We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Caravan tour trip report

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Topic
Caravan tour trip report

My cousin and I were in Guatemala the end of October and beginning of November on a Caravan tour. I've tried to make this report as short as I could while still retaining the flavor of the trip and telling the things I would like to have known. It was the end of the rainy season when we arrived, but it was warm. I brought a sweater and a rain jacket, wore the sweater maybe twice and never wore the jacket because it would have been too hot. When it rained, I just put up my umbrella. Throughout the week, I talked to a few people who had minor tummy problems but nothing that had anyone rushing to the bus toilet. The hotels where we stayed were great, and the food was good. For most of the meals we had buffets, and often the choices were extensive. Our tour director was Guillermo. He is smart, witty, hard working, and is able to impart his love for, and knowledge of, Guatemala. There was always bottled water on the bus, and we were able to take as much of it as we wanted. The age range in our group varied from a couple in their late 30s/early 40s to two WWII vets.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Caravan tour trip report

The start of the tour was on a Friday, but because the airline schedule called for a 9:30 at night arrival, we went a day early. I emailed the Barcelo Hotel asking how to arrange for their free shuttle and giving our arrival time and was told to look outside for the white bus with the name of the hotel and if it wasn't there, to wait a couple of minutes. When we left the airport terminal, I looked to the left, saw some white vans, and when we started walking that way, saw that one man was holding a sign that said "Barcelo Guatemala City." So it was easy.

There's a lot of security at the hotel. There are two front entrances to the hotel parking area, both closed off with iron gates with a guard at the main gate. In order to access the guest rooms, you need to insert your electronic key card in a slot on the elevator, then press your floor. We had a nice room with a balcony and a street view with the volcano range in the distance. From the balcony I could also see a McDonalds right next to the hotel, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, and a KFC.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Caravan tour trip report

The tour started on a Friday evening with dinner at the hotel, but orientation and introductions weren't until the following morning. After orientation, we toured Museo Popol Vuh, an archeological museum, and Museo Ixchel, a textile museum. I paid $2 so I could take photos at Popol Vuh, but no photos were allowed in Ixchel, which was a pity because the garments on display were beautiful.

We were back at the hotel for a lunch buffet. We enjoyed eating our meals at the Barcelo in the area near the pool. At 3 pm, we were back on the bus for a tour of the city. It was disappointing that we weren't allowed off the bus, not even for a photo stop at the main plaza where the Cathedral is. Guillermo said he didn't want any of us to have our expensive cameras stolen.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Sunday

We had our luggage outside our doors at the appointed time of 6 am and we left at 7 am for a long day on the bus. Along the way we stopped at the archeological park Quirigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is set in the middle of a banana plantation. It had rained that morning, and when we walked off the path in Quirigua to see the stelas and other monuments, the ground was soggy and slippery. Among the monuments and ruins is the tallest stela in Meso-America.

We had lunch at Ranchon Mary Restaurant near Rio Dulce. It was a lovely place on a lake, the seating area open on the sides but covered with a thatched roof, like most of the restaurants were on our tour. Some of us had ordered the catch of the day, mojarra, which was delicious although we'd been warned that it was very bony. We'd placed our food order that morning on the bus because Guillermo said they needed to know how many fish to catch.

Then back on the bus again, although the scenery and the villages along the way were interesting. It was interrupted once by a mandatory stop so soldiers could search the bus for contraband fruit, or so we were told. Whenever toilet paper wasn't available at a rest stop, Guillermo knew and gave it out in advance.

It was almost dark when we arrived at our resort, Villa Maya. The rooms are in bungalows, 4 rooms to each building, two up and two down, but even the first floor rooms (as ours was) have balconies. Our view was of a lagoon and an ecological area. There were no TVs in the rooms but they were air conditioned.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Monday

Today was our day for Tikal, the day I'd anticipated most. "In the heart of the jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization." On the bus, Guillermo gave an overview of Tikal and introduced Noah who would be our local guide in Tikal. Tikal was about an hour or so from our resort.

The walking route through Tikal was about 3 1/2 miles, and those who weren't able to walk that far were taken to the Grand Plaza by truck where they could spend some time and then be driven directly to the restaurant, which was inside Tikal. It was thrilling to be hiking through the jungle and then come across temples and other structures. Although the day we were there was relatively cool--the temps were in the 80s F--it had rained during the night and that morning and there were many unexpected slippery places. Several of our group fell but no one seemed to get hurt other than a scrape or two.

The most awesome experience I had was when I climbed Temple IV and looked out over the top of the rain forest. Amazing. I could see a couple of other temples poking up above the tree canopy. You don't climb the actual temple stones but a wooden staircase with handrails that is built on the side of it and from there you stepped onto the Temple. 192 steps up. There were platforms where a person could stop and rest.

After lunch in Tikal, we went back to the resort. I felt sorry for our driver who had to clean the bus that night since we all had very muddy shoes. My cousin and I took a short walk through the grounds and then went for a swim before dinner.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Tuesday

Another long day on the bus, made longer by a traffic tie-up from an accident. Bring a book and snacks. At least the lunch stop at Hotel Atlantico was a nice break and good food. We arrived in Antigua about 5:30.

We stayed at Porta Hotel Antigua. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the rooms are nice and there are beautiful courtyards and gardens. We were in the building with the lap pool. Another building has the restaurant and the recreation pool, but it is connected with a tunnel if you don't want to walk outside. My only complaint about the hotel is that the rooms were so dark it was hard to read. The lamps could use some higher wattage bulbs. The food was great.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Wednesday

Today was a walking tour of Antigua, a charming town with narrow, cobblestoned streets. We were accosted by Mayan vendors the minute we walked outside the hotel and they followed us for the entire walk. We saw the main plaza bordered by the palace, city hall, and the lovely cathedral, then walked to La Merced Church (another beauty), and from there to the ruins of the Las Capuchinas Convent with its 18 circular living quarters. We walked to Restaurante Las Antorchas for lunch. The rest of the afternoon was free time, and my cousin and I walked around Antigua a little more, then went back to the hotel to swim in the nice heated pool.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Thursday

We were all excited this morning to see the volcanoes without cloud cover. Our stop today was a coffee plantation. We walked through the plantation but harvest wouldn't start until December, so we didn't see production. It was an interesting visit though. We saw the museum about coffee and another that showcased Mayan music and instruments. We enjoyed a nice lunch there and then were entertained by three young Mayan musicians.

We left there shortly after 2 pm and headed for our next hotel, Hotel Atitlan on Lake Atitlan. The hotel is fabulous. It has extensive botanical gardens and we had a balcony overlooking the lake and volcanoes. We spent some time walking around the grounds before it got too dark.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Friday

We had time to stroll the grounds again before our boat trip to Santiago Atitlan. The ride across Lake Atitlan took about 50 minutes, a very smooth ride. Vendors were on the dock waiting for our arrival and immediately surged forward and attached themselves to us. The women wore beautiful embroidered blouses.

We walked up the main street, passed through a local flea market interesting in itself, then to the church of St. James the Apostle. Since Mass was in progress, Guillermo couldn't take us inside as a group, but some of us ventured up the stone stairs to peek inside. This is the church where the American priest, Stanley Rother, was murdered by militia in 1981.

I needed quetzales and Guillermo went with me to the ATM to give instructions. Without him, I would have pressed the green button after entering my password, as I do in the U.S. That would have been wrong. We had free time for shopping and enough time to stop at the cafe for a Coke. I bought pens for my grandchildren, and it was fascinating to watch the girl unwind the threads covering the pen, then rewind it, weaving in a name with one of the colors. Her hands just flew, and a number of our group crowded around to watch.

We spent our afternoon free time at the pool and the infinity hot tub. Some in our group walked to the nearby nature reserve and a couple took a cab to see the colorful cemetery.

St. Louis, MO
Level Contributor
536 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Saturday

The last full day of our tour. Once again we walked around the hotel gardens, finding a new area to see this time. We'd love to spend another day here. Another shopping trip was planned for the morning, this time in Panajachel, about 10 minutes away by bus. They had one long main street lined with vendors who were not as pushy as the ones yesterday, although we were stopped by a couple of women who said they remembered us from the boat yesterday.

On the way back to Guatemala City, we stopped for lunch at Cafe Katok. We were back at Barcelo Hotel by 3:30. Our farewell dinner was in one of the hotel's private rooms. The room was beautifully decorated, and the three-course meal was delicious. We said our goodbyes since some of our group had to leave on the 6 am shuttle in the morning.

Breakfast on Sunday was included as part of the tour, then it was our turn to take the shuttle to the airport. This was the second tour we've taken with Caravan, and most of those in our group also had previous experience with them. I wouldn't hesitate to take another tour with Caravan.

Port Richey, Florida
Level Contributor
2,546 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Caravan tour trip report

Hey thanks for sharing all that with us.