Having arrived in Guatemala, I decided to spend my first night there in the very small, laid-back town of El Remate. I highly recommend Hotel Mon Ami directly at Lake Peten Itza: small jungle-like huts and a very neat, spacious dorm beneath the roof. There, I enjoyed sunset and sunrise at the lake before taking the shuttle bus to Tikal.
The ancient Ruins of Tikal were the capital of the Mayan empire. They are huge and some of them are accessible, that means you can climb them and overlook the whole jungle surrounding these buildings. Pretty impressive! And since it was raining cats and dogs when I was there, I had the whole area almost for myself and could hear birds chirping as well as howler monkeys making noises. A very special experience!
After my visit to the ruins, I went to the island of Flores where I stayed in Hotel Aurora which has a very nice terrace overlooking the lake. There is not much to do other than strolling through the colorful streets and taking a boat to San Miguel in order to go up to the lookout or enjoy the beach (a pretty ugly one though after having been to the Caribbean).
From Flores I took a shuttle bus to Lanquin where I was picked up by a four-wheeler in order to get me to a place to stay near Semuc Champey. This one was called Pachamaya Eco Lodge and I can definitely recommend it – location at the river, many hammocks, a good restaurant/bar etc. and all this for an extremely affordable price. In the early morning, I walked over to Semuc Champey, a protected area consisting of a 300 m limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabón River. Atop this bridge is a series of turquoise pools. You can see it quite good from the lookout on top of a hill. Afterwards, swimming in the natural pools is obligatory. Oh, and in the afternoon, I went tubing on the river in front of my lodge before leaving for the South of Guatemala early the next morning.
Antigua is one of my favorite cities in Central America. It has so many colorful colonial houses and churches and is surrounded by volcanoes – truly a very impressive view! Most of the city had to be rebuilt after a severe earthquake in 1773. That’s why many ruins can be found all over this place – just take a look at the pictures… Oh, and I definitely recommend staying at La Casa de Maria! It offers private accommodation in a family’s house that has many flowers in the inner yard and even a parrot that greets you. 🙂
Hiking Volcano Acatenango (3,976 m of altitude) is a quite though one. We met up in the evening at the tour agency in order to get our equipment. Then we drove to the starting point and hiked the first half of the trail through the woods up to the base camp where we had a bonfire and some time in the tents before we continued our way up – this time on volcanic rock which is not very easy to walk on. Early in the morning, we arrived at the top seeing Volcano Fuego spiting lava into the sky. What an amazing experience! A couple of minutes later, the sun rose and we had one of the most spectacular sunrises ever! Just breathtaking: an erupting volcano on one side and a beautiful sunrise on the other. This was definitely worth the effort.
The next volcano on my list of the must-dos in Guatemala was Volcano Pacaya – one of the most active volcanoes on earth. This was a stroll compared to the other hike… Not even one hour and we were up there on the lava field where we were able to roast marshmallows in the hot lava. Indeed a very unique experience! 🙂
After having hiked and experienced these active volcanoes, it was time to go on to Lake Atitlán surrounded by the three other volcanoes San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlán. I arrived in Panajachel, just strolled around (it’s veeery touristy), and took a boat across the lake – with great views on the small little towns at the shore and the majestic volcanoes. In San Pedro, I stayed in Hotel Playa Linda with a great breakfast in the morning – truly a great place to stay and relax for a while. Having explored the town in half a day, I got up in the middle of the night in order to hike up a hill called “Nariz del Indio” (Indian Nose) to see the sun rise above the lake with its volcanoes. What a spectacular view!
On the same day, I took a so-called “chicken bus” (an old American school bus that’s used for public transport here) to Xela which is on the way to México. It’s not the nicest city (especially compared to Antigua) but for half a day, there are some good things to see. The coolest one was the stroll up Baul Hill where I met some really nice policemen who gave me a ride back to Hostel Casa Seibel after I had been interviewed on top of the hill for a TV-show…
The next morning, I took a chicken bus from the market in Xela in order to cross the border to Chiapas, Mexico.