Twelve days in Guatemala

Published: April 13th 2010
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So, I thought that, before going on any more trips this year, it would be good to catch up on the ones we did last year. 2009 was a big year for us, as we discovered two regions we were dreaming about... First Central America (then Southeast Asia, but that will be for another post).
So, we travelled to Guatemala in February, but the trip was unfortunately a little short... Twelve days total, including almost two whole days of travelling from France to Guatemala and return. So, ten days in the country itself, which is very little considering the slowness of local transportation and the amount of things to see!

Our route, the beginning...

This post will be a little short as well, as the trip is now a few months back.
We landed in the biggest international airport of the country, Guatemala Ciudad (the other being Flores, in the north, and rather welcoming intern flights from the capital), and drove straight to Antigua, as all the others tourists did... Antigua is a nice and tranquil city where you can just chill out, take clases de espanol and stroll around the tiny and colourful streets. Loads of American students in town! In fact, Antigua is the tourist' capital in Guatemala, and most travellers choose to stay here when they arrive/when they go, and drive directly to the airport.
The most beautiful thing about Antigua are his surroundings : Antigua is located in a valley in-between three huge volcanoes. Wherever you look, you will find a peak.

There is not an awful lot to see in Antigua itself, but it is a good starting point for daytrips : most travellers (as we did) choose to climb the Volcan Pacaya, to discover the world of active volcanoes. It was an amazing experience, and a physical challenge (for people like us, who are not very used to trek and hike). The sight is amazing from the 2000+ meters of Volcano Pacaya.

Our next big stop was Panajachel, on the lago Atitlan. Out of all the villages around this beautiful lake, we chose Panajachel out of convenience : all buses and shuttles arrive here, and you can easily take a boat from the "port" (the beach) to any village on the other side. AND Panajachel has all the facilities : banks, mercado, hotels, restaurants etc. while some of the other villages are very small and very deserted... In no particular order, we visited San Marcos de la Laguna, a sort of neo-hippy center where there is not much to do apart from meditating... Nice place for a walk, nice tranquil vibe, but that's it. San Pedro la Laguna is much bigger and dynamic. The mercado is colourful, the architecture a little chaotic... San Pedro looks much more like a modern town. Still going from little to big, you cannot avoid Santiago Atitlan, a little town right in the south of the lake, and slowly growing under the shade of Volcan Toliman. Tourist trap! It is the second choice for most travellers when they look for an accommodation near the lake, and it really feels like it... Once again, the main attractions are the little mercado and the church. Also to be mentioned, Santa Catarina di Palopo : I had never seen a place so steep. Built on a very vertical relief, the village welcomes few tourists and is very much deserted when the sun is too high. A real challenge to climb all the stairs to the church from the beach... The advantage of this geographical situation is that you have an unbeatable sight over the lake.

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