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Trip Report Guatemala Trip Report Jan-Feb 2010

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i recently spent almost 3 weeks in guatemala , w/ brief incursions into honduras and el salvador.

while i was prepared for a different experience than my many trips to ( non beach resort) mexico, i was still surprised by the relative poverty partially due to i believe far fewer tourists and lack of petroleum reserves and the history of recent warfare.

unlike mexico where most towns , cities and villages still have historic, pleasant cores most of the settlements we visited were uniformly unattractive. the 2 exceptions were antigua and flores.

regardless, the landscape is beautiful, the people friendly and helpful and the major attractions worth the effort of getting there. i am a decent spanish speaker and it was interesting to find myself in a country in which spanish is a second language for much of the mayan speaking population. at 170 cm i enjoyed being tall!

aside from our time in the capitol and at tikal we drove a micro rental car. we never felt threatened or unsafe despite many rumours to the contrary. we took normal precautions.

in guatemala we stayed downtown at the comfortable and attractive pan american hotel 1 block from the plaza, cathedral and central market. the archeological museum in one of the more affluent zones is full of wonderful treasure.

we flew from guate to flores and shuttled up to tikal where we stayed at the tikal inn, the least expensive, but comfortable hotel in the park. no pool, but it was easy to walk next door and swim.

we hired a guide, samuel, as we entered the park. he charged 50 dollars US for 4 hours and was quite wonderful and informative. the site is huge and spectacular and virtually deserted. roaming through the jungle from pyramid to pyramid was stunning and we climbed # 1, 4 and 5.

we spent a night in flores town and the island is charming and friendly. swimming in the lake was refreshing

we spent 3 days in antigua and stayed at the attractive palacio pequeno 2 blocks from the plaza. antigua has seen a lot of beautiful restoration, but still retains churches destroyed in the earthquake of 1773. its a great town for just wandering the streets and one of the few in the country where you are not overwhelmed by cars and trucks.

the highlight of our time there was climbing volcan pacaya an active volcano about 1.5 hours from town. i've been on 4 other active volcanos, but this experience was unique. our group of 25 with 2 guide was allowed to get close enough to molten lava to literally toast marshmallows. at one point we were hiking up a ravine toward the crater and lava flow about 8 meters wide was advancing down toward us at about a foot per minute. a huge adrenalin rush, but quite dangerous in retrospect.

we went next to lago atitlan which is as beautful as described, surrounded by volcanos. the main town pana is unattractive despite its setting , but has all the usual travellers amenities. we stayed at the hotel regis w/ bungalows set in a pretty garden. the hotel sits above a thermal spring so had great on demand soaking tubs. there was also a temescal which they fired up for us. we had seen the remains of one at tikal.

mas un poco mas tarde

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