Travelreport No. 29 Guatemala 5.6. - 9.7.2009

Bethel - Flores - Tikal - Semuc Champey - Chichicastenango - Lago de Atitlan – Antigua

After 10 km of stony road we find the immigration in Bethel and get immediately a 90 day visa. Since it is already late afternoon, we camp under the roof of the school right in the village. At dawn, loud calls from the howler monkeys wake us up, and so we get started before the heat of the day slows us down. After another 60 km of rough gravel road we reach the asphalt, how easy cycling seems on a good road and flat terrain.

In Tikal, we visit the most important and most idyllic Maya ruin, with its steep pyramids deep in the jungle. Smells of earth, the rich vegetation, a peaceful atmosphere and the noise of howler monkeys as well as watching spider monkeys and all kind of birds – all this contributes to an especial experience.

Then the way leads towards to the highlands of Guatemala. The Coban to Lanquin route is a desolate bumpy dirt road with steep climbs, where we often need to push the bikes. Matthias – a Swiss cyclist who joined us for 10 days – does not appreciate this route. But since we want to see Semuc Champey -, famous for its natural 300 m long limestone bridge, on top of which is a stepped series of pools which invite us for swimming in cool river waters – this is our choice. After a days rest, there are more roads with many altitude meters to climb. But the surroundings are beautiful, and especially fascinated do we get by a lot of little hills which are dotted between larger, cone shaped green hillocks.

Another heavy rain shower – and we flee under a roof of a nearby Finca. The very friendly owner shows us the coffee plantation and explains the procedure from harvest to export.

Chichicastenango is famous for the Sunday market. The visit of the early Sunday Catholic and strongly Mayan influenced mass is a unique opportunity to watch people and their tradition.

At the beautiful Lago de Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes, we take another 5 days of Spanish lessons. And we are very lucky, because a Feria (festival) takes place where people from other villages around the lake come here in their most beautiful dresses, to enjoy and to buy and sell things. Men and women alike wear wonderful embroidered dresses with different colorful patterns. It’s fantastic.

The colonial town of Antigua is nestled between 3 volcanoes and, even so it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1773, retains much of its traditional character. The nearby volcano Pacaya is still active and on a hike to the lava fields, we experience the feel of lava flowing beneath our shoes. Now we really know what the saying “to get hot feet” means.


Unterwegs from Tikal

Sweting wet


Chichicastenango before the church


on the day of the Feria in Sand Pedro


Lago de Atitlan