GUATEMALA (2/2)

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Guatemala national flag

We get an early morning call, at 2.30am, to get from Antigua to Guatemala City airport, and the 6.30am flight to Flores. It is a short duration flight of 1h in a small airplane. Our travel package included one-night stay in Tikal, although many tourists are doing the 1-day tour, and will return on the evening. They don´t have to carry all their luggage with them, but it must be a more tiring trip, as they have to get back later to Flores airport on the evening to fly back to Guatemala.

View of Tikal from the top

We leave our luggage in the hotel, in the lake shore of Lago Petén, from where we can see the small peninsula of Flores, and start our day trip to Tikal, that is about 40 miles north, taking a bit more than 1h to get to the entrance, where our guide buys the tickets for us (20$ for foreigners). Weather is considerably hot already at 10am, and it looks like the perfect time to cover ourselves with sun protection and strong anti-mosquito repellent. Tikal was the first archaeological site recognised as World Heritage by UNESCO, as far back as 1979. The tour gives us an insight of the amazing Mayan town of Tikal, and even when only a tiny fraction of its buildings is restored, you can imagine the amount of people that used to walk and live here centuries ago, with an estimated population of around 50 thousand inhabitants. Most of the buildings are still hiding under the jungle, while only a small percentage of the town is open to the public. Imagination, and especially recent new laser techniques, have allowed to see what lies beneath the vegetable cover. As we were explained the costs of restoration and maintenance are very high, and the number of tourists still insufficient to proceed with extensive excavation campaigns. We are given some free time in the central square, useful to explore some back alleys far from tourist crowds. After a picnic lunch, we get back to the buses and our hotels, after an exhausting day, but with a very rewarding visit that will stay on our memories for years to come. Still time for a visit to Flores, a nice touristy spot, overcrowded with swallows at sunset.

Pyramid half covered in vegetation
Ceiba tree
Covered pyramid
Tikal buildings
Tikal central square

Next day we get an optional tour to the Blue Crater, in Sayaxché, where we arrive after one and a half hours in a boat following the river Pasión, where we can see the local population using the river resources and plenty of birds (sadly crocodiles were not on sight). We get on a small affluent when water turns from green to transparent, to finally arrive to the crater. It is a small lagoon, with crystalline clean waters and a depth of 5-7 metres in its centre, that offers a perfect swim and the possibility of seeing the river bed. The peace of the spot is ruined when some noisy North-American tourists arrive in their boat with the music at high volume. Possibly one of those places that tourism will ruin before long. The return boat trip offers a last view of the wildness, as we return to Flores airport and back to Guatemala City, where we will spend our last night in Guatemala.

Río Pasión
Cráter Azul waters
River shore
Cráter Azul

Next morning there is only time to do some souvenirs shopping and a short city tour in the same bus that will get us to the airport to catch our return flights home. We only have the chance to leave the bus for a short walk inside the Cathedral, and from there head back to the airport, where we will finally arrive with just enough time to do our check in and pass the security controls because of the heavy traffic. And here it finishes the 1-week tour to Guatemala, for a rewarding first experience in Central America.

Ciudad de Guatemala Cathedral
San Simón image

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