Guatemala
Guatemala

Curious what backpackers do in Guatemala? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

126 travelers at this place:

  • Day379

    Pasajcap

    May 20 in Guatemala

    This area has 7+ volcanoes surrounding a very large and deep crater lake. We rented a beautiful Airbnb on a remote part of the lake (~20 minutes walk from the nearest town) and essentially just passed the days enjoying the stunning view of the lake and mountains, cooking in, and trying to keep the bugs out of the apartment (it’s super buggy here – like being in the Amazon). It’s not too hot here though, since we’re at about 5000ft above sea-level. We’ve had some spectacular thunder and lightening storms to keep us entertained.Read more

  • Day373

    El Remate, Guatemala

    May 14 in Guatemala

    As has become our preference, we decided to fly to Flores instead of suffering a long bus ride to Guatemala.
    We based ourselves in El Remate and woke up super early to catch a mini-bus to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal. At the gate, we joined a tour and spent a few hours getting an overview of the main sites. Then, we spent time exploring the ruins on our own. It’s the start of the rainy season here so the crowds were not large. In fact, we walked to some of the more remote ruins and had them completely to ourselves
    The ruins are impressive, especially the central plaza, for their architecture and remote, jungle location. John enjoyed seeing his memory of the Star Wars scene filmed here, come to life. Check out this clip

    https://youtu.be/vVJbmQgt2kc

    Many structures have been excavated and restored, but many others have been left buried by the jungle with no plans to uncover them (so that they won’t be further degraded by the rain/environment).
    In addition to enjoying the ruins, there were lots of howler and spider monkeys around as well as toucans, woodpeckers, hummingbirds and other critters. By noon, we were absolutely soaked through with sweat, and ready to get out of the heat.
    Even though we have a couple more stops coming up in hot, humid places and we enjoy the unique critters (especially the monkeys and birds) and sounds found in this environment, we decided, jointly, that we would not likely make plans to return to jungle environments. The heat, humidity, mosquitos, etc. are just not for us.
    Read more

  • Day375

    Antigua

    May 16 in Guatemala

    A quick flight and short taxi ride brought us to this charming colonial town in the highlands, surrounded by volcanoes. Because it’s up a little higher, the temperature was very pleasant with no mosquitoes in sight.
    We spent our time wandering the streets of this UNESCO town, visiting a few museums and churches, eating and drinking wine…the usual stuff! The standout here was the incredible central market. It was packed with beautiful, fresh produce, flowers and lots of ladies in their traditional woven skirts and blouses.Read more

  • Day15

    San Jose, Guatamala

    January 1, 2015 in Guatemala

    A cultural experience awaited us here. Jeff and I walked into a nearby town and saw true underdeveloped, third-world lifestyle. It was sn eye-opening appreciation of the lives that we are fortunate enough to live.
    We also saw some of the beautiful handwork that is done here.

  • Day377

    Quetzaltenango (Xela)

    May 18 in Guatemala

    This town is a popular jumping off point for hiking volcanoes, visiting hot springs and studying Spanish. It’s the second largest town in Guatemala and while it has a nice town square and some beautiful old buildings, we probably wouldn’t have stopped here if we’d done a bit more research given that we didn’t want to visit the thermal pools or hike another volcano.
    The landscape is very pretty here, so the drive was rewarding as it meandered through small towns and offered good views of the countryside.Read more

  • Day298

    Trekking through Tikal

    May 23 in Guatemala

    One of the main reasons for most tourists to stop in Flores is to visit the Mayan ruins at Tikal. We avoided taking a tour and opted to download the audio guide instead, which allowed us to go at our own place (and probably more historically-based than most tour guides, in our experience). The bus from Flores took about an hour and a half, but, before we set off, we heard some familiar accents at the back of the bus – we were accompanied by fellow Australians from the Sunshine Coast who had travelled through Canada and Mexico.

    Tikal is situated in the middle of the jungle, which once covered the Mayan ruins. It is considered to be one of the largest urban areas of the Mayans, although new sites are being found all the time. It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 structures in the area, many of which still need to be excavated. It is believed that the Mayans may have called the site Yax Mutal and that the area was occupied at least from the fourth century BCE, reaching its “golden era” during 200 CE to 900 CE. Most of the surviving structures were built by two main Mayan rulers, father and son, Hasaw Chan Kawil and Yikin Chan Kawil, the latter seemingly wanting to outdo his predecessor. The whole complex is massive and can barely be completed in five hours. After about 20 kilometres of walking/jogging and visiting most of the excavated ruins, except for the Group H pyramids, we returned to Flores on the same bus we started out on. Ricky needed his rest so he could continue playing Indiana Jones the following day.

    Next stop: Yaxhá

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/CzQ7Ar2cy7s
    Read more

  • Day293

    Guapos en Guate

    May 18 in Guatemala

    Guatemala City is a short, two-hour flight from San Jose, flying Volaris, a low-cost Mexican airline. While we waited for our flight, a woman nearby overheard our conversation about the prices of everything in Costa Rica. Airports are notorious for overcharging but prices were almost as high as at home. This started a conversation and we found out that the woman, Norma, was from Mexico but had been living in Guatemala City for a long time. She gave us the run-down on all the things to do and see in Guatemala (and Mexico). If only we had more time, but instead we would need to be satisfied with a small taste of the country.

    Norma was a little worried when we said that we were staying in Zona 1, which includes the historical district. We only had one night before heading to Antigua for two nights so we wanted to be close to the historical centre so that we could get-up early and explore the colonial buildings and houses. We arrived late in the evening and it seemed that the streets were deserted, with a few dodgy-looking characters wandering around.

    The next morning, the city looked like a completely different place, with people filling the streets. As we wandered around admiring the architecture and the character of the city, we were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people – and not because they wanted to sell us something or try a scam on us. The people seemed genuinely nice and welcoming. All of the stories about Guatemala being so unsafe seemed untrue. It is true that the streets are monitored by a large number of police with full-on weaponry but we never felt threatened or unsafe, although we only spent one night before and one night after going to Antigua.

    Next stop: Antigua

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/A1WDH9jnZMI
    Read more

  • Day294

    Little, Old Antigua

    May 19 in Guatemala

    For over two hundred years prior to independence from Spain, the area from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas to Costa Rica was administered as one area, the Kingdom of Guatemala, with Antigua as its capital. Because of this history, Antigua is almost completely filled with buildings and houses from colonial times, some dating back to the late sixteenth century. With cobbled-stone roads and structures that seemed like they hadn't been touched in more than a century, it felt as if we had stepped back in time; that is, except for the backpackers and tourists that had overrun the town.

    From Guate, as the locals call Guatemala City, there is the option to take a chicken bus or mini-van. We opted to take an Über, as it was only a little more expensive than the bus. We were fortunate to get one of the friendliest drivers that we have ever had in all of our travels. We learned that Emerson was a Muslim from Guatemala, and in a country that is about entirely Catholic, it was interesting to hear that there is a small Muslim community of about 1000 people across the country. Emerson spoke fluent English, along with Arabic and obviously Spanish. We shared each other's culture, which definitely passed the time as we got stuck in traffic on the main road between Mexico and Guatemala. He was full of praise about Australia, particularly the different produce that he had experienced in Guatemala and in the Middle East, where he had studied Arabic and Islamic law.

    We had two full days to explore the colonial town of Antigua and, at one point, it seemed almost overwhelming to see so many beautiful buildings with such character and history. Scattered around the town are many churches and cathedrals that had been partially destroyed by earthquakes and now abandoned. One of the ruins included a former monastery of Santo Hermano Pedro next to the Iglesia de San Francisco, which was originally built in 1579, but suffered damage in a number of earthquakes in the eighteenth centuty. Another nearby cathedral ruin included a museum and art exhibition, the latter including some confronting and disturbing images from across the world, most of which seemed to be related to war and religion or more precisely wars over religion.

    The next day, we got up reasonably early to walk to the lookout on top of Cerro de la Cruz. Normally, the climb would have been an easy feat, but after nine months of very little cardiac exercise and carrying additional kilos, known as the guanabana baby, we arrived at the top panting and puffing like a sex worker on a busy night. As we stood overlooking the town, a group of locals struck-up a conversation with us and, while the conversation wasn't deep and meaningful, we actually proved that we could string a few sentences together and get our message across. All that Peppa the Pig must be paying off! Well, that’s what we thought then. Moments like these always seem to be countered with dialogues that demonstrate that we still have a LONG way to go before we are “fluent”. Oh well, we'll keep learning and practising.

    Next stop: Flores via Guatemala City

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/bMSEonv8rOs
    Read more

  • Day297

    Fantástico Flores

    May 22 in Guatemala

    We caught the red-eye flight from Guatemala City to Flores, only because it was the cheapest on offer, and we didn't have enough time to travel by Bus through the central areas of Guatemala. Staying near to the airport in Guatemala City made the early start a little easier, so did the lift to the airport by our Airbnb host. Considering the flight is only an hour, this gave us extra time to spend in Flores town before heading on tours to some of the nearby Mayan ruins. Fortunately, the short, domestic flight didn't mean a washing machine with a propeller. It did include one passenger that obviously had really important messages to send via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger before the flight. And we mean on the tarmac. We thought he was about to conference call as we sped along the runaway, and only as the nose of the plane lifted off the ground did he decide to turn his phone onto flight mode. Airline staff seemed un-phased.

    We landed in Flores a little after seven in the morning and were dropped off at the hotel by around 8:30am, giving the entire day to explore the island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza. In a similar style to other colonial towns, the brightly-coloured houses contrasted with the surrounding, clear, blue lake. A small bridge connects the old colonial town with the mainland suburb of Santa Elena. The island was the last remaining Mayan state before the invasion of the Spanish Conquistadors, who robbed the indigenous people of their land and claimed it for the Spanish crown. The area continued to be under Mayan leadership until 1697 when the Spanish attacked and destroyed the settlement, driving many indigenous to take refuge in the jungle for many years. The island is so small that it takes only a few minutes to walk from one side to the other. In the three days that we stayed on the island, there probably wasn't a street or lane that we didn't traverse.

    Next stop: Mexico City (via Tikal and Yaxhá)

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/ejtzcQUGAXA
    Read more

  • Day299

    Sunset in Yaxhá

    May 24 in Guatemala

    Many people recommend visiting Tikal after Yaxhá to avoid disappointment. The main reason for this suggestion is that Yaxhá is much smaller and less excavated. Ricky disregarded this advice but was not disappointed. Although there are less structures at Yaxhá, it is estimated that there are more than 7000 ruins, the majority of which still lay covered underneath the jungle. The area had been occupied by the Mayans from as early as 1000 BCE but reached its height during the Early Classic period, 250 CE to 600 CE.

    Ricky decided to go it alone and joined a sunset tour of Yaxhá. Normally, we avoid tours because, while tour guides need to be certified, generally most tours involve wasted time travelling around picking up other people and many guides present biased, questionable information. This tour would be no exception. It was the people on the tour that made the adventure more interesting, particularly the German Ambassador for Venezuela, who shared with us some of the heartbreaking events that are occurring in the country; he talked about the high inflation and the political issues that do not seem to be improving – not while the current President continues to remain in power. It really is such a great tragedy and has caused such devastation to so many of its countrymen and women who have had to flee.

    While the guide provided some interesting information and stories, the “historical facts” seem to be clouded by his wish to portray the Mayans, his ancestors, in a very positive light and demonstrate the continuity of the ancient culture through to modern times. In many of the museums and tours of Mesoamerica and South America, there seems to be a feeling that they need to make comparisons with contemporary European cultures and place emphasis on Mayan astrology, mathematics and calendars. The guide avoided discussions about the Mayan practice of human sacrifice or denied the possibility, particularly related to the games played in the Mayan Ball Courts. While the site can be visited within an hour or so, our tour spent a great deal of time watching the sunset on top of one of the pyramids before making the two-hour journey back to Flores, much of it on a bumpy, dirt track.

    Next stop: Flores

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/sr6Wyz2hDCM
    Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Guatemala, Guatemala, Guwatemala, ጉዋቲማላ, جواتيمالا, Qvatemala, Гватэмала, Гватемала, Gwatemala, গোয়াতিমালা, གྷོ་ཊེ་མ་ལ།, Gvatemala, Guatemala nutome, Γουατεμάλα, Gvatemalo, گواتمالا, Gwaatemalaa, Goatemala, Guatamala, ગ્વાટેમાલા, Gwatamala, גווטמלה, गोतेदाला, Գվատեմալա, グアテマラ, გვატემალა, ហ្គាតេម៉ាឡា, ಗ್ವಾಟೆಮಾಲಾ, 과테말라, گواتیمالا, Gwatémala, ກົວເຕມາລາ, Ngwatemala, Goatemalà, ഗ്വാട്ടിമാലാ, ग्वाटेमाला, ဂွာတီမာလာ, Cuauhtemallan, ଗୁଏତମାଲା, ګواتمالا, Watimala, Guatêmälä, Guwaatamaala, குவாத்தாமாலா, గ్వాటిమాల, Гуатемала, ประเทศกัวเตมาลา, Kuatamala, گۋاتېمالا, Ґватемала, گواٹے مالا, Gvatemalän, Orílẹ́ède Guatemala, 危地马拉, i-Guatemala

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