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First time to Guatemala --itinerary advice requestedm

First time to Guatemala --itinerary advice requestedm

Old Mar 26th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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First time to Guatemala --itinerary advice requestedm

First trip to Guatemala (end of April) and would appreciate any suggestions on how to split the time between destinations, as well as best way to get around.

We fly in on a Saturday (land in GUA around noon) and depart GUA at 11:30 am the following Saturday.

We definitely want to hit the following places#160;

Antigua
Lake Atitlan
Tikal

Does it make sense to spend our first half day and night in Antigua and then travel on to the next destination the following day?
Logistically, is it easier to go from Antigua to Lake Atitlan or head to Tikal straightaway?
Cost effective means of getting from Antigua to Lake Atitlan? (Aside from the Chicken buses)
I think 2 nights in Tikal should be plenty for us, but I’m concerned if I leave it to the end that we may miss our flight out of the country (leaves at 11:30 am).

Any suggestions or feedback would be helpful! 
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Old Mar 26th, 2010, 02:05 PM
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You don't mention a budget - were you planning to bus or fly to Flores/Tikal? My last 2 visits to Guatemala I left Tikal till the end, spending 1 night in the park and 1 night in the little island town of Flores, then flying back to GUA in time for my international flight in 2007 and sending friends the same way in 2009 while I headed into Belize. There is risk there but someone else here on the forum was successful recently with that plan, too. If you choose to do that, you can shuttle straight to Antigua from the airport for Saturday night, head to the lake (via Chichicastenango if you're interested) for a few nights, then spend Wednesday night in Antigua or in GC near the airport before your Tikal loop. You also have time to consider arranging transport to the lake on Saturday if you'd rather start there.

It's also possible to arrange for Tikal at the beginning of your trip or in the middle, though the latter might mean extra looping around. For what it's worth I've found it as cheap to arrange an overnight trip to Tikal with a reputable agency as to put the pieces together yourself.

There are tour places all over Antigua that offer $10-15 shuttles to Panajachel on the lake from Antigua. If you want to make arrangements in advance, I can personally recommend both Rainbow Travel and Adrenalina Tours. I've also linked my photo site below; there are travelogue/blog links on the main page of each collection embedded with my recommendations for activities and lodging. Let me know if I can answer questions!
www.rainbowtravelcenter.com
www.adrenalinatours.com
www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 07:01 AM
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usually base www.aroundantigua.com

www.quintadelasflores.com

tour Tikal www.jaguartikal.com

then Aititlan www.lacasadelmundo.com

back to QDLF for flight night

shuttles like Adrenalina work fine for me

Have fun,
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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I'm definitely not the expert on Guatemala (the previous 2 posters have way more experience), but I'd be reluctant to plan on flying back from Tikal and catching a flight home the same day. On my 1 trip to Tikal, we lost several hours because the flight we were to catch to Flores was late arriving in GC. The delay was because of fog, I believe.
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 08:53 AM
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Susan's right, of course. I think I've grown a little cavalier about that plan because it's so great when it works. In some ways it would be nice to do the Tikal part 1st, thus getting the "hot" part of the trip out of the way before heading into the springlike highlands.

Although I haven't done it since the 80's, there are bits of Guatemala City worth exploring (government buildings, quality museums). You could either hire a driver to show you the flights and fly to Flores at 6pm or stay the night there or in Antigua (+/- an hour away) and fly out early in the morning. Happy trails!
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 10:07 AM
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I meant "hire a driver to show you the SIGHTS".
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for all your comments and suggestions. I'm considering all of these options...will let you know what I decide.

hopefulist -definitely flying to Tikal. I'm wondering if it's possible to get to connect to Tikal the same day that I fly into GUA?
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 02:12 PM
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We got back from Guatemala last week and did pretty much everything you mentioned. We also, with some trepidation, booked our flight from Flores to Guate, leaving a 3-hour layover before we flew home. It made me nervous, but it worked just fine. If I had to do it again, I think that I would try to book my out-of-country flight late enough in the day so that we could have caught the next flight out of Flores and still made our connection.

We loved Lake Atitlan - plan on spending a day there. It is fun to take the motor launches from the main town of Panajachel ('Pana') to the down-lake towns, such as San Juan, San Pedro, and Santiago. If you are planning on purchasing craftwork, such as textiles or paintings, you might want to consider buying them from the artists cooperatives located in San Juan.

Antigua is a fun city for hanging out, although it is a bit touristy. There are tons of nice restaurants, hotels and shops - all in walking distance from each other.

You can get a connection from Guate to Flores on the same day you fly in, as long as you get in by noonish. If you are planning on staying in Tikal (as opposed to Flores), make sure that they pick you up at the airport. Also, tickets into the park are expensive (US $25/day), but if you buy a ticket in the afternoon, it will count towards the next day as well.
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 03:54 PM
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mbascia, we flew from guate to flores, although both our flights were only 20 minutes or so delayed i agree w/ posters above that you don't want the stress of flying up there either the day you arrive or the day you leave imo. antigua is on the airport side of guate. i would recommend going to antigua then putting flores/ tikal in the middle of your itinerary so you don't have to worry. i've posted a trip report here under my name and although not complete yet it covers the areas you are visiting

although we stayed 2 blocks from the plaza in guate, there is not a lot of charm left there considering its the capitol. the archeological museum is actually out near the airport so you might be able to do that when you head out or come back..

having been to many markets in latin america, i felt the sunday market at chichicastenago was over rated ( no vale la pena in spanish!) almost all the textiles there seemed to come from china ( gold thread) and the hand crafts seemed more mexican or copies perhaps made in china. in addition to the cooperative mentioned above at lake atitlan, there is a selling outlet in pana for a women's micro credit artisan project. i bought some traditional yardage at a fabric shop and had a tailor in the handicrafts market in pana make me some clothing. very reasonable and well made.

have a great trip

AndrewDavid
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 06:22 PM
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Here's a link to Taca: www.taca.com - click "Book Travel"

They have a 6pm flight from GUA to Flores. You should arrange a shuttle from the FRS airport to your hotel so you can step off the plane and head right there. You'd be too late for seeing the ruins, though, since the park closes at dark and it's dark by 6 or 6:30 that close to the equator. You could also spend that night in Flores if you wanted, heading to Tikal the next day. You have to wait till after 3:00 (sometimes 3:30 or 4:00 depending on the guards' moods) in order to purchase a ticket to the ruins that will be good the next day, too.

My favorite hotel up there is The Tikal Inn www.tikalinn.com - nice, large rooms and a pool. You can arrange the trip at the links above. If you get really lucky, you might be able to connect with archaeologist Roxy Ortiz for an early morning tour. She bases out of The Tikal Inn when she's not on a dig. She is really personable and incredibly knowledgeable. I'm not usually a group tour sort of a gal but our 4 hours flew by and I would gladly have spent the whole day with her.

Sorry, I wasn't clear. I meant to say you could fly into GUA, then hire someone to show you around, then head back to the airport by 4pm for a 6pm flight to Flores.

Andrew - areas of the Chichicastenango market are very traditional but they're hard to find if you're there with the crowds during the day. I've had my best luck there on Saturday evening and very early Sunday morning, though, other than locally carved masks, I don't buy much. I have a favorite old couple I find every time I visit and buy something from them even though I don't need it. Imo the best shopping in Guatemala is in Panajachel.
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Old Mar 27th, 2010, 11:35 PM
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Here are some photos of Tikal, Lake Atitlan, Pana, and Antigua:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...1&l=fbbd198544
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Old Mar 28th, 2010, 10:42 AM
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I would recommend more than a half day/night after your international flight in Antigua. It is a very beautiful city with lots of historic sights.

As others have noted, The national Museum of Archeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City is in the zone near the airport and has an excellent collection.

We drove to and back from Tikal so I can't comment on the flight options. I think it is well worth it to stay at one of the three inns in the park so that you can see the ruins and wildlife early in the morning and in the evening.

As I mentioned in my trip report last year, the guide books available at Tikal did not give a terribly good overview of Mayan history so I would read up in advance.
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Old Mar 28th, 2010, 07:37 PM
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Really appreciate all these suggestions.

Our itinerary is coming together. Here's what we're aiming for:

Land on Saturday around noon; head straight to Lake Atitlan:

3 nights in Atitlan
2 nights in Antigua
2 nights in Tikal

Turns out our flight leaves GUA at 3:30 on Saturday, so I feel more comfortable flying out of Flores the same day and making the connection in time.

A few remaining questions if anyone can weight in....

1) if we land in GUA around noon, do we have to time to make the shuttle to Atitlan that same day.
2) is it difficult to find transportation from Antigua back to GUA to make the early morning (6:30 AM) flight to Tikal?

Thanks again everyone!
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Old Mar 28th, 2010, 08:53 PM
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I'd contact a few agencies in advance about shuttles to Pana - you might have to book a private one. You won't have trouble arranging for an Antigua > GUA shuttle but I'd do it with a really reputable agency - I've read travelogues where the early morning shuttle didn't show. You'll need to leave Antigua by 3:30am or so.

Be sure to confirm your FRS > GUA flights and arrive at the airport 2 hours in advance. As long as the flight is on time or just delayed you'll be fine but if you get bumped you're out of luck as there won't be other flights or time to travel by land. The flight leaves around 8am so you'd have to leave Tikal by 5am or so to get to the airport by 6am. You might need to spend the 2nd "Tikal" night in Flores to be close enough to the airport. Casona de la Isla is a nice place there: http://www.corpetur.com

Keep us posted!
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Old Mar 29th, 2010, 01:26 PM
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We just returned from Guatemala and also had only a week there. In fact we may have taken the same flights you are planning to take (Saturday to Saturday). I will post our trip report soon, but just wanted to tell you how we divided the trip, which worked pretty well for us. I was worried about connections so we went directly to Antigua where we stayed for three nights. On Tuesday at 4:30 AM we were picked up for the airport and took a 6:30 AM TACA flight to Flores (cost $40). We stayed one night in the park, and took a flight that was supposed to leave Flores at 2:50 pm but actually took off at 2:20 (yes, half an hour EARLY) for GC. We got in at 3:30 and had a car waiting to take us to Atitlan (cost $100). It took more than three hours so we missed the 6:30 PM public boat in Pana and had to wait for the 7:30 PM boat to our hotel. We stayed three nights there, and took a car back, leaving Pana at 10:00 AM and arriving at the airport by 1:00 for our 3:25 PM flight. There is a lot of road work between GC and Panajachel so expect it will take three hours.

I think one night at Tikal is enough, even though we spent about seven hours over two days inside, including a three and a half hour tour.

One other thing to consider is the possibility of road blockages and strikes. While we were there, there was a chicken bus strike that closed all intercity roads for most of one day. People at our hotel in Antigua were turned back trying to get to the airport, and our morning trip to Pacaya volcano was cancelled. I remember someone else on this forum wrote about a similar blockage at Solala in the past, so it must happen once in a while.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:56 AM
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There are several scheduled airport shuttles that all leave at 4am and are designed to get you to early flights. We took the 4am shuttle and it worked out fine for the first TACA flight to Flores. If you want to leave at 3:30am, then you will probably have to get a taxi.

There are several travel agencies to choose from in Antigua. We had good luck with Rainbow, on 7th Ave. S, next to the Rainbow Cafe; and Turismo Quetzal on 3rd Ave. N.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 09:46 AM
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The Rainbow ALF recommends is the one linked in my 1st post, above, in case you want to contact them before you get to Guatemala.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2011, 03:13 PM
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I have been looking for the cheaper flights to Flores for a trip soon. Did you get that $40 flight through an agent? Its showing up as $240 + and we really want to go to Tikal but that is expensive x2. An 8 hour bus ride doesn't sound like a fun time on a short trip too. Excited for the trip- and if you have tips for where to book that cheap flight to Tikal please share!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2011, 07:25 PM
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I'm guessing that was a misprint, sorry to say.

From my post on the other thread where you asked about this:

The packages that include shuttles and hotel were a good deal when I researched a few years ago, less then you could put it together yourself. I'd book through one of the agency below if you go with a package. Maybe even if you don't - I've read of the hotels "losing" reservations which is apparently less likely to happen if an agency books it for you. I've never had a problem, though.
www.rainbowtravelcenter.com
www.adrenalinatours.com

A really phenomenal archaeologist/naturalist guide who works out of the Tikal Inn when she's not away on a dig:
tikal_roxy.yahoo.com

Happy trails!
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