While the Big Three’ – Antigua, Lake Atitlan & Tikal – are visited by pretty much everyone who travels to Guatemala on holiday, there is plenty to see and do in-between and some wonderful drives.
This feature is meant as no more than a brief overview of the overland route from Flores to Guatemala City, the long way round, ie taking in the Nebaj Triangle and Quetzaltenango. It is also geared to visitors who have their own car and driver.
Departing from Flores, it’s an easy, largely flat drive of 80 minutes or so to the small town of Sayaxche, the crossing point (still by ferry) of the Pasion River. For those with an interest in Mayan history, Sayaxche is the jumping off point for river trips to the ancient Mayan sites at Ceibal & Aguateca. Ceibal is approximately 45 minutes east by boat while Aguateca is just over an hour to the south west.
From Sayaxche it’s a further, very scenic 2-hour drive to the Candelaria Caves (and pleasant accommodation at Bistrot Frances) so all just about do-able in a day if you leave Flores early enough. For those wanting to travel at a more relaxed pace, there is accommodation close to Aguateca at Chiminos Island Lodge.
From the Candelaria Caves, it’s an enjoyable and scenic drive of approximately 5 hours to Coban, the largest town in Alta Verapaz and a popular base for exploring the region’s numerous natural attractions. By far the most popular of these are the twin attractions of the Lanquin Caves and Semuc Champey. From Coban to Lanquin takes approximately 2 hours with Semuc Champey another hour (and the last half of those total of 3 hours is on rough, unmade roads).
There is pleasant accommodation at both Lanquin and Semuc Champey, so many visitors opt to hang about for a night or two. However, it’s worth noting that the onward journey from Coban is a long one. The other option therefore is to drive from Candelaria straight to Lanquin or Semuc Champey (up to 8 hours though!), flop out for a minimum 2 days, and then head to Coban for a night or two.
In our next feature, we look at the onward journey from Coban to Acul……