02 January 2013

23 Dec-2 Jan 2013: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala

New York is relatively close to Central America…which is why I decided to do a 10 day trip through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala with Gecko. This included Xmas day and New Year's eve. 




I did this trip with a friend Terreis Sierra (also skiing buddy) who flew out from London.  There were also 14 other people on the trip and surprisingly the majority of us were from the southern hemisphere...in particular, Australia! The guide, Alonso, was Mexican and would be with us for the whole time.

We started out in Cancun where most of us did either snorkelling or ziplining/caving. I decided to spend the day in and out of the water snorkelling the second largest reef in the world near to Maroma.  Not much wildlife to see but the water was crystal clear (if not a bit chilly!). It was Xmas eve so we celebrated it in style at a restaurant - drinking frozen margaritas, eating great tasting food, wearing balloons and being entertained by the staff! Unfortunately we had an early start on Xmas day for our drive to
Tulum which is a spectacular pre-Columbian walled city ruins overlooking a beautiful coastline.  It is perched on a cliff and with amazing views over the ocean.  A hot day, but bareable.

From here we got a local bus to Chetumel to spend the night before heading into Belize.



Caye Caulker
Everyone chilling on Caye Caulker


Caye Caulker


Caye Caulker

A very quick visit to Belize...straight over the border to Belize City where we got a speedboat to Caye Caulker - 33km from Belize, and only 7km from north to south.

We got to spend 1.5 days here in quite basic accommodation (where we all got bitten to death by fleas/sandflies...or whatever they were!).  It may not have actually had a nice beach, or clear waters to swim in, but the snorkelling trip we did the next day was absolutely stunning!!  There were lots and lots of turtles, mantas, stingrays, sharks, fish and very beautiful coral.  Some of the best snorkelling (and diving) I have ever done! Another bonus for the island is the seafood…very very tasty!  The lobster was $40 and some of the best I have ever tasted.  



The tour group!

New Year's Eve - Antigua

Sunset in Antigua

The next stop was the border to Guatemala - this meant an early get up and a long day driving to Flores and to a small picturesque town (Itza) on an island in the middle of Lake Peten.  Lots of cobblestone streets and a gorgeous lake that we all jumped into to wash off the grit and sweat from the day.

The next morning was a very early getup so we could visit the ruins of Tikal - the largest excavated Mayan ruin site in the Americas.  There are 5 main temples of which we climbed three of them, the highest at 90m.  The site is still used for ceremonies and is surrounded by jungle - which includes animals such as a crocodile, parrots, toucans, howler monkeys and tarantulas. Alonso (a sun worshipper) did a blessing for us all....which was amazing to experience in the ruins.

We were off again that night to catch an overnight bus to Guatemala City...a 10hr bus ride that only covered 500km!!!  Very slow, very cold in the bus and at 2am in the morning there was a little bit of confusion over one of us nearly missing the bus after a pit stop (which luckily didn't happen!).  After getting to Guatemala City we got another bus to Antigua - a very beautiful town and former capital of Guatemala. 

Antigua is a colonial town set deep in a valley encircled by three volcanos and at an elevation where you had to wear a jacket at night. It is also a protected UNESCO town.  There was lots of walking about, shopping and for those who had the energy, an early morning hike up a volcano.   

We spent 3 nights here, including New Year's eve. I really enjoyed my time in this town, there was a lot to see, to experience and to shop for (especially jade, coffee and chocolate)! This is where we saw a lot of local Guatemalans holidaying - more than foreign travellers! As for New Year's eve....everyone congregated down in the market place where everyone was letting off fireworks....including metre+ lengths of fire crackers.  We couldn't tell what was 'official' fireworks and what individuals were letting off.  All in all the atmosphere was relaxed, friendly and chilled out.  Lots of kids about too.

Got to say, though it was only 10 days in length, the entire group got on exceedingly well, everyone had a fantastic time and we got to see the highlights of these 3 countries.  Guatemala is definitely a favourite of mine, and I would love to go back and see it in more depth one day. 

- Seeing the Tikal ruins
- Snorkelling off from Caye Caulker
- Chilling out in Itza, Belize
- Spending time in Antigua

- Have a guide when going through Tumul and Tikal
- Bring dimp with you as the sandflies will eat you alive!
- Do a full day snorkelling trip from Caye Caulker
- You can't exchange US$ to Quetzels in Guatemala...either ATMs (which may or may not work), or exchange money at the border
- If catching local buses, bring a coat as the air con is put on high!

23 Dec-2 Jan 2013: Photos from Mexico, Belize and Guatemala

Photos from Mexico (Cancun and Tulum runis)

Photos from Belize (Caye Caulker Island, Tikal)

Photos from Guatemala (Flores, Tikal and Antigua)