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trip advice?

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My wife and I are planning a 7-day trip to Guatemala in May, and would welcome any itinerary recommendations. I expect that we'll fly in to Guatemala City, spend a few days in Antigua and a few days in Atitlan. Can we fit in a stop at a beach somewhere? Monterico?

Also, how necessary is a guide (for safety or otherwise)? Only for trips to a volcano? We generally don't use guides when we travel, but most of the posters seem to have used one.

We're continuing to research our options, but would greatly appreciate any info from veterans.

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    We just returned from a 2 week trip to Guatemala.

    If you get into the country early enough in the day I would head right out to Atitlan. It is about a 3 hr trip. From Atitlan we drove to Antigua (2hrs)for a couple of days and then flew out of Guatemala City to Tikal. The drive from Antigua to GC was only about 45 mins but I would allow 1 hr because of traffic. 3 places in 7 days is really pushing it if you want to go to the beach as well unless you really have 9 days with your travel days. Not much chance to really see much.

    We did hire a driver for all of our transportation needs between towns until we flew up to Tikal. While at Atitlan you can easily take the launches around the lake to see the villages or a taxi to one of the markets that are further out like Solola and Chichicastenango.
    Don't know what your budget is but Panajachel has something for everyone and it is a safe town. For a really wonderful experience, Casa Palopo was our favorite stop on our trip. Pricey but worth it.

    The only time we were told we needed a guide (protection) was if we wanted to head out and hike the volcanos. We never felt threatened in any of the places we went.

    We used Turansa and were very satisfied. For our trip to Atitlan from GC, then to Antigua, then to the airport plus a full day shopping at the market in Solola and exploring Panajachel it was only $310. The driver just parked and told us where to find him when we were done, it wasn't like having a guide. Every other transport company was over $400 and didn't include the day of shopping and exploring.

    We did hire a guide when we went to Santiago de Atitlan. They are waiting for the launches. Forget what we paid but we learned a lot about the town and it was pretty fascinating. You will need directions to visit Maximon as he is in a private home and was getting ready to move after we were there.

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