My time here in Antigua, Guatemala, is coming to an end soon. I’ve been here for almost a month, and while it’s been a perfect place to work, study, and socialize, I’m eager to start traveling around Central America now that the rainy season has come to an end.
Time to take a leave of absence from Conexion, the high-speed Internet lounge where I’ve been working day in and day out. Every post on this blog of the past few weeks has been written here, where I’ve made myself at home.
When you’re hanging out someplace like Antigua, which many backpackers and tourists use as a base from which to travel throughout Central Amercia, the feeling of wanderlust is intoxicating. The more people you meet, the more you hear stories of exotic places, you see unforgettable photos, you say goodbye to newfound friends as they leave town for far-flung adventures — no way around it, the feeling of wanderlust is infectious.
So expect plenty posts about traveling in the coming weeks. I’m leaving town.
Personally, I hadn’t planned on traveling for a couple more weeks, but a close friend of mine from Sevilla, the Spanish academy where I’ve been studying, invited me to join her on a trip to neighboring Belize, where she wants to go scuba diving in the Caribbean. She has an island picked out and everything — all I need to do is join her.
I thought it over last night, after we spent a couple hours working out a possible itinerary with our Lonely Planet guidebooks, and I’ve decided to join her. We leave this weekend.
Our first stop is going to be nearby Lago de Atitlán, where we’re going to hike Volcán San Pedro. I visited Atitlán during my first week, but I look forward to returning. Rimmed by volcanoes, gigantic cliffs, and Mayan villages, the lake is a world unto itself.
Then, after returning to Antigua to regroup, we head east toward the Caribbean coast. After a five-hour bus ride from here, we arrive at the Río Dulce region and spend a day or two at Denny’s Beach, billed as “the most exclusive beach in Guatemala,” located on the southern coast of Lago de Izabal.
From Río Dulce, we head north into El Petén, a sparsely populated region of Guatemala that is essentially a huge tropical rainforest. It covers one-third of the country’s area (12,960 square miles), and not only does it resemble what one thinks of as “jungle” in terms of biodiversity (e.g., tarantulas, monkeys, jaguars), it’s laden with ruins of ancient Mayan civilizations.
Like most tourists, we’re going to Tikal National Park, the largest and most magnificent of the ancient Mayan cities. We plan to spend a couple days here. We want to camp overnight at the park, so we can experience Tikal at sunset and sunrise, when the jungle truly comes alive.
From what I’ve heard, the best experience is to observe the sunrise from atop one of the temples.
After we tour Tikal, we head east again to the Caribbean coast of Belize, more specifically the city of Dangriga. From Dangriga, we head out to sea to explore the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Off the coast of Belize there are innumerable “cayes,” which Wikipedia defines as “small, low-elevation, sandy island[s] formed on the surface of coral reefs.”
The one we’re going to is Tobacco Caye, which I’d never heard of until last night. Here’s how Lonely Planet describes it:
Tobacco Caye is a 5-acre island catering to travelers on a low-to-moderate budget. Diving, fishing, snorkeling and hammocking are the favorite pastimes here.
Sounds great to me. While my friend is eager to scuba dive, I think I’ll settle for snorkeling and hammocking. Though perhaps I can be persuaded to overcome my fear of deep water and take the plunge.
Upon returning to the mainland, we travel on the so-called Southern Highway from Dangriga to Placencia, which, according to Wikipedia, was “the filming site for the finale of VH1’s reality series the Flavor of Love 2.” Here’s how Lonely Planet describes it:
Perched at the southern tip of a long, narrow, sandy peninsula, Placencia is “the caye you can drive to.” Not too long ago, the only practical way to get here was by boat from the mainland. Now a road runs all the way down the peninsula and an airstrip lies just north of town. But Placencia still has the wonderful laid-back ambience of the cayes, along with varied accommodations and friendly locals. The palm-lined beaches on its east side attract an international crowd looking for sun and sand, and they make low-key pastimes such as swimming, sunbathing and lazing about the preferred “activities” for many visitors.
For our final stop in Belize, we head to Punta Gorda, which Lonely Planet describes thusly:
“Sleepy” is an understatement for this southern seafront town. People here are so laid-back they can’t even be bothered calling the town by its full name — all over Belize it’s known simply as PG.
All of this within the span of two or three weeks.
If the trip goes well, we have another trip in mind, this one a week-long trip over to the Caribbean Coast of neighboring Honduras, where we ferry over to the Bay Islands, either Roatán or Útila, for more diving, snorkeling, and hammocking.
So expect more posts about traveling in the coming weeks. Should be plenty of adventure to report.