Travel Guide Guatemala – It’s been a few weeks since we got back from Guatemala, but after moving into our new place in San Francisco, upon landing, it took me a while to finally get all the shots. But better late than never, right?
As I mentioned in early January, C’s family invited us on a 10-day trip to explore Guatemala. I’ve never been to Guatemala before, but Sister C has been several times and is basically an expert on all things Guatemala. This is probably the first and only trip I didn’t have a hand in planning, but it was good to sit back and enjoy the trip.
Travel Guide Guatemala
I thought I’d share our itinerary along with some words of wisdom if you’re planning a trip to the area.
Fodor’s Belize: With A Side Trip To Guatemala (travel Guide): Lan Sluder, Eric B. Wechter: 9780804141697: Amazon.com: Books
We went in four different directions on our trip, so I thought I’d split the post up by location. It’s been a whirlwind 10 days, so I hope you’ll come back for this Guatemala travel guide!
We flew to Guatemala because it is Guatemala’s main international airport. I don’t recommend spending time in Guatemala unless you are particularly adventurous. Fortunately, it is easy to take another flight from Guatemala or take a bus or van to any of the destinations we visited.
We caught a flight from Guatemala City to Flores and then took a van from Flores to the Mayan ruins of Tikal (about an hour’s drive). If you’ve been to Chichen Itza, Tikal is very similar, but older and more common. It’s less touristy and just as impressive.
We spent the day walking around the ruins and covering a lot of ground along the park. Watch out for howler monkeys who are responsible for scaring the crap out of you.
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Where we stayed + ate: The Tikal Inn, which was a lovely and perfect little jungle oasis. We also ate all our meals there. Food in the park is quite small, so be prepared to get most of your meals at your hotel or another hotel. Bring snacks!
From Tikal we took a bus back to Flores where we spent the night before returning to Guatemala.
Since you have to fly into Flores airport to get to Tikal, we ended up spending about 24 hours exploring this cute little town. To be honest, you don’t need more than 24 hours here because it’s very small (you can walk into town in 10 minutes), but it’s worth a visit if you’re already up north. We also spent New Years here and I was impressed by the resilience of the whole city. We went to bed after midnight fireworks and when we woke up at 6:00 to go back to the airport, people were still partying. These guys know how to have fun.
Where we stayed: Hotel Casa Amelia – This place was so cute and the rooftop terrace has a beautiful view of Flores and the lake. Be sure to ask for one of the three best rooms if you stay here, as they offer the best views and easy access to the rooftop.
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Where we ate: I wouldn’t say the food at Flores is anything to write home about. If you find yourself there we ate at Raices which is worth a visit for the grilled meat kebabs and San Telmo for the rooftop bar and healthy food.
From Flores we drove back to Guatemala and then took a van from the airport directly to Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, which took about 3 hours. We took a lancha (boat) straight to our hotel. Don’t pay more than 25Q/person for take out lunch on the lake!
Years ago I saw Groupon travel for a yoga retreat at Lake Atitlan and was completely hooked. I had no idea this place existed in Guatemala, let alone that the lake itself was surrounded by three volcanoes. We got more than we could have asked for here. There’s a lot to do, markets to explore and villages to explore, but after the first few days of crazy travel, C and I ended up wanting to spend as much time as possible relaxing in our hotel (which was fabulous).
We definitely walked around the hippie town of San Marcos (think Ubud, Lake Atitlan Bali) and hiked Indian Nose to see all the lake and volcanoes. Unfortunately the view was obscured somewhat by the fog, but it was still beautiful. If you plan to do this hike, I recommend hiring a guide in San Pedro to take you on the trail and lead you to the point. Otherwise, it’s a bit confusing and you’re likely to get lost. There is a lot to do here and even if your goal is just to relax and rejuvenate, that is also 100% optional.
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Where We Stayed: Casa del Mundo – If there’s one place you can’t miss on your trip to Guatemala, it’s this place. If you can stay there, do it or at least stop for a bite to eat.
Where we ate: We ate most of our meals at the hotel because it’s not easy to get around unless you want to take a lancha (boat) to eat. Plus the food there was really good! We had really delicious falafel at Shanti in San Pedro and carrot juice at Gypsy’s in San Marcos.
At the end of our 4 day stay we had lunch back in Panajachel where we drove to Antigua for about 2 hours.
I have heard different opinions about visiting Antigua, but I really liked this city! After a week off, it was nice to get back to civilization for a while and see the World Heritage Site.
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Walk around town and check out La Merced Church and the local markets (we bought a lot of flats at the artisan market). Be sure to go on the De La Gente coffee tour for a truly unique and educational experience or venture out of the city for a volcano hike.
We didn’t end up going on the volcano hike, but the town is surrounded by volcanoes and watching the fugo descend was pretty cool. We got a pretty epic view of it at Cerro San Cristobal.
Where we stayed: Posada San Sebastian – This place was huge and very neat but comfortable and the service was great. I wouldn’t necessarily go back here, but mainly because the doll museum scared me. But I will say that the owner was lovely and the staff very nice and it’s certainly a great option if you’re not picky.
Where we ate: I think what I loved so much about Antigua was the food scene. I felt like I could explore its restaurants for days. Here were some highlights:
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Healthy food place! The smoothies were to die for (working on a version you can make at home!) and I loved their amaranth energy balls.
Definitely on the fancy/expensive side, but so worth it! I tried the polenta gnocchi and it was very good.
Another healthy favorite to add to the list. The service is very slow, but the atmosphere is amazing and the food was delicious.
Sky Bar – The nachos were awesome and the drinks are nice. Definitely worth visiting Antigua!
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Refuge Coffee Bar – If you’re looking for a relaxing place with good WiFi and great lattes, this is your place.
Fat Cat Coffee House – Loved this place for great Guatemalan coffee. A few doors down is a lovely gluten free bakery – I forget the name!
1. Bring warm clothes – Although it’s not Canada in the winter, it can definitely get cold at night. I was kind of expecting it to be more like our trips to Mexico or Costa Rica in terms of weather, but it was actually much cooler. A coat and scarf would be perfect for the evening.
2. The currency in Guatemala is the Quetzal and while credit cards are accepted in some places, it is not the norm. Make sure to either top up with cash beforehand or use ATMs, which are pretty scarce.
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3. When it comes to moving, there are many things that can be negotiated. Since we were a group of 6, we mostly took private cars to get from place to place, but chicken vans (school buses) or shared vans are always an option. Most can be negotiated outside the airport or bus station.
4. When it comes to eating vegetables, make sure they are cleaned before consumption. Food poisoning is very real if not… just ask C 😉
What a way to start 2017! I’m excited to continue my adventures tomorrow when I cross the globe to Israel to explore the food scene there with Vibe Israel. Follow us on Instagram and Snapchat so you don’t miss the adventure!
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