Just Back From… Belize and Guatemala With Rafe Stone-
Our Real Latin America Expert
What country/countries did you visit?
Belize and Guatemala
How did you get there?
At the time Aeromexico via Mexico City although this flight has now stopped so we are looking at alternatives.
Where did you go?
I went to Belize first then Guatemala.
Have you been before?
The destinations I visited were a little off-the-beaten track so I visited many new inspiring destinations. I returned to Hopkins in Belize after 20 years and revisited Antigua as it’s a major hub and beautiful colonial city. I spent some time around lake Atitlan at the end of my May trip where I’d also been before.
If so…any notable differences?
Antigua is busier but in a good way. I did feel that for a period of time Guatemala had a lot of historical and traditional charm, but hadn’t embraced modern culture. It’s now evident that Guatemala for the traditionalists and Guatemala for the younger crowd, have their roots in the same ground and are very compatible.
A classic example of this can be witnessed at the town of Santa Catalina Palopo where a charity has been set up to brighten up the town and attract tourists by painting the houses in contemporary, bright designs adapted from traditional Guatemalan weavings.
Which was your favourite…
Place: The remote hills of the Guatemalan Highlands- so remote they remain nameless but looking out at interrupted volcano views of Agua, Fuego and Aconcagua was breathtaking.
Hotel: The Good Hotel – Antigua. It's a non-profit making hotel which is bright and cheery in a prime location in Antigua.
Excursion: San Juan de La Laguna – an amazing bunch of local ladies who have set up a number of well-run community projects in a beautiful lakeside setting away from busier places on Lake Atitlan.
What was your most memorable moment?
Snorkelling on a patch reef in Glovers Reef Atoll Belize. The coral was astoundingly colourful, with many fish, the occasional stingray and shoals of barracuda. All in all, nothing short of magical!
What tips do you have for travellers wanting to visit the same destinations?
I would definitely get active for a good few months before doing a trip like this. No need to go crazy but a couple of long walks per week and maybe have a go at stand up paddle boarding or kayaking beforehand.
I always take binoculars as mornings are beautiful both in the reef and rainforest and you never know what you’ll see. I saw some manatee unexpectedly on my first morning!
Is there anything indispensable to pack or prepare for?
A remote charger if you’re using your phone as a camera where there’s no electricity!
Sum up your trip in a sentence?
A naturally active way to visit, what must surely be some of the world’s most amazing natural highlights.
Provide an expert comment:
It’s tempting to try and fit in as much as possible in a country like Chile, but for a two-week holiday I’d recommend choosing three, maybe four areas and spending a little longer in each and giving yourself time to explore properly. Particularly Torres del Paine, which is so remote that it could take you the best part of a day to get to your hotel if you’re staying in the National Park!
There are many different ways to see Belize and Guatemala but the basic highlights are reef, rainforest and mountains. To be able to spent ample time in all three land/seascapes was a spectacular experience . Staying in posh tents or glamping, served to enhance the experience by keeping me even closer to my natural surroundings.