It did not take long to fall in love with Guatemala! New country – new border crossing. This time from the Belize to Guatemala. If the computer system to issue the paperwork for the vehicle permit would not have been down for 2 hours, it would have taken us max. 45 minutes. From the border in Melchor de Mencos we drove to Isa Flores on Lago Petén Itzá. We felt like it was time to sleep in a “real” bed, so we booked a room at the hostel “Los Amigos” with their awesome vegetarian restaurant. We enjoyed walking through the charming streets (very narrow cobblestone streets) of Flores with its little shops, restaurants, cafés, street vendors and you will see lots of young backpackers.
Isla Flores (Ciudad de Flores) is also the gateway to visit the world-famous ruins in Tikal. Despite all the reading and hearing about Tikal to be the “ultimate” Mayan archeological site. we felt like “ruined out” and decided to skip Tikal. For some people it might be a shame we really were not motivated and felt like we should not force ourselves. Instead we enjoyed the town, cafés, food and the cool vibe at the hostel.
Drive from Isla Flores to Lanquin
We set out on our journey and left Flores very early for a long drive to Lanquin located on the northeastern edge of the Central Highlands in Guatemala. We drove some rough roads in Guatemala. Some roads were at first a bit out of my comfort zone but the amazing landscape made me forget all the worries. Ivan of course had a blast (at this point I have to say that he is an awesome driver and I am glad he does 99.9% of the driving) and really “no problema” for our G Wagon. I am understanding now why Ivan wanted such vehicle and appreciating to travel “smaller & lighter”. Something that was striking us when driving through all these small towns, was the colourful Mayan people smiling & waiving at us. It made us sooooo happy and we cheerfully smiled & waived back.
Lanquin – the gateway for Semuc Champey
After a long, bumpy but very scenic road we arrived in Lanquin on the northeastern edge of the Central Highlands in Guatemala. The 1st night we spend at the Oasis Hostel. A new place in Lanquin and not as busy as the Zephyr Lodge or El Retiro. A nice cabana again??!! Yes, especially when the costs for camping is almost the same like a private room. It seems like we switched from the life at campgrounds to the life of backpackers.
Semuc Champey – natural aqua park in the jungle
From Lanquin, those bumpy 10 kilometres to Semuc Champey took a while but at the end… there is a magical place located in the jungle. Semuc Champey, which in the language of the Maya means “sacred water,” is a massive limestone formation — a natural bridge — under which flows a series of stepped pools and waterfalls. Another name for it might well be PARADISE. First we hiked up the trail to the mirador. Wow…. what a view. It was so hot, we could not walk down fast enough to swim in these amazing crystal clear blue water. You can spend a whole day… swimming, relaxing, fun little jumps off rocks and a couple of rock-waterslides.
After a perfect day we pulled into the little parking area at Zephyr Lodge. An eco friendly hostel on the top of a hill with a beautiful view on the river and the valley – you can even enjoy this view while taking a shower. The icing on the cake was the sunset in the mountains in Northern Guatemala.
As I said in the beginning… it did not take long to fall in love with Guatemala! Read more in the next post about Guatemala:-)