Guatemala Travel Tips
Places we have visited that we would recommend

To see videos of our travels in Guatemala, click on this link.
Las Tarrales Reserve
If you like birdwatching, hiking, and just relaxing, Las Tarrales, a reserva to the south of Lake Atitlan is a nice place to visit. This is a working finca that has a lot of travels for hiking and bird watching. The guides are great and you'll see a lot of different species birds in one place. You can stay at the resereve in cabins or even in tree houses and meals are available there. It is about a 2 hour drive from Guate. If you want to take the quetzal tour, you need to come the night before because it leaves out about 4 AM. The tour is $30 a person plus $45 for the transport for the group. You just have to email your dates and what you want to do they will answer you back with availability. We actually came from Chichi and around the lake so you can make it a part of any trip or by itselt. Bring repellent and sunscreen.

Lago de Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake to visit and just relax. There are a variety of places to stay around the lake in the various villages and boats to take you to and from any of the places. We went up to Chichicastenango for the market first on Thursday morning and then down to the lake that afternoon. We stayed at Jennas B&B in Panajachel and then went out each day from there. Jenna's includes a great homemade breakfast and is a nice quiet place with lots of hot water off the main street. You go to the end of the street at the water, turn left and take the first "road" on the left and you'll see her place.

Other places we have tried are the Posada de los Volcanoes and though the rooms are reasonable, nice and clean, good hot shower, friendly staff, and good breakfast is next to and across the street from two bars that play LOUD MUSIC most of the afternoon and evening. They did shut it down by 11:30 but just be warned.

The Friday market at Solola was like being in a bee hive as there was activity everywhere and people going to and fro with all kinds of items on their heads and backs. It was a great way to see more of the local color up close. Pana had a wide selection of tourist and handicraft items. We have found in all the markets we barter in that if we let them know we live here and aren't just tourists, we often get a better deal quicker. My favorite art here in Guatemala so far has been the "birds-eye-view" and "ants-eye-view" paintings so be sure to look for those.

At the lake, we visited the villages of Santa Catarina and San Antonio by car, a lovely drive along the east shore of the lake. You can see onions growing, several weaving shops, and the blue pottery in San Antonio. We took a boat out to Santiago Atitlan, San Pedro, San Juan, and San Marcos, but we would skip San Marcos if we went again as it wasn't what we expected from the Lonely Planet description - just not much there for a stop off. At San Juan, definitely get the guided tour of the city if a certified/official city guide is around at the dock as it was really interesting information and he took us a lot of neat places.


Chichi as the locals call it is famous for its handicraft markets. The big days are Thursday and Sunday and you can find anything and everything handmade. You need to get there early as it is always crowded. Be sure to bargain as they usually start at at least twice what they are willing to take. We had a lady start at 900q for a quilt that we ended up getting for 320q.We stayed in Chichi as well for the festival of San Tomas in December. It is eight days of celebration which involves dancing, fireworks, and music. Sometimes they have the flying men around the pole but we never got to see anything by the pole as the dancers and any schedule were very elusive. It really is hit and miss but a great time nonetheless. Their big market days are Thursday and Sunday.but every day during the festival was a market day!
We stayed at hotel Los Tuttos which is on the edge of town where you enter but you have to loop the block as half the street is one way; you can be like us and go that way anyway to save time and confusion. Simple clean rooms and easy access to the market area and not as noisy at night.
You can find their writeup in the Lonely Planet but the phone numbers are old. Very safe. Roberto speaks English and Spanish. (502) 5278-7603

Rio Dulce


We had a great time and great guide at The Kangaroo Hotel in Rio Dulce. Gary,the owner, came and picked us up at the dock and took us out to the hotel which is out on a waterway island. He gave great trip advice and got you wherever you needed to go. The launch came right by to take us on the tour to Livingston - the boat ride was great, the town not much to see. We also drove to the waterfall at Finca Paraiso (a hot shower waterfall fed by a hot spring with a cool cave underneath and just a neat experience) and then to a little boat ride up a river where we challenged ourselves to swim against the current. It was up through a limestone gorge where we saw some old Mayan ceremonial caves. We then headed on a little farther to El Estor and had lunch on Lake Isabel at Don YuYo right on the waterfront. A very relaxing and fun day. You can do it on the bus but the car was so much better! We went the next morning to visit the castle grounds which wasn't all that exciting, but made for a nice walk and pictures.
The hotel has a variety of rooms, good food and drink available and great hosts.

This was the bungalow we stayed in. There were several as well as a dorm style room and separate rooms in the main building. Write up in the Lonely Planet as well.


Antigua is known for its old churches and streets, as well as shopping, but if you are looking for a nice hike in the woods, Finca El Pilar outside of Antigua is a nice day trip. They also have hot springs you can bath in as well. It is located 2 KM southeast of the central park in Antigua but I found that if you ask one of the tourist parking guys/gals on the street, they can point you in the right direction. It is up and out of town on some narrow streets so don't let that throw you off. Be careful in Antigua as we have had several friends robbed on the streets there so just be alert and watch your surroundings. The best time to visit is during Semana Santa to see the alfombras and Holy Week Celebrations. It is amazing to see. They have the right idea when it comes to celebrating the resurrection in that the really celebrate it. The Sunday service is a procession through the streets of the town that leaves the church in a burst of fireworks and confetti as the people sing and shout "Jesus lives!" About 50 people carry a float with the risen Lord on top and as they pass through the streets they walk over flower carpet that the families on the streets have made for the king to "walk over". It is pretty cool and lasts about 5 hours from beginning to end. No Easter dresses or candy or lunch at Cracker Barrel, but I think it was better! You can see the video from last year at this link.
A good place to stay in Antigua is the Hotel San Jorge. It is a nice comfortable inn with clean rooms, hot showers, and a simple breakfast included. It is only a few blocks off the main square so it is close to all the sights but was quiet and affortable. They also have parking.
Other birdwatching places in Guatemala to check out.

Tikal Tour


We used a tour company and were extremely pleased with their service. We stayed in Flores and saw both parks and had a great time. The guides were excellent. We talked with Eric on the phone. We left early in the morning, went out to the Parque Yaxha in the afternoon as it is a good time to see the monkeys and toucans. The next morning, out to Tikal, back to Flores where it was fun to relax and walk around. You can take a boat around the lake and out to a zoo believe it or not! I recommend staying in Flores because you see enough ruins in the two tours and the break is nice.  We stayed at La Casona de la Isla (I think) - it is pictured below. The company handles the flights and all the arrangements and it wasn't unreasonable - about 380.00 a person for all.
Turismo Aventura

T: + 502 7926-0398 | 7926-1993 Mobile: +502 5510-2965  
Ciudad Flores, Peten. Guatemala, Centro America.

Skype ID: toursguatemala |    also visit

Hotel in Flores



Monterrico is the beach on the Pacific Coast side of Guatemala. We stayed at the Pez del Oro and it was nice though a little more pricey than I would have thought. We have heard good things abou Hotel El Delfin as well and it is more economical though right in the middle of "town"; I say town because it is at the end of the one main street at the beach. Pez del Oro is down the beach aways, near the turtle refuge. The best tour was the early morning - 6 AM - tour of the mangroves. It was on a flat bottom boat and the guide rowed you around through the mangroves and you could hear and see an amazing amount of wildlife.

Don't expect to swim here because the surf is high and rough but it is cool to see. Bring sunscreen and repellent.
Click here for driving directions to the beach at Monterrico. directions_to_Monterrico_de_GuatemalaCity.html

Down the coast from Monterrico and only 2.5 hours from the city is Chulamar. (You go toward Puerto San Jose and then go right) It is famous for its deep sea fishing - which we haven't tried yet - and there is an all inclusive resort that was fun for a special celebration. It was about $100 a person a night but that included the room,AC, food, drink, beach, pools, etc. for a 24 hour period.

Guatemala City

Don't let the tour books scare you into not seeing the city. Just be alert and cautious as you would in any big city and don't look like a tourist. The downtown plaza has museums and a lot of interesting architecture to see. The best market in Guatemala is in zone 1 right behind the church on the plaza. It has three levels to explore and you could spend 3 or 4 hours just poking around. There are handicrafts, food, pottery, baskets, potions, spices, local delicacies to try. The selection and prices of the handicrafts, to me, is better than Antigua and the people nicer.


Coban is a nice long weekend trip. If you like orchids, there is a national show here in December. There is also an orchid farm you can visit - Vivero Verapaz just outside of town. We went mainly for the tour out to Semue Champey but there seemed to be a lot of other reserves and naturaliza to take in here, as well as a Quetzal Biotopo. See the Lonely Planet for more info. Semue Champey is a unique land formation where the river runs under the rock and forms series of caves you can swim through. You need to go between Dec. and Feb. to avoid the high water levels after the rainy season. We still had a great time going down the waterfalls and natural waterslides. You hike to the lookout for about an hour and a half and the view is spectacular. You can also tube down the river if you don't have time to do the caves and the hike. It is a full day.

Another good weekend trip is to the Biotopo Mario Dary. If you go in May or October, you have a good chance to see quetzals. The name of the place to stay is Ranchitos del Quetzal and it is owned by a man named Don Julio and is run by a lady named Doña Flory. The phone number there is 5368-6397. Sometimes they don't answer but leave a message. Sometimes they call back or you can call again to confirm that they got your message. You will want to stay in their newest building which is very nice (not luxurious) and has hot showers. Though there are other hotels Ram Tzul and Posada Montaña del Quetzal I prefer to stay at Ranchitos. You can hike downhill to the other hotels for birding along the way and at both hotels.  The joy of staying at Ranchitos is that you get up at six in the morning wander down the path to the restaurant/office to sit on the patio and drink coffee while waiting for the quetzals to come. Nice hikes can also be enjoyed at the Biotopo next door where quetzal sightings are not as easy but there is a bit of a museum. Believe it or not, we saw more birds at the hotel than at the park named for them!



In the village of Joyabaj up in the hills between Chichicastenango and San Juan Sacatepequez is the scene for what I like to call the Flying Man Festival. It is really only part of a bigger week of celebration, but it was the part I had been waiting to try and see for a year. It happens usually August 8-15th. Click on the link below to see and read more about it!

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