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Guatemala Trip Report

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Just got back from 11 days in Guatemala-We had a wonderful trip- Guatemala is an absolutely amazing country! This was an adventure trip that included staying at a lake side resort & boating on Lake Atitlan,a jungle hike to watch monkeys showing off, hike up an active volcano where you could see the red hot lava one meter below our feet,a jungle lodge stay with a sunrise hike at the Mayan ruins of Tikal, rapelling on a zip line in the Tikal jungle "tarzan style", three nights on a catamaran sail where we swam under warm water waterfalls and in steam caves, diving in Belize and staying on a deserted island in beach bungalows with only our boat captain and the caretaker etc...We started at the Hotel Atitlan- a lakefront hotel with wonderful gardens and volcano/lake views.Had delicious meals there. Took a lancha boat to Santiago and bought Guatemala clothes & souveniers off the street stands and paid a kid on the street to take us to see Maximon. There is also a traditional market in Santiago where all the locals shop.

Don't miss the Nature reserve near Hotel Atitlan- it is a short hike to a platform where we saw a waterfall & watched lots of monkeys showing off for us. Had a great lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants in Panajachel and then took a tuk tuk back to Hotel Atitlan. Next we went to Antigua and stayed at the beautiful B & B called Mansion Pensativo- lovely gardens, pool with hammocks and volcano views. Bedroom had a fireplace and large bathroom. Did the sunset hike up Pacaya Volcano- it was a 1 1/2 hour climb straight up and was rewarding when we stood on a lava bed from an eruption in Sept. and were able to see red hot lava through cracks in the lava bed 3 feet under us (we would never be allowed to do this hike in the US without signing waivers!). Next we flew to Fores and stayed at the Jungle lodge at Tikal. Did a sunrise hike- met our guide at 4:45 am- sat on the side of one of the temples and waited for the sun. The highlight was hearing the howler monkeys waking up- they sound like lions and the roaring started in one area of Tikal and then spread as other monkeys woke up. About 20 minutes later the parkeets start to wake up and their chirps are heard all over.

We took a 3 hour shuttle from Tikal to Rio Dulche where we boarded the chartered catamaran Las Sirenas for a three day sailing trip on Lake Isabel and the Rio Dulche. This is a beautiful part of Guatemala- the waters are a deep green and surrounded by lush jungle, limestone cliffs and thatch roof houses. We docked the catamaran & walked about 40 minutes to Finca el Paraiso which has an amazing warm water waterfall that flows into cold fresh water springs and steam caves. It was fun to climb the rocks and explore the caves while warming up under the hot water falls and then cooling off in the cold springs. The boat sailed around Lake Isabel which is a very large fresh water lake. We really enjoyed the 3 days on the catamaran- we had a fun group and crew and spent New Years eve watching fireworks from the boat near Rio Dulche.

We then boarded a small lancha motor boat that took us from the Rio Dulche to the Sapodilla Cayes of Belize in the Caribbean. We spent two nights in beachfront bungalows on a small island that collects rain water for showering and has a generator for limited power. We were at the Serenade Island resort- a tiny island with 3 guest bungalows, a restaurant, dive shop and crew housing. The island does non profit research on conch, lobsters and turtles. It was fun to have our own island - we were able to hike and canoe over to two other nearby deserted islands. Went scuba diving and snorkeling and mostly relaxed in ocean side hammocks.

After a night in a jungle lodge, 3 nights on a catamaran & 2 nights on a deserted island, we needed luxury & spent our final night at Hotel Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua. It is an absolutely beautiful converted convent hotel with candle lit hallways, piped in organ music and flowering gardens. We had a nightime arrival and loved the thousands of candles- drank wine in the hot tub and enjoyed our rooms with fireplaces & balconies that overlooked a volcano. It is well worth the extra money to stay at Casa Santo Domingo.

We arranged our entire trip through Aventuras Vacacionales- They were very accomodating and they have an extensive web site with links to hotels and tours and they are the company who offer the catamaran sailing trip .Our tour was a private tour for 5 people that included private shuttle vans to each location. The shuttles were always prompt in picking us up and taking us to each destination.I will be posting this trip report on several web sites- hope it helps others who want to plan an adventure trip in Guatemala.

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