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Guatemala in a couple weeks! Honduras or Belize as a side-trip?

Guatemala in a couple weeks! Honduras or Belize as a side-trip?

Old Jan 11th, 2012, 04:11 PM
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Guatemala in a couple weeks! Honduras or Belize as a side-trip?

Hi there. We are flying in to Guatemala City on Jan 25th for a 15 day trip. We have a hostel in GC for the first 2-3 days as we explore the city and possibly Antigua.

We travel without many plans; more exciting and fun without a firm itinerary, IMO. The things we for sure want to see:

Antigua
Ruins (not firm on Tikal...considering Copan, Honduras)
BEACH
Jungle

So I have a few questions:

1) TO TIKAL OR NOT TO TIKAL? Initially, seeing Tikal was the reason we chose Guatemala. However, based on my readings, I see SO much to do around the Guatemala/Antigua areas of the country. Is it for sure worth the trip up to see? If so, we'd head to Belize City next. Seems like most of the really pretty areas in Belize are far South? Thoughts?

2) Renting a car in Guatemala City OR busing it everywhere? Thoughts? How easy and safe is it to get around by personal car?

3) Copan, Honduras. Is it easy to cross into Honduras? How is Copan?

4) Hostel or homes for rent in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras. We need to have a kitchen so that I can cook while there! (http://adventurouspalate.blogspot.co...mala-stay.html) Does anyone have suggestions for places to stay with access to a kitchen (reasonably priced and/or discounts please!)?

Basically, we have 15 days to see and do as much as possible. If anyone has suggestions on how to make the most of the trip (while still having it be semi-relaxing), please let me know!

Thanks!
Angela_Russell is offline  
Old Jan 11th, 2012, 06:19 PM
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With just 2 weeks and a desire to see Belize or Honduras, I wouldn't spend much time in GC. I prefer using buses and share shuttles - haven't been tempted to rent a car.

Tikal is amazing and the jungle surrounding it is also impressive - lots of wildlife. In western Belize the ATM cave is a highlight:
http://pacztours.net/actun-tunichil-muknal/

It's easy to cross into Honduras and I love Copán, not just for the ruins but for the cute town and things to do in the area. The ruins are lovely - lots of gorgeous stonework - though not as massive as Tikal. The Bay Islands are a much cheaper place to visit than the Belize Cayes, but we love both.

My photos and trip reports are below. Happy trails!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
hopefulist is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2012, 11:01 AM
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Here are some thoughts -

With only 15 days, 2-3 days in Guate are 2-3 days too many. The city is OK if you have to be there, say for an early flight home, or if you need to see the 2 museums there, or if you need to see the city called The World's Ugliest Capital City."

Antigua is one of the most beautiful cities in the Western Hemisphere, and only 45 minutes from Guate. Stay in Antigua as long as you can.

Do not miss Tikal. It is spectacular. Last year I flew into Guate and transferred immediately to a flight to Flores. You could stay in/on Flores, which is different and interesting, with some pretty good bars and restaurants, or you could press on another hour into the jungle and stay at one of the lodges next to Tikal. That's what I did, and I was really happy - 2 nights in the jungle, followed by one night in/on Flores, then a quick flight back to Guate and out to Panajachel. You will need reservations for any of the lodges at Tikal, I think. Easy enough done since it's the first day of your itinerary.

There are buses but they take 10 hours, and the flights are cheap. At least mine was.

Very much agree with Hope about Copan. Wonderful site with incredible carvings, and the town is cute and has a very mellow vibe. Adrenalina Bus can get you there and back pretty easily from Antigua or Guate. They pretty much escort you though customs at the border, so no worries there.

Also, try to spend some time on Lake Atitlan. People complain about Panajachel but it is perfectly OK and has some decent shopping and great views. Sunsets are really good.

I have never been but I think Roatan Honduras will be your best bet for beach time. Maybe at the end of your trip.

Can't help with the cooking bit but there are lots of cooking classes in Antigua.

Have a great time!
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Old Jan 12th, 2012, 11:21 AM
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We visited Tikal when we stayed in Belize and totally agree that it's worth doing; it's pretty amazing.
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Old Jan 12th, 2012, 06:36 PM
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Thank you everyone, very helpful! We would have chosen to stay in Guatemala longer but flying on air miles makes it a little tough with timing!

@robertino, where did you stay in the jungle near Tikal? Also, which airline did you take?

@hopefulist, those ATM caves look awesome. I guess we might have to cut it short in GC. Thanks for sharing your pictures - wow! You're really well traveled in the area.
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Old Jan 13th, 2012, 03:46 AM
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we went to Belize last January and I would say that Guatemala and Honduras will keep you more than busy for 2 weeks - especially if you are not planning and want it to be somewhat relaxed!

We were in Belize for 6 days and bc things are spaced out, that was enough time to only do the jungle for 3 days (adventures - caves, hikes, zip lines) and a Caye for 3 days (snorkeling/diving). I did not think the culture was as rich as Guatemala or Honduras and they speak english - boring after being in Guat!

To get to the southern part of Belize, you need to drive several hours from Belize city - could fly but costly. Caye Caulker in the North was quite relaxing and funky -- and near the airport you would leave from. The jungle is in the West -- not sure you can drive from Tikal though -- we were told not to drive it last year. And the roads, other than the main hyways, are terrible in Belize. it will take you longer than it says on Google.

If you end up going, I cant say enough about Caves Branch jungle lodge. They have lodging from backpackers heaven to luxury tree houses. Adventures big and small, great food and wonderful tour guides. On Caye Caulker, use Carlos Tours -- he is amazing. We took 3 trips and his was by far the best.

Have an amazing time! Would love to hear what you do in Guat! We are looking to go in the summer after a long trip to Nicaragua.
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Old Jan 13th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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Angela - I feel pretty strongly that an afternoon would be enough in GC given what a quick visit you're planning to Guatemala; it wouldn't make my list of top 100 places there. We really (really) love the 3 CA countries we've visited; I'd like to visit others and explore South America eventually but we love Guatemala so much we just keep heading back there with time at the end of each trip in either Honduras or Belize.

Noodle - Though Guatemala is the cultural gem of the region imo, the culture in Belize is incredibly rich and diverse; hopefully you'll be able to return and take advantage of that in the future. We've stayed in Indian, Creole, and Garifuna villages and visited Mennonite ones, each unique.

Also, much as we loved Caves Branch, too, I don't consider it a backpacker option since it's spendy, no matter how you slice it. Even if you sleep in the bunk house ($34 pp), the day adventures are $85-105 per person and meals $14 for breakfast and lunch and $28 for dinner, with no alternatives in easy reach and no facilities for self prep of meals.

We headed there with our 3 kids (17, 18, and 20) in 2003 with tents and sleeping rolls for camping and bread, crackers, fruit, and that weird cheese that keeps without refrigeration to keep the meal costs down. Even at the camping rate ($5/pp/nt) and only purchasing 1 or 2 meals each from them during a 3 night stay, it was the biggest splurge of our trip. They put us up in a cabin at the camping rate since the campground was flooded - sweet! We did the Black Hole Drop the 1st full day and just spent the 2nd lounging and swimming in the river and at the Blue Hole. Even in that backpacker mode we but spent more than $700 for the 2 days/3 nights. Nearly a month in Belize for 5 of us was $4500 including airfare, so that was 15% of the total.

We stopped by in 2009 to pick up relatives who had stayed there and were surprised (and a little disappointed) to see how resortish it looked; it had been more of a rustic jungle lodge in 2003. Really beautifully done though, it seemed.

That's my stroll down memory lane for the morning - time to get back to work!! Happy trails, all!
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Old Jan 18th, 2012, 08:23 AM
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Wow, Caves Branch looks amazing...especially the Orchid garden (favorite flower). It is PRICY! Hard to compare Belize to Peru, I know, but we stayed in a similar jungle lodge in Iquitos, Peru and it was more like $100/night for our own little cabin/private bath AND included a guide, several tours/activities. I dunno if I could justify the cost (and probably couldn't convince my boyfriend to stay in a bunk situation).

Ugh, he is also not convinced to cut back our GC stay. If I had my way, I'd fly in in the afternoon and take the night bus to Flores. We'll see.

Thanks again for all of the tips, friends, getting so excited!!!
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Old Jan 18th, 2012, 10:24 PM
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I am also headed to GC on the 25th. Our group is taking dental and school supplies to three villages in the Tikal area on day one then our itin is almost exactly what Robertino outlined. Day 2 includes an early Taca flight from GC to Flores staying on eastern Peten somewhere for three days (lucky to have a leader who runs a philanthropy foundation and has been there many times).

Know the excited feeling well!

Safe travels and have a great trip!
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Old Jan 19th, 2012, 12:58 PM
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Hi Angela -

I stayed at the Jungle Lodge at Tikal. It it right next to the entrance. Nice lodge, bungalows, pool. A little overpriced maybe but worth it to stay in the jungle. I would stay there again.

TACA the whole way. Some people call it Take A Chance Airlines but my flights were perfect.

Idea - Stay in Antigua, and put your boyfriend on a bus to Guate one morning if he really has to see it.
robertino is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2012, 07:08 PM
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I never followed up on this, almost a year later! We stayed a couple nights in Guatemala City in a hostel where we got a tour of the city and went to dinner with the hostel owner and several other friends. We then took an early bus out to Lake Atitlan. We stayed in San Pedro for 2 nights (not so keen), and then on to San Marco, a hippie, holistic town across the lake and LOVED it). We did a day trip to the big market, Chichicastenango, where I bought a beautiful pink quilt (on my lap as I type) and ate chicken soup from a local woman's cauldron. Then through Antigua (just for the day) for some sightseeing and lunch while we waited to catch an overnight bus to Tikal. The hostel there, "Jungle Lodge" was absolutely disgusting, and I don't recommend as it was filthy, moldy and wet and no hot water, people looked literally ill. This is weird because usually, we're just fine with hostels! We actually changed hotels and found a great, clean place 2 blocks away on the island of Flores. We did a day at Tikal, which was great exercise as well as sighseeing. Then we bussed it to Belize. Spent 5 days on Caye Caulker which was the perfect ending to the trip. Caye Caulker: Snorkling, Rum Drinks, Whole Fresh Lobster, White/Aqua beaches...absolutely gorgeous.
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Old Oct 29th, 2012, 07:09 PM
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Oh...and we took TAKA (Take A Chance) back to Guatemala City and got out of there as soon as we could - GC is not a place I aspire to visit again.
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Old Nov 13th, 2012, 08:28 AM
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Angela - do you mean the Jungle Lodge at Tikal, or is there a hostel called the Jungle Lodge on Flores? My stay at the Tikal Jungle Lodge was perfectly pleasant - no filth or mold or wet and plenty of hot water.
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