We left San Pedro on Saturday on the Mayan air flight to Belize Municipal Airport, which is about 1/2 the cost of flying to the Belize International Airport. Aaron got to sit in the co-pilot seat, which has the best views. Our flight actually went first to the international airport and after a quick stop made the short hop over the small municipal airport where we were met by a representative from Crystal Auto with our car. We had rented an older model small SUV, but they upgraded us to a larger 6 cylinder Suzuki model, which although a few years old is in good condition. Crystal were extremely helpful, picking us up from the municipal airport and driving us to their office – guess where – close to the international airport. They also provided us a cooler and a cell phone at no charge and gave us maps and directions and also copied my driver’s license and passport for the Guatemalan authorities.

We headed out and drove to the border with Guatemala. First we had to exit Belize, which costs about US$17 per person, then deal with Guatemalan authorities, which took about 20 minutes to handle the paperwork for the car and stamp our passports. We knew the first part of the road to Tikal was not paved, but after we hit the start of the paved road, we were surprised to find that it reverted to gravel road for a few miles, then paved road, then gravel road, then paved road. The paved road was excellent – easily able to drive at 50MPH or faster, although we needed to be on the lookout for various children, chickens, pigs, cows, horses and dogs, all of which seemed to wander across the road at will. The gravel roads, not so good – hard to drive more than 25 MPH without being shaken to pieces.

Eventually we got to the small town of El Remate, which is the closest town to the vast Mayan ruins of Tikal. Our hotel, the Camino Real Tikal is actually about 30 minutes from the park and is set next to a nice lake. They welcomed us with a fruit juice drink and gave us an upgraded room. That evening they had a free sunset cruise on the lake, but as the weather was cloudy and there wasn’t much else to see, the cruise was a bit boring. We had read about a local guesthouse and restaurant called Mon Ami run by a Frenchman, so we ate there. Very inexpensive simple food, but tasty and great value.

The next day we set out at 5:30 AM for the ruins at Tikal, which is actually inside a large protected reserve, so the experience is both one of visiting the ruins as well as enjoying the natural history. Arriving at the gates at 6AM, we were just in time to be amongst the first outsiders to be allowed in (there are 3 lodges inside the park, but they were very poorly reviewed so we chose to stay elsewhere). We hired an official guide, Norberto, who spoke English and did a good job of explaining the history of the Mayas and this site as well as the flora and fauna over the next 4 hours that we were together. There is a lot written about Tikal, so I won’t repeat it all here, but the overall site is huge – there are some 3,000 buildings over a 220 square mile area, although the main ones are in a much more compact grouping. The view from the tops of the temples was really neat In fact, my photo here might look a little familiar – this was used in Star Wars as the home of the Ewok (with some digital enhancements).

In addition to the various Mayan temples, tombs, ball courts, stellae and other buildings, we got to see a number of birds, including Montezuma Oropendula, woodpeckers, flycatchers, and parrots. We also spotted some agouti (large rodents), howler monkeys, spider monkeys, huge grasshoppers, tarantula and other insects.

Afterwards we drove about an hour to the town of Flores, which is considered the nicest town in all of NE Guatemala It is set on an isthmus on the lake and is very atmospheric. We had been given a recommendation of a particular restaurant by a number of people and books, but unfortunately when we got there, we found that they were closed on Sunday. The nearby place that we ate was okay, but nothing special. Oh well!

3 thoughts to “Heading to Guatemala

  • Roberson Counseling Center

    Thanks for the blog on Guatemala! We will live vicariously through you all… Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

    Reply
  • Azeltir

    Actually, I think Tikal was used in A New Hope as the moon Yavin IV, which was the secret Rebel base world the Death Star was due to destroy. The moon of Endor, where the Ewoks live, was from Return of the Jedi. For what it's worth, Wikipedia confirms that Tikal was Yavin IV and the Redwood National Park was Endor.

    And there's me geeking out on you.

    Sounds like things are positively lovely down there. I can't wait to see an extended photo reel when I get home!

    Ben

    Reply
  • David Finkel Photography

    I bow to your superior knowledge of all things Sci Fi!

    Reply

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