Guatemala Trip Report Jan-Feb 2010

Old Mar 11th, 2010, 04:49 PM
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Guatemala Trip Report Jan-Feb 2010

i recently spent almost 3 weeks in guatemala , w/ brief incursions into honduras and el salvador.

while i was prepared for a different experience than my many trips to ( non beach resort) mexico, i was still surprised by the relative poverty partially due to i believe far fewer tourists and lack of petroleum reserves and the history of recent warfare.

unlike mexico where most towns , cities and villages still have historic, pleasant cores most of the settlements we visited were uniformly unattractive. the 2 exceptions were antigua and flores.

regardless, the landscape is beautiful, the people friendly and helpful and the major attractions worth the effort of getting there. i am a decent spanish speaker and it was interesting to find myself in a country in which spanish is a second language for much of the mayan speaking population. at 170 cm i enjoyed being tall!

aside from our time in the capitol and at tikal we drove a micro rental car. we never felt threatened or unsafe despite many rumours to the contrary. we took normal precautions.

in guatemala we stayed downtown at the comfortable and attractive pan american hotel 1 block from the plaza, cathedral and central market. the archeological museum in one of the more affluent zones is full of wonderful treasure.

we flew from guate to flores and shuttled up to tikal where we stayed at the tikal inn, the least expensive, but comfortable hotel in the park. no pool, but it was easy to walk next door and swim.

we hired a guide, samuel, as we entered the park. he charged 50 dollars US for 4 hours and was quite wonderful and informative. the site is huge and spectacular and virtually deserted. roaming through the jungle from pyramid to pyramid was stunning and we climbed # 1, 4 and 5.

we spent a night in flores town and the island is charming and friendly. swimming in the lake was refreshing

we spent 3 days in antigua and stayed at the attractive palacio pequeno 2 blocks from the plaza. antigua has seen a lot of beautiful restoration, but still retains churches destroyed in the earthquake of 1773. its a great town for just wandering the streets and one of the few in the country where you are not overwhelmed by cars and trucks.

the highlight of our time there was climbing volcan pacaya an active volcano about 1.5 hours from town. i've been on 4 other active volcanos, but this experience was unique. our group of 25 with 2 guide was allowed to get close enough to molten lava to literally toast marshmallows. at one point we were hiking up a ravine toward the crater and lava flow about 8 meters wide was advancing down toward us at about a foot per minute. a huge adrenalin rush, but quite dangerous in retrospect.

we went next to lago atitlan which is as beautful as described, surrounded by volcanos. the main town pana is unattractive despite its setting , but has all the usual travellers amenities. we stayed at the hotel regis w/ bungalows set in a pretty garden. the hotel sits above a thermal spring so had great on demand soaking tubs. there was also a temescal which they fired up for us. we had seen the remains of one at tikal.

mas un poco mas tarde
AndrewDavid
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Old Mar 11th, 2010, 07:07 PM
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I had the pleasure of visiting Guatemala a couple of yrs ago.
We rented a small car for two weeks.
Visit Antigua,Pacaya Volcano, Atlitlan, Chichicastenango, Tikal, and also cross the Border to Copan Honduras.
We felt very safe all the way, incredible country, the Mayan culture and the Tikal ruins were amazing.
Atlitlan lake was just like been part of a peaceful postcard.
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Old Mar 11th, 2010, 07:14 PM
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Thanks for posting about your trip. Sorry you got the impression that most towns in the country are overrun by cars and trucks - that hasn't been my finding other than Guatemala City and and a few other heavy tourist spots. Lots of smaller mountain towns have core areas with little traffic and most locals don't own vehicles. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What towns did you visit in addition to GC, Flores, Antigua, and Panajachel?

Jaguar Inn is the least expensive hotel in the park at Tikal and has no pool - is that where you stayed? Tikal Inn is my favorite but has a nice pool. I haven't stayed at the 3rd option, the Jungle Lodge.

You've pointed out an interesting thing about travel in CA - the risky activities you can try that would be waaaay off limits in the the US or western Europe. The Volcan Pacaya hike and that narrow ledge with no rail on Temple 5 at Tikal are classic examples.

Thanks again!
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Old Mar 12th, 2010, 06:00 AM
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Thanks for posting your report. I love reliving my one and only trip to Guatemala each time I read someone's post. I would love to go back and take my husband so he can experience the rich culture and history of the country.
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 04:57 PM
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christiangernez, despite warnings to the contrary we felt safe wherever we went. some of the dirt roads we drove on were not particularly well designed to resist landslides, so there was a certain amount of "risk" but luckily we didn't fall of the road or into potholes too large to extricate ourselves or our little car!

cgenstar, i hope you get back to guatemala and are able to show your husband its' charms

hopefulist, you are correct i inverted jaguar inn where we stayed w/ tikal inn where we swam. in addition to the places i've already noted we were in or passed through: tecpan (iximche), quirigua, el estor, rio dulce, esquipulas, huehuetenango, chimaltenango, coban, nebaj, san juan el alto and solola. our 3 longest drives were between pana and nebaj, nebaj and coban and coban and el estor. as the road between points almost always passed through every town, village and hamlet (unless dead ends!)we always seemed to experience that impact when we were walking about.

i am not sure if hiking up pacaya was more risky than some of the landslides we drove across especially between nebaj and coban and coban and el estor.

i will try to complete my report soon
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 06:17 PM
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Thanks! I'd like to head up to Coban/Lanquin next trip and cross over for a return visit to Nebaj, but it looks like there's no end in site for the detour around the landslide on that route. I don't want to go back to Guatemala City between so might have to save one for the following visit. Adventure!
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Old Mar 21st, 2010, 03:36 PM
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hopefulist, we actually slogged across that detour before we realized we had crossed it. the detour goes across the landslide. we didn;t realize that until we were across and looking back . yikes!. the landscape one passes through is lovely. i believe it took us almost 6 hours nebaj to coban. it was quite an adventure!

coban is definitely one of those towns we found over run by cars and urban ugliness. someone has erected a soviet era style bandshell on the plaza which overwhelms the cathedral.

we went out to the cavern closest to coban: rey___?? beautiful setting . the cavern is relatively small and many of the stalagtites and stalagmites have been broken. it was a bit underwhelming compared to larger and better proteceted caverns that i have visited in the us southwest, mexico and australia. again the drive out from coban was lovely

cheers
AndrewDavid
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Old Mar 21st, 2010, 04:30 PM
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Thanks again for the information. After 6 or 8 visits to Guatemala we still haven't made it to Semuc Champey near Lanquin. We may combine that some trip with a homestay with the Proyecto Eco-Quetzal.
http://www.ecoquetzal.org/eco_chic.php

Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  
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