Lake Atitlán is special, especially away from the tourist hordes of Panajachel. In San Marcos La Laguna, we swim every day in the perfect water, eat delicious vegetarian food, and enjoy fabulous views of volcanoes.
The political situation is mostly stable since the end of the civil war, and that is good. Tourism has grown along with the population and improved infrastructure, but the military is still dominant. Locals complain about the soaring cost of public education, lack of clean water, violence in the capital, the deadly imprudence of truck drivers on the newly improved highways, cocaine trafficking from Colombia to the USA with a complicit military, the associated problems of drug money and crack addicts, and an indigenous population who suffer discrimination and hardships.
I imagine how things would be different if the CIA, in a well-documented operation, hadn't evicted president Arbenz Guzmán to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company. Guzmán never implemented the land reform for which he was elected, thanks to US military action, and the United Fruit Company's continued profits were ensured. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were in Mexico, increasingly frustrated at being unable to help the peasants defend themsleves against the blatant, illegal, and reprehensible American economic and military imperialism. This is what got Che so angry that he became a revolutionary. And to this day, Guatemala's indigenous people are still in dire need of that land reform. To anyone who still thinks the American invasion of Iraq was about anything other than power and oil, remember that it is now a proven historical fact that the USA invaded Guatemala for bananas.
Tikal is awesome, one of my favorite places. I always stay within the National Park. It's worth the extra hotel expense to enter the jungle at sunrise and sunset. Great hiking trails and fabulous Maya ruins! I love the jungle; it makes me feel ALIVE. We are often alone to enjoy the magic (most tourists sleep 50 kilometers away). Tikal lies within a large protected area, full of giant trees, colorful birds, monkeys, and other critters. It is a good thing, because unprotected jungle is turning into cattle pasture so quickly, there will soon be nothing left. I used to sleep on Temple 4, but so many tourists fell to their deaths that they closed off the access. Oh well, the only constant in the Universe is change.