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Guatemala portion of Belize/Gruatemala trip report

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Our first stop in Guatemala was the wonderfuly town of El Remate where we stayed for 4 nights at La Casa de Don David (www.lacasadedondavid.com). We really enjoyed the town. It is on Lake Peten Itza. The lake front is a park with a walking trail along the shore. We sat in one of the restaurants on the lake and saw young boys riding horses down to the water to bathe and drink, followed by a family of pigs doing the same. There were fishermen, women doing laundry - all sorts of activity. We took the hotel's tour to Tikal, which left at 5:30 in the morning and include the van, a packed lunch, and a guide. We were the only ones who used the guide who was also a birder so he pointed out many birds (including 2 species of Toucans) as well as information about the ruins.
We took a day trip to Flores and somehow kept getting lost there which is hard to do since it's a small island. This was our first opportunity to an atm in Guatemala and found that our card didn't work. Later attempts in Rio Dulce and Antigua also failed. Never found out what the problem was. Fortunately we had some traveler's checks and cash. Also, ended up taking some cash advances on our VISA. We've used this atm card all over Europe, Mexico, and Peru.

Next we took the Linea Dorado bus to Rio Dulce where we stayed at Tijax for 2 nights. It's a little like scout camp, but had a nice restaurant and was right on the river, and in the jungle/swamp. We took their trip down the river to Livingston. It's a gorgeous trip.

From Rio Dulce we got back on the bus to Guatemala City for overnight at the Best Western Stofella.

We had arranged for a van pick-up from the hotel to Antigua with Antigua Tours (www.antiguatours.net) for the next morning. Antigua is a great town and the only one we visited with a plaza mayor like those in Mexico that we enjoy so much. We were in Anigua for 5 nights at the Hotel San Jorge (www.hotelsanjorge.centroamerica.com). The hotel had a nice garden with tables and chairs and an especially good breakfast.
There are plenty of sights to visit. We also took 2 day tours with the above company: to the Pacaya Volcano and a coffee finca.
The volcano trip was more rugged than we imagined even though we took horses up to where the lava starts. Lava was flowing.
The coffee finca was really interesting and ended with a cup of their coffee from their shop on the plaza.

We took an overnight to Chichicastenango staying at the Hotel Santo Tomas (our splurge on this trip). We were there for the mass in the church and the market. We got back to Antigua in the late afternoon on sunday in time for the last part of a procession to La Merced church. Every sunday in Lent one of the cofradias (brotherhoods) puts on the procession which begins early in the mornig and lasts all day. The procession involves the members dressed in their costumes and as Roman soldiers, some carrying platforms with Jesus carrying the cross, followed by women carrying a statue of Mary, followed by a band. They make sawdust rugs in varios patterns out of colored sawdust on the procession route that are of course destroyed during the procession. In the cathedral and in La Merced there were some rugs that were kept for a while.

Panajachel on Lake Atitlan for 4 nights was our final stay before heading back to the Best Western overnight before our flight out.
We stayed at the Posada de los Volcanes (www.posadadelosvolcanes.com). It was in a good location with very helpful staff. We took the 3 town tour on the lake by lancha that we booked at the hotel. It was a beautiful day!

We found Guatemala to be just beautiful and would be happy to go back. Just a final note: the departure tax was 20 Q.

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