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  • Writer's pictureUrsula

Belize to Guatemala 23.12.22-13.1.23

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

We spend quiet Christmas days in Belize City and then travel on to the resort of Placencia with a lot of Caribbean flair. There we move into a beautiful vacation home which can only be reached by pontoon across the channel. For this week also Thomas' daughter Sandra and her boyfriend Roger arrive to spend the turn of the year with us. The first thing to do is to explore all the supermarkets to get an overview of the modest resources available. Unfortunately, meat and fish are only available frozen, so we decide rather for vegetarian food. All the more we take into account the small restaurants in the pretty town where there is excellent fish and seafood.

We are picked up directly in front of our house for a boat trip to the island Moho Caye. There we first explore the island surrounded by turquoise blue water and watch the pelicans fishing.

Afterwards we snorkel around the island and enjoy the beautifully preserved reef with many small fish. Our guide dives again and again in search of lobsters. The catch, unfortunately only two pieces for eight people, is then immediately put on the grill and we enjoy lunch supplemented with chicken and salad.

On the way back we stop at a pirate island with lots of entertainment, outdoor games and expensive drinks. Finally, just before the mainland, we look out for manatees, but unfortunately they don't show up.

Otherwise we enjoy the pool and rest again before we start our 35 day trip to Panama.

The last stop in Belize is San Ignazio where we visit the Mayan site of Caracol, whose main pyramid is still the largest man-made structure in the country.

The road there is well developed at the beginning but for the last kilometers it takes a lot of time over the increasingly narrow natural road riddled with potholes. No wonder there are very few visitors here.

On the way we stop at Big Rock Fall and catch a glimpse of the Rio On Pools.

Then we cross the border to Guatemala. We expect that the exit and entry will take about 4 hours, but we are pleasantly surprised: everything is well organized and we are in an hour through including car disinfection. In Flores, the pretty but poor old town with the colorful houses is located on a small island, which you can walk around in half an hour. The lake is overflowing, so you often have to take higher roads.

We drive to the famous Mayan city of Tikal, one and a half hours away. The site is enormous and we get a first overview from a tower that rises above the treetops. The well preserved Plaza Grande and many impressive temples are definitely worth the visit.

The following stage of 260km to Lanquin is predicted on the navi with 6 ½ hours. The roads are well developed and we drive across a beautiful mountain landscape. On the way we have to cross a river by means of a ferry. However, this has after the loading of a cattle transporter violently list and the water must be pumped out for a long time. Fortunately, there are 2 small private ferries, which can load just two cars and we decide for this option, although the loading and unloading seems a bit adventurous.

And suddenly, in the direction of another pass, the road is no longer paved and we find ourselves on a steep creek bed with lots of debris. The four-wheel drive is switched on and it goes for the next 2 hours only slowly and partly at walking pace forward.

On the way we are stopped by highwaymen who demand a toll. After some negotiation we pay and the roadblock is cleared away. Further highwaymen we pay however nothing anymore and simply drive through. Finally, we need 8 hours for the whole distance and we arrive quite tired in our simple hostal above Lanquin, whose 10 km access road again requires four-wheel drive.

The next morning we go on a hike to the viewpoint of the Semuc Champey Natural Park with a stunning view of the terraced course of the river with azure pools, where you can refresh yourself after the hard climb and descent.

Our next accommodation after an overnight stop on the way is in Santa Catarina near Panajachel at Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes at a good 3000 m high. Our hotel is located directly on the lake where we immediately book a private tour for the next day with a boat guide. We leave early in beautiful weather with a view of the illuminated volcanoes in a mystical, slightly foggy atmosphere.

We visit three villages where we learn about coffee and cocoa production, admire the textile art of the local women, discover some beautiful murals and enjoy a wonderful lunch right at the water.

On the way to Antigua we catch a last glimpse of the idyllically situated lake.

Antigua is a beautiful colonial city worth visiting with colorful rows of houses and some ancient churches and monasteries. The city also has a high density of very good restaurants.

There is also a public washing place, which is still actively used by the population, at least in smaller localities.

In the morning at 6 am we start with a guided tour to the active volcano Pacaya. A two-hour walk to the lava fields is announced, which turns out to be a steep, strenuous way up to 2200 m. We are accompanied by some horses and their owners, who repeatedly offer us their horse as a 'cab'. At the campamento we have a clear view of the steaming volcano, its lava flank and two neighboring volcanoes. Our guide grills marshmallows in the hot lava stones as a reward.

Guatemala is again a bit poorer than Mexico but the impressive nature, the culture and the good food make the trip a great experience.

Finally, some impressions of the country and its people:

The last stop in Guatemala is Chiquimula just before the border to Honduras. The next post will be about the onward journey through Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

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