One interesting thing you can say about Guatemala: people always ask you why you would possibly want to go there. It has been named as one of the most murderous and violent countries in the world, and is also one of the poorest of Central America.
But having just returned (alive, I might add), I can safely say that there is a lot more to Guatemala than the statistics. I first went to Antigua, a town heavily influenced by the Spanish, meaning there are plenty of colonial churches and ruins to look at it. It also has a busy nightlife and can offer hikes up the volcanoes surrounding the city. I climbed Pacaya, the second largest and one of the three active volcanoes of the country. This is perfect for anyone who doesn’t mind a steep hike in return for some stunning views and to stand next to fresh molten lava. I spent three full days in Antigua, but could have stayed there for longer.
Next was Flores: a brightly coloured town on a lake. It was the perfect place for a rest before discovering the range of ruins that were nearby. One of the most notable is Tikal National Park, one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Mayans from 200 – 900 AD. As a lot of the city has been found, it offers a huge insight into Guatemala’s history. It is best to go early, as it is incredibly popular and gets very hot as you climb the temples.
After Tikal, we crossed the border into Belize, to San Ignacio. San Ignacio itself was nothing special, but was close to a lot of beautiful scenery and fun activities. You could go caving, or tube through the caves for a less strenuous experience. The main highlight of Belize, however, is the island of Caye Caulker. Heavily influenced by Caribbean culture, it was 1km long but full of life. It had plenty of places to eat or sunbath on the seafront, or for the more active; snorkelling, cruises and whale shark spotting are available. Another full four days were spent there and it was too short of a time.
We then moved onto our final destination: Mexico. We stopped in the beach town of Tulum for two days. Whilst it is normally beautiful, the beaches are currently covered in seaweed so you can’t swim or sunbath easily. However, there are more ruins and caves to inspect and a thriving nightlife. The last place of the holiday was Playa del Carmen, just down the coast from the party town of Cancun. It was by far the most touristic place of the holiday: Starbucks and Subways littered the streets and there were more Americans than Mexicans. Another place plagued by seaweed on the sand, it did not offer much in terms of entertainment. After a day and a half there, I was ready to come home.
Overall, I would recommend the tour to others, but would say to use the time wisely. Some places I would not stop at again, but others I would love to return to. It wasn’t perfect the whole journey, but Central America has a lot to offer people: its history and scenery is almost unparalleled.