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Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

Portland, OR
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4,819 posts
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Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

I am excited to be planning a trip to Guatemala for this year. I generally travel in a country for 4-8 weeks but this is just a quick trip of only 3 weeks. I have just begun my planning and have purchased a guide book.

Who we are: We are a couple in our 40's, well travelled, intrepid travellers, love big cities like Rome, Istanbul and Bangkok as well as very remote villages. We don't travel so much any more to see cathedrals and museums unless they are absolutely exceptional. We prefer really getting to know an area rather than moving around every 2 days. Some of my top travel adventures have been being invited by locals to participate in their lives and I love to go to places where this may occur. We both love to have a good time, drink a few cold ones but don't want a hard core party scene.

We are flash-packers so we are not into dorm rooms but like budget accomodations with a charm factor that are nice, clean, friendly and, if possible, locally owned.

Now that you have an idea of who we are, I could use some help planning a trip for November.

I have started to read a guide book and so far I am considering spending 1 week in Antigua to take some Spanish lessons (I just did this in Cusco, Peru and loved it!). Another week we will probably spend around Lake Atitlan. We are considering heading to the Bay Islands for our third week.

Is one week enough to explore Lake Atitlan? Are we best to rent a place for a week and take day trips or is it better to stay in one area for a few days and then move on? We would prefer a quiet place of amazing natural beauty a bit off the beaten path. What town or village would you recommend?

It seems that the guide books recommend Antigua for Spanish lessons but we would consider another place if it is more appealing. We would prefer a 4 hour a day course and hope to find an instructor that is willing to take us around to learn rather than sit in a classroom for 4 hours. I find this a much more effective way for me to improve what I call my "Tarzan" Spanish.

I know that Roatan and Utila are in Honduras but which island do you prefer, if you have been there?

I am sure I will have a million more questions but this will get me pointed in the right direction.

Cheers and thanks in advance!

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Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
651 Reviews
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Roatan
Roatan
Bay Islands, Honduras
Utila
Utila
Bay Islands, Honduras
Honduras
Honduras
Central America
Port Richey, Florida
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2,546 posts
11 reviews
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1. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

To have an idea of what you can expect around the lake go to www.panajachel.com or www.jaibalito.com.

Now for the atlantic coast go to www.mayaparadise.com or www.riodulcechisme.com.

For additional hotel information go to www.guatemalastory.com Good luck.

Bethesda, MD
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3,032 posts
38 reviews
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2. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

Personally I find Antigua to be extremely touristy. It's entirely possible to spend a week there without uttering more than a few words of Spanish.

I'd suggest a school in San Pedro -- La Cooperativa -- or Xela. San Pedro is touristy, but it's quite inexpensive, and it's on the lake. And all of the lake towns are easily accessible from there.

If you're into colonial history and architecture, Antigua is worth a couple of days. But particularly for a three week trip, I wouldn't want to spend a week of it in Antigua.

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Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
San Pedro
San Pedro
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Portland, OR
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3. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

Hey Don! Thanks! That is just the kind of feedback I am looking for! There are 3 San Pedro's in my guide book so I think it is safe to assume that the one you are talking about is la Laguna?

This is how my guide book describes San Pedro:

"It has become THE place for young travellers to hang out and party" and "There is Plenty of bongo-bashing and bong-smoking counterculture in evidence". Although I am more than tolerant of this, it isn't exactly scene to hang out with this crowd. ;-) That being said, I was hesitant to go to Vilcabamba, Ecuador due to the way it was described and ended up LOVING that small town! Would you mind giving me your opinion of this description?

Thanks!

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San Pedro
San Pedro
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Panajachel
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4. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

Ok, I saw what the others have written and it is pretty much right.

I live in the Lake Atitlan region and am one of the local people,I was born here and have lived here my whole life!

I personally think that you would need much more time than a week to see the lake.I do believe that it would be a good idea to go to San Pedro la Laguna.It is a wonderful place.

I would also suggest to stay at La Iguana Perdida wich is located in Santa cruz.

Or try the wunderfull Hotel Posada de Santiago in Santiago Atitlan.Both of these places are full of magic and are also very quiet and all you can hear is the birds and nature. Also there is just lots to do here and you will love it!!! If you would like more info about the lake just write me a message!

Dina

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Posada de Santiago
Posada de Santiago
353 Reviews
Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala
La Iguana Perdida Hotel
La Iguana Perdida Hotel
476 Reviews
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Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
651 Reviews
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
San Pedro La Laguna
San Pedro La Laguna
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Santiago Atitlan
Santiago Atitlan
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
edmonton
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64 posts
2 reviews
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5. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

As far as spanish schools go I've heard a lot of good things about Xela. Check out xelapages.com. The website has a fair bit of information regarding some of the local spanish schools. Hope this helps, any other questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Dave

Detroit, Michigan
9 posts
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6. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

It sounds like you are similar travelers to my husband and I, although we are in our 30's. I have been to the areas you mention (Antigua and Lake Atitlan). As some of the others say, both can be somewhat touristy but definitely worth a visit.

I am also planning a spring trip to Guatemala and have been reading about some places that seem more off the beaten path that sound like they would offer the local flavor and spanish schools. They might be worth checking out.

Is anyone familiar with Nebaj, in the highlands, or Monterrico, on the Pacific?

Also, is there anywhere to visit on the Atlantic?

I hope you will post some of where you decide to visit!

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Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
651 Reviews
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Monterrico
Monterrico
Santa Rosa Department, Guatemala
Portland, OR
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7. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

I have done some more research and I think I will spend the majority of my trip around Lake Atitlan, studying Spanish there as well.

Maybe fly in and head straight to Antigua for 3 nights. We love sitting in beautiful squares, drinking a couple of beers and people watching. This seems to be a great city to do this in, right?

Although San Pedro seems like it would be a cool town, we would probably meet mostly other non-locals rather than interacting with locals, yeah?

Santiago and Jaibalito sound interesting and like very nice towns to relax in. I don't particularly like the idea of little children cussing me out if I don't give them money for something. >:(

Other than San Pedro, what are a couple other places that we could get good quality Spanish lessons? Santa Cruz? Santiago?

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Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
651 Reviews
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
San Pedro
San Pedro
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Bethesda, MD
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3,032 posts
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8. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

I think the guidebook is mostly talking about the main drag along the Pana dock later in the evening. There were a fair number of travellers your age and older when I was there a few weeks ago.

Clinton
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141 posts
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9. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

You'll enjoy Guatemala. Next Jan will be our sixth annual visit. We now spend a month or two in Pana, but on your first trip, I recommend Tikal. It's amazing. You can fly or bus there from Guatemala City.

We spent our first night in small hotel near airport and flew to Flores, but you can also do it by bus.

Then spend your week in Antigua (we've like Posado Merced), and, then the Lake. Stay in Pana and do day trips by boat and pickup trucks to lake towns.

The Utz-Jay is wonderful (Marie speaks Engligh, French, and Spanish). Somewhat cheaper is Mario's Rooms. Decent, clean, small. On Calle Santander, but inner courtyard makes rooms quiet.

We've studied one-on-one with god teachers at Jardin de America. Don't know if they'd walk the town with you, but suspect 'yes'

Enjoy this poor, beautiful and friendly country.

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Hotel Utz Jay
258 Reviews
Panajachel, Guatemala
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Mario's Rooms
139 Reviews
Panajachel, Guatemala
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Central America
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
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Guatemala City
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Guatemala Department, Guatemala
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Portland, OR
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10. Re: Help Us Jump Start Our Planning!

Don, it was actually a few different guide books talking about the dock in Santiago, not Pana.

Pablo, from everything I have read about Pana, it just isn't really our cup of tea. We tend to like places a bit off the beaten track. I recently travelled to some wonderfully remote areas in Ecuador. No one spoke English, which for me is a positive as it indicates tourist haven't overrun the area.

We may stay 10-12 days around the lake between a couple of different spots. We don't like to move around a lot. Don't like the "been there, done that" pace. Much better to settle in and get to know some locals.

Tikal also is intriguing but we both hate oppressive heat, especially jungle heat. Seems one night is enough? We have been to Siem Reap and all the surrounding ruins and spent 3 days touring them. I was "ruined out" afte 1.5 days.

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Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Peten Department, Guatemala