Sunday, March 8, 2009

Southern Peten Tourist Attractions Promoted

The Comité de Autogestión Turística (Self-Tourism Committee or CAT) in southern Petén, comprising the municipalities Poptún, Dolores and San Luis, is promoting tourism sites, water spas, and archaeological attractions as a new option for tourists.

Pedro Hernandez Bailón, of CAT, explained that the resorts and the spas at Las Monjas y Las Pozas have been improved to attract visitors. Both are accessible via a marked detour on the road from Rio Dulce to Flores, in the village of Machaquilá-seven kilometers north of Poptún. According to local stories the site got it's name over half a century ago when a group of nuns from Mexico visited the river and chose Machaquilá as a discreet place to bathe. In the case of Las Pozas, the name derives from natural lakes of the area.

During a tour, tourists can appreciate a complex of caves, most notably in The Cave of a Thousand Skulls, which has triangular entrances. Tourists can also observe unexcavated mounds, where it is suspected that there are remains of the Mayan culture. According to archaeologists, these caves were used as warehouses for food.

Korina Soza Castellanos, of the Alianza para el Turismo Comunitario (Alliance for Community Tourism), said that southern Petén has a lot of tourist attractons which are visited very little such as the caves of Naj Tunich, discovered in 1979, where there are unique paintings on the walls that amaze visitors.

There is also a tour of the River Caves, an exploration of which offers walking and some swimming because one travels between caves by swimming an underground river of crystal clear water.

The town of Dolores Ixcún is another archaeological site, with the second largest Mayan stela in Guatemala and the Regional Museum of Southeast Guatemala, which displays archeological finds collected during research and exploration of other sites.

Yanira Quiñónez, manager of the national park Las Cataratas (The Falls), said that her parents purchased the land more than 30 years ago for agriculture and livestock but some 10 years ago found that forests were disappearing and instead turned property into a park. Quiñónez says that the biggest attraction is the waterfall, 12 meters in height which is along the river Santo Domingo, Sabaneta.

The time is right to visit those places because the weather at this time of year invites a walk through the forest.

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