Guatemala travel advice?
June 27, 2005 8:43 PM   Subscribe

In a few days I'm headed to Guatemala for a month followed by several weeks in southern Mexico. Offer some travel suggestions please! Also, as I'll be traveling by myself, suggestions on how to be more outgoing in a language I'm not confident with welcome.

I've got a rough itenerary mapped out: a day in Antigua, several days in different towns on lake Atitlan, and then two weeks in Quetzaltenango studying Spanish. After this I have about ten days before I'm due to meet friends in Mexico. Initially I'd planned to go to the Mayan ruins of Copan in Honduras, then spend about a week hiking & hitching around the rural Honduran highlands putting my brushed-up Spanish to the test before heading back through Guatemala to San Cristobal in Chiapas. Lately though, an intermittant hip problem's been flaring up making extended walking/hiking painful, so a change of plans may be in order.

I'd like to stay off the tourist track, minimize days spent mostly/entirely in travel, and choose a route that heads either through the Peten (to meet up with my friends at Palenque) or through the Guatemalan highlands (to San Cristobal). After spending hours poring over the guidebooks, brain numb with guidebook-ese, everywhere sounds pretty much the same ("quaint" architecture, "charming" Mayan women in traditional clothes, etc). I'd like suggestions/stories about interesting places in the highlands or en route to Tikal. I'm on a budget but a flight between Guatemala City and Tikal wouldn't be out of the question provided I was near GC to get that flight. Finally, what are your tips for having meaningful interactions with strangers in a second language?
posted by soviet sleepover to Travel & Transportation around Guatemala (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've done the route from San Cristobal to Guatemala to Honduras, albeit 10 yrs ago. I'm sure things have changed but I can offer some general advice:

1) fuck the guidebooks - they'll get you started, but the best way to travel is to talk to other travellers (that you think you relate to) and go with the wind.

2) buy and carry cigarettes (Marlboro Lights are best because of their stereotypical US connotations, and they're real cheap down there) even if you don't smoke. You're on a bus, don't speak the language, haven't got a clue where you're going (that makes two of you including the driver) and haven't got a place to stay for the night? Crack open a packet of cigarettes and share them around - instant friendship and a place to stay for the night. Oh, and you get a warm feeling in your heart too.

3) Palenque is in the jungle and so is incredibly humid - a friend and I travelled 5 hrs to get there from San Cristobal and when we arrived we just sat on a ruin because moving was way too much effort and far too sweaty.

4) the people down there are real nice - just show them respect and friendship and everything'll be fine
posted by forallmankind at 9:02 PM on June 27, 2005

I've done the route from Palenque, Oaxaca, San Cristobal, Xela, Lake Atilan, Antigua, Rio Dulce, Tikal, Belize, Tulum. I'm not sure what you mean by avoiding the tourist track but it's a pretty well travelled area - especially by backpackers. It's very easy to get around and the people were very friendly everywhere I went. A few cool places I liked that fall between Guatemala City and Tikal were:
-Casa Perico in Rio Dulce (cool, backwaters treehouse-like guesthouse/hostel).
-Finca Paraiso (hot springs waterfall, perfect for swimming, half day trip from Rio Dulce).
-Finca Ixobel (Do the cave tour, it will make your trip).
These places are on the main highway and are easy to get to by the regular (chicken) buses. A few places around Quetzaltenago that I really liked were the Casa Del Mundo (worth the splurge if it's over your budget for the area) and the Fuentes Georgina (worth staying the night at). Not to self plug, but I've written a lot about this area on my blog (link at my user page, look at my archives). Have a great trip.
posted by Staggering Jack at 10:47 PM on June 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

See the previous thread on the subject.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:58 AM on June 28, 2005

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