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Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

London, United...
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Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

Hey I'm travelling to Nicaragua and Guatemala in July (unfortunately no time to explore Honduras or El Salvador). I have 19 nights and was thinking of doing something like 5-7 nights in Nicaragua then travelling to Guatemala, which I know takes a couple of days and then the rest of the time in Guatemala. It's not much time so I'd appreciate any tips on what to prioritise and how long I really need in each place!

In Nicaragua the places I'm considering visiting are Granada, Ometepe, San Juan del sur (is it worth it if I don't surf?) and Leon.

In Guatemala looking at Lanquin/Semuc Champey, Tikal, Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango.

Do I have enough time to really do all of this and if not what should I sacrifice and leave out? Also what's the best way to get to Guatemala? Tica Bus?

Cheers!

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Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Central America
Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Honduras
Honduras
Central America
El Salvador
El Salvador
Central America
Granada
Granada
Granada Department, Nicaragua
Isla de Ometepe
Isla de Ometepe
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Leon
Leon
Leon Department, Nicaragua
Lanquin
Lanquin
Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala
Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
1,064 Reviews
Lanquin, Guatemala
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Peten Department, Guatemala
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
655 Reviews
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Chichicastenango
Chichicastenango
El Quiche Department, Guatemala
Central America
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1,958 posts
30 reviews
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1. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

Have you considered just focusing on one country? There is plenty to see and do in either for 19 nights, especially considering you're going to waste one or two of those nights travelling unless you fly.

Tica Bus from Managua to Guate City is straight forward, but still a long bus ride. A lot of time wated transiting the many border crossings on this leg Nic-Honduras-El Salvador-Guate.

That said we live in Guate and really like Nicaragua: our favorites Isla Ometepe, Grenada, Leon.

Keep in mind too that Guate covers a large area and road travel can be slow and inefficient. For example, just pull up the route from Antigua to Tikal in Google Maps. You're going to spend a lot of your limited time on buses.

I suggest just focusing on Guate, it is an amazing country, and splitting your time between the W highlands and one other area of the country. For Tikal consider flying to Flores, it will save you lots of not terribly interesting travel time.

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Managua
Managua
Managua Department, Nicaragua
Honduras
Honduras
Central America
El Salvador
El Salvador
Central America
Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Central America
Isla de Ometepe
Isla de Ometepe
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Leon
Leon
Leon Department, Nicaragua
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Peten Department, Guatemala
Central America
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2. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

...maybe W highlands (I'm including Antigua/Atitlan/Etc in this), then fly to Flores from Guate City, visit Tikal, bus to Rio Dulce, Coban/Semuc Champey, bus back to Guate City (assuming return flight from there).

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Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Hotel Atitlan
Hotel Atitlan
861 Reviews
Panajachel, Guatemala
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Peten Department, Guatemala
Rio Dulce
Rio Dulce
114 Reviews
Livingston, Guatemala
Coban
Coban
Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala
Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
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Lanquin, Guatemala
California
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3. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

If you really want two countries to visit then the best is to fly into one country and fly home out of another. Backtracking is time consuming. Last year I flew into Guatamala and out of Honduras and it was actually cheaper which surprised me. 19 nights is really 17 days. Traveling takes time in Central America. A better option would be to spend the entire time in Guatamala. That way you would have time to take in the culture and see Tikal and not rush rush rush. I would fly into Guatamala City, spend the night there (assuming you are coming from UK?) to rest up, and next day fly to Flores for two nights so you could spend an entire day at Tikal. If you are not tight on budget, spend at least one night in the park. The second in Flores. Then fly back to Guatamala City and take your time as you wish knowing you just have to be back to fly home. Or, have Tikal last. Guatamala is a great place to go without a schedule.

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Honduras
Honduras
Central America
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Peten Department, Guatemala
Flores
Flores
Peten Department, Guatemala
London, United...
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4. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

So I'm flying into Managua and out of Guatemala. Unfortunately too late to change to just one country but least I don't have to backtrack. We were interested in doing a jungle trek in Tikal for a few days. Is that something that is accessible on a tight budget or is Tikal really more of a one day thing?

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Managua
Managua
Managua Department, Nicaragua
Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Peten Department, Guatemala
London, United...
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5. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

Also how many nights should we stay in Lanquin? Is 2 enough?

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Lanquin
Lanquin
Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala
Central America
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6. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

Tikal itself you can see in one day, but I would not short change it with less...especially given the travel logistics of getting there. Lots of wildlife in the Tikal reserve because it is more protected. Flores is a cool place in and of itself too.

We really like the Coban/Alta Verapaz area. You can day trip from Coban to see Semuc Champey (unique and beautiful) and nearby caves. A few cool lodges in the cloud forest of Alta Verapaz.

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Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Peten Department, Guatemala
Coban
Coban
Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala
Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
1,064 Reviews
Lanquin, Guatemala
Central America
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7. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

If its in the budget then fly to Guate City from Managua. Will save you a lot of travel time.

For the Nic leg you you could make a loop from Managua to Isla Ometepe, to Grenanda, to Leon and back to Managua. The ferry ride from Ometepe to Grenada is cool. We took it the full length of Lake Nicaragua once (San Carlos to Grenada).

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Managua
Managua
Managua Department, Nicaragua
Isla de Ometepe
Isla de Ometepe
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Leon
Leon
Leon Department, Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Central America
The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
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8. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

If you have less than 2 full weeks in Guatemala, I'd leave out Semuc Champey/Lanquín. It takes a full day of travel to get there and a full day away; if you stay 2 nights that's 3 of your precious days for just 1 day to enjoy/explore - bad trip math. Plus the rainy season isn't the best time to visit if you want the pretty post card colors.

Best to leave the jungle trek for the dry months; even in February our daughter and her husband hiked in boot-sucking mud (the El Mirador trip is usually 5-7 days).

I visit Guatemala most summers; my photos with blog, travelogue, and review links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there.

Happy trails!

flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

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Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
1,064 Reviews
Lanquin, Guatemala
St. John's, Canada
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9. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

Guatemala's great but enjoy Nicaraugua while your there.Ometepe is fantastic and Granada too,maybe leave out S.J

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Isla de Ometepe
Isla de Ometepe
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Granada
Granada
Granada Department, Nicaragua
Wilton Manors...
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10. Re: Trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala

I don't surf either but still enjoyed San Juan. But you're short on time so it could be something you pass on. As other people have mentioned, definitely try to go to Ometepe and I'd recommend it over San Juan if you can only do one of the two. Grenada is great for a few days (lots to do in and around) and Leon just for a night or two. From Leon you can catch a shuttle bus directly to Antigua. There is no TICA bus that runs that route directly but Gecko Trail Explorers does. We used them for the reverse route and it was one very long full day but it worked.

For Guatemala, you highlights look good and could be manageable in a rushed 12 days or so. I'd skip Chichicastenango though and just go to a market in one of the other cities you're visiting. There's not much else there to see. Don't miss Semuc though. Its spectacular and although its quite the distance you can make it on the way to Tikal. You'll need 2-nights. Get in late one night. See all of Semuc the next day and stay a second night. Leave early in the morning for Tikal on the following day. For Tikal we stayed at the Tikal Inn and thought it was very reasonable since it includes all your meals and a tour of Tikal too.

One thing to be mindful of in your planning is to account for days in which you will be traveling the entire day. Things appear much closer on a map than it actually takes. Sure, Lake Atitlan is only a few hours from Antigua. But going to Semuc eats an entire day and so does going from Semuc to Tikal. But in my opinion those you just gotta do it and factor the travel time into your agenda if you can.

Good luck and hope you have a blast. We just explored all of those places a few months ago and our recent reviews and recommendations are up on our blog which may be helpful in your planning.

Here's the posts for Guatemala:

www.roamingaroundtheworld.com/tag/guatemala/

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San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico
Isla de Ometepe
Isla de Ometepe
Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Leon
Leon
Leon Department, Nicaragua
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Chichicastenango
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El Quiche Department, Guatemala
Tikal National Park
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