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Need info on Guatemala

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I'm going to stop in Guatemala for 2 nights after spending 7 nights in Costa Rica. I arrive on a Saturday morning and depart on a Monday afternoon. It's a free stopover courtesy of my airline.

I realize that I can only visit one place outside of Guatemala City. I'm interested in something different than the green mountains, volcano, and beaches found in Costa Rica.

Any suggestions on something unique to Guatemala? Any info is appreciated.

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    Seems like Guatemala is not that popular! I did more research, so I'm going to answer my own question. Not that anyone else cares :-)

    Antigua is the old capital of Guatemala and it's a charming colonial city. It's only 45 minutes from the airport.

    Chichicastenango is about 3 hours away and has a world-renowned arts and crafts market. Lots of people with Mayan blood sell their creations here. The market is held only on Thursdays and Sundays. Staying one night here to enjoy the early morning rituals before the market opens.

    Tikal would have been a great place to visit, but it's too far to drive. My wife won't fly anything other than a jet, so the little planes are out of the question.

    I feel that I've found a couple of things to see and do that are unique to Guatemala. Not bad for a quick 2 night stopover on the way home from Costa Rica.

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    My choice would be either Tical or Antigua. If you go to Antigua spend the two days there, the trip to Chichicatenango is tiring , grant you it is a big market, but they also have a good market in Antigua.
    Antigua is charming, many lovely restaurants like Panza Verde, stay at La posada del Angel, the very best, only five rooms, charming and even Clinton stayed there. Good luck.

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    We just returned from antigua and Chichicastenango and both are great places. Antigua can be seen in a day. Staying overnight in Chichi is a good idea because the ride is long but this is a unique experience that you won't have elsewhere-don't miss the steps of the cathedral where Mayan rituals are always being preformed- it is an unforgettable scene. Have fun. Patrick

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    My Recommendations. I was in Guatemala a few years back and I found it great value for the dollar.

    Guatemala City is not so great.

    Antigua is wonderful and worth a day or two visit. I rented a horse and a guide and spent two full afternoons exploring the surrounding areas.

    Lots of history in Antiqua, it is the oldest city in the Americas. It is like a tale out of the old Bible a Sodom and Gormorah with the Catholic Church {corrupt} and the Military {corrupt] and wealthy politicos and government {corrupt] all conspiring and pitted up against each other for CONTROL of the country. The earthquake rocked the countryside, the Mountain exploded, the sides of the mountain gave way and the lake contained in the old mountain gave turned into a wall of water that washed old Guatemala away.

    Not unlike Modern Times.

    Not to despair there are many old buildings remaining and it is a very quiet and romantic stop. Loved the red bouganvillas growing over the garden walls. Lots of goods and weaving to be bought from the locals and good language schools in Antigua.



    Tikal is a must and you can book a flight for a day trip or an overnight stay. Bring Binocs as the forest surrounding the ruins is full of wild life. I can still remember the sound of the howler monkeys echoing in the forest.

    Lake Panachel this magnificent lake. It sits on a lake where you can look across at two large inactive volcanoes. It is very quiet and tranquil. Took a boat trip across the lake for a dollar{they charge us tourists triple the rate but still a good deal. I went swimming in the lake and didn't pick up any bugs or intestinal problems. Unlike Mexico I did not get sick in Guatemala.
    The lakeside town is small but they have an assortment of very good accomadation {some with a fireplace in your room } for reasonable prices.

    Lake Panachel is about a two-three hour drive from Chichicastenango. Chichi is an interesting stop if you want to see a real market where the locals come to trade. In Mexico most markets are for the tourist and at tourist prices.

    It is unfortunate you cannot extend your trip. I spent close to two weeks in Guatemala and needed all of it to do my travel at a relaxed pace and take it all in.

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    If your wife dislikes small planes, I'm not sure she wants to be on a bus to Chichicastenango...it's kinda curvy and even if you should go by a tourist van (which is hardly recommended in Guatemala, as they tend to be robbed far more often than the local buses, naturallY). Antigua is very reachable, one can easily go there straight from the airport - it's sort of overtouristed, but beautiful. Would highly recommend going to Lago Atitlan though - should be something like three hours from the airport, depending on way of transportation. Panajachel is the more well-known of the villages around the lake, quite touristed as well, but with a market as good as that in Chichi, both price and selectionwise. And amazing views in the early morning before the haze lies over the lake.

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    I've been travelling to Guatemala off and on since I was 12. The last time I was there was 1995- some things may have changed.

    However, here are my two cents on logistics. Guatemala does not have a great transportation infrastructure and robberies are increasingly more common.
    If something happens, eg. the car/bus breaks down etc.. you could easily miss your flight.

    With regards to crime, I dislike the buses but feel they are safer than a taxi. You would not know if a taxi driver was working with the bandits that might stop you on the road to Antigua and rob you of everything you own. However, bus drivers are fast and somewhat reckless. They like to race each other up and down the route to Antigua from the city. I think it is telling that every time I have been to Guatemala, a bus has gone over the side of the mountain and into the ravine on the way to Antigua. So I guess your risks are robbery or crashing. I'm not trying to scare you but supply information that allows you to make good decisions.

    Antigua is beautiful and you can spend two days soaking up the local culture without running all over the country.
    If Dona Luisa's restaurant is still there- they have excellent food and their banana bread is to die for.

    In terms of shopping Antigua has all the touristy stuff you might want plus nice trendy boutiques. The restaurants are great and it is realatively safe.

    Be careful about hiking in volanic areas-there are still pockets of toxic gases that can be fatal. Antigua is surrounded by dormant volcanoes and hiking is not reccommended due to these safety concerns.

    Lake Atitlan is beautiful but is quite a ways away from Guatemala City plus the main travel point Panajachel, is known by locals as Gringotenango as it is sooo touristy.

    Contrary to what some of the other posters said, you can get quite ill in Guatemala. Do not drink the water, not even to brush your teeth. Do not buy from food stalls. Stick to nice restaurants and do not take ice in drinks. Unless,of course, you want to lose a quick ten-twenty pounds. I have taken precautions each time I go to Guatemala and have been sick no matter what I do.

    Tikal,btw, is wonderful but here are the downsides. 1)Not so much shopping for sourvenirs. When I was there in 1995 there were two vendors total selling not much. 2) The ruins are great (be sure to look for Alfred Mahler's -the father of anthropology- graffiti) but be aware there is not much to do beyond that. We stayed at the Jungle Inn which was like the only hotel in Tikal. There was no night life, nothing to do except Tikal. You are out in the boonies.

    And I keep harping on the shopping as Guatemala has a rich indigenous culture with beautiful folkart and handwoven cloth/clothing. Of all the countries in Central America, this is the one that I consider the most prolific in the area of arts and crafts.

    If it were me, I would go to Antigua. They have some ruins, churches, etc... to visit. Shopping and it was the first planned city in the Western Hemisphere-it has a rich history. All the comforst of home (good food, nice hotels) are available as well.

    BTW, Guatemalan showers are nice but tend to hose the entire bathroom, it'll be like you had your own personal thunderstorm in the bathroom.

    And, aside from the recent rise in crime, Guatemalans are some of the friendliest people I've ever met.

    Have a good time.

    Michelle

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    You are soo lucky!!! I love Guatemala. I have traveled there many times with my children. We have never gotten sick. We buy water bottles at supermarket Paiz and also dont eat the salads in restaurants.

    If you only have 2 days there I think a must see is Antigua. Book a tour with a private company. Your hotel will help you. Chichicastenango is also beautiful and worth the trip. Dont take any pictures of the Indians without asking first. I did once and the lady got furious and I had to pay her.

    I have personally never been robbed in Guatemala. My brother in law, though, took a tour in Antigua and left his wallet in the van for a short while and it was gone. That was a silly thing to do though.
    There is a very good artisans market close to the airport in Guatemala City, it is safe also. I would recommend going to this one and not to the "Mercado Central" that is downtown in Guatemala city. Have a great trip!!

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    All of the posts are excellent. I love Guatemala (I have always avoided Guatemala City).
    Antigua, and the other places that have been mentioned are very worthwhile. Tikal has jet service. But it is so large, one should spend at least a day and a half.
    There is a new medication called Dukoral which you take prior to visiting places with iffy water (I would definetly classify Guatemala as problematic.) You take 2 doses prior to travelling and you will be good for 3 months (I think). You would not want to spoil a short vacation, and the grief it might cause.

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