Guatemala was memorable not just for the diverse sights to visit but the people that were so kind andhelpful. The roads are fine to drive but I wouldn’t recommend driving at night. When lost a local would always help us find our way. I just love this country!
Exchange Rate $1 = 7.86Q
As with most trips we started our visit by findingour way to the rental car lot. Cars are expensive you MUST pay $20 a day on insurance. We originally booked Alamo and waited an hour and no one showed up to get us at the airport. So we went to Budget. Obvious travel tip, which I always forget to do, check the car for a jack and good spare tire. Thankfully ours had one!
Getting out of Guatemala City was no easy feat. Armed with a map and our guidebook that wasn’t enough to navigate the big congested city where I could have spotted Waldo quicker than a street sign among the traffic. After a few false starts we were off and on our way to Lake Atitlan.
This lake surrounded by volcanoes is picture perfect. A great place to relax and enjoy the view. The view includes the locals dressed in stunning traditional Mayan clothes. You will come across woman weaving or peddling their brightly colored textiles. Panajachel is the town where you will find all your tourism needs from a bed to lay your head to a decent warm meal. Upon entering you will see Reserva Natural Atitlan: there is a zip line that is high, fun and worth the $23pp.
If you are looking for luxury just east on the lake road you will find Casa Palopo Hotel. The restaurant that overlooks the lake offers delicious food, for breakfast have the eggs benedict!
Lake Atitlan a boat trip to one of the villages that dot the lake. We opted for San Juan La Laguna, a charming, inviting and clean village. The indigenous women set up a cooperatives where they sell their weavings which benefit the group. There is a store that sells stylish purses, ponchos, scarfs and shirts. The coffee plant is another interesting stop to make. For a couple of dollars a guide walks you through the working plant, and explained the process from plant to pot. You can even visit Maximon, the cigar smoking evil saint. A few coins is the price to turn on the light to his case on.
Fuentes Georginas: we did a day trip to these natural hot springs. It’s about 2 hours from the lake. The road up the mountain is well paved abut 8 kilos. It is just a beautiful drive. The land is so fertile there are crops and people tending to them all the way the side of the volcano. The restaurant up at the springs has a great chicken sandwich and fries. Warning don’t shave before going into the water, the open pores and the not so clean hot water can create an infection.
Chichicastenago Market: was about an hour and a half from the lake. Twice a week, it seems every in country visits the Thursday and Sunday market. You can buy anything you can think of here, from locally made crafts to the kitchen sink. It is very colorful and crowded.
Lake Atitlan-Rio Dulce-Flores :
Rio Dulce is where we stopped on our way north to Tikal, the Mayan ruins. (The picture in the header of this site was taken on the river.) This small town is on the shore of the river that connects Lake Peten Itza and the Caribbean Sea. The river is beautiful and visitors usually see it on a 45-minute boat trip to the northern caribbean feel town of Livingston. You can take a taxi type boat for a nominal cost but it stops a lot or we paid 900Q for a day for our own boat tour. The highlight of the river is the beauty of steep limestone cliffs, mangroves, and pools of water so clear they look like mirrors reflecting the trees and the clouds. Livingston is worth a stop for lunch where one must try the local soup Tapado, coconut broth swimming with crab and shrimp, a whole fish accompanies the soup on the side. There are hotels here if you want to spend the night.
There isn’t much to the town of Rio Dulce, it is a dingy dusty town that is in great need of tourist hotels and restaurants. We stayed at Hacienda Tijax ($80/night w/ a/c and shower) which if you are a backpacker, staying in a cheaper room or the camp area you would think this place is heaven. The grounds are amazing, very cool suspension bridge, you feel like you are in the jungle but you are also lakefront. A boardwalk connects the rooms. Here was my problem the room was not clean. It looked and felt like they needed to power wash the inside of the room. Bugs I understand because of the setting, dirt that is another story. I had a steak, waitress recommended, at the hotel restaurant and that was a mistake. My husband had snook and said it was ok, the meal with a couple of drinks 190Q. Bring soap and a flashlight.
For a small fee we took the hotel boat across the river to Ricky’s Pizza where a man approached our table said, “If you don’t like your pizza you don’t pay.” Of course he was Ricky and he had more faith in his pizza than I did. Ricky is Cuban. He left Cuba for the United States where earlier in life he worked in Michigan at an Italian restaurant. Working on boats brought him to Rio Dulce. He is a wonderful person and Yes, I paid for the pizza and it really was terrific.
Rio Dulce to Tikal / 4 hours: