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Trip Report Driving Guatemala Trip Report

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Getting out of Guatemala City was no easy feat. After a few false starts and some very kind locals we were off and on our way to Lake Atitlan.

Lake Atitlan:

This lake surrounded by volcanoes is picture perfect. A great place to relax and enjoy the view. The view includes the locals dressed in stunning traditional Mayan clothes. You will come across woman weaving or peddling their brightly colored textiles. Panajachel is the town where you will find all your tourism needs from a bed to lay your head to a decent warm meal. Upon entering you will see Reserva Natural Atitlan: there is a zip line that is high, fun and worth the $23pp.

If you are looking for luxury just east on the lake road you will find Casa Palopo Hotel. The restaurant that overlooks the lake offers delicious food, for breakfast have the eggs benedict!

Lake Atitlan a boat trip to one of the villages that dot the lake. We opted for San Juan La Laguna, a charming, inviting and clean village. The indigenous women set up a cooperatives where they sell their weavings which benefit the group. There is a store that sells stylish purses, ponchos, scarfs and shirts. The coffee plant is another interesting stop to make. For a couple of dollars a guide walks you through the working plant, and explained the process from plant to pot. You can even visit Maximon, the cigar smoking evil saint. A few coins is the price to turn on the light to his case on.

Fuentes Georginas: we did a day trip to these natural hot springs. It’s about 2 hours from the lake. The road up the mountain is well paved abut 8 kilos. It is just a beautiful drive. The land is so fertile there are crops and people tending to them all the way the side of the volcano. The restaurant up at the springs has a great chicken sandwich and fries. Warning don’t shave before going into the water, the open pores and the not so clean hot water can create an infection.

Chichicastenago Market: was about an hour and a half from the lake. Twice a week, it seems every in country visits the Thursday and Sunday market. You can buy anything you can think of here, from locally made crafts to the kitchen sink. It is very colorful and crowded.

DRIVING NORTH

Lake Atitlan-Rio Dulce-Flores :

Rio Dulce is where we stopped on our way north to Tikal, the Mayan ruins. This small town is on the shore of the river that connects Lake Peten Itza and the Caribbean Sea. The river is beautiful and visitors usually see it on a 45-minute boat trip to the northern caribbean feel town of Livingston. You can take a taxi type boat for a nominal cost but it stops a lot or we paid 900Q for a day for our own boat tour. The highlight of the river is the beauty of steep limestone cliffs, mangroves, and pools of water so clear they look like mirrors reflecting the trees and the clouds. Livingston is worth a stop for lunch where one must try the local soup Tapado, coconut broth swimming with crab and shrimp, a whole fish accompanies the soup on the side. There are hotels here if you want to spend the night.

There isn’t much to the town of Rio Dulce, it is a dingy dusty town that is in great need of tourist hotels and restaurants. We stayed at Hacienda Tijax ($80/night w/ a/c and shower) which if you are a backpacker, staying in a cheaper room or the camp area you would think this place is heaven. The grounds are amazing, very cool suspension bridge, you feel like you are in the jungle but you are also lakefront. A boardwalk connects the rooms. Here was my problem the room was not clean. It looked and felt like they needed to power wash the inside of the room. Bugs I understand because of the setting, dirt that is another story. I had a steak, waitress recommended, at the hotel restaurant and that was a mistake. My husband had snook and said it was ok, the meal with a couple of drinks 190Q. Bring soap and a flashlight.

For a small fee we took the hotel boat across the river to Ricky’s Pizza where a man approached our table said, “If you don’t like your pizza you don’t pay.” He is a wonderful person and Yes, I paid for the pizza and it really was terrific.

Rio Dulce to Tikal / 4 hours:

After driving for hours from Rio Dulce, we decided to stop in El Remante for lunch. It is about 25 killometers south of Tikal National Park. A quiet small town located on the east end of Lake Peten Itza. You can rent a bike and ride the path around part of the lake. Next trip I would definitely consider staying here for a couple of days. Mon Ami was a good restaurant, we had the brushetta, two really large pasta dishes a couple of drinks for 110Q.

For ultimate beauty you must visit Tikal National Park. It is worth the drive, flight or even a long bus ride. These spectacular Mayan Ruins are set in the rain forest. Walking around this park there is a well preserved structure around every turn. There are temples so high you can climb above the trees in the rain forest. As you walk the gravel paths the jungle comes alive with howls and chirps of the many monkeys and birds living in the park. There are buses that leave every 20 minutes from the park to Flores, the town where most tourist stay.

It is the Flores area where we met Lorena, the owner of a beautiful eco-lodge, Nintun. To get to Nintun without four wheel drive you have to take a boat across the lake. We were directed to a safe place to park the car. Arriving at night you approach the property where the lights are so small and few they look like fireflies in a forest. The lodge is on the side of a hill surrounded by trees. It is a stunning property of four small houses, a common area for guests to gather and the huge open kitchen that the homemade meals are cooked. Lorena will whip up a gourmet meal as if she was scrambling eggs. You wake to the birds surrounding one of her many feeders. In lieu of a swimming pool you have the calm, clear and luke warm lake to take a dip. She will plan and cater your trip to Tikal or Yaxha ruins. Lorena never appears to tire of the nonstop questions about her country and her home. Both places I am sure to return.

DRIVING SOUTH:

Flores-Coban-Antigua

In Sayaxche you have to get on a car ferry for a 2 minute ride across the river 15Q.

We stopped in Chisec for lunch ( 60 kilos north of Coban) the road runs thru this city. We ate at Bombil Pek, south end of the city you will see it from the road. There’s no menu we ordered the beef and chicken meal with a soda was $5 per person. Stick with the chicken if you stop here it was very good and a typical local meal.

We spent a night in Coban. As a place just to spend the night there wasn’t much to it, I found it to be a nondescript concrete jungle. We could only find 1 “bar” in the entire city, and we looked!! Off the plaza and down the hill Duente’s Music and Bar. Unless you plan on doing trips to the surrounding caves, the pools of Semuc Champey or coffee plantations I would say skip it!

Antigua:

Antigua is another Guatemala must see. This colonial town south of Guatemala City is a pleasant place to walk, shop, sip coffee or splurge on fine food. I could have spent a week there. It is charming. If you want to spend a little do it here, for an awesome meal try Nicolas and be sure to get the scallop appetizer to start. After dinner there is a lounge downstairs in the restaurant, live music at many of the bars nearby, or duck into the cigar bar for good conversation and a night cap.

There are daytrips to hike the active volcano and other nearby sites. While walking down the cobble stone streets you look up to see a volcano in the distance. I can’t recommend a hotel, we stayed with friends, but there are plenty of nice ones to choose from.

For more information travel trip reports see my just for fun website http://www.kimsegal.com/index.html

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