In this article I summarize my journey through Guatemala together. I describe the route that I took, and share some information that should be relevant for anyone who draws a visit Guatemala into consideration.
My itinerary through Guatemala
Most destinations are located in the south of the country. This part of Guatemala is relatively densely populated, because of the mountains, however, to travel a bit difficult.
Most backpackers seemed to me to enter from neighboring countries, especially Mexico and Belize. So I was certainly no exception.
When I came from Mexico, I decided initially to Quetzaltenango (short: Xela), since it after the border the next bigger town. Xela is popular with long-term students, and I was there too short to understand that. Especially nice Xela is not at first sight.
However, there are some volcanoes in the area, including Tajamulco, the highest with 4,223 meters volcano in Central America. I had to take it slowly and chose the only 3,772-meter high Santa Maria.
Tajamulco is mostly boarded in a two-day tour and I wanted to avoid. Later I saw myself confirmed in my desire. We left at 5 clock in the morning to the Santa Maria and arrived at 9 clock at the top. There we met a large group of people who had stayed there. They were not happy. For days there hung a cloud over the volcano, so there was no view. There was wet and terribly cold. We were glad to be able to go downhill again after 30 minutes. Poor troops sat up there for 17 hours!
Incidentally, the volcanoes around Xela may be climbed only as part of a guided tour, and with police protection, since apparently repeatedly tourists were robbed. This makes the fun with about 25 euros relatively expensive.
The 1,500 meter high Lake Atitlan is undeniably one of the highlights in Guatemala. The lake is surrounded by three volcanoes, which you can also climb. I tried myself at the volcano San Pedro and defeated him after several hours. The view of the lake was worth every effort.
Around the lake there are some villages that are developed mainly for tourism. Each village has its own unique atmosphere. Most buses stop (short: Pana) in Panajachel. There I felt like in a crowded Thai tourist.
With small boats you can go from there to the surrounding villages. I decided initially for San Marcos. This village is considered the most natural, because it is surrounded by forest and only one road exists. It is, however, also as a hippie-village and that was not to be overlooked.
After two days, I drove on to San Pedro, where I then stayed nine days since I graduated from there a language course. In San Pedro, I found a nice hotel right on the water, I would like to recommend here: Sak’cari. With $ 36 for a single room there is for Guatemalan standards but also very expensive.
Antigua is in my view easily the most beautiful city in Guatemala. The colonial immediately reminds Oaxaca or San Cristóbal in Mexico. And I would not even have been in these two places, Antigua would probably have been even better.
In any case, the small town is a highlight that you must not miss on a trip through Guatemala. She is also a stronghold of the language schools.
A must-see attraction not far from the town is the volcano Pacaya. The is much easier to climb than Santa Maria and San Pedro – for that you have to come to terms with larger groups of tourists. You can even ride up, but the horse did not particularly well-kept impression.
Looking for a useful place by the sea, I am always met with Monterrico. Ultimately Luiz took me, my voice teacher, convinced. That is the place where you go when you want the sea. The poor Guatemalans, I can only say.
Monterrico is really not the most beautiful place in Guatemala. The village itself has no charm, but a boat tour through the mangroves to the sunrise is very beautiful and with a little luck you can see turtles on the beach (despite a guided tour I had no luck). However, the best thing about Monterrico is very cheap and very good Hotel El Delfin.
Semuc Champey (at Lanquin) is a natural spectacle that I’ve missed. Staying in the jungle as well as the long arrival and departure did not fit in my daily work. As a tourist I would be there probably went there and so I highly recommend it further and unseen. Because I’ve heard a lot of good. What is going on with the infinity pools and the caves of the area to be read when you can Tino, who came fresh from Semuc Champey, when we met in Antigua.
About the ancient Mayan city of Tikal I wrote a separate article, because that it is worth. Tikal is located far from the most happening in Guatemala, but the long journey worthwhile. Up early ensures a wonderfully peaceful temple experience!
What about Guatemala City?
I did not mention the capital. What’s going on that ?! Well, from an unnecessarily long stay in Guatemala City everywhere is not recommended as it should be but relatively insecure but also ugly. And so I did during my trip through Guatemala also met anyone who has been there longer than a few hours. I have been there only changed the bus.
Money & Budget
Payment will be made in local currency quetzales. Currently 11 GTQ correspond roughly one euro, which can be convert quite well. In the larger towns there are ATMs. At which fortunately are no bank charges.
Guatemala is much poorer than Mexico and is also reflected in the prices down. The country is a whole lot cheaper, which manifests itself mainly to the lodging and eating. Only the transfer is not cheap – at least if one reasonably comfortable like it least.
If you are daring enough and is slowly on the way, one could travel safely in Guatemala with 20 euros per day. I was probably at 40 euros because I had some very expensive accommodation (to be able to work better)
Accommodation & Transfer
In Mexico has cost me rarely less than 20 euros a single room. In Guatemala I paid twice only seven euros, once even only five. However, the standard is a little worse. Moreover, rooms with a shared bath in Guatemala appear to be common. Only once I had a room with attached bathroom – Mexican room rate.
The cheap rooms are mostly dark and very sparsely furnished (sometimes just a bed, nothing else).
The transfer works a little differently than in Mexico. There is little long-distance buses. If that drive, then only from Guatemala City from. I sat once in a remote bus – a night journey from the City to Flores.
For tourists, there are small minibuses or shuttles. The are only convenient if they are not full. Unfortunately, they are often.
An authentic alternative is the so-called Chicken Buses. These are discarded school buses that drive the locals. For long distances, I would completely avoid this if possible because they are unbearably slow and usually overcrowded.
Speaking slowly: In Guatemala also short trips usually last insanely long. For 60 km as the crow have to already count with four hours of driving, since the south and center of the country are very mountainous.
Language & Safety
With English you in Guatemala cope poorly. Yes, it’s true. As always, you come on through somehow. But it is not nice.
Hardly a tour guide understands English. This is sometimes bearable, but if you just six hours climb a volcano, it’s more convenient to be able to communicate a little.
In Guatemala take many long-term travelers Spanish classes. Tuition is cheap. So low, that usually no group courses are offered, but only one lessons. I paid approximately four euros per hour and that was not even the lower end of the scale.
About security in Guatemala I have already written a very detailed article. Basically, I felt there anything more uncertain than in Mexico – but that was probably just imagined, because there was no concrete situation in which there was a danger. It has even given me my lost iPhone back!
Striking I found, however, that there was a safe in the room in any of my accommodation. In Mexico, which is an absolute standard.
My conclusion to Guatemala
Guatemala is a good travel destination for backpackers. But it is difficult for me to spread real euphoria. It shows this product to certainly. Guatemala had not easy, since I both before, and after that in Mexico was underway. And as you know, I am a true lover of Mexico.
The major neighboring country has much more to offer in my opinion. There I also felt much more comfortable.
In Guatemala I am mainly taken on travelers, for which has been a transit station the country. Most of them were long-term travelers. I would also not recommend Guatemala is the only country trip for a 3-week vacation. There does not have enough to offer in my opinion, especially the all-important for many backpacker beach experience is missing.
The country is much cheaper than Mexico and is therefore suitable for language courses or long stays at a very low budget.
There are a wide range of volcanoes that are very active part. Those who like to spent a bit, finds its challenges here.
With Tikal is one of the most beautiful Mayan cities in Guatemala. This place is something special.
The Atitlan is a beautiful lake, can be enjoyed properly only if one makes a nice place right on the waterfront.
The colonial city of Antigua, it can with beautiful cities such as Oaxaca or San Cristóbal in Mexico record. A must-visit.
I enjoyed my trip to Guatemala did not regret it. But when I return to the region, Mexico is my first stop in any case.