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The port of Santo Tomas de Castillo in Guatemala is the gateway to one of South America’s most untouched countries, a land overseen by towering volcanoes and covered by tropical jungle. It’s a relatively modern port and constantly expanding, and with a dedicated terminal for cruise ships, it grants tourists access to this unique country and its diverse culture. From the port of Santo Tomas, travellers can discover ancient Mayan ruins, serene lakes and ravaged desert lands.
Santo Tomas is still relatively small, and although it offers tourists an insight into local Guatemalan culture it doesn’t offer the large range of tourist attractions many cruise ship ports can boast. However, some of the country’s most interesting sights and attractions are within a reasonable travelling distance of the terminal. You won’t have a great deal of time to spend exploring Santo Tomas when your cruise ship stops over in Guatemala, but here are some experiences that are worth having:
This site of ancient Mayan ruins is a popular day trip for many visiting cruise ship tourists. These temples don’t have quite the magnificence of the ones at Chichen Itza in Mexico but they’re still an impressive sight and give a good indication of the magnitude and scale of early architectural sites like these.
This magnificent expanse of water was once used by pirates who weighed anchor in the harbour and came upriver in search of food and treasures to plunder. It is watched over by the impressive Castillo de San Felipe and is also populated by families of manatee and various species of monkey.
This local town is a well-developed tourist destination thanks to its lively personality and traditional Guatemalan style. Boats run to its jetty from the port at Santo Tomas and it can also be reached by road. It’s an interesting location for some alternative shopping options and has a lovely, palm-lined beach to enjoy.
Santo Tomas is still developing as a tourist destination in its own right but it does offer some shopping opportunities on the harbour itself. A large warehouse that was originally used for cargo shipping has been turned into a store that sells all manner of tourist items from T-shirts and hats to jewellery and local crafts. For a more immersive shopping experience, head to Porto Barrios just up the coast. It’s actually the second port serving the same town but here you’ll find a central market where a wider selection of products is available.
Santo Tomas doesn’t have any restaurants on its doorstep, but Porto Barrios has a variety that can be reached by taxi. The journey only takes a matter of minutes after disembarking your cruise ship, and you’ll have the choice of a popular steak house as well as a number of restaurants overlooking the sea. Guatemalan food is characterised by spicy seasoning that resembles Spanish or Mexican cooking. A popular local dish is tamale, a steamed dough ball containing a variety of stuffing, from meats to cheese. They are eaten all year round and can often be found in major cities served on street corners by local vendors.
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