We were away from the 15th of October and arrived back on the 1st of November. We flew from Dublin via Newark and Houston with Continental to Guatemala City and the way back we flew from Belize City via Houston and London.
We started off on the holiday thinking we were a small bit mad going to Guatemala seeing as almost everyone we told reacted to us as if we going into a warzone. US Immigration in Dublin didn't help by saying I was going into a drug war when I didn't have a day by day timeline of where I was going and doing at all hours.
We arrived into Guatemala City and we headed straight to Antigua as we had heard bad reports of Guatemala City and generally there's generally not huge differences between Cities. We stayed in Villa Esthel in Antigua booked via Hostelworld. It was a small bit outside town but I found the hostel very good. We stayed here for 3 nights and it was a great base for exploring Antigua. We generally just rambled around Antigua. Cerro de la Cruz had great views of the city. Antigua has alot of old Cathedrals that are well worth looking around. We did a tour to Volcan de Pacaya from here. There wasn't a huge amount of Lava here as there had recently been an eruption but it was still well worth seeing. The natural heat from the Lava is unbelievable and the landscape is like what I'd imagine the moon would be like. We met a great crowd on this and headed for the square outside La Merced off Plaza Mayor for Pupusa which is cheese cooked inside a Tortilla. Chile Relleno were absolutely fantastic here. I'd certainly recommend eating from the street vendors as much as possible while you're here. There were a huge amount of Israelis both here and in Guatemala in general.
We headed for Lago de Atitlan from here which was 3 hours away. You could see alot of the roads had been washed away on this trip. We headed for Panjachel on the banks of the lake but we (Caroline might say I) thought here looked very touristy so we instead headed for San Pedro. We stayed in Casa Maria Elena which had hammocks out the front and was very good. We paid 100 Quetzales here and it was well worth it. The town here is very laid back and it is very Western/tourist focussed but I loved the place. From all reports San Marcus seemed to be set up similarly although some people reckoned it might be unsafe but only one person said that. We climbed Indians Nose from here to watch the sunrise and although the Sunrise wasn't great it was still well worth it. The guide we used Johan has his office across from Casa Maria Elena and I would certainly recommend him. The View from the hospital up the hill in San Pablo is well worth it also.
After here we headed for Lanquin and Semuc Champey. Unfortunately we had to head back to Antigua which was 3 hours away where we had to wait for almost 2 hours before heading on to Lanquin which was another 7 hours away. We stayed in El Retiro which was good and I met some great people through here but I'll sound like an auld wan saying the music was very loud. As the Guatemalen guy on the tour said the Scenery was the music. El Portal might be another option worth looking at. From here we did tubing down the river which was brilliant followed by swimming through a cave with only candles to light the way. There was a swing over the river also which I made a mess of myself on. There's a photo of my belly from after this but I'm not sure they do justice. I think it was the first time to get a tan from a belly flop. There were a few bats in the cave and it was great. Part 2 of this was a climb up to see the lookout over the Limestone Pools of Semuc Champey and then we headed down to swim in the pools. The photos don't do any justice to the views but it'll go alot further than my words. We stayed 2 nights here.
We headed onto Flores after this which was a further 7 hours away. This town is on an island in a lake and although it is small it was a lovely spot to walk around. Villa de Chef was a great spot for a feed and a couple of Botella de Dorada Ice. It was very touristy here and the businesses here are definitely more money conscious while it seemed better off than other places we'd been. We stayed in Los Amigos here but found it very hot and wouldn't recommend it although the crowd running it were very nice.
We headed to Tikal from here. The one thing to say is to book the bus out to Tikal in plenty of time as San Juan pull the busesif they can't be filled. I had been in Palenque and Chichen Itza but I still found Tikal very impressive. We stayed in the Tikal Inn out beside Tikal to take advantage of the sunrise and sunset. This cost $55. If you get your ticket after 3.30 you can get your ticket for 2 days. It was worth it for the sake of seeing the sunset but if you look into this you might be able to do this from Flores depending on the time of sunset and time of last bus. There was a storm the morning we were meant to get up for the sunset so we left it as it would be cloudy anyway.
After here onwards to Belize City which took 4 hours after the border in Guatemala took 20 Q from us to put directly in their pockets. If you're asked for this you shouldn't pay it but it depends on how far you can push it with them. The crowd in San Pedro Water Taxis are very good and we got the boat with them out to Caye Caulker. Caye Caulker was very laid back and we stayed with Chilas Cabin which was a lovely spot but the air conditioning wasn't any good. There was a good breeze which looked after us most of the time and also ac doesn't seem to be very common. The snorkel trip from here was amazing and we saw Nurse Sharks, Turtles and Sting Rays. They filled us full of Rum on the way back in also which was a plus. If you do a bit of looking here for food you can get decent value for money but it can be quite expensive if you go to the wrong places. There's a FAT guy on the strip that does amazing sea food. Caye Caulker was amazing and very relaxing and would certainly recommend it to anyone.
Last day in work for the week tomorrow. It's amazing how quickly a holiday becomes a dream.
Photos are here: