Our trip to Guatemala involved us flying in to Flores, a tiny town in the north part of the country that is a gateway to the ruins at Tikal, and flying out of Guatemala City. After Tikal we were heading to the south part of the country and had to figure out how to get there. We finally decided on the overnight bus. The company we chose was Linea (one of two primary bus lines) and the bus was to leave the station around 8 pm, so we had some time to kill in Flores after checking out of our lodging in Tikal.
Flores is a beautiful little town that sits on an island in the middle of a lake. There is not a lot to do there, but we had heard that a boat ride around the lake was a pleasant way to spend a few hours. When we tried to book it at our hotel the price they quoted was 1200 quetzales ($163 USD). Fortunately we decided to wait until we got there and the price in person was significantly less…200 quetzales ($27 USD)! After some truly fantastic tacos, we hopped on a small boat and our guide took us around the peaceful lake and stopped at a few places. The first was a trailhead that lead up to a lookout point where we could see the whole town of Flores on its tiny island.
Next we spent some time at the dilapidated zoo. It’s not a place I would recommend…some of the animals are kept in very small, run down enclosures. There were peccaries running free, and spanish speaking macaws.
As the sun began to set, it was time to head to the bus station. The bus was late, but everyone was friendly and we felt safe there as night fell. We boarded the bus and tried to get comfortable in the worn seats. It was a long night. Through the 8 hours, there were many stops with people getting on and off. Limbs constantly fell asleep from the contorted positions we had to take. Of course I woke up frequently to do the 1-2-3 kid count and make sure everyone was ok. It was a dark, bumpy, and uncomfortable ride. Getting off in Guatemala City was a relief, and we hunted for caffeine in the bus station. Crime is more of an issue in Guatemala City than the other parts of the country we visited, so we stayed in the indoor station protected behind security gates as we waited for our ride to Antigua. Josebal (JB) picked us up in a van and navigated us through the large city. He was amazing, telling us all about the history and politics of his country, as well as his personal story. Apparently there were going to be massive protests against government corruption that day, so we made it out of the city just in time!
Since it wasn’t quite time to check into our rental house, he took us to a restaurant perched on the hills overlooking Antigua, and 2 of Guatemala’s most famous volcanoes– Acetenango and Fuego. Fuego is very active, so we had a delicious breakfast on a terrace watching in awe as billows of smoke and ash poured in intervals from Fuego’s peek. After breakfast, we walked around admiring the art on display and the kids got a playground break.
We only spent a few days in Antigua, but it is a lovely town. It has an interesting history and colorful buildings. Crumbling old buildings and pristinely built churches frame the streets filled with motorbikes and chicken buses. Volcanoes tower overhead. Relatively safe, it is popular with backpackers. There are lots of hostels and funky fusion restaurants. We met more fellow travelers from around the world on the days we explored the town than any other part of our trip. Our favorite moments were relaxing on the roof of our rental house with a bottle of wine, watching heat lighting break through pink sunset clouds over the ever present dramatic volcano silhouettes.