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Caravan Tour of Guatemala July/August 2013

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My husband and I went on a Caravan tour of Guatemala July 26-August 4, 2013. Although Caravan was a wonderful tour company, I can’t recommend this specific tour.

First, the good news. Our hotels were excellent. Most were like resort lodges with gorgeous landscaping, pools and amenities. The food in the hotels and restaurants was very good to excellent and that’s remarkable considering that, at times, we were in the rainforest or isolated areas. There were always many choices and vegetarians were accommodated. Many people on this tour were repeat Caravan customers – some were on their fourth or fifth Caravan tour.

Our tour guide, Jane Garcia, was first rate. She is a British woman married to a Guatemala for more than 20 years. She had in depth knowledge of the history, culture and politics of Guatemala. Although there were 40 of us, we could hear Jane at all times without difficulty. She was very organized and patient and she made the trip quite pleasurable.

Although we toured in the rainy season, rain was not an issue. It rained only twice in the late afternoon or evening when we were at the hotel or on the bus. Rain never interfered with our schedule and Jane said we were lucky in this regard because it usually rains regularly in the afternoons. The climate was comfortable except at Tikal where it was hot and humid. At Tikal, it was probably in the mid-90’s.

Now, the bad news. We spent way too much time on the bus. It’s not clear from the tour description that you spend one full day getting to Tikal and another full day driving to the next destination. I would never have booked this tour if I had known the time required on the bus. We had already spent a full day flying to Guatemala City for the tour and, after one day in the City, we were stuck on the bus for another full day of travel (with a minor stop at Quirigua). Jane tried to make the bus ride tolerable with educational DVDs and rest stops but the ride was not a vacation. We were grateful to arrive at our hotel but we were not yet at Tikal.

After an hour’s drive the following morning to Tikal, we spent three hours touring Tikal (more than enough time in the hot and humid jungle) and the rest of the day having lunch and driving back to the hotel. Tikal was interesting but not awe inspiring like the pyramids of Egypt and it didn’t compare to Chichen Itza in Mexico. It certainly was not worth almost three full days of my time on vacation and most people on our tour seemed to agree.

Caravan should drop Tikal from the main itinerary. Caravan could give people the option of adding it to a shortened tour via helicopter or bus. Some of us agreed that we’d pay for a helicopter rather than suffer the bus ride.

There were other long bus rides to other areas but they were far more manageable. Of course, some long bus rides are required when you tour a country to see the highlights. Overall, Antigua and Lake Atitlan were the most interesting although I don’t think I would have wanted to spend extra time in either place.

I definitely would consider using Caravan again but not to Guatemala.

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