Guatemala: travel books to read before you go


This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Guatemala guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

Time Among the MayaRonald Wright’s Time among the Maya is a story of travels through the whole Maya region – Guatemala, Mexico, Belize and Honduras – delving into the glorious past and exploited present of the Maya and their obsession with time. Wright visits many of the places you’ll visit, and his book is a fascinating read, despite being written during the troubled 1980s as the civil war raged in the background.

The Heart of the SkyPeter Canby’s The Heart of the Sky also takes you on a journey through the ‘mundo Maya,’ introducing you to a much wider cross-section of Guatemalan society.

Guatemalan JourneyGuatemalan Journey, by Stephen Connely Benz, casts an honest and funny modern traveler’s eye on the country, as does Anthony Daniels’ Sweet Waist of America, also published as South of the Border: Guatemalan Days, where the medic author pinpoints some of the country’s contradictions.

Beyond the Mexique BayProbably the most quoted travelogue on Guatemala is Aldous Huxley’s Beyond the Mexique Bay. Written in the 1930s, many of Huxley’s descriptions hold true today, particularly of Maya sites and natural wonders, such as Lago de Atitlán.

Sacred Monkey RiverIn Sacred Monkey River, Christopher Shaw explores by canoe the jungleclad basin of the Río Usumacinta, a cradle of ancient Maya civilization along the Mexico–Guatemala border.

Incidents of TravelThe 19th-century classic Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, by John L Stephens (illustrated by Frederick Catherwood), was the first serious look at many Maya archaeological sites. It’s a laborious but interesting read.

The Full MontezumaThe Full Montezuma, by Peter Moore, doesn’t even approach literature, but it is a vaguely readable account of a young Australian backpacker’s travels through the region.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.