Guatemala

Guatemala

Guatemala

Visited in March 2020

Back in March 2020, I had planned to travel through Guatemala for roughly a month starting in Flores, making stops in Semuc Champey, Lake Atitlan and Antigua, and flying out to Costa Rica from Guatemala City. The first thing I did when I arrived in Flores was booking myself a tour to El Mirador starting the following day. I spent my first 6 days in Guatemala in the jungle, completely disconnected from everyone and everything. I couldn’t even have imagined what was waiting for me upon my return. 

It’s only when I had a connection to the Wifi back in Flores that I heard the news about the COVID-19 being now considered a pandemic. At that time, many countries were starting to apply entry and exit restrictions along their borders and things were getting worse every hour. I initially considered staying down south since I no longer had a job or an apartment waiting for me back in Montréal, but quickly came to the realization that it’d be much easier said than done. Two days after exiting the jungle, I hopped on the last bus leaving Guatemala and was escorted by the Guatemalan army to the border with dozens of other tourists hoping to get a flight home from Mexico.

I was definitely disappointed having to say goodbye to Guatemala so early when there were so many other places I was excited to visit. All the people I had met in the country that far had been so nice and helpful. But no one knew how bad things would get and, as I am writing those lines roughly a month after leaving, hotels, restaurants and national parks across Guatemala (and, well, the entire world) are still closed, so there probably wouldn’t have been much for me to do down there anyway. From the comfort of my friend’s apartment in Montréal, I am going through my pictures from Flores and El Mirador, hoping to get back on the road soon so I can see everything else Guatemala has to offer. 

March 8th : San Ignacio > Flores
March 9th : Flores > Carmelita (El Mirador)
March 9th-14th : El Mirador
March 14th : Carmelita (El Mirador) > Flores
March 15th-16th : Flores
March 17th : Flores > Palenque

Visited in March 2020

Back in March 2020, I had planned to travel through Guatemala for roughly a month starting in Flores, making stops in Semuc Champey, Lake Atitlan and Antigua, and flying out to Costa Rica from Guatemala City. The first thing I did when I arrived in Flores was booking myself a tour to El Mirador starting the following day. I spent my first 6 days in Guatemala in the jungle, completely disconnected from everyone and everything. I couldn’t even have imagined what was waiting for me upon my return. 

It’s only when I had a connection to the Wifi back in Flores that I heard the news about the COVID-19 being now considered a pandemic. At that time, many countries were starting to apply entry and exit restrictions along their borders and things were getting worse every hour. I initially considered staying down south since I no longer had a job or an apartment waiting for me back in Montréal, but quickly came to the realization that it’d be much easier said than done. Two days after exiting the jungle, I hopped on the last bus leaving Guatemala and was escorted by the Guatemalan army to the border with dozens of other tourists hoping to get a flight home from Mexico.

I was definitely disappointed having to say goodbye to Guatemala so early when there were so many other places I was excited to visit. All the people I had met in the country that far had been so nice and helpful. But no one knew how bad things would get and, as I am writing those lines roughly a month after leaving, hotels, restaurants and national parks across Guatemala (and, well, the entire world) are still closed, so there probably wouldn’t have been much for me to do down there anyway. From the comfort of my friend’s apartment in Montréal, I am going through my pictures from Flores and El Mirador, hoping to get back on the road soon so I can see everything else Guatemala has to offer. 

March 8th : San Ignacio > Flores
March 9th : Flores > Carmelita (El Mirador)
March 9th-14th : El Mirador
March 14th : Carmelita (El Mirador) > Flores
March 15th-16th : Flores
March 17th : Flores > Palenque

Petén

Petén is the northernmost department of Guatemala – it is a fairly popular tourist destination, mostly in and around the city of Flores. Flores is located on a tiny island on which was built the last Maya settlement known to have been conquered by the Spanish back in the late 1600s. It is surrounded by countless Maya temples and cities, the most famous being Tikal. You can easily walk around town as the island is very small and safe.

Below you will see many pictures taken in the town of Flores, as well as a few photos from Crater Azul, a beautiful secluded lake to which you can escape for an afternoon and go for a refreshing swim. 

However, the one thing I was the most excited for when I traveled to Flores was to go on a week-long hike through the jungle to explore El Mirador, an ancient Maya city that was only (relatively) recently discovered. Its remote location prevented it from becoming a tourist hotspot; therefore, our tiny group of 6 had the whole place for ourselves the whole time we were staying there. The tour was approximately 300$ for 6 days and included everything from transportation to (delicious!) food and a very knowledgeable guide (who only spoke Spanish so if you’re planning on visiting El Mirador, sign up to Duolingo as soon as possible or hope for a bilingual Spanish speaker on your group!). 

Although it wasn’t an easy excursion (which should be expected when you walk 100+ km in a hot, humid rain forest for days), I loved my experience and would recommend it to anyone looking to get away from it all for a while. Climbing up a different pyramid every night to watch the sunset over the jungle to the sound of hundreds of birds, monkeys and insects of all kinds was a truly unique experience. I believe there is only one company organizing tours to El Mirador but if you need help to plan your trip, please feel free to reach out to me and I will give you some tips.

Oh, and one last thing – if you’re terrified of spiders, I would avoid going; you will see hundreds of them at night and while they don’t cause any arm, it could be overwhelming for someone who has arachnophobia!

Petén is the northernmost department of Guatemala – it is a fairly popular tourist destination, mostly in and around the city of Flores. Flores is located on a tiny island on which was built the last Maya settlement known to have been conquered by the Spanish back in the late 1600s. It is surrounded by countless Maya temples and cities, the most famous being Tikal. You can easily walk around town as the island is very small and safe.

Below you will see many pictures taken in the town of Flores, as well as a few photos from Crater Azul, a beautiful secluded lake to which you can escape for an afternoon and go for a refreshing swim. 

However, the one thing I was the most excited for when I traveled to Flores was to go on a week-long hike through the jungle to explore El Mirador, an ancient Maya city that was only (relatively) recently discovered. Its remote location prevented it from becoming a tourist hotspot; therefore, our tiny group of 6 had the whole place for ourselves the whole time we were staying there. The tour was approximately 300$ for 6 days and included everything from transportation to (delicious!) food and a very knowledgeable guide (who only spoke Spanish so if you’re planning on visiting El Mirador, sign up to Duolingo as soon as possible or hope for a bilingual Spanish speaker on your group!). 

Although it wasn’t an easy excursion (which should be expected when you walk 100+ km in a hot, humid rain forest for days), I loved my experience and would recommend it to anyone looking to get away from it all for a while. Climbing up a different pyramid every night to watch the sunset over the jungle to the sound of hundreds of birds, monkeys and insects of all kinds was a truly unique experience. I believe there is only one company organizing tours to El Mirador but if you need help to plan your trip, please feel free to reach out to me and I will give you some tips.

Oh, and one last thing – if you’re terrified of spiders, I would avoid going; you will see hundreds of them at night and while they don’t cause any arm, it could be overwhelming for someone who has arachnophobia!