Guatemala for tourists. Antigua, Tikal and lake Atitlan are must-do even in the shortest visits to this country. Lake Atitlan is endangered, but not because of the tourism. Daily contamination by wastewater has its aftermath: cyanobacteria.

Mechanism of pollution is very simple. Wastewater and solid waste provide phosphorus and nitrogen that feed the cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria then grow and that way prevent the sunlight reach deeper water. At this moment the sunlight only reaches up to five meters due to the turbidity of the water; It is expected that by 2019 the damage will be irreversible. Deforestation and lack of land protection in agricultural activities aggravate the problem. Lake Atitlan is dying like lake Amatitlan, south of the capital, did.

Pollution every year prompts groups of neighbours and entities that organise awareness campaigns to educate and inform the population about the importance that everyone has to save the Lake.

In Cakchiquel, Tzutujil and Spanish, the municipal authorities of San Pedro La Laguna, San Lucas Tolimán, Panajachel and Sololá drive the campaign not to use plastic bags, duroport or straws. Besides that, local authorities and environmentalists demand from the Congress and the State clear policies for the sustainable management of the basin, but to no avail.

Some measures are in effect but the main enemy – wastewater – is not yet under control. People that have an impact on the Lake live around in 15 municipalities. It is estimated that around 300 thousand people produce that type of the waste. A number of wastewater treatment plants - 11 in operation and 10 under construction – is definitely not sufficient for Lake Atitlán protection.

Every year, some 1.6 million cubic meters of wastewater enter the waters of the Lake. The point of no return will be reached very soon. The clock is ticking. After that, every possible recovery would be a very costly and demanding, if not impossible venue.

Lake Atitlan | Guatexplorer

More and more of municipalities in Guatemala ban usage of the plastic bags. It was started last year in San Pedro la Laguna, known tourist resort on the shores of the lake Atitlan. Their experience with the ban was a positive one, so now other towns are considering to do the same.

First to accept an example given by San Pedro is a small municipality of Acatenango in Chimaltenango department. They banned not only plastic bags but also plastic cups, plates, straws and similar products. Local businesses that will continue the use of those products will be fined.

„It is not easy to do, but we have to start somewhere“ – they say. That's definitely true, plastic is deeply involved in our daily lives in Guatemala. Problem is that it takes from 100 to even 1000 years to decompose such a waste. So, what is a substitute for plastic packaging?

It is expected that customers buy traditional linen bags for their daily shopping. Some products, like meat, will be wrapped in banana leaves. That was once a traditional way, now revived with new regulations. No doubt that sellers will find more ways to pack their goods. What matters is that this wave of environmental consciousness is quickly spreading in Guatemalan highlands. So, if visiting, don't be surprised if you visit the market and see a total absence of plastic in some places. They do it not because they're poor, but because they care.

Tourism news | Guatexplorer

Famous market on Terminal in Guatemala City is far from banning the plastic.

Although violence is present in Guatemala, taking normal precautions will be sufficient for your safe visit. Recently this footage from a surveillance camera in Antigua made public very angry. A majority of people in Guatemala are very hospitable and kind, and definitely, don't want to lose tourists. One of those two attackers on a female tourist was today reported killed in the prison.

Footage is excellent for educational purposes. It shows how a most common type of attack occurs: criminals use motorcycles, come very fast in front of the victim and then try to take victim's possessions. Antigua was so far considered very safe heaven, but lately, attacks on tourists do occur.

Video: Prensa Libre

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