A few weeks back it was project week here in Costa Rica. This entails that Kulturstudier students get a full week off to finish up assignments, and catch up on work. This is also the best chance you as a student have to travel! Mostly people traveled in small groups all around Central America. Some stayed in Costa Rica and enjoyed the beaches and nature, while others traveled abroad to places like Panama, El Salvador, Belize, Mexico and Guatemala. My housemates and I, decided to take the trip to Guatemala! We found some cheap flights from San Jose to Guatemala City, and enjoyed 9 days of adventure.
(Arrived in Guatemala City)
For the first leg of our trip we decided that Antigua was the place to go. After landing in Guatemala City in the evening we were met by an array of taxi drivers. We agreed on a price, and drove 3 hours in city traffic in a tiny and cramped taxi. Cramped and questionable transportation became a trend for this trip, so if you’re ever going to Guatemala keep that in mind. Finally, we arrive in Antigua late into the night. If we couldn’t tell from the old colonial buildings suddenly surrounding us, we could definitely tell by the cobblestone roads which made the taxi ride that much more uncomfortable. However, the beds that met us in our new home for the next few days made up for what we had gone through during the past few hours. We stayed in Hostel Adra, which is located very sentral in Antigua. Although this hostel is not one of the cheapest you can get your hands on in the area, I must say it had the most comfortable beds and the vibe of the place was pretty cool.
(Sara & Elena in the hangout area of Adra Hostel)
The first day in Antigua we spent walking around and looking at all the cool architecture the town had to offer. After being in Costa Rica for over a month and “only” seeing beaches, palm trees and jungle, this was quite a change in scenery. We enjoyed being tourists in a new place and what I think we collectively enjoyed the most was the food. You see, in Costa Rica the food is definitely very good, however after a while you do get tired of beans and rice. So we took advantage of the variety of cafe and restaurant options, and may have splurged just a little. But hey we were on vacation, plus Guatemala is a bit cheaper than Costa Rica. The nightlife in Antigua was the best we found throughout the places we visited, however the Guatemalan “Gallo” fell short of the Costa Rican “Imperial”.
(walking in the streets of Antigua)
On Sunday we walked up a valley on the outskirts of town, where there was a cross and a nice little lookout. The view was beautiful, with the town and volcano in the distance. Later we heard some loud music while walking around town and decided to check out what it was. The music led us to a church where there were a bunch of locals gathered eating food, playing different games, and a band playing songs on stage. There was also a market there, so we decided to check it out and buy a few souvenirs. Eventually we ended up at a table near the entrance of the church where a few older lady’s were playing “la loteria” (bingo). We paid our entrance fee, and spent over an hour there playing, as more and more people came and the game became more and more competitive. The game was obviously in spanish so we were able to learn new words as well as practice our spanish with the lady’s.
(one of the women selling artisan goods)
(playing “la loteria” with some local women)
Lago de Atitlán
After a few relaxing days in Antigua it was time to head onward to Lago de Atitlán. Unfortunately two of our travelers had been throwing up throughout the night (from what we have concluded as food poisoning), so the upcoming three hour shuttle ride was not looking too good. However, they got through it like champs and soon enough we made it up and down mountains and planted our feet firmly in our next form of transportation, a boat. Thirty minutes later we were cramped in yet another form of transportation, the famous tuktuk. Finally we made it to our hostel, checked in, and our sick travelers passed out in their bunks while the rest of us went looking for adventure.
(typical ferry ride in Lago de Atitlán)
There are a lot of small towns around Lago de Atitlán, and we ended up staying in San Pedro. There were plenty of restaurants and stores in the narrow streets of San Pedro, with 3 tacos for 15 quetzal (about 15 NOK) and mojitos for 10 quetzal! You could definitely get through the day cheap here. The nature reminded me of Norway and the weather was a bit chilly. Nonetheless, we found fun things to do like explore the neighboring town of San Marcos and go kayaking down the lake.
Although we enjoyed our short stay in the towns surrounding Lago de Atitlán, it was time to head to our final destination. Tikal is home to one of the largest Mayan architectural sites, and is a must see for anyone visiting Guatemala, which is why we accepted the fact that we would have some of the longest travel days ahead of us. First we had to backtrack all the way to Guatemala city where we would take the night bus up north to Flores, where it was recommended for backpackers to stay. The night bus was not bad at all, except for the fact that it seems every bus in Central America loves air conditioning. So much that they blast it at about -20 degrees. With this in mind, always wear warm clothes on the bus. After a whole night of travels we eventually made it to Flores at 5.30am, and lugged our bags to Los Amigos Hostel. If you are going to Tikal, I strongly recommend this hostel. It’s the cheapest one in the area, the food is good, it has a nice bar, and a night lounge area, and is a very social hostel. You can also order any tour you would like through them. The only thing I would say is make sure you choose a room with air conditioning, because we made the mistake of not doing this and immensely regretted it. Lago de Atitlán may have been cold, but Flores was about 35 degrees celsius and the humidity was extreme. We booked our trip to Tikal for the day after arrival. So the next morning at 4.30 am about 25 excited and slightly hungover backpackers crowded into a cramped mini bus and headed further north. As we reached Tikal in the early morning hours the humidity was already starting to form in the air, and the sun was peeking through the fog. Once we entered the park, our tour guide started explaining some general history about the Mayans and the temples we were about to see. As we walked around the park we were able to explore and climb some of the temples. The temples where massive and it was pretty surreal hearing about the history and how important they were to so many people.
After a few hours in the park walking around we headed back to our hostel, and prepared for the final leg of our trip. The journey back home to Pérez Zeledón.