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Guatemala & Honduras

Author clyde
#1 | Posted: 12 Jan 2014 09:56 
I am seriously considering a self drive holiday for 2 weeks in Guatemala and hoping to take in Copan, Honduras and relax for a couple of days near the Belize Barrier Reef.

I read the reviews on this site and it seems Paul Tanner has already opted for this mode of travel. Do you think it's dangerous or doable?

I intend to visit Antigua, Lake Atitkal, then head to Copan Ruinas in Honduras. Then work my way to Tikal stopping at Quirigua on the way. Then I'd catch a flight to Belize.

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 12 Jan 2014 12:50 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Well. It was a long time ago so I cant guarantee the relevance of my experiences in today's conditions
We rented in Guatemala in 1995 and had been there by bus in 1985

Driving in Guatemala gave no particular problems
a. Roads were quite good
b. Police gave no problems
c. Car from an international company (cant remember which off hand) was good
d. We didnt prebook any hotels after the arrival night and didnt have problems
e. We didnt go to Tikal by car having been there by bus on the earlier trip. I presume the road will have improved since 1985 when it wasnt good. The main reason we didnt drive there i. 1995 however was that it was rather out of the way for our main circuit. As I remember it the bus from there to Beliz was quite easy.
f. Apart from that we visited all the places you mentioned plus others. Except Copan of course but my reviews describe the process for getting there from the border in those days.
g. I would do it by self drive car again

Cant think kf anything else of relevance. Good travelling!

Author clyde
#3 | Posted: 12 Jan 2014 14:31 
thanks Paul! That helps me a great deal.

I'm inclined to go for it after having visited Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua and having seen that the Panamerican highway and roads in general in Central America (in the dry season!) are generally in good condition. I would be driving a 4x4 just in case, but mostly I'd like to go for self drive to be able to visit Quirigua and Copan and then Tikal before heading to Belize to snorkel and relax.

Author vantcj1
#4 | Posted: 13 Jan 2014 00:59 
To my knowledge, self driving in those countries is the best option. In Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama traveling by public transportation could be sometimes a fair option, but in Guatemala and Honduras must be avoided at all cost. The insecurity up there is a real deal, , but the most of the violence is not directly targeted to tourists, as far as you keep on the tourist track. On the other hand, the quality of the roads, the infrastructure in general and the signage are far better up there. Still, I would have some degree of precaution driving to Tikal.

Author clyde
#5 | Posted: 15 Jan 2014 04:09 
In the end we might opt for a driver with the car since it's not that expensive for 2 weeks

Author Zoe
#6 | Posted: 4 Jan 2020 00:50 
I see that all 2002 T entries for Guatemala are rubbish documents but does anyone know what other sites there are besides Takalik Abaj for the Mayan/Olec mashup, and where exactly the Two Rivers area is supposed to be?!

Author vantcj1
#7 | Posted: 7 Jan 2020 19:18 | Edited by: vantcj1 
Hi, Zoe

Well, I agree that the Guatemalan TList has extremely sparse information about its (way too many) entries.

However, some years ago, when I was very active looking in internet about the then existing TList sites from every country, some of the Guatemalan sites strucked me a bit more than the others. Those are:

-Tak'alik Ab'aj: I agree, it is the strongest candidate for a new WHS in that country. The Mayan-Olmec connection is unique, is highlighted by this site and the pictures of the site make it look really interesting. Additionally, it would be the only WHS in the Pacific side of Guatemala. Regarding the other TList entry "The Mayan-Olmecan" encounter" the text under "coordinates" clearly shows that this site is a duplicate. So, no other sites besides Tak'alik Ab'aj.

-"The Painted Murals of San Bartolo": right next in order of interest, this one seems to portray an angle of the Mayan culture that isn't really in the list, and the pictures show it as interesting. Even comparing it with Mexico's own Bonampak (if it ever gets into the list), I think it still stands out.

-"Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reservation": for its size, location (and the pictures that one can get from it), it clearly is a relatively a strong natural contendor. It is the biggest cloud forest reserve in Central America, so I think inscription would be justified.

-"The Route of the Rivers": of the rather nondescript Mayan ruin sites that are in the TList (and considering that the list has already many inscribed), this seems the most interesting one. Additionally, it is a strong chance for a binational site, with Mexico. Doing a normal search on internet will not retrieve anything about it, so I changed my search terms and found this site and map The nucleus of this site would be the use of the Usumancinta river for transport, trade and the exchange of cultural influences. It would (most probably) include Guatemalan sites as Cancuén, Ceibal, Aguateca, Altar de Sacrificios and Piedras Negras and would make 100% sense if it included Mexican sites of the other site of the river: Bonampak and Yaxchilán.

-"National Park Sierra del Lacandón": another site that only makes sense as a binational site, with Mexico. But it seems to have an amazing biodiversity. Very remote, by the way.

-Naj Tunich: it may stand a chance. The information about it shows it as an ancient rock art site (again Maya, but very different from San Bartolo). I don't know how good this angle would be to achieve WH status, but it is still an angle.

-"Visis Cabá and Triángulo Ixil": I don't know too much abouth the natural angle, but maybe the three towns in the Triángulo Ixil (Santa María Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal, and San Gaspar Chajul) may have an angle to explore in a candidacy. Yes, the WH list is inundated of colonial churches, and colonial towns, but it may be made for a case for vernacular architecture and cultural exchange.

Besides that, I still find sites that could be maybe not WH experiencies at all, but that to many people I know have been very worthy tourist experiences (many Ticos travel a lot these days through Latin America and ultra-inexpensive-Guatemala really drives many people there):

-Lake Atitlán: it definitely stands out in terms of beauty, but it suffers from pollution and -if seen from a Cultural Landscape perspective- the towns on its sides have too many modern structures, so integrity has been highly affected. Still, a place I very much look forward to visit.

-"The Green Route of Verapaz": I didn't remember anything about it, but seeing the description, it includes Semuc Champey, which some friends I know have found as a worthy experience (a Pamukkale of the jungle would be it). It has only become touristy just in the last years, but they are really milking out of it these issues may be against it.

-"Chichicastenango": yes, in terms of tangible heritage is really meagre and Dennis Nicklaus' review of it is not precisely glowing. However, on terms of intangible heritage and in the right time of the year, it could be an interesting cultural experience. Again, not WH material at all.

Regarding the other TL sites: yes, they don't stand a chance whatsoever, they present something very similar to something already inscribed or I didn't get what exact properties would be within this TL Site. Well, maybe Castillo San Felipe de Lara, but as a part of a multinational proposal, with other Central American and Caribbean forts (and still, the already certified field is really crowded).

Author Zoe
#8 | Posted: 8 Jan 2020 23:23 
Thank you so much for the great info.

I ended up going just to Tak'alik Ab'aj I didn't see any signs for other similar sites in the area and overall it is enough for what representing the Mayan Olmec mashup to get the idea. Chichicastenango was rubbish in terms of WHS but unless they update the documents I will not know what it was really trying to show as unique there. Lake Atitlán is ruined by mass tourism and so was Semuc, meh it's almost like someone threw all the touristy places onto the tentative list and will work out if there is something description worthy afterwards.

I still have 3 days for the places around Flores. The murials would be awesome but definitely off limits. I'll have to contend with magnificent Mayan ruins instead lol

Author Zoe
#9 | Posted: 10 Jan 2020 23:47 | Edited by: Zoe 
Oh and i just read up on the above, nowadays Guatemala is totally fine to travel on buses and coaches, maaaany tourists do it and it's cheap. I had a rental car and there are many options at the airport and it's affordable including basic insurance. Roads are similar to other Central American countries and Mexico, proholes here and there, speed bumps, trucks slowing down miles of traffic etc, but some good divided highway sections too. I went to Tikal with 3 others and the rental was only $20 without insurance, without the need to wait for a van to be full plus the pickup allowed us to drive the dirt road to Uaxactun.

If you only want to visit Copan you can take a shuttle from Antigua, Guatemala City, El Salvador, Belize, everything is super connected and safe nowadays. E.g. Copan to Antigua is $25, Caye Caulker to Flores $32.

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 Guatemala & Honduras

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