In December 2017 my mother surprised me with a Christmas trip to Guatemala, a country I had honestly never thought about visiting before that day.
All along its history, Guatemala has known pain, hunger, dictatorship, bloody civil wars and high rates of crime, drug trade and poverty. Nevertheless, this country’s abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems includes many endemic species and contributes to Mesoamerica’s designation as a biodiversity hotspot.
During ten days, my mom and I drove around the country, exploring its cities, landscapes while learning about its History and culture. It was definitely a fascinating journey.
In this article I’ll walk you through it and give you the possibility to know more about each adventure we encountered.
We left Paris with Air Iberia for Madrid before boarding for Guatemala City. Once on the ground, we rented a car and drove toward “La Reunion“, our hotel for the next days. You can check my review on the different hotels I’ve stayed at here.
“Guatemala City is the capital and largest city of Guatemala, and the most populous urban area in Central America. The city is located in the south-central part of the country, nestled in a mountain valley called Valle de la Ermita. It is estimated that its population is about 1 million!
In 1821, Guatemala City was the scene of the declaration of independence of Central America from Spain, after which it became the capital of the newly established United Provinces of Central America (later the Federal Republic of Central America). In 1847, Guatemala declared itself an independent republic, with Guatemala City as its capital. The city was originally located in what is now Antigua Guatemala, and was moved to its current location in 1777. Guatemala City and the original location in Antigua Guatemala were almost completely destroyed by the 1917–18 earthquakes.
Today, Guatemala City is the political, cultural, and economic center of Guatemala. ” – Wikipedia.
Day 2: from Guatemala to Flores
We woke up under a beautiful sun shining on the breath-taking landscape. To be honest, we didn’t do much that day except enjoying the view, the spa and the scenery. ” Guatemala City has long been known for its criminal gangs and drug violence, but things are slowly beginning to change. While it has a long way to go before it becomes a tourist-haven like nearby Antigua, Guatemala’s chaotic capital is experiencing something of a renaissance, and visitors to this sprawling metropolis may find themselves pleasantly surprised.” is a very good review by Culture Trip and therefore, with only ten days, we decided to skip on the capital.
We took a plane from Guatemala City to Flores, a small town located in the northern Petén region and known to be a good link to the different Mayan attractions.
Once at the harbour we took a little boat that took us to our hotel Baulontiku for a beautiful diner on the lake and an early night. You can check my review on the different hotels I’ve stayed at here.
Day 4: Yaxha Archaeological Site
We visited the Mayan Archaeological Yaxha site and even had lunch there (This place)! (Check the Mayan archaeological tours here). We went back to our hotel in Flores before heading for a tasty diner at the Raices.
Tikal, Archeological Site
That day we focused on Tikal, the biggest archaeological site ever mapped in Guatemala, located in the rain forest and now UNESCO world heritage site. (Check the Mayan archaeological tours here)
Day 6: From Flores to Livingston
We drove to the Rio Dulce, a river in Guatemala, completely contained within the department of Izabal. There, we embarked on a boat to vogue to Livingston, a town at the mouth of the Río Dulce at the Gulf of Honduras. On the way we stopped to try and taste a Tapado at a little restaurant on the water. Our boat stopped right at the hotel and we went to visit the city before celebrating Christmas and enjoying a lovely musical show.
The way there was magical. We sailed through fishermen’s villages, impressive jungle sceneries and spotted beautiful birds on the way.
We took the boat again to go visit the Siete Altares and its natural pools. Unfortunately my mom broke her toe in the river rocks and the rest of the trip turned into a really painful journey.
For lunch we took the boat again for a white sand beach restaurant on Playa Blanca.
That day was all about traveling from Livingston to Filadelfia, a beautiful hotel located just five minutes from Antigua in a coffee plantation. ( You can check my review on the different hotels I’ve stayed at here). We used this sumptuous place to relax and enjoy some great food and wines.
DAY 9: The Lake Atitlan
We drove to Santa Catarina Palopó, a municipality in the Sololá department of Guatemala located on the shores of Lake Atitlán, We used this day to explore the villages around it and to get immersed in their culture and art. (Check my journey around the Lake here).
DAY 10: Chichicastenango
We visited Chichicastenango, a town in the Guatemalan highlands, known for its open-air craft market and indigenous Maya culture. You can read more about my experience of the Guatemalan markets here. For lunch we got welcomed in a wonderful woman’s home for her to introduce us to the real Guatemalan cooking: corn, calabash and christophines. For diner we went to the gorgeous restaurant of the Casa Palopò.
DAY 11: Solola
Solola Market, here we come! It’s one of the most vivid in the highlands. You can read more about my experience of the Guatemalan markets here. We then explored Panajachel with its very touristic main street before heading back to our hotel.
DAY 12: Antigua
We went back on the road towards Antigua but stopped on the way to visit Iximche, a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site in the western highlands of Guatemala. Antigua is a small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala that sopped being the country’s capital after the 1773 earthquake damaged a lot of colonial buildings. You can check my Antigua’s visit here. We then went to a Rum tasting in a magical place where we tasted rums being 8, 12, 23 and 30 years old.
DAY 13: New Year’s Eve in Antigua
We got introduced to Carmen and her son who showed us how to make chocolate and a delicious Guatemalan dish. Wanna know more? Read it here. That day was New Year’s Eve and we celebrated in in the wonderful restaurant Welten. The city exploded at midnight with fireworks everywhere, it was insane! Bye bye 2017.