Category Archives : Guatemala

A country of northern Central America. The site of a Mayan civilization dating back to 1500 b.c., the area was conquered by Spain in 1524. After independence was achieved (1821), Guatemala joined in a federation of Central American states (1825-1838) before becoming a separate republic in 1839. Guatemala is the capital and the largest city. Population: 12,700,000. 2. also Guatemala City The capital and largest city of Guatemala, in the south-central part of the country. Founded on its present site in 1776, it was rebuilt after major earthquakes in 1917 and 1918. Population: 942,000.


Lake Atitlan Guatemala – Stranded in the heart of Guatemala City

Lake Atitlan Guatemala – Stranded in the heart of Guatemala City.  This is a copy of a Lake Atitlan Guatemala story. This is a great human interest story written by Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott are the husband-and-wife storytelling and photography team behind Uncornered Market. They travel deep and off-beat, aiming to connect the world through people, food and adventure.  The story shares how their fear of the unknown (and the dangerous reputation of Guatemala City) transformed into an experience of good will and friendship.  People the had never met went out of their way to take care of them, abide by (and help us exercise and improve) our suffering Spanish language skills, make sure they were fed and safe, and offer a sincere open invitation to return.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

The other day we broke down in Guatemala City — in front of a piñata factory no less.
A Pinata for Every Occasion
I helped push the stalled PT Cruiser whose motor had knocked, pinged and spoken of better days. Back then forward, we rolled the car out of traffic and into a parking lot.

Guatemala City is notorious for guns, violence, drugs, blighted neighborhoods and danger lurking around every corner. And there we were in a sketchy little parking lot in the middle of the city at dusk.

But in a stroke of bizarre fortune, we had come to a stop on a corner clustered with piñata shops. Our anxiety eased immediately; we couldn’t help but laugh. Whatever our concerns, we were surrounded by a veritable army of piñatas. All their goofy grins and silly outfits — from Super Mario to Mickey Mouse to a giant can of Gallo beer for the adultos – served as the backdrop of our introduction to Guatemala’s capital.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Indeed Guatemala City has its dangerous side, but it has its joyful side, too.

So we cracked out the camera, snapped some photos in the waning light and ventured inside for a closer look at the production side of things. Under a harsh fluorescent light, a young man – the piñatero – was slicing thousands of little paper hairs on a plump, anthropomorphic chicken-hippo fitted with Mary Jane sandals.
Getting Ready for the Party

She would fit right in with her dazzling companions dangling outside.

Piñatas are an under-appreciated art. They come to life in multiple stages: first the wire frame is twisted (think mega-long clothing hanger), then the hard paper wrap is molded to make sure the shell is not easily broken, and finally the outfit (or vestido) is attached. As the piñatero explained, each stage takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete. That these craftsmen crank out their art at high-speed makes their results that much more impressive.

After our conversation, the car came to and we headed to what would become our adopted home in Guatemala City.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

So how did we end up here again?
We were the beneficiaries of chain-linked kindness. Audrey’s friend (whom she’d met in the Peace Corps in Estonia) put us in touch with Vicky, a Guatemalan woman he’d met at a conference earlier this year. After a few email exchanges, Vicky insisted we stay with her family and take her bed as she would be out of town. After a few intervening text messages and phone calls with her mother, we were picked up at the bus stop upon our arrival from Antigua and carried away in Vicky’s PT Cruiser.
Our Adopted Family in Guatemala City

In addition to taking care of our every concern – transport well across town each morning, afternoon follow-ups to make certain we would arrive home safely, and copious amounts of home-cooked food – they made us feel like part of the family. Virginia, the mom, gave us hugs and kisses each morning and night. Father and son – Adolfo and Adolfo – made sure we were fully engaged with their good humor; we responded in our broken Spanish.

At the end of each day, it felt as if we had returned home.

So What? Lake Atitlan Guatemala


This whole situation got me thinking how beautifully bizarre and pleasantly surprising life can be.

The car breaks down – which on the surface is a bad thing, particularly in a dangerous city. But we break down at a piñata factory, an ironic set of circumstances if there ever was one.

Furthermore, people we had never met go out of their way to take care of us, abide by (and help us exercise and improve) our suffering Spanish language skills, make sure we are fed and safe, and offer a sincere open invitation to return.

Yes, we continue to hear about daily crime and murder rates in Guatemala City. Guatemalans possess a knack for sharing the gory details of the latest murder from the morning paper.

But from now on, when we hear “Guatemala City” we’ll think of the piñata factory and the Guatemalan family who took us there.

You can visit many fun and relatively safe places in Guatemala City, and maybe you too will make new friends who appreciate that you risked getting off the tourist path.  Guatemala City is a 3 hour drive from Lake Atitlan Guatemala.
New Friends

 

Los Elementos Adventure Center provides the local logistical services for our tours.

Having staff in-country allows our customers the freedom to request services such as tours, transportation, guides, hotels, etc., on an a la carte basis; whether in-country or before you start your vacation.

Our team will serve you from beginning to end, providing expert pre-vacation planning advice and booking all travel services for you. Once in the country, our team will serve your every need, so you can relax and truly enjoy every minute of your carefree vacation in paradise.

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Lake Atitlan Guatemala – Birds Eye View of Tikal

I absolutely love this website.  It allows you to “fly over” many interesting historical sites around the world. Check out the views of Tikal.  http://www.airpano.ru/files/Tikal-Guatemala/2-2

Maya Temple, Tikal, Guatemala

Maya Temple, Tikal, Guatemala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stand in the middle of the Grand Plaza between Temple I and Temple II at Tikal, Guatemala and imagine what life must have been like in this Mayan city over 1,200 years ago when Tikal was at its peak. The size of the temples and surrounding acropolis indicate that this must have been a rich and sophisticated city-state. Yet the ruins are only partially exposed and understood, as thick rain forest still covers most of the park.

And the grand mystery remains: Why was Tikal abandoned in 900 AD?

We can’t answer that question, but we can give a sense of what it’s like to sit in the middle of the Grand Plaza and wonder.

English: Tikal Mayan ruins Guatemala 2009 this...

English: Tikal Mayan ruins Guatemala 2009 this photo is photoshopped – look at the treeline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Lake Atitlan Guatemala - Advice for visiting Tikal Mayan Ruins

If you’re visiting the Tikal ruins from Guatemala, you have a couple of options.

1. Day Trip from FloresIt is possible to visit Tikal as a day trip from Flores. Most travel agents in town sell round-trip bus tickets to and from town (around $7.50 round-trip) and you hop on whenever it suits you. If you chose this route, try to get on one of the first buses in the morning; you’ll be able to enjoy the park in the early morning light before it the becomes stiflingly hot and humid.

2. Camp at the Park Entrance: There are a couple of hotels at the entrance to the National Park. However, their prices tend to be on the high side for budget travelers. We rented a tent (complete with an air mattress) from Jaguar Inn for around $25 for the night. If you wish to camp but don’t have your own equipment, there is also a campground in the area that supposedly rents camping equipment. In any case, spending the night in the park will allow you to enjoy the light and cool weather of the early morning and enter the grounds before the late-morning onslaught of the crowds and buses.

Additionally, you’ll get a full appreciation for the wildlife in the neighboring rain forest. We originally mistook the eerie nighttime sounds of the howler monkeys for growling jaguars — added a bit of “holy sh*t!” to our night, to put it mildly. You’ll also be treated to the full-blown wake-up call of a birdsong symphony in the morning.

 

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Our Adventure Center on Lake Atitlan Guatemala provides the local logistical services for our tours. Having staff in-country allows our customers the freedom to request services such as tours, transportation, guides, hotels, etc., on an a la cart basis; whether in-country or before you start your vacation.

Our team will serve you from beginning to end, providing expert pre-vacation planning advice and booking all travel services for you. Once in the country, our team will serve your every need, so you can relax and truly enjoy every minute of your carefree vacation in paradise.

Our years of experience and broad knowledge of our country let us fulfill the desires of our guests by providing them with the widest range of active adventure tourism Guatemala has to offer. Our objective is to satisfy each client by emphasizing professional service combined with those special touches of our national culture that have always been our hallmark.

We offer a great variety of trips in Guatemala, although kayaking is the most important branch of our company. Kayak Guatemala was Created to highlight Lake Atitlan Guatemala, the central highlands, and its magical landscape. The incredible scenery and vibrant Mayan culture assures the best kayaking and cultural immersion with an unmatched level of service.

Email us if you have any questions, reserve space or further information about our trips or other services in our country.

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Lake Atitlan Guatemala – Safety over Sensationalism, II

This story of relative safety for visitors and tourist is striking a cord with many a friend of Lake Atitlan Guatemala. . . and a few foes are coming out of the woodwork as well.  Enjoy a second chapter.  While this story could be considered incidental, it is a good read and adds another log on the fire to the debate.  The story is courtesy of Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott. A husband-and-wife storytelling and photography team behind Uncornered Market. They travel deep and off-beat, aiming to connect the world through people, food and adventure. Six years and 75 countries later, they are still going…and still married.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala - A Road Trip, Some Banditos, and a Dose of Fear

There we were at the dock in San Pedro bargaining for a boat to Santiago. The price seemed prohibitively high for a whimsical afternoon side trip on Lake Atitlan Guatemala. Natasha, another traveler hoping to take the same boat, also questioned the price.

“You know, I have a car here. We could drive. You can just give me some gas money.”
Struggling Up the Hill
Sounded like a reasonable alternative.

Just as we turned to leave, the boat ticket salesman’s voice rose, “Carretera. Banditos. Peligroso.” (Highway. Bandits. Dangerous.) In other words: the highway is unsafe, so my boat is your only option. Assuming his opinion was a thinly veiled attempt to profit from fear, we dismissed it.

More Talk of Banditos
On the way out of town, we asked for directions. “Up there, right then left. But it’s dangerous. And there are bandits,” one taxi driver offered, without skipping a beat.

“Just up this hill and then a left. But are you sure you want to drive there? It’s notorious for bandits,” another man added in perfect English just a few blocks later.

We looked at one another, taking stock of our situation. Natasha attempted to reassure us, “I checked at my hostel. They said the road is in good condition. Otherwise I wouldn’t risk it.”

“So if there’s a bandito in the road, what would you do? Run him over?” Dan asked as he practiced his ducking skills.

“I guess so,” Natasha offered with an anxious laugh. “But, I can’t guarantee anything. So if you want to get out I completely understand.”

Dan and I sat there looking at each other, not quite sure what to do. We considered the odds. When was the last time anyone actually saw a bandito on this road?

Although personal safety was our primary concern, our photo equipment came a close second. Natasha too, for she’s a photojournalist. The compromise we negotiated with ourselves: hide our camera equipment in the trunk under blankets and bags.

Certainly no bandito would look there, now would he?

We Hit the Road
Initially, the road was superb – one of the Guatemala’s newest and smoothest. Our anxiety receded. Who could ever stop us here? We were virtually bandito-proof. But secretly we stole looks into the jungle and to the tops of hillsides for masked men.

Thirty minutes later, the highway crumbled into a hilly moonscape. We slowed and bounced to a crawl amidst huge clouds of dust. We couldn’t outrun anyone here. Roads like this dropped mufflers. Broke axles, too. I peered into the brush and coffee bushes each time we slowed, looking to see if anyone was approaching. I locked my door, rolled my window up.
Protection from the Sun
Whenever a person appeared by the side of the road, I wondered suspiciously, “Now what’s he doing there?” Invariably, it was just a local carrying bags of coffee berries or a farmer returning from the fields. I wallowed in sheepishness because of my paranoia.

At the edge of one village, we pulled up to chat with and photograph some workers shoveling coffee berries into burlap sacks. Even the most innocent of scenes – men working, children playing, mothers cooking – couldn’t prevent a glance or two into the bushes to ensure the banditos weren’t coming our way.
Taking a Break
The Road Hits Back
After enjoying Santiago, we piled back into the car. The return journey would be doubly difficult, for all those dusty moonscapes now pitched uphill.

At the first broken patch of road, Natasha drove like a champ – bobbing, weaving, and creating traction where there should have been none. But when the drive wheel finally began to spin freely, I could feel the tension rise in the car.

We kept the conversation going, chatting about the photojournalism projects Natasha might enjoy in places like Georgia (Republic of) and Xinjiang, China.

She deftly navigated the uphill, boulder-strewn dustbowl. Upon clearing it, she remarked, “I’m sweating. Thanks for continuing to talk to me through that ordeal – it helped take my mind off the situation.”

Silence is to fear what gasoline is to fire.

Fifteen minutes later we hit the hill. It was deeply rutted and covered in fine dust and stones. Natasha spun the wheel this way and that, making her way with wide turns. But halfway up, we were defeated. The drive wheel cried as it spun against a boulder. The cloud of dust was punctuated by the distinct scent of roasted clutch.

Natasha backed up to take another rutted approach.

We were going nowhere.

No more than 30 seconds later, a pickup truck full of passengers rode over the crest of the hill. They stopped, realizing our predicament. A group of locals and tourists (dressed in life vests, oddly enough) hopped off. One guy took the driver’s seat of Natasha’s car. The others– together with Dan – pushed the car up and over the hill.

“It’s a minor miracle that you guys showed up when you did,” I suggested to one of the tourists in a life vest.

He laughed, “If our boat hadn’t broken down on the lake, we wouldn’t be here.”

One man’s misfortune is another man’s savior.

The remainder of the journey was pleasantly uneventful, but we breathed a sigh of relief upon arriving in San Pedro anyhow.

Travel Fear on Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Reflecting on the day’s emotions, I realized that travel fear is relatively new to us. Aside from a rifle being aimed at us by Tajik army guys at the Afghan border and almost getting crushed at the Uzbek-Kazakh border, our travels throughout Asia were relatively – and fortunately – free from fear.

The risk of violence is higher in Guatemala. And the perception of that risk is higher still. Melodramatic local media plaster dead bodies on page one of the morning newspaper. And breakfast talk with locals, full of the latest bus jackings, kidnappings, and murders doesn’t inspire much confidence either. Those conversations offer unsettling parallels with the infamously dire travel warnings issued by the local U.S. Embassy and The State Department.

All of this is difficult to reconcile with the fact that our interactions with Guatemalans have generally been warm and welcoming. So instead of accepting the first dire warning, we consider data from all sources. After all, we didn’t travel to Guatemala (and Latin America) to sit in our hotel room and on tour buses. But we also don’t want to tempt fate.

So are there really banditos on the road from San Pedro to Santiago? Or is this just a well-circulated local legend now taken as truth?

We may never know.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Our experienced team looks forward to sharing their country and Guatemalan adventures with the goal of providing a genuine immersion to Guatemalan culture.

Lee & Elaine Beal are life-long adventure travelers always looking for the path less taken. In 2005, they settled on the shores of Lake Atitlan Guatemala and fell in love with the lake and its people.

They have years of experience as adventurers; rafting, hiking, biking, rock climbing, camping, and team building in the Rocky Mountains of the US.

Samuel Botan Sen is a Lake Atitlan Guatemala native of Santiago Atitlan and is our expert in all things local. Samuel can arrange for a home-stay if you would like to spend an evening with a local family.

Alex Vicente is a Guatemalan native of Quetzaltenango and is from the Mam Mayan tribe.  Alex is a our family specialist because of his special magic of working with children.  Alex will make every family vacation more enjoyable and will make the children remember Guatemala for his friendship.

Anita Cortez is a Guatemalan native of San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlan Guatemala.  She speaks Spanish, Kachiquel, Tzutujul, and excellent English and provides administrative assistance.  She also is a great Spanish language teacher if you wish to brush up on your Spanish skills while visiting us.  Anita is from a family of weavers in the traditional style and technic.  If you are interested in having a woman guide, Los Elementos is one of the few places you can find a woman guide.

Our team will serve you from beginning to end, providing expert pre-vacation planning advice

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Lake Atitlan Guatemala – Safety Over Sensationalism Repost

Guatemala, one of the world’s great travel destinations, is often singled out for violent crime without telling the whole story. While there is sporadic violence along parts of the country,  Key tourism areas of Antigua, Rio Dulce, Tikal and Lake Atitlan Guatemala are not only safe, but safer than many other popular tourism areas.

While the media often portrays Guatemala as the most dangerous place on earth, it is statistically quite safe. According to NationMaster.com which uses U.N.-based data, Guatemala doesn’t even make the list of the 36 nations with the highest murder rates. Mild-mannered nations like Sweden and Switzerland top Guatemala for murders on NationMaster.com. The assault rate in the U.S. is nearly 5 times greater than that of Guatemala in the independent Prominix report adjusted for under-reported crime.

Even when we add on independent estimates for unreported homicides, Guatemala ranks behind many popular vacation destinations. Places we think of as idyllic Caribbean retreats have double, triple, even quadruple the murder rates of Guatemala. Guatemala ‘s famous vacation areas are even safer than the averaged statistics, and even safer still for tourists.

violentcrimestats

Guatemala is as safe as rural U.S. states.

The magnificent volcanoes, beautiful Lake Aittlan, colonial Antigua, and ancient Mayan ruins are among the safest and most spectacular in the world. Guatemala’s homicide rate is slightly lower than the rural U.S. States of Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Maine.

Guatemala is safer than many cities in the U.S.

More than 15,000 Americans safely visit Guatemala every day. And while the media sensationalizes stories of violence in Guatemala, Guatemala is safer than many major U.S. cities. Travelers feel relatively safe visiting popular U.S. cities like Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington D.C, or Atlanta. Visitors from around the world enjoy these vibrant cities in relative, reasonable safety. Yet each of these cities is statistically less safe than Guatemala.

Guatemala and politically charged Media Bias

In the debate on immigration reform in the US, the facts on safety in Guatemala have become a casualty of politics. To change public opinion and policy, politicians sometimes throw fuel on the fire.

Media Favoritism versus Facts

New Orleans is beloved and its renaissance is showcased in the news. The FBI reports the murder rate of New Orleans is declining, but it is nearly 4 times higher than all of Guatemala and over 5 times higher than Guatemala City. New Orleans is still an amazing place to visit and the Media is right to champion this inspirational city. But Guatemala is at least as remarkable and there is a clear difference in how each of these storied destinations is portrayed in contemporary news. Every city and country has places that are safe and dangerous. Guatemala is no exception. The areas that are dangerous should be avoided. And those that are safe should be enjoyed and celebrated.

Guatemala City is as safe as Washington D.C.

The U.S. State Department in Washington issues warnings about Guatemala, yet Washington D.C. is as deadly as Guatemala City. Washington’s murder rate has been cut almost in half in the last 10 years, but it still averages 24 per 100,000 vs. 36 per 100,000 in Guatemala City. How do you suppose the U.S. State department would feel if the Guatemalan government posted travel warnings for the U.S. capital?

Guatemala has very low violent crime rates.

The U.S. Assault rate is 5 times higher than Guatemala ‘s. Guatemala ‘s violent crime rates for Assault, Kidnapping and Rape are substantially lower than Canada’s and yet the U.S. State Department issues no such warnings for Canada. The rate for Rape in the U.S. is more than double the rate in Guatemala. The numbers have been adjusted for unreported crime from the respected 2012 Prominix report and are the most accurate statistics available on this subject.

Unless you are involved in the drug trade, you are statistically as safe in Guatemala as anywhere else in North America. Even though the U.S. murder rate of 4 per 100,000 is lower than Guatemala ‘s, tourists and visitors are statistically safer in Guatemala and much less likely to be a victim of violent crime than in the U.S., Canada and many other countries regarded as safe.

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Simple Truth About Life

SIMPLE TRUTH #1
Lovers help each other undress before sex.
However after sex, they always dress on their own.
Moral of the story: In life, no one helps you once you’re screwed.

SIMPLE TRUTH # 2
When a lady is pregnant, all her friends touch her stomach and say, “Congratulations.”
But, none of them touch the man’s penis and say, “Good job.”
Moral of the story: Hard work is never appreciated.

FIVE RULES TO REMEMBER IN LIFE
1. Money cannot buy happiness, but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Corvette than on a bicycle.
2. Forgive your enemy, but remember the asshole’s name.
3. If you help someone when they’re in trouble, they will remember you when they’re in trouble again.
4. Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them.
5. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then neither does milk.

AND FINALLY
Condoms don’t guarantee safe sex. A friend of mine was wearing one, when he was shot by the woman’s husband.

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