The Girl Travels

A log of my recent adventures in Vietnam, Cambodia, Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala

Monday, May 14, 2007

Una Semana

I've been a little remiss about writing about my trip preparations this time around... though they didn't involve much more than remembering to pack more tops than I did for Vietnam and Cambodia and to have my doctor write me another prescription for some preventative malaria pills (Side effect = acne. Joy.)

Per the usual I'll try to post as often as I can, but I don't know that I'll have the kind of constant internet access I had in Asia. I have a feeling they're a bit more tech-savvy vs. Central America. Anyway, here's where I'm going and what I'm doing:

Day 1: Chichen Itza

I paid for a day trip to Chichen Itza, some famous Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula. I return around the same time my tour group will be having its initial meeting, so I've yet to figure out how to convince them to wait for me to shower before they run off to do things. Perhaps one whiff of my sweaty, sunburned body will be enough.

[Note, the rest of this itinerary was taken right off the website.]

Day 2: Cancun

Cancun, situated on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula - is renowned for its nearby beautiful Caribbean beaches and stunning Mayan Ruins, not to mention some of the finest diving and snorkeling sites in the world. Our Cancun hotel is located about 40 minutes away from the oasis beach of Playa del Carmen.

Day 3: Tulum - Chetumal

We have an early start this morning, taking the bus to Tulum. Here we visit the spectacular Mayan ruins. Perched on a cliff top, their setting is stunning. We explore these superb ruins with the help of a local guide, and then continue on to Chetumal where we spend the night.

Days 4 - 5: Caye Caulker

Today we arrive in Belize City, and then board a speedboat to the palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker. Situated only 33 kilometres north of Belize City, the island is just seven kilometres from north to south and home to the world's second largest barrier reef. Coconut palms will provide us with shade, while mangroves cover much of the shore. Our time is our own here to relax and enjoy all that this lovely sand-island has to offer. Some of the most exciting diving and snorkeling in the world is at your fingertips, as well there is the opportunity for discovering some amazing underwater caves. There is an abundance of superb tropical fish and coral reefs just waiting to be explored, or you may want to simply relax on a deck chair on the beach.

Days 6 - 7: Flores - Tikal Ruins

This morning we return to Belize City by speedboat and continue south to Guatemala and the small picturesque town of Flores, our gateway to the ancient city of Tikal – the deserted Mayan ruins in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle. Arriving at Flores, we enter one of the most scenic towns in the Peten, the island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza, with its cobble-stoned streets and brightly coloured houses. From here we embark upon our trek to the largest excavated Mayan Ruin site in the Americas. We penetrate the jungle of El Peten to visit the temples of the monumental ceremonial centre located in the midst of the immense Tikal National Park. As we approach, the lofty pyramids can be seen climbing high above the jungle’s leafy canopy. Passing beneath the rich rainforest and dense jungle vegetation, we are immersed in some spectacular jungle sounds: riotous parrots, toucans, macaws, tree frogs and howler monkeys offer a cacophonous backdrop to our trek to the ruins. Settled around 700BC by the Maya, the surviving temples of the resplendent and powerful city are rich examples of the Late Classic period. We pass through the sacred causeways to the main plaza and the central area with its five main temples, the scale of some climbing to over 50 metres. Beyond this, we have the option of wondering endlessly through the labyrinth of smaller uncovered structures and outlying complexes nestled within the dense jungle growth. If you have energy to spare, you can climb to the peak of Temple IV and take in the spectacular views. Or simply rest at the main plaza and marvel at the Mayan engineering of one of the most impressive archaeological religious sites yet discovered. On our final evening we board the overnight bus bound for Antigua.

Days 8 - 9: Antigua

Antigua is a small town that has a history plagued not with violence, but natural disaster. Antigua was established as the country's capital around 1541. After a great earthquake destroyed the city in 1773, the capital was transferred to present-day Guatemala City. The town slowly re-populated while maintaining its traditional character, architecture and cobblestone streets. In 1799 the city was re-named La Antigua Guatemala and in 1979 it was declared a world-heritage site. Much of Antigua’s architecture was constructed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. No expense was spared, and much of the magnificent architecture from this period remains today.

The setting of Antigua Guatemala is stunning. Amongst the oldest and most beautiful town in the Americas, it lays nestled in a valley dwarfed by three magnificent volcanoes. Volcano Fuego lights up the night sky with a red glow that can be seen from afar. We enjoy a walking tour of the city with our leader, and climb one of the nearby volcanoes.

Day 10: Antigua

Tour ends. I land at LaGuardia around midnight.

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