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8 Nights in the Land of Volcanoes and Mayan Ruins- Fantastic Guatemala

8 Nights in the Land of Volcanoes and Mayan Ruins- Fantastic Guatemala

Old Mar 14th, 2021, 05:21 PM
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8 Nights in the Land of Volcanoes and Mayan Ruins- Fantastic Guatemala

Hi everyone. Iím back from visiting the beautiful country of Guatemala. Guatemala hit my travel radar a couple of years ago after I spent time in Chiapas, Mexico and the highland city of San Cristobal de las Casas. After researching Guatemala, I decided I needed to bring it into my short term travel plans and Iím very glad I did! During these 8 short nights, I had 3 primary objectives:

1. Stay in and tour the beautiful Spanish colonial city of Antigua, full of ruined churches and convents destroyed in the 18th and 20th centuries by various earthquakes.
2. Hike the incredibly challenging Volcano Acatenango, camp overnight and watch the frequent explosions of very nearly Volcano Fuego.
3. Tour the incredible Mayan ruins of Tikal in the north of the country.

Impressions:
1. Guatemala is the second Central American country Iíve visited, having spent 8 nights in Costa Rica back in spring 2016. While I enjoyed Costa Rica very much, I found Guatemala much more culturally interesting. The Mayan history, the Spanish history, the food, etc. have really made a lasting impression.
2. Antigua is a gorgeous city. The ruined churches and convents are everywhere you turn. But there is still a very active, lively city to experience as well.
3. I debated whether or not to tackle the hike of 13,000 foot Acatenango. Itís a 5 hour uphill hike and the first 4 1/2 hours are at a steep incline. Every blog I read or vlog I watched (all done by 20-somethings) talked about how totally challenging the hike is. Iím in good shape but neverthess Iím 60. Finally, 5 days before my trip, I decided that if I didnít do it, Iíd regret it. I am SOOOOO glad I did it but I will also say that it totally kicked my rear end, both up and down. Nevertheless, the views of nearby Volcano Fuego erupting every 30 minutes or so, and nearby Volcano Agua with the clouds framing it at sunrise are travel memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
4. If you travel to Guatemala, you must visit Tikal. I liked it at least as well and perhaps better than Chichen Itza as I found Tikal easier to visualize how it was a functioning city back in its day between 75 A.D. and roughly 900 A.D.
5. I felt very safe the entire time, not just with general safety but also re. COVID safety. Many restaurants take peoplesí temperature prior to entry. Sanitizer is everywhere. A COVID test no more than 96 hours old (if PCR) or 72 hours old (if rapid antigen) is required for entry.
6. People were always happy that I was there and I had random people on the street thank me for coming in this day and age to visit their beautiful country.

Places I would have liked to visit but did not have time to do so include Lake Atitlan, the major market at Chichcastenango (I had to drop this once I decked to do the Acatenango overnight hike) and the Mayan ruins at Copan, just over the border in neighboring Honduras. Perhaps on a second trip.

Here are some of my favorite photos from Guatemala. Iím happy to answer any questions or comments that anyone might have.

MB

The Santa Catalina Arch, the symbol of Antigua, with (fortunately) dormant Volcano Agua looming ominously to the south.

Volcano Fuego (smoking) and Volcano Acatenango next to it. From the La Merced church plaza, Antigua.

Parque Central and the facade of the former Antigua Cathedral.

Spring is in full bloom in Antigua.

Ruins of the Antigua Cathedral, destroyed in the 1773 earthquake. This reminded me of the destroyed Convento in Lisbon, Portugal.

Cool detail on a relief in the Antigua Cathedral.

Pork-filled Guateman tacos.

Gurgling fountain. Ruins of Convento Las Capucinas, Antigua.

18th century pulpit in the museo of Las Capucinas.

Pimped out chicken bus. Antigua.

Spectacular ruins of La Recoleccion church, Antigua. These were my favorite ruins.

Facade of La Merced church. Antigua.

Christ carrying his cross. La Merced.

Ruins of Church of San Francisco. Antigua.

Atmospheric doorway. Calle Norte. Antigua.

Making chocolate in Antigua.

Ruins of the Church of St. Augustine. Antigua.

St. Augustine stands guard over the ruins of his church.

Our first eruption of Volcano Fuego from our base camp on Volcano Acatenango.

Fuego erupts again just before sunset.

The lights of Guatemala City in the distance from base camp on Acatenango.

Volcano Pacaya erupts off in the distance.

Lava from Fuego. Itís hard to capture lava eruptions as they are over and done with so quickly. Fortunately, I saw an AMAZING one at 3:00 am that morning when I opened the tent to pee. Lava exploding from Fuego like fireworks and running all down the side. Unfortunately, my phone was turned off.

Fuego erupts at sunrise on Sunday morning.

I love this phot. Above the clouds blanketing Volcano Agua at sunrise from base camp on Volcano Acatenango.

Tortilla soup and a Bloody. Fridaís in Antigua.

Great Jaguar temple. Tikal.

Entrance to a noblemanís bedroom, Tikal. The wood beam is original and dated to about 700 A.D.

Great Jaguar temple.

Temple #2, at the other end of the Gran Plaza. Tikal.

Jaguar temple from the top of Temple #2.

Temple #2.

Temple #4. Tikal.

The pit where lime was melted down to make limestone for the construction of the temples and pyramids. Tikal.

Last edited by MinnBeef; Mar 14th, 2021 at 05:45 PM. Reason: Would you please make this a trip report please (I forgot) and tag it as Guatemala? Thank you.
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Old Mar 14th, 2021, 07:21 PM
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Iconic photos, MB. Glad you decided to pull the trigger. It's probably been 20 years since we first visited. Enjoyed Frida's even back then. I was told (or had read) that any ruin in Antigua had to remain in its ruined state unless it could be totally restored. Such ruins truly add to the ambiance of the city, along with the accent lighting at night and absence of debris and trash. Makes me longbto go back. Never made it to Tikal, as our main purpose for our 2 trips was to study Spanish. Thanks!
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 04:29 AM
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Great TR, thanks for sharing. Guatemala looks wonderful, and the above the clouds volcano photo is spectacular. It's on my list, someday.
No market photos? I always imagined Guatemala people dressed in colorful clothes, is that the reality or just something I imagined? Did you get a chance to visit any markets?
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 04:34 AM
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Originally Posted by baldone View Post
Iconic photos, MB. Glad you decided to pull the trigger. It's probably been 20 years since we first visited. Enjoyed Frida's even back then. I was told (or had read) that any ruin in Antigua had to remain in its ruined state unless it could be totally restored. Such ruins truly add to the ambiance of the city, along with the accent lighting at night and absence of debris and trash. Makes me longbto go back. Never made it to Tikal, as our main purpose for our 2 trips was to study Spanish. Thanks!
Thank you baldone!
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by xyz99 View Post
Great TR, thanks for sharing. Guatemala looks wonderful, and the above the clouds volcano photo is spectacular. It's on my list, someday.
No market photos? I always imagined Guatemala people dressed in colorful clothes, is that the reality or just something I imagined? Did you get a chance to visit any markets?
Hi xyz99. No, you are correct about markets and the women dressed in their colorful clothes and selling textiles, rosaries, etc. The huge market at Chichicastenango was on my itinerary for a long time but I then had to drop it once I made the commitment to the overnight Acatenango hike. But you see plenty of ladies in local dress walking around Antigua and selling their wares. I bought a beautiful textile from one. But I had read that the Maya are very sensitive about having their photos taken, so I only have one or two photos like that, taken from a distance and with a zoom.
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by xyz99 View Post
Great TR, thanks for sharing. Guatemala looks wonderful, and the above the clouds volcano photo is spectacular. It's on my list, someday.
No market photos? I always imagined Guatemala people dressed in colorful clothes, is that the reality or just something I imagined? Did you get a chance to visit any markets?
Here is the one photo I have of Mayan ladies selling their goods in Antiguaís Parque Central.



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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 08:41 AM
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Welcome back, MinnBeef! Loved your trip report and photos. You did a great job conveying the essence of what you experienced. I remember seeing the Halema’uma’u Crater on the Big Island pulsing red in the night sky. It was like being at the beating heart of the Earth.
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by bon_voyage View Post
Welcome back, MinnBeef! Loved your trip report and photos. You did a great job conveying the essence of what you experienced. I remember seeing the Halemaíumaíu Crater on the Big Island pulsing red in the night sky. It was like being at the beating heart of the Earth.
Thank you bon_voyage. Iím so happy you enjoyed my report!
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 11:51 AM
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Nice report MB, makes me question my decision to limit myself to Mexico. I always enjoy your enthusiasm.
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by MmePerdu View Post
Nice report MB, makes me question my decision to limit myself to Mexico. I always enjoy your enthusiasm.
Thank you Mme Perdu. Guatemala is just a hop, skip and a jump away from beautiful Mexico as you know.
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Old Mar 15th, 2021, 12:53 PM
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I am a very reluctant people photographer, but I do take pictures of the markets' merchandise. We've seen some beautiful ones in Mexico and Peru, so just by association I assumed Guatemala would be similar.
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Old Mar 17th, 2021, 03:22 PM
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I've only had two day visits to Guatemala, both from cruise ships. Agree that it's far more interesting then Costa Rica and would like to spend more time there. Your report is encouraging. Quite a sight to see the volcano belching.. good that the wind carried the ash away!
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Old Mar 17th, 2021, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
I've only had two day visits to Guatemala, both from cruise ships. Agree that it's far more interesting then Costa Rica and would like to spend more time there. Your report is encouraging. Quite a sight to see the volcano belching.. good that the wind carried the ash away!
Agreed, mlgb. I highly recommend you put a 7-10 night trip to Guatemala on your itinerary.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 05:14 PM
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Excellent Trip Report and photos, MinnBeefI I'm hoping to get to Guatemala in the next year or two.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 07:09 PM
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Came on to see if you were back and posted! So glad you had a great time. Also pleased that you loved Antigua as much as we did! Your photos are amazing, especially the one above the clouds! Thanks for sharing!
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffergray View Post
Excellent Trip Report and photos, MinnBeefI I'm hoping to get to Guatemala in the next year or two.
Thank you, jeffergray.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Lolazahra View Post
Came on to see if you were back and posted! So glad you had a great time. Also pleased that you loved Antigua as much as we did! Your photos are amazing, especially the one above the clouds! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, lolazahra. I loved Guatemala. Thank you for the photo compliments and for the tip on Fridaís. I got there twice!
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Old Mar 22nd, 2021, 06:21 AM
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Beautiful photos! I lived in Guatemala for 31 years and never tire of seeing photos of the many places that are so familiar to me.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2021, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by catspajamas View Post
Beautiful photos! I lived in Guatemala for 31 years and never tire of seeing photos of the many places that are so familiar to me.
Thank you catspajamas. As you well know, itís a fascinating country!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2021, 10:53 AM
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Thanks MinnBeef for this report.

Antigua was the first place I visited in Central America in 2016. I did a really enjoyable walking tour of the sites there. I hope the town is holding up in this age of CoVid, with such things as walking tours still going on and some of the great restaurants hanging in there. When I went there was a large tourist contingent, in particular I noticed from Australia and Europe, but also other parts of the Americas. I imagine those numbers are significantly diminished, although I was thinking that might give the town a different, possibly interesting vibe. (I could be wrong about this.) It was very much a party city when I was there, with more of a foreign tourist energy than other inland places in the region. I climbed Pacaya rather than Acatenango while there, roasting marshmallows (known as angelitos in Guatemalan Spanish) on volcanic rock. One of those amazing, unforgettable life experiences.

I was simply blown away by the stunning scenery of the region. I've been back to Guatemala City since but never Antigua... your report makes me want to go back. Thanks again.

Best wishes, Daniel Williams
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