GUATEMALA (1/2)

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Itinerary

Guatemala gets to be this year summer holidays destination, as I found a relatively cheap package in an agency near home, including flights, accommodation, circuit and a visit to Tikal with internal flights. Whole package is going to be 9 days and 7 nights. There are longer packages, but probably 1 week looks as the choice to go for and get a taste of what this country has to offer. The Fuego volcano that caused several dead and disappeared a few weeks earlier, finally didn´t jeopardize the planned holidays.

Flight is not direct from Madrid, and after a short scale in Varadero (Cuba), where most of the passengers leave the airplane, a short flight gets the remaining passengers to Ciudad de Guatemala. There is only time to go to the nearby hotel, get a shower and go to sleep. No much for a first day spent arriving to our destination.

View from the airplane

Next morning, we depart towards Lago de Atitlán, with a brief stop at the Iximché Mayan archaeological site, where we do a short visit and have the chance of witnessing a traditional Mayan offering. As we continue our journey and get closer to the lake, we can appreciate its beautiful views surrounded by 3 impressive volcanoes, Atitlán, Tolimán y San Pedro, all of them above 3000 metres. We arrive to Panajachel, where we will spend the night, just in time to enjoy a wonderful sunset.

Iximché pelota court
Lago Atitlán view
Mayan ritual
Sunset in Panajachel

On the next day, we manage to get a very early boat tour of the lake, visiting the small village of San Juan de la Laguna, that lies on the opposite lake shore, where we visit some traditional shops of coffee and jade. Back in Panajachel, and already behind the original scheduled plan we get onto the bus to the traditional market of Chichicastenango, with their packed and coloured streets, and the interesting church of Santo Tomas, that offers an interesting blending of catholic and Mayan rituals under the same roof, and where pictures were strictly forbidden. From Chichicastenango we get again onto the bus and head towards Antigua, a World Heritage site by UNESCO, that was the country capital until the end of the XVIII century, when a series of earthquakes destroyed most of the town. This will become our sleeping quarter for 3 nights.

San Juan de la Laguna
Sto Tomás Church (Chichicastenango)
Atitlán lake shore
Market section (Chichicastenango)

Next day we have a trip to visit Ciudad Vieja, that was the country capital before Antigua itself, and a visit to the ecological Valhalla macadamia nuts plantation. Going back to Antigua we stop briefly in the Cerro de la Cruz, a spot offering a wonderful view overlooking the whole of Antigua, with its linear outline and the Agua volcano on the background.

Valhalla Plantation
Macadamia nuts
Ciudad Vieja view
Antigua view from Cerro de la Cruz

On the following day, and although there is an optional hike to the Pacaya volcano, some of us decide to spend the day in Antigua, as we didn´t have time to walk its streets and visit some of its countless churches, many of them in ruins, and the traditional linear streets covered with cobblestones. For the first time in our trip we have the chance to experience the force of a rainy season storm and catch one of the many tuk-tuks available to get back to the hotel. Time to go to sleep early, as next day is our flight to Tikal.

San José Cathedral
Santa Catalina Arch

To be continued…

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