We love Guatemala so much! This country had everything we needed; lush jungles to get lost into, lakes to escape the heat, volcanoes to climb, and colorful markets to immerse ourselves into Guatemala’s rich culture.
Our first night in Guatemala was spent on the shore of Petén Itzá Lake in the jungle with the sound of howler monkeys! It felt so wild and so different from what we were used to and it was exactly what we were craving. We were eager to start a new adventure in a new country with far less “topes” than in Mexico!
Dr. Lee appreciated the better roads of Guatemala but it was also where we had our first serious problem with the truck.
The main road to reach Lake Atitlàn is an extremely steep and twisty 15 kilometers nightmare. About 1 km from the bottom, Charles tried to brake and the pedal went all the way to the floor! We had no more brakes! Thankfully, Charles was able to stop on the side of the road to cool the brakes. In the end, a very nice and willing mechanic came up the hill with his tools on this scooter to bleed our brakes so we could finish our descend.
To make the trip worthwhile, and also because Lake Atitlán is beautiful and peaceful, we spent a whole week exploring the surroundings and fixing our generator.
We were also dreading going back up the hill, the only way out of Lake Atitlán, but we could worry about that later! There are so many things to do in this area; paddleboarding with the dogs in between volcanoes, scuba diving in high altitude in an old volcano crater, visiting the villages around Atitlán by boat, exploring a coffee finca, learning about textile cooperatives that work with women from the region, and so much more!
To make sure we didn’t go up and down the lake’s crazy road, we hired a small bus and went to wander into the biggest market of Central America. It was nice to be sitting on the backseat for once! Chichicastenango market is one of our highlights from Guatemala. We planned our visit accordingly and went on a Sunday to really experience the market at its full potential. The Sunday market at Chichicastenango is a colorful experience and is a must! It can be a lot to take in from the flower market at the Cathedral to the food stalls, the coffee joints, the textiles sections, and the cheese vendors – but yet, it makes this experience very authentic. You get to immerse yourself into the real Guatemalan culture.
We also drove to Tikal, which is an archeological site that houses Maya ruins.
It became a bit complicated for us at that point because the dogs aren’t allowed through the main gate. For anyone travelling with dogs and considering visiting Tikal, plan ahead. We were lucky enough to have access to another vehicle with A/C where we could leave the dogs for the time of our visit. If we remember correctly, there are some employees at the gate who kindly offered to watch our dogs, which could be a good option if your dog is friendly. Once through, we drove Dr. Lee in the jungle all the way to the ruins. If you’re travelling without a dog, you can camp with your rig right there in the camping area inside the park. The ruins can get pretty crowded but they’re definitely worth the drive.
During our Pan American road trip, we didn’t plan to visit a lot of big cities but Antigua was the perfect size small town for a couple days. We found a secured parking in town, which were the tourist police headquarters, where all overlanders park if they want to visit the city and hike up the Acatenango or Fuego Volcanoes. With its cobblestones, colonial architecture, and fine dining, it charmed us right away!
Guatemala is like most of the countries in Central America – it is small but has a lot to offer.
Before leaving for this road trip, we thought we would be able to visit every single corner of every single country. But one thing we figured out along the way is that time flies and even with a 2-year timeline, we have to make choices and only visit a small portion of every country. The good thing about this is that we’ll have to go back for more! Never stop exploring!
First sunset in Guatemala, Petén Itzá Lake
Sweaty day in Tikal
A coati hanging out at Tikal
Kim catching flies with her mouth!
Driving through green lush jungles of Guatemala
Off the beaten track!
Planning day – where to next?!?
Tuk Tuk ride in Rio Dulce
Driving through small town in Guatemala
Hard to believe this is a hot spring!
Tuk Tuk ride, Lake Atitlán
View on the volcanoes
Family portrait under the midnight light, Lake Atitlán
San Pedro de la laguna
Who’s up for a swin, Lake Atitlán
Dr.Lee under the stars, Lake Atitlán