Overlanding Guatemala: turquoise lakes, volcanoes in the clouds and the mystical Maya world

At the end of our trip in Nicaragua, it was time to move on to our next destination.

After we heard too many stories about safety issues in Honduras, we decided to cross that country in one day. Our only encounter was with corrupt young cops who held us ‘hostage’ for an hour before letting us go after the figured ut we weren’t going to pay the bribe they wanted. We didn’t take the time and the risk but I’m sure Honduras has a lot of wonderful nature to offer!

It wasn’t our intention to stay in El Salvador as it’s mostly a surfers’ paradise and we can’t surf, yet :). But then we stumbled on an awesome campground and stayed at Playa El Zonte for a week. We took the time to work, read, watch the surfers from their rooftopbar, dip in the 2 pools, play with their Iguana pet, 3 parrots, 2 dogs and cat.

What did we like in Guatemala?

  • Volcanoes! I know, again! But this time high up in the clouds, overlooking cities and protecting lakes.

  • Illuminating lightning and thunder shows. It’s rainy season in Guatemala but it’s also hot. That means that we were treated with a lot of colorful lightning and thunder storms at night. Mother nature’s got that swing!

  • Are you searching for the most gorgeous turquoise lakes, rivers or natural pools? Then Guatemala is your dream location! We couldn’t believe our eyes.

What didn’t we like?

  • Some roads here in Guatemala are horrible. We’re talking about enormous potholes (a lot of them), bad gravel, elevated speed bumbs on the weirdest places. That makes driving a challenge and some days very long for a short distance.
  • All the sweating 🙂 Right now it’s hot and humid in Guatemala. With every slightest movement, everyone is melting away. So putting up our rooftoptent and hiking is a challenge. We have more laundry on a shorter period BUT we are super duper happy with the ice cold showers for the very first time 😉

The highlights of overlanding Guatemala

  • Do you love volcanoes, camping and moderate level hikes? Perfect! So do we 🙂 We drove all the way up to the highest point on the Pacaya volcano. We slept next to a small guardian house with an incredible view of the Agua Volcano wich erupted at night. Magical! The next day, we hiked up the Pacaya volcano early in the morning without guide. We couldn’t climb all the way to the top due to the code orange ~ ‘it can errupt any time’ ~ but still! The climb was easy, the surroundings beautiful and we were up there before all the tours. Going back down we took the short cut: sliding down volcano sand. We had a great start of our day!

  • Antique Antigua with all the colorful houses, treasure markets and delicious restaurants! For us it was perfect for a day visit. Strolling around, enjoying this sunny and vibrant town.

  • We were totally zen after camping at lake Atitlán. We stayed “Chez Pierre”, a French bon vivant who welcomes overlanders on his property. You can also rent a caban if you like! The view from up there is so astounding we suddenly ended up staying for a week. You can take a taxi boat to visit the towns surrounding the lakes. We did, but didn’t find it that special (tourist booming).

  • If we can name one favourite place in Guatemala, it would be Semuc Champey. It’s a little jewel of several natural turquoise pools well hidden in the tropics. Doing the whole tour takes about 3 hours but you can stay all day. We arrived at noon and hiked up the mirador first. Trust me, do that first because you’ll sweat, sweat and sweat some more. After that, find your way to the natural pools and enjoy the cool refreshment of an aquatic dip. It’s truly a little paradise!! If you stay until closing time (around 5 PM), you’ll have this jewel all to yourself. We could camp at the entrance so that worked out perfectly that night.

  • We took some time for a fun day of activities in Mucbilhá. We visited the Candelaria caves, the sacred paradise of the Mayas. Best thing? It had a secret garden 🙂 After that, we went tubing in the Candelaria river. Best thing? The tubing takes you in another cave! 🙂 Both activities are with guide and with the money they build out their community. And yes, you can camp there too!

  • Although Flores is a nice small island to visit, it’s way better to stay just across and enjoy the downhill view of Flores. There are a lot of nice places to stay at Lake Peten Itzá with a wooden dock to jump right in!

  • Do you want to see the heart of the Maya tempels? Go to Tikal! The best thing about it is its jungle surroundings. We took a sunset tour from 4 to 8 AM. Yes, that’s really early 🙂 But you can climb on the biggest temple (IV) and watch the sunrise. As there’s a lot of mist, you don’t really see the sun go up but it’s pretty magical to watch the mist clear over the jungle to review a couple of tempels while you can hear howler monkeys wake up.

Where to next?

Right now, we crossed the border to Belize. We’re camping next to the river in Clarissa Falls for a couple of days. We’re taking the time to relax a bit (what else? ;)) before exploring the 14th country of our Global Honeymoon!

PS: Curious about how we set up our Koala Creek Rooftop Tent? Find out here 🙂 #homeiswhereweparkit

Enjoy our pics and talk to you in a couple of weeks!

Big kisses,

Sarah & Dimitri

2 Comment

  1. denayerb says: Reply

    Super formidable! incroyable! bravo bravo bravo! marraine

    1. Dimitri says: Reply

      hihi 😉

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