Dates: 20-28 March 2014
DAYS 137-139: “Antigua” (20-22 March)
Our 18 hour shuttle from Leon in Nicaragua took us through Honduras, El Salvador and finally into Guatemala…4 countries in one day, sjoe! Although our passports are slightly misleading as we literally only saw the border posts of Honduras and El Salvador…We met Haylie and Blake (both from Canada) on this journey which was fortuitous as, once again, we had failed to pre-book our accommodation! Upon arrival in Antigua, we sheepishly followed them to their hostel, hoping for availability.
Posada de San Carlos had 2 beds waiting for us, which we fell into gratefully as by the time we arrived it was 10pm and we were exhausted. We spent 2 days in Antigua exploring this picturesque town nestled between 3 volcanos, one of which is active. And by exploring we mean literally exploring, as very few streets in this town have an actual name…making navigating through it somewhat tricky. Over our 2 days here we scoured local markets for treasures, indulged in our required pamper time (massage and mani/pedi) and feasted on some delicious meals. From Antigua we were headed to Lake Atitilan, to a town called San Pedro.
DAYS 140-141: “San Pedro on Lake Atitilan” (23-24 March)
From Antigua we took a 2 hour shuttle to Chimaltenango and from there we took a “direct” water taxi to San Pedro, although this actually went via a town called San Juan. We stayed at “Hostal Fe” which claims to have one of the best steaks you’ll ever eat…we put them to the test and our refined, carnivorous palettes say that they truly do. Situated right on the lake, this hostel provides the perfect setting to kick back, enjoy a few drinks and jump off the dock to cool off.
We only spent one night in San Pedro as the 4th April (ie. our flight to Cuba from Cancun) was fast approaching. But one night was enough time for us as we got to see the lake and experience the vibe of this chilled town – and were okay to miss out on the requisite chilling time that this place negates.
DAYS 142-143: “Semuc Champey” (25-26 March)
Our next destination was the famed Semuc Champey. To get here we had to go from San Pedro back to Antigua, spend the night there and then leave for Semuc Champey at 8am the following morning. After a nine hour drive from Antigua we arrived in Semuc Champey in the early evening. We had heard great things about this place…literally everyone we’d spoken to who was doing the “north to south route” claimed it was one of the best places they’d been. Upon arrival at our hostel, Zephyr Lodge, we could see why people had such positive things to say. We were greeted with a stunning spectacle of forest green peaks and valleys, set against a cloudless blue sky…and were even treated to an unforgettable sunset. Again, time was against us and so we’d only given ourselves 2 nights and 1 day in this little piece of heaven. Although there are various activities to do in this area, along with chilling out, time only allowed for us to opt for the obvious choice…hiking to the famed 7 green pools.
We headed off on our tour early the next day with our fellow tour mates (Terry and Lior from Israel; Tilo, Beeda, Ollie and Darius from Germany). First on the agenda was Lanquin cave, which sounded a bit too frightening for us so we gave it a miss. This was followed by some bridge jumping, also a bit too hectic for us! After lunch we could finally partake and embarked on a “20 minute easy hike” to the viewpoint…40 minutes later and rather red-faced, we arrived. Upon focussing on what we were looking at, we were speechless, although that may have been due to the “easy hike”! But nevertheless, the view was absolutely breathtaking, and ample reward for the trauma committed to our legs/hearts in getting there.
After admiring this special place we were eager to get down and cool off in these beautiful turquoise pools. We managed to get down in 20 minutes and wasted no time in stripping off our sweaty clothes and getting in. We frolicked and floated from pool to pool enjoying the refreshing water and sensation of fish nibbling on our dead skin (uh, maybe that wasn’t so enjoyable…). We even had the option to slide down a few natural rockslides from pool to pool. We had a great day and would put it as one of the must do/see things for anyone lucky enough to find themselves in this part of the world.
That night we enjoyed some pizza and drinks at the hostel with our tourmates, before heading off the next day for Flores.
DAYS 144-145: “Flores” (27-28 March)
The next morning, we “excitedly” boarded our 5th long haul bus ride in 7 days from Semuc Champey to Flores. We arrived in the late afternoon and again had given ourselves 2 nights and 1 day in this little town near Tikal, before having to make our way into Belize. We stayed at Los Amigos, which is a great hostel offering a wonderful atmosphere, scrumptious food and a movie room – where we finally got to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. We toyed with the idea of heading to Tikal to check out the Mayan ruins…but the fact that we were quite wiped out by the hectic travel schedule we’d just completed, and that we had already seen Angkor Wat (Cambodia) and Machu Picchu (Peru) and considered ourselves little ‘Ruin Snobs’, we opted for a day of rest instead. We thoroughly enjoyed our rest day and were happy to board yet another bus to take us across the border into Belize.
We did whizz through Guatemala at quite a pace but were pleased that we’d managed to see and do everything that we wanted to. Although it was quite full on we knew that Belize would provide some much anticipated chill time.