If you are anything like me, instead of spending the past few months searching for graduate jobs, you have been planning your post-graduation travels. When the struggle of final year is over you will finally be free to have a break, forget everything and do the travelling you have been dreaming about all year.
With so many amazing places to go, the thought of planning a trip can be stressful. So I’m sharing my travel plans with you – go ahead and steal them!
As part of a longer trip to Central America (popular is the Mexico to Panama route) a great place to stop off is Guatemala, a country with so much to offer. Increasingly popular with travellers, Guatemala is full of cities with rich history, indigenous culture, jungles, lakes and volcanoes. Best of all, it’s cheap. This means you’ll be able to stay the recommended 3-4 weeks or so for only approx. £1000 – pretty good for a month travelling.
Antigua is the highlight for most travellers. A big city, here you can do pretty much anything. For those wanting to add something to the CV while travelling, there are Spanish language courses. Or if that isn’t to your taste, chocolate making courses. It is also a big party place, particularly at weekends, so factor this into your travel plans.
The famous thing to do in Antigua is to climb the Acatenango volcano. An overnight trip, its considered pretty tough but totally worth it as you can see the sunrise from the top of the volcano, and if you’re lucky, some lava!
To relax after all that activity, there is a beautiful viewpoint over the city with the surrounding mountains.
Make sure you book into the Three Monkeys Hostel. Described as feeling like a “home away from home”, this is the perfect hostel for the first stop of the trip.
A pure paradise, described by Lonely Planet as “volcano-framed shimmering waters”, Lake Atitlán is surrounded by villages which you can travel to by boat.
The two main places to stay are either San Pedro or San Marcos. San Pedro is considered more of a party area, and San Marcos more relaxed – so take your pick. The main thing to do here is just chill by the lake or in cafés and bars; it is also possible to trek up the surrounding mountains where a guide will show you the sunrise over the lake.
Sounds magical doesn’t it? It is well known that people spend more time here than they intended to.
Another must-see natural beauty is Semuc Champey. It is made up of limestone pools and a river surrounded by jungle. This is the perfect place for active people as it is a great freshwater swimming spot, with underwater cave explorations, tubing and a viewpoint to trek up to take in the stunning pools below. After, you can relax in the pools to cool off.
It is possible to get a shuttle bus here from nearly anywhere in the country but the easiest thing to do is stay in the town of Lanquín. Hostels should be booked in advance, but this can easily be done online.
Tikal is perhaps the best-known spot in Guatemala. A World Heritage Site, Tikal is a breath-taking ancient archaeological site in the middle of the jungle. It was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms in Mayan history before it was abandoned in the 10th century.
The site is made up of lots of smaller temples and a main temple which you can climb to take in the view of the jungle. Sunrise is the best time to go, when you can experience the jungle and its wild howler monkeys waking up around you. It also means you’ll have more time to view the site while missing the inevitable hordes of tourists.
The only way to see Tikal is to stay in the nearby towns of either Flores, which is more popular with travellers, or Santa Elena.
If you’re interested in seeing a traditional Guatemalan market then this is the place to go. Taking place on Thursdays and Sundays, it is a true Mayan cultural experience. Selling mainly handicrafts and food, it is popular with tourists and locals alike. As it is relatively out of the way, it is best to visit on a day trip from Lake Atitlán.
So as you can see, Guatemala is definitely worth a visit. And as the local ‘chicken buses’ make it so cheap and easy to travel around, there really is no reason to say no!
So, what are you waiting for? Book those flights!
– Florence Copson