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-   -   Critique my Guatemala Itinerary, please (https://www.fodors.com/community/mexico-and-central-america/critique-my-guatemala-itinerary-please-419789/)

schlegal1 Aug 26th, 2008 08:58 AM

Critique my Guatemala Itinerary, please
 
My husband and I are traveling to Guatemala December 30 through January 14. That gives us about 14 full days that are not dedicated to international flights.

We love hiking, biking, nature and culture. Does this itinerary sound like we are spending a reasonable amount of time in each location? Any suggestions would be most appreciated:

Day 1 - Arrive late night in Guat. City, go directly to Antigua

Days 2-6 - (5 full days) - Antigua and hiking the volcanoes probably to include overnight on the volcanoes.

Day 7 - Transport to Lake Atitlan (expected driving time 2.5 hours realistic?). Afternoon in city/town near Lake Atitlan

Days 8-9 (2 full days) - Explore Atitlan and Chichicatenango

Day 10 - Leave Atitlan early a.m.; day in Guatemala city, depart late night to go to Tikal by overnight bus.

Days 11-13 (3 full days) - Tikal and surrounding

day 14 - Return to Guatemala city (haven't figured out the logistics yet on this with the overnight bus)

Day 15: early A.m. flight out.

Thanks!

SusanInToronto Aug 26th, 2008 10:07 AM

We had only 11 days in Guatemala last December, so I'm not an expert by any means, but I think you're probably not allowing yourself enough time at Lake Atitlan. We visited Antigua (3 nights), then Tikal (1 night), then Chichi (1 night), then Atitlan (4 nights), finally back to Antigua (1 night). That worked out quite well for us, and we were able to go from Antigua to the airport at the end of the trip.

Sounds like a great trip. We loved Guatemala.

schlegal1 Aug 26th, 2008 10:54 AM

Thanks Susan, that's just the type of critique I need.

In looking over the plan I think we are too heavy on Antigua early on. This is, in part, because of the plan for volcano hiking overnight. Maybe we can shorten that a day and add it to Atitlan and plan on going to Antigua for the day before our flight out. I'll keep thinking about all this.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Aug 26th, 2008 03:00 PM

A few things:

You'll have a holiday in there. Very little will be open on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but a lot of other people will be traveling too. With New Year's falling on a Thursday, I'm sure many people will make a long holiday weekend of it.

Market days in Chichicastenango are Thursday and Sunday. Make sure your time devoted to there is one of those days of the week.

The overnight bus between Guatemala City and Tikal is about 10 hours. I'm not sure I'd want to ride a bus all night and then immediately head to the airport for a flight out. Could that be moved to middle of your trip?

Five days is probably overkill for Antigua, nice though the place is. Even with an overnight volcano trek in there, you could cut that back by a day.

I agree about devoting more time to Lake Atitlan. You'll likely arrive at Panajachel, the most touristed town in the region. Most of the rest of the towns around the lake are most easily reached by boat.

It will be a great trip. Guatemala is wonderful.

hopefulist Aug 26th, 2008 03:42 PM

I agree with the above - more time on the lake, less in Antigua. A day trip will show you the sights in Chichi but last summer (2007) it was perfect for us to arrive the afternoon before the market, watch the set up and the evening at the gorgeous produce market in the commercial building, then enjoy the market and church activities from dawn until 9 am and then head out before the day trippers arrived.

We flew from Flores to GUA for our flight home, though there's some risk in that. Worked great for us, though. My trip story and photos are linked below if you're interested. Happy trails!

http://flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

schlegal1 Aug 27th, 2008 07:17 AM

Thanks all.

So I'm def. going to cut a day in Antigua.

And thanks for the reminder about Chichi--hadn't taken that into account yet in the itinerary. The original plan wouldn't have included a Thurs. or Sunday.

And point taken about the long bus ride followed by a flight. Perhaps I'll flip the itinerary and start off in Tikal and then end in Antigua?

I understand the suggestion to move Tikal to the middle but that seems like it would involve backtracking if, for example, we did Antigua-Tikal-Atitlan. It seems better to do Tikal-Antigua-Atitlan-Antigua. Or not?

As for the holiday, we have generally found that touristy things are still going on holidays and we'll see if that's the case in Guatemala (for example, we did a tour no problem the year we were in Costa Rica on Christmas). So we're hoping to do touristy stuff on the holidays and take in more of the local flavor and culture on other days. A reasonable expectation?

Jeff_Costa_Rica Aug 27th, 2008 08:11 AM

Businesses catering to tourists will be open on holidays, but other things will be closed. You'll also be competing with Guatemalans who are traveling. Hotels and public transportation will fill up quickly. In particular, Antigua is a big weekend and holiday destination for people from Guatamala City. With what is essentially a long holiday weekend falling at the beginning of your trip, I'd be sure to nail down reservations early for that time and expect to pay something higher than the normal rates.

airwayvz Aug 27th, 2008 06:04 PM

Just got back from Guatemala on Monday. Try to be in Antigua on a Thursday or Saturday (preferably Saturday) if you can as well...they have a nice local Market down by the bus station. Also, you can catch a free shuttle any day from 9am - 2pm at the top of the hour to the Centro Cultural La Azotea (http://www.centroazotea.com) from the Central Park in Antigua. It's in Jocotenango, which is basically a suburb of Antigua. It's a three part coffee / Mayan musical instrument / Mayan costume museum...definitely worth checking out for a few hours while you're in town. you can also schedule horseback riding , but you'll need to do that in advance I think.

I agree with the others though, a little less time in Antigua and more time at the lake.

The overnight bus to Tikal took about 8 hours when we took it last year. We flew back, because it was pretty cramped...but it's cheap. I'd take it again if I was looking to save money, since you also save a nights lodging, but I don't think my wife would, haha.

schlegal1 Aug 28th, 2008 11:17 AM

Thanks, Jeff and airwayvz.

We're really looking forward to this trip. I am trying to firm up itinerary so we can start to book lodging and transportation. I'll top this eventually when we pin down hotels for any feedback you all would care to offer.

airwayvz Aug 28th, 2008 12:10 PM

What kind of price range are you looking for in hotels?

schlegal1 Aug 29th, 2008 05:45 AM

I am just starting to research but I think we would like to cap it at US $50/ night.

If there are cheaper places that are clean and safe and have a private bathroom, we're in.

And we'll probably splurge at some point along the way for a really gorgeous place. Maybe at Atitlan?

Our priorities are: convenience and cleanliness and friendly staff. We don't spend much time in the hotel room as a rule.

airwayvz Aug 29th, 2008 06:35 AM

Here's a few places to check out at the lake:

Hotel Utz Jay (www.hotelutzjay.com) - clean, comfortable, nice hot showers about $35 a night for a double. Staff is great, and so are their German Shepherds.

If you're looking to splurge just a bit at the lake, check out Hotel Regis (http://www.hotelregisatitlan.com/eng.htm). It's about $60 a night for a double, but a gorgeous place with little hot tubs outside and fireplaces in a lot of the rooms.

For no frills, Mario's Rooms is a solid, secure place to stay.

In Antigua, here's three places I like, all right near each other:

Posada La Merced (http://www.merced-landivar.com)

Casa Cristina (http://www.casa-cristina.com/)

And Casa Luna - can't find a website...right next to Casa Cristina. Clean & secure, $25 a night.

SusanInToronto Aug 29th, 2008 07:25 AM

In Antigua, we stayed at Hotel Florencia which was $45 / night - spotlessly clean and comfortable, good location (great coffee place Fernando's about a block away). We splurged for our last night and stayed at the Santo Domingo - we got a very good rate (I think it was $116 plus tax) through Elizabeth Bell and it was really lovely and totally worth the splurge.

At the lake, we also splurged a bit and stayed at Lomas de Tzununa. I was really glad we decided not to stay in Pana - the views were amazing and we loved the place. I think it's probably about $75-80 / night?

But there are lots of nice hotels in both Antigua and at the lake - I'm sure you can find something in your price range.

schlegal1 Aug 29th, 2008 11:26 AM

Muchas gracias, airwayvz and Susan! I'll check out your suggestions.

althom1122 Aug 29th, 2008 12:08 PM

hopefulist: your photos are marvelous! thanks for sharing.

hopefulist Aug 29th, 2008 05:24 PM

Thanks - more on the way!

schlegal1 Sep 14th, 2008 01:22 PM

Topping--can anyone suggest where should we stay (city) near Atitlan?

I see that Panajachel is popular but Susan, you stayed in Tzununa--why did you choose that?

I am requesting a reservation at POsada La Merced in Antigua. Still looking for hotels near Atitlan and Tikal.

Thanks!

SusanInToronto Sep 14th, 2008 04:28 PM

Pana is the main town where the shuttles drop you off. We wanted to stay in a place where we could have amazing views, quiet, etc., but could take a boat around the lake to the various villages. There is a village (Tzununa) but we were about a 20 minute walk from the village at Lomas de Tzununa, a hotel.

schlegal1 Sep 15th, 2008 05:38 AM

Thanks, Susan.

We'll probably stay in pana then. The Hotel Utz Jay looks great, airwayvz--how is the location?

Final itinerary (we think)

Dec 30: arrive, 10 pm. stay hotel near airport in Guatemala city

Dec. 31: Day in G. City, then take overnight bus to Flores. (new year's eve on a bus, oh well)

Jan. 1 and 2: In Flores or El Remate

Jan 3 - 5: In Tikal, on Jan. 5 overnight bus to Guat. City.

Jan 6: Antigua

Jan. 7: Volano hike

Jan 8-9: Volcano hikes and overnight

Jan 10-13: Atitlan (Chichi on Sunday)

Jan 14: Antigua

Jan 15: Depart early AM


So we're looking for hotels in:

Guatemala city (need suggestions for cheap and safe place near either the airport or the bus station)

Tikal: Planning to book Jaguar Inn for 2 nights for the location factor

El Remate or Flores: We're open to suggestions. La Casa De Don David in el Remate looks good, and gets good reviews on trip advisor.

Antigua: Inquired already at Posada la Merced.

Atitlan: PLanning to inquire at Utz Jay if it's good location-wise.

Thanks, again, everyone!

schlegal1 Sep 16th, 2008 09:23 AM

I checked out Trip Advisor--Utz Jay looks like it is well located. I am going to book with them since they indicated they have avaialability.

Any recs for hotels in Flores/El Remate or a near-airport place in Guatemala City?

Thanks!


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