Can I hike without a guide? Itinerary suggestions?
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Oct 14, 2012 12:25 PM Last Post By: un_australian
Oct 6, 2012 7:42 AM
Can I hike without a guide? Itinerary suggestions?I have spent some time reading the posts about safety etc. but I have a few questions. My husband and I like independent travel. We plan to rent a car for a 10 day trip to see some of the scenic highlights. Itinerary not planned yet...very preliminary planning stage. We will probably pick 3 areas to spend a few days. We are most interested in beautiful scenery, bird watching, moderate half day hikes, swimming around waterfalls etc, natural hot springs, ruins...no cities...higher end accommodations. Any recommendations for areas that would fit the bill? Are we able to hike without a guide on some moderate trails in the national parks? I realize some hikes in caves etc would require a guide but as a rule we like to hike independently. I realize this would require talking to locals about which areas are safe. Are there hikes where guides are mandatory? Thanks in advance!
Oct 6, 2012 8:42 AM
1Hello there. Well, 10 days doesn't give you a whole lot of time to explore the country. But on the other hand having your own wheeles makes it easier to move around as you woulnd't have to waste time waiting for buses. Most of the hotels in the country have overnight secure parking.
So, this is the way I'd do it: (something like this):
Day 1: Drive from Guatemala City (GC) to Rio Dulce http://www.mapasdeguatemala.com/index.php/nuestros-mapas/izabal
(About a four hour drive on a good paved road). Stay a Bruno's Hotel in the town of Rio Dulce/Fronteras and explore and enjoy the Rio Dulce area. (Hot water falls and all that good stuff) Good hotel with very reasonable rates http://brunosriodulce.com/
An option would be Hotelito Perdido in the jungle by the water. http://www.hotelitoperdido.com/main.php?res=1024x768
But then you would have to find a place to secure the car. There are a lot good hotels. Tortugal it's supposed to be another good one.
Day 3: Drive to Flores/Tikal (about a 3 hour drive on a good paved road).
Day 5: Drive to Coban via Sayaxche. (Long all day drive on a good/safe road)
Day 6:Coban to GC and GC to lake Atitlan. (About an eight hour drive on a good road)
Day 7: Explore the lake
8: Evening departure for Antigua (2 hour drive)
Day 9: Depart for GC in the evening
Day10: Return flight
Someone could say this is probably too much to squeeze in ten 10 days. But you're forgetting that you can enjoy exploring the country driving around with your own wheels more than someone crammed on a bus trying to do it in 10 days. Driving at night is not recommended because of road hazards and lack of warning signs.
Oct 6, 2012 9:52 AM
Oct 6, 2012 10:01 AM
3As for hiking,you prob.should have a guide,or at least get an idea from the locals as to how safe it is to hike in a certain area.Guides aren't very expensive at all and there's the added advantage that they know exactly where to go.Guatemala is an awesome country,but it pays to be cautious and follow common sense.Paz, BuscoCaminos
Oct 6, 2012 10:14 AM
4hello, from your interests I think you would enjoy the area around Coban, which is in the cloud forest. There are some nice places to stay, like this one: http://www.m-y-c.com.ar/ramtzul/bienvenidos.htm which is on a nature reserve and has trails, waterfalls, birdwatching, etc right on the preoperty. Also nearby is the Biotopo del Quetzal, where you might see a quetzal, and also has some nice shortish walks you can do on your own.
The best hot springs that I have found are Fuentes Georginas, near Xela and Finca Paraiso, near Rio Dulce. Ten days isn't much, and there is alot to see - you could easily spend 10 days just on the "must-see's" - Antigua, Tikal and Lago de Atitlan, depending on how fast you move around.
Oct 6, 2012 11:08 AM
5Thanks for the responses. I know guides are cheap but I can't help feeling rushed when we have had one. We like to just take our time, frequent stops, eat lunch and enjoy the scenery. I know we have to be very careful. Unless it is considered a "must see" hike that requires a guide I would rather not. I am assuming that Pacaya Volcano requires a guide. Is this so? I have always wanted to see a lava flow. As much as I love ruins, I am thinking of skipping Tikal because of the short stay and would rather focus on natural wonders.
Oct 6, 2012 11:33 AM
6Getting up Pacaya without a guide is possible - just follow the guided crowds. However it is assummed you will take a guide otherwise you are doing someone out of a living and I think they will make life difficult for you - don't be surprised if you have flat tyre (english spelling) on your return!
Oct 6, 2012 11:59 AM
7That would be unfortunate! That is why I am asking questions about whether hiking alone is possible or not. If I can't enjoy the sites on my own (after getting the appropriate advise from a local) I would rather go someplace else. For the record, for a hike at the volcano I would probably use a guide. I am not trying to deny anyone from making an income but I just don't enjoy having a guide with me. Also if the security situation is such that it would not be safe without a guide than I might want to go someplace else as well. I have traveled independently in both Costa Rica and Belize without problems. I love Central America and I would love to see Guatamala but I can't afford to get a "flat tire" at every National Park where I choose to hike on my own:)
Oct 6, 2012 2:11 PM
8My husband and I are avid hikers and backpackers in the beautiful Pacific NW where we live, always unguided, but I have learned over many visits to love having guides for my hikes in Guatemala. In addition to being inexpensive and contributing to the local economy, a good guide knows the layout and location of off the beaten track sites, often makes the hike safer, and we see so much more of cultural and natural interest including birds, bugs, and other wildlife when we have a guide with us. The guides I've used for my last 6 or 8 visits to Guatemala have been very accommodating so I've never felt rushed or uncomfortable. Meeting locals is high on my priority list and - most important of all - this is a wonderful opportunity for that. If you're not interested in meeting locals and getting off the beaten track, then maybe you're right that Guatemala might not be a good fit for you.
For what it's worth, last I heard you couldn't see lava flow on the Pacaya hike, not since the last eruption. Have a great trip, wherever you end up!
Oct 6, 2012 5:07 PM
Oct 6, 2012 5:19 PM
10I actually do like to off the beaten path. I think Guatamala will give me what I am looking for. Obviously some hikes would be difficult to find, not well marked etc. And a guide would be necessary. Other hikes are easy to find and follow that I would prefer to hike alone. I'll never forget the Rio Celeste hike in Costa Rica. Forum posters insisted you needed a guide, difficult to follow trail...it was incredibly well marked and easy to follow! A guide was completely unnecessary. I'm glad I did it on my own. Most people prefer to have someone with them. I just want to enjoy the beauty of an area. I don't always want information given to me. If you traveled to Guatamala 7 or 8 times it must be a beautiful country. Thanks for the heads up about the lack of lava. I think I will continue to research and plan my itinerary.
Oct 14, 2012 10:04 AM
11I have done several hikes in Guatemala ...... and used a guide for each one, whereas in other countries I have not.
Some of the trails where easy to follow ..... and from that point of view, you would not have a problem. However, whether its true or not, hiking in Guatemala on your own has a higher risk for robbery, and this was my main concern for a few of the hikes.
If you hire a guide for yourself (ie not in a group) ... then I do not see why the guide would not go at your pace .... at least that was my experience.
As noted above ........ you cannot see any lava flow at Pacaya now (the main reason this is one hike that I have not done).
But Guat is a beautiful place to visit. Have a great time.
Oct 14, 2012 10:52 AM
12I did quite a few hikes unguided in Guatemala and I believe it is possible and safe. I did a five day walk to El Mirador in Peten and a couple overnight hikes to the volcanoes (Santa Maria and Tajamulco) around Quetzeltenango. People will tell you it is unsafe and that you will get lost and it is possible I was just lucky but it didn't feel unsafe to me. There were other people and groups around.
I agree with OP - guides just make me feel uncomfortable. It's a matter of pace and 'interest'. I don't care for chatty guides that tell me all the stuff that they believe tourists want to hear. I've always spotted more wildlife on my own.
Oct 14, 2012 11:26 AM
13You'll never know what more you might have seen with a talented local guide. That said, not all guides are talented or even personable and I get it that we all have different priorities. Anna, I remember reading about your rabid fox bite; I hope you recovered fully and have had more enjoyable, less eventful hikes since then.
Oct 14, 2012 12:25 PM
14I'm sure a local guide who is personally interested in wildlife could be good. But the times I have been around guides they have generally seemed both clueless and uninterested in birds and beasts and more prone to spout quirky nonsense.
The fox bite (on the El Mirador hike) was a pretty unlikely occurance, whether I was guided or unguided.
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