Just back from… Belize and Guatemala with CharlotteCharlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert
How did you get there?
I flew with United Airlines via Houston, staying overnight there.
Whereabouts did you go?
In Belize, I enjoyed three contrasting experiences with the jungle in northern Belize at Lamanai Outpost Lodge, then flying south to Placencia on the coast and Mountain Pine Ridge near the Guatemala border. After crossing the border into Guatemala, we stayed in Petén near Tikal ruins, then flew down to stay in Lake Atitlán, and lastly stayed in Antigua.
Had you been before?
Yes, I'd been to Belize but back when I was a child, so it was amazing to experience the country as an adult. Guatemala makes a perfect addition, since the two are right beside each other.
Which was your favourite:
Place: This is really hard to choose, however, I would have to say Lamanai. It is set truly immersed in its surroundings right on a river, and there is an abundance of wildlife.
Hotel: Lamanai Outpost Lodge and Casa Palopó are a very close tie.
Lamanai Outpost Lodge is my perfect place to stay with the array of excursions on offer and the remote location. To reach the lodge, you are collected from the airport and travel by car for 1 hour before taking a 1-hour boat ride to the lodge. The boat ride took a little longer because we spotted lots of birds and reptiles along the way.
Casa Palopó has a breathtaking setting above Lake Atitlán with brightly colored walls and stunning artwork. The décor has been excellently chosen to celebrate the local culture and style. Casa Palopó supports a local non-profit Painting the Change (Pintando al Cambio), which is painting the houses of the local town, Santa Catarina Palopó, to enable social change by promoting community engagement. As well as painting houses, the non-profit supports children in the early stages of life with educational programs; has a kitchen garden project for better nutrition; and a project installing stoves into houses to reduce smoke pollution.
Excursion: I’ve explored many different archaeological sites, but I have never been anywhere like Caracol Ruin. I loved the epic drive it takes to get there on a single road, the complete lack of visitors due to the remote location and the sheer size of it (the Sky Temple is 13m taller than Chichén Itzá). There is an incredible abundance of flora and birds, howler monkeys, and other animals.
What was your most memorable moment?
When we were walking up the highest temple in Tikal, and a thunderstorm broke out, causing the heavens to open and for myself to get soaking wet. It was worth the climb as the atmospheric view from atop temple is something I will never forget.
May is the cusp of the rainy season, so you should be prepared for the possibility of rain at this time of year.
Were there any surprises along the way?
How delicious the food is in Belize, especially breakfast. They have this dish called Chilequiles which is tomatoes, cheese, pieces of tortillas mixed with scrambled eggs on tortillas with frijoles (refried beans) and sour cream on the side. The local hot sauce Marie Sharp is at every hotel and every restaurant and is a perfect add-on to any meal if you like a bit of spice!
What tips do you have for travelers wanting to visit the same destinations?
I would recommend spending a minimum of 3 nights in each place so you can have 2 full days of properly exploring the area you are staying in. For nature and bird lovers, I cannot recommend Lamanai Outpost Lodge enough. It’s an excellent place to stay with a whole array of activities on offer, delicious food, and full immersion in the jungle.
Is there anything indispensable to pack or prepare for?
Sunscreen, bug spray, and a hat. I definitely recommend bringing binoculars if you have them since the wildlife is so abundant.
Any local snacks, dishes, or drinks that should be sampled?
There's chilequiles, which I mentioned, fry jacks and local Creole dishes when you’re on the coast in Belize, and of course the seafood as it’s as fresh as it gets!
Any restaurant or bar recommendations?
Blancaneaux in Mountain Pine Ridge has this incredible dining experience with a tour of their nearby organic garden. You taste three different cocktails made from local ingredients (a lemongrass mojito was my favorite), followed by a family-style meal with other guests and the most incredible vegetarian food.
Also, Belize’s national beer, Belikin, is delicious and very refreshing.
Sum up your trip in a sentence?
An amazing contrast of nature and culture with lovely people and fascinating history.
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