• Cielo Vista

Guatemala’s Relief Map: hands down the country’s best guide

April 10, 2014

GUATEMALA CITY – Once upon a time a man made a map. Accompanied by a donkey and a few measuring instruments, he rode around Guatemala taking measurements of the country and returned to the capital to scale up.

His name was Francisco Vela, and in 1905, with the help of assistant Claudio Urrutia, he designed what is reportedly the only three-dimensional cement map in the world. Drawn almost perfectly to scale (in relation to Guatemala’s original geography), the Relief Map is a reproduction of the country as it existed at the start of the 20th century – with Belize as Guatemala’s 23rd department.

Featuring mountains, volcanoes, towns, rivers – one of which even has running water – roads and ports, Vela’s map gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the Central American nation. In recent years a number of petrol towers have even been added to ensure the map keeps up-to-date with the country’s development.

Guate relief map 2

As visitors enter the site, they are greeted with a monument showing engineers taking measurements of geographical landscapes with a manually operated theodolite.


Anna-Claire Bevan

From the two observation towers positioned on either side of Vela’s creation, visitors can appreciate the diverse geographical reality of Guatemala. The complex level of detail is not only apparent in the naming of the country’s departments, but also in the hundreds of smaller cities and pueblos that also are accounted for. The exact pinpointing of the country’s altitude, latitude and longitude, along with the accuracy of the model – 1:10,000 km horizontal and 1:2,000 vertical – is an impressive act of engineering.

Having been praised as one of the “Wonders of Guatemala,” the 1,800-square-foot structure is a popular attraction in Guatemala’s capital. As visitors enter the site, they are greeted with a monument showing engineers taking measurements of geographical landscapes with a manually operated theodolite.

Guate relief map 3

The exact pinpointing of the country’s altitude, latitude and longitude, along with the accuracy of the model, has led many people to deem the map one of Guatemala’s “wonders.”


Anna-Claire Bevan

Located in Zone 2 of Guatemala City, the Relief Map pays homage to Guatemala and its culture in a multitude of ways. The concrete railing around the outside of the model is intricately designed with six medallions, each displaying a different symbol of Guatemala: from its national bird (the quetzal) to its national tree (the ceiba). Even the small forest that surrounds the attraction consists of more than 100 hormigo trees, the wood of which is used in the construction of the marimba – Guatemala’s national musical instrument. Known as the “Sonorous Forest,” the trees were planted to commemorate the country’s marimba players and composers, and many of their names are featured on plaques within the forest.

This unique open-air exhibition is now considered national heritage due to its artistic and historical value, and beats the Lonely Planet hands down as the country’s best guide.

Guate relief map 4

The map, in Zone 2 of the capital, gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the Central American nation and an insight into the country’s diverse geography.


Anna-Claire Bevan

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

Fishing for the next generation in Quepos
Sponsored content
4 views
Sponsored content
4 views

Fishing for the next generation in Quepos

Scott Cutter / Marina Pez Vela - May 20, 2019

Having completed the 20th edition of the Offshore World Championship in May, and the 7th edition of this iconic event…

Costa Rica announces provisional 40-man roster for Gold Cup
Keylor Navas
7 views
Keylor Navas
7 views

Costa Rica announces provisional 40-man roster for Gold Cup

Alejandro Zúñiga - May 20, 2019

Costa Rica on Monday announced the 40-man provisional roster that will serve as the basis for its 2019 Gold Cup…

Costa Rica allocates $3.35 million for port infrastructure in Limón
Costa Rica
17 views
Costa Rica
17 views

Costa Rica allocates $3.35 million for port infrastructure in Limón

Alejandro Zúñiga - May 20, 2019

The Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA) will manage more than $3.35 million as it explores four projects to support the economy…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!