19-days in Guatemala and Costa Rica

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
Various hotels

Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Tuesday, February 7, 2006

I signed up for this tour, because I wanted to see the Mayan ruins of Guatemala, and visit Costa Rica based on the many recommendations by fellow travelers who raved about this country. I was not disappointed.

The group on this trip was undoubtedly the best group I have ever traveled with.   Everybody was congenial, on time, and just plain fun to be with.  Although our group picture was taken on the last day of our journey in San Jose, Costa Rica, I have opted to make it the first picture of this travelogue.

 The black lady standing next to me was our Tour Director, Karla Taylor, in Costa Rica.    
 


GUATEMALA CITY:
The people on this tour arrived at different times of the day, but most of us ended up at the same restaurant a few blocks from the hotel for dinner. On the following morning, we were treated to a quick tour of Guatemala City, then coached our way to Antigua where we spent three nights to enjoy this town with colonial structures that survived an enormous earthquake in 1773. The following morning after breakfast, we headed towards Lake Atitlan located 5,000 feet above sea level in the Western HIghlands created by a gigantic volcano explosion some 85,000 years ago. Our exploration included visits to several small villages along the shoreline as well as a boat tour that allows one to see exceptional vistas of water, sky and volcanoes.
 
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ANTIGUA:


   
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Lower-left picture:
LL: Guatemala City restaurant, LR: Lake Atitlan Others: Sites around Antigua
 
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Antigua has an Old World charm that looks more beautiful because of the age of their baroque style architecture, and its small size that allows walking its streets easy and accessible. We were provided with plenty of free time to explore this "village" with their many beautiful architecture and central plaza.


FLORES and YAXHA:

We had an early wakeup call the following morning, and flew to the charming, peaceful town Flores founded in 1700 which remained the island capital of the northeastern region, and remained the last outpost of the Maya long after Tikal and other cities were abandoned to the elements. Our first visit to the archaeological dig was Yaxha (which means "Green Water"), and is seldom visited. Yaxha was a bustling Mayan tradee and ceremonial hub located about 20 miles from Tikal.
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TIKAL:




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Tikal has the reputation of being "the most remarkable of classic Mayan cities."  Their magnificent civilization reigned from about 300 to 900 AD.   The towering structures that rise above the leafy canopy are impressive and daunting; their steep, wide, steps - sometimes reaching up to 150 feet.  Most of these structures were temples, and the homes for the majority of Mayans were small hay structures.

Tikal National Park complex comprise of about six square miles with about 3,000 structures including temples, pyramids, tombs, palaces, ball courts and terraces.  The Maya had a complex cultural caste system that relied heavily on deity worship.  They were a violent sect who oftentimes sacrificed an entire losing sports team in the name of "sport."

Tikal was once home to an estimated 100,000 at its peak about 1,500 years ago.  

 
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COSTA RICA:



Our tour through Costa Rica started and ended in San Jose, the capital. 





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Our itinerary in Costa Rica started on our arrival in San Jose on February 14 when we flew from Flores to Guatemala City to San Jose.  We stayed only one night before we headed up north to the Sarapiquis Region after a quick city tour in San Jose.  We enjoyed river rafting in Rio Sara piqui, visited the La Tirimbina Biological Reserve, then overland to Chachagua.  This is where we enjoyed visiting a local school, meeting the children and teachers, and the children performing some dances for us.  We explored La Fortuna, then checked into a hotel with a good view of Arenal Mountain spewing some smoke from the top.  We enjoyed a boat ride on Rio Frio to explore Cano Negro, then proceeded to Cordillera del Guanascaste to enjoy the horseback ride and spa where we packed ourselves full of mud, and enjoyed the jacuzzi pool.

On the following day, we coached down to Puntaranas with a cruise on a yacht to Punta Coral private reserve where we spent a relaxing day.  We traveled down to Rio Tarcoles where we enjoyed a stay at a resort hotel with beautiful gardens.  On February 25, we transferred back to San Jose in the morning, and were provided the afternoon to tour on our own and repack our luggage to prepare for our trip home in the early morning.

We enjoyed a Farewell Dinner at a hillside restaurant in the American Sector of San Jose, and was at home after 12-hours of travel time the following day. 

One of many fun activities during this journey:






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