My adventure in Guatemala: Climbing Acatenango and discovering the rich wilderness

Que faire au Guatemala ?

I recently returned from Guatemala, where I spent a few days exploring the natural and cultural wonders of this incredible country. From a melting volcano to the colorful rivers of Semuc Champey, this country offers completely different environments.

Anitgua Guatemala

First stop: Antigua, a picturesque colonial city surrounded by erupting volcanoes.

I spent my first day exploring the city's cobblestone streets and public squares, admiring the historic buildings and ancient churches. I advise you to do this visit during sunny days to be able to admire the Santa Catalina Arch and the El Agua Volcano in the background. Unfortunately, for me I was not so lucky.

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When night falls, the streets light up and a new atmosphere arrives. The locals have an aperitif by the window with the different styles of music that mix on certain street corners. I was able to dine in a superb meat restaurant called “San Martin” which I recommend. On the menu, whole platters of beef, rump steak, lamb chops…

The next day after a good night's rest, the climax of my trip arrived: the ascent of L'Acatenengo, a volcano culminating at an altitude of 4,000m.

It all starts at the foot of my “Hospedaje”, a guest house in Spanish. My guide picks me up at 10 a.m. for about an hour's drive. He stops halfway to recover, a hot meal, a double layer coat, gloves and a hat… all of this will be very useful to me later.

The ascent of the Acatenango Volcano

We begin the ascent at 11 a.m. with a 1.5 hour walk with a very steep slope. The path is winding and cramped, making walking even more difficult, not to mention the heat, around 35°C. After two hours of walking we reached the checkpoint for lunch. After a brief discussion, we begin to equip ourselves with hats, gloves...

With the altitude and the clouds, the temperature quickly dropped. We continue the ascent for almost 4 hours to arrive at the base camp around 4 p.m.

I am quite disappointed because the Acatenango volcano is located just in front of the El Fuego volcano which is still erupting. But the bad weather is there. Pouring rain and a sea of ​​clouds as far as the eye could see. There is nothing to see. Quite disappointing after the effort made.

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So I decide to go take a nap to recover in my modest tent. At 6 p.m. my guide comes to wake me up for the thing I came for. All the clouds had disappeared, and I see the El Fuego volcano in front of me, spewing jets of lava almost every 20 minutes!

After lighting a fire, we have a meal with Armelitto, my guide. After a few discussions, I understand that he does this walk twice a day, 5 days a week. Something unimaginable when I see the effort that it required of me.

Around 9 p.m., the eruptions don't stop but I have to go to sleep because the schedule promises to be busy...

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We sleep under -1° in a tent until waking up at 2:30 a.m. Here we go again for 3 hours of walking. The plan: descend part of the Acatenango then go up the El Fuego volcano… in eruption. The path becomes more and more winding, the night is dark and we can no longer see much with our headlights. And the noise of the eruptions just above our heads doesn't help at all..

After 3 hours of walking we arrive about 800m from the crater where we will wait for the sunrise.

The magnificent spectacle during sunrise, a shade of red/orange rises on the horizon cut by the surrounding Acatenango and El Agua volcanoes.

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After an hour there we will begin the descent, certainly faster but not at the least tiring, towards the minibus.

Tikal, capital of the Mayans

After a well-deserved rest, I left for Tikal, one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mayan world. I decided to make this visit as early as possible under the advice of my guide who tells me that the temperature will be 47°C.

Located in the Petén region in the north of the country, Tikal was one of the most important and populous cities of the Mayan civilization, with an estimated population of more than 100,000 at its peak.

The archaeological site of Tikal is immense, with hundreds of Mayan stone structures spread over an area of ​​more than 16 km², most of which date from the Classic Maya period (between 200 and 900 AD).

One of Tikal's main attractions is the famous Great Jaguar Pyramid, which measures over 45 meters in height and offers stunning views of the archaeological site and the surrounding forest. Visitors can also admire the Temple of the Double-Headed Serpent pyramid, the central acropolis, the main square and many other fascinating Mayan buildings.

Tikal is also famous for its abundant flora and fauna. The site is located in dense rainforest, home to a wide variety of birds, howler monkeys, jaguars and other wildlife. Visitors can also enjoy the surrounding nature by hiking nature trails or exploring the area's many lagoons and rivers.

Semuc Champey

Then I left for the town of Semuc Champey, located in the center of the country. The road is long and the comfort of the “Chicken Bus” makes the journey even more unpleasant.

chicken bus in Guatemala

Chicken Bus

I spent the day exploring the surrounding area, visiting traditional villages and admiring the wilderness and exotic birds. I also took the time to rest at the Vinèas Hotel, located in the town of Lanquín.

The next day, I visited the Semuc Champey Rivers, one of the most photogenic rivers in the world, surrounded by lush green jungle and traditional villages. I spent the day strolling in these translucent waters and visiting the Cuevas Marias, very deep and very dangerous caves. I strongly advise claustrophobic people not to venture there!

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Finally, I finished my trip by visiting the town of Chichicastenango, famous for its colorful market and traditional ceremonies. I was amazed by the diversity of local products sold in the market, as well as the dances and religious ceremonies I witnessed.

Overall, my trip to Guatemala was an incredible adventure. I discovered a rich and diverse culture, as well as breathtaking natural landscapes. I highly recommend visiting Guatemala for anyone looking for a unique and memorable experience.

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