This post is long overdue. We went to Guatemala in early September, almost at the end of summer, and here we are on the first day of winter. Where did the time go?
The autumn was taken up with working, cooking, exploring our own neighborhood, catching up with friends and family…so much of that in the last few weeks especially. But finally, it’s time for a real post about Guatemala.
When we began planning this year’s vacation, we had been looking for a place that was relaxing, inspiring, and beautiful. In selecting Guatemala–somewhat accidentally–we managed to plan just the right combination of adventure and activities, culture and natural beauty, sightseeing, and pure relaxation. Even with a few hiccups along the way (what trip doesn’t have those?), we really felt as though we were ‘away from it all’. Ten days felt like at least that, in a very good way.
While traveling we sent back a few virtual “postcard” blogs with pictures from the three areas we visited–Tikal, Lake Atitlán, and La Antigua–but promised a few more details about each. Here, finally, are those details, starting with the first part of our trip.
Arrival in Flores, and Tikal
From Boston, we flew through Miami to Guatemala City, and then to Flores, the most proximate location from which to tour Tikal, one of the largest and most significant archaeological site of pre-Columbian Mayan civilization.
The transfer in Guatemala City was a bit stressful. After managing to find a taxi to take us to the other airport (really, just a hangar) where our flight was supposed to leave, we learned that the flight was cancelled, and we were redirected back to the original airport. This all sounds much simpler that the events were at the time, and while the whole episode is fodder for another post, I will give you this tip: if you are ever doing the same, go with Avianca and not TAG airline (the only two airlines that fly to Flores).
Once the flight was worked out, our arrival into Flores was seamless. The flight is under an hour, and the tiny Flores airport is easy to negotiate. We retrieved our bags and found our ride waiting outside with our name on a card. A quick 15 minute drive landed us at our hotel around 6:30 PM.
Our first order of business after checking in was confirming and paying for our sunrise tour of Tikal the next morning. Rob had exchanged emails with the tour operator, Sergio Crasborne, in the weeks leading up to the trip, and he was expecting us that evening. The office was right around the corner from our hotel, and as we walked in Sergio greeted us by name. He explained exactly how the next day would work, how much money we would need for the park entry (the standard fee plus an early-entry fee, before the park officially opens), and what we should plan to bring and wear to be comfortable. We cannot recommend his tour highly enough — thoroughly professional all around. After a quick dinner at a restaurant along the water, we were back at the hotel early, because that sunrise tour the next day meant a 3AM pickup at our hotel.
I’m not sure I have the words to explain just how spectacular the next day was. It exceeded all our expectations for what a “sunrise tour” of a spectacular Mayan ruin would be.
From the hike into the park in total darkness, guided only by headlamps, following our guide Luis as he led us past looming temples and through vast courtyards, gradually seeing outlines as the night sky turned blue-black, finally reaching Temple IV just before dawn and climbing, climbing, and more climbing until our legs were rubber, all to reach the very top and sit with about 30 other lucky people above the trees and watch as the mist lifted and dawn came. Distant temples came into view as howler monkeys and birds created a soundtrack we won’t soon forget.
After enjoying that awesome time, we rejoined Luis and the rest of our group for an extensive and educational tour of the entire park, visiting the other temples, learning fascinating details about their positioning and meaning. Luis also pointed out many birds, monkeys, and other wildlife–including some fantastically large insects–along the way. By 11AM, we were thoroughly exhausted but so incredibly happy at all we’d seen and done.
That afternoon, we enjoyed relaxing in the hotel pool–the best feature of our hotel–and then had a much-needed nap before dinner. While there are a few more things to do in and around Flores, we were spending the majority of our time in two other locations, so had an early flight out the next day, back to Guatemala City.
Next up: Beautiful Lake Atitlán