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Popular for its volcanoes, rainforests, ancient Mayan sites, Guatemala is one of Central America’s hidden treasures. Many people overlook Guatemala for vacations, primarily because of its history of civil wars and government coups. The excessive media coverage of crimes in the region has scared many tourists away.
I decided to go to Guatemala because of the archaeological ruins. Thus far, my favorite country in Central America. A place I highly recommend putting on your bucket list.
While in Guatemala City I planned to go to Antigua, but meeting a backpacker going to Lake Atitlan I change my mind, an advantage of traveling solo.
The cost for the minibus is $10. We arrive at the Lake Atitlan, San Pedro, in a downpour and have to look for a hostel under the heavy rain.
Finally settled in my hostel, the rain stops. I am hungry and want food (vegan, of course). Not many options are available. I settled for a plato tipico – rice and beans, plantains and vegetables.
Lake Atitlan means “at the water” in Nahuatl. It is surrounded by many communities, each with its own unique character. Panajachel, a popular place with yogis because of the yoga retreats and meditation centers. And, Santa Cruz and San Pedro are more crowded, festive,full of bars and restaurants.
In San Pedro, the place to hang out is the Scottish (could be English) bar that has trivia nights. On my first day, I participate in trivia night, with three other people. We come in second place. Our reward – a free Tequila shot. I do not drink and I give mime to one of my teammates. In San Pedro, the bar becomes my daily hang-out place.
From San Pedro, I take an overnight bus to Tikal, a seven-hour ride. Look for a hostel and most that are located close to the bus stop are affordable. Hire a tour guide at the Tikal National Park. Find other travelers looking for a guide and join them to get the group rates. The price for one person is higher.
The Tikal National Park – A UNESCO World Heritage site – believed to be the ancient city and capital of the Mayan civilization. Ruins of the temples and palaces: The ceremonial Lost World Pyramid and The Temple of the Grand Jaguar. Spend at least two days in the town to explore and take the boat ride.
Antigua – a picturesque town, with Spanish architectural and colorful buildings is one my favorite. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and activities: hiking, tours and sightseeing.
Guatemala offers everything for vacations: cultural history, ruins, beautiful architecture, and great vegan restaurants. I highly recommend visiting Antigua – a small colonial town – where you can experience the culture.
Guatemala has come a long way since the 1980’s and still faces political (corruption scandals) and economic (highest poverty rates) problems but the people are resilient. Hope or no hope, they make the best of life and I admire them for that.
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