The one sight that really warrants a day-trip from the capital is Volcán de Pacaya, a highly active cone, though this is actually easier to visit from nearby Antigua, from where most tours leave. From Guatemala City, the highway to the Pacific passes through endless suburbs, a swathe of new housing projects and giant maquila (clothing assembly) factories until you glimpse the (polluted waters) of Lago de Amatitlán nestling at the base of the Pacaya volcano.

To the northwest of the capital lies a hilly, forested area that, despite its proximity, is little tainted by the influence of the city. The one sight out this way, the Mixco Viejo ruins, the ancient capital of the Poqomam Maya, enjoy the most dramatic setting of any archeological site in Guatemala.

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