Guatemala

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Flores

How we got there:

We travelled from Caye Caulker, Belize to Flores, Guatemala via bus.
The bus company we used was called Marlin Espadas – you can book a bus from Belize city to Flores at their office at the water taxi terminal in Belize city. The bus cost USD25 pp.

We took the 10:30am ferry. Arrived at 11:30am in Belize city. Bought the bus tickets and waited in the terminal until 1pm.

The bus company we ended up using was called Marlin espadas which was literally in the ferry terminus, ignore people offering you taxis you probably won’t need one… The bus had good AC, wi-fi that doesn’t work, and a “toilet”. Decent enough journey if you have something to watch/read.

The border was so fine. Just have 40BZ per person to pay the exit fee and you’re fine. Remember to get your passport stamped in Guatemala before getting on the bus again. The remainder of the journey took no more than 2 hours and we arrived at the bus station in Flores at 550pm, a 3 minute walk to los amigos (not ideal paths for wheely bags but not a trek either). We got dropped at linea dorada bus station on Flores island.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at a hostel called Los Amigos. Nice room and very cool decor. Would have gone out here if we had time as it looked really fun and was full of other people travelling.

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What we did: (Tikal Sunrise Tour)

So our main reason for coming to Flores was to see Tikal. We went on the sunrise tour that left at 3am from our hostel. If you arrive in Flores in the evening you have to organise your Tikal sunrise tour asap, because officially Tikal isn’t open until 9am or something there are additional fees for sunrise and sunset tours. To pay the fee in advance you need to go to the bank. The bank closes at 19:00 so we needed to sprint across the bridge to the bank (banrural), in the shopping centre near Burger King. 250Q per person for this sunrise tour (extra fee as it’s outside the park’s opening hours.)

FX rate June 2017 is like €1:8Q

On top of that the English-speaking tour guide and transport is 100Q pp

On the day of the tour we left at 3am from our hostel (Los amigos) and took the shuttle to Tikal. Got there about 415/430am and then did a 30 minute walk to the main ruin (Loads of toads and Spiders everywhere but still v cool.) We sat on top of the main ruin (210ft tall) for sunrise and then a bit after until maybe 615am and then began the proper tour of the Mayan village. The tour took about 3 hours or so, all through english and got to go up a couple of the temples and pyramids which was cool. Then after the tour we had about 2 hours to wander around ourselves, it started to get quite warm around then and the shops selling water don’t open until 9am so bring food and water(!!) and wear comfortable runners, flip-flops are asking for trouble, mostly rocky and slippery.
– all in all, definitely worth doing, the only reason we went to Flores was to do this and it lived up to expectations. Try to do the sunrise one, it gets really hot if you go later and we had the entire park to ourselves which was cool.

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Lanquin

How we got there:

Flores to Lanquin (Zephyr lodge)
We organised it through our hostel (Los amigos) for 100Q pp (€8) for the 8-10 hour bus journey. It was in a minibus with 15 passengers. Wasn’t actually too bad to be honest, stopped 3 times (5,15,30 mins for lunch in a relatively decent spot, burgers pizza sandwiches etc. For 40Q pp kind of prices). The ride is quite bumpy but few Spotify playlists or podcasts to listen to and it’s grand.

The entire journey took us 10 hours and we arrived at Zephyr by 18:30 (Zephyr has a complimentary shuttle from drop off in Lanquin)

Where we stayed:

We stayed in a very cool hostel called Zephyr. It had an infinity pool in the middle of the jungle, nice food and very good night life. You can check it out here.

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What we did:

  • Our main reason for coming to Laquin was to visit this place called Semuc Champey. Semuc Champey has these 6 clear water turquoise pools that you swim in and it was incredible. We organised a tour with the hostel that left at 8:30am and you got back around 5:30pm (It cost 125Q). The tour involved a cave tour (you swim through caves with a candle lighting the way. Quite an extreme tour and you’d need to be able to swim but very enjoyable.) A rope jump and bridge jump into the river (if you do this close your mouth and nose as we have heard of people getting sick from the water,) a view-point over Semuc Champey and then an hour and a half to swim in the pools. It was a very enjoyable day and one of the highlights of our Central America Trip.
  • We spent one full day chilling at the pool in Zephyr. There isn’t much of a town in Lanquin so you have to eat at the Hostel but the food there is lovely and it’s very lively at night.

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Antigua

How we got there:

We organised a bus from Laquin to Antigua with Zephyr. It took about 8 hours and we arrived in Antigua in the evening. Antigua is a town at the bottom of a volcano and was absolutely beautiful. Our main reason for coming to Antigua was to hike to the top of Volcan Acatenango – The highlight of our entire summer.

Where we stayed:

We stayed in a hostel called Matiox. It was very cool and was the most modern hostel we had been in. You can check it out here.

Volcano Hike:

Who we did it with:

We organised our hike with a company run by a man called Gilmur. I could not recommend them enough! They were amazing! It was so well organised and the guides were great.

If you want to do the hike with Gilmur email sologui5630@gmail.com.

What exactly happens on the hike:

So we arrived at Gilmur’s house at about 8 am to get all our stuff ready. We rented some bits off him and then some other stuff we had to provide ourselves:

What we rented:

  • Tents
  • Matts
  • Warm Jacket
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Gilmur’s team also gave the option to have a porter to carry our big bags (2 porters for 3 of us – cost an extra 400 Q but was SO worth it.)
  • Lunch, dinner and a small breakfast was also provided but definitely bring a good few snacks with you because you will defo need them throughout the day.

What we brought with us:

  • 2 pairs of long pants (it does tend to rain so make sure you have 2 of each thing so you have something dry to change into.)
  • Waterproof gear.
  • LOADS of warm fleeces and socks – it gets so cold at night and in the morning when you hike to the summit.
  • 5 Liters of water each.
  • Good runners or hiking boots.
  • Portable charger.
  • Torch.
  • Snacks.
  • If you don’t have large backpacks you can rent them in the town.

So the hike is for 1 and a half days. You hike up to base camp and arrive about 4:30pm, eat dinner and stay the night there and then get up at 4am to hike to the summit of the volcano to see the sunrise (the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.)

We set off around 9am, when you arrive at the starting point there are a bunch of women selling these walking sticks – BUY ONE! They are literally a life saver as the terrain can be very sloppy at some points.

The first hour and a half is tough. It’s steep and you’re like is this gonna last forever but it does flatten out and get easier. It was very sunny at the bottom and got much colder as you go up so make sure you arrive with a fleece and jacket somewhere easily accessible and wearing long pants – I climbed Kilimanjaro when I was 16 so I kind of knew what to expect but it didn’t make it any less difficult . The guides are good to take frequent breaks anyway so you don’t have to push yourself too hard just go at your own pace.

When you get to base camp the guides set up a camp fire and all the tents. They make dinner and you can see the active volcano called Fuego from base camp – It erupts every 20 minutes and is very very cool to see. You sleep in the tents at base camp and the guides wake you around 4am to hike to the summit.

For the hike in the morning make sure you dress in very warm clothes. It’s dark at the start and you do start getting hot but the top of the volcano is very windy and absolutely freezing. It takes about an hour and a half to get the top. Reaching the summit is honestly the best feeling in the world! Here are some photos of us at the top!

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If you go to Guatemala you need to do this hike. I think the girls will agree with me in saying that this experience was the best part of our entire summer. The hike was incredibly tough, but once you got the top it was honestly the best feeling in the world. Standing on top of that volcano with 2 of my best friends and the most beautiful sunrise we had ever seen, words can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was.

Guatemala probably does get a bit of a bad rep for being a dangerous country to visit but it honestly was one of the countries that we enjoyed the most. We met the nicest people and had the did the most amazing activities there. Just have your wits about when you’re there, don’t be too trusting and be sensible (I probably sound like your mam lol) and you will have the most amazing time ever!