Yucatan, Oaxaca, Guatemala Advice
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Sep 4, 2012 9:58 AM Last Post By: drhoo
Jul 29, 2012 4:37 AM
Me and the girlfriend(peruvian) are arriving in Cancun on the 1st of december from sydney. We have until the 4th of January where we'll be flying out from Cancun. We're both 22, on our first trip together and on bit of a budget, so hostels and cheap hotels/villas are probably our mainstays and we're just really keen to explore the local and cultural sights, mingle with the locals, meet fellow travelers and spend plenty of time at the beach during our stay!
These are some of the places we're looking to cover in the meantime:
Cancun, Merida, Chichen Itza/Valladolid, Campeche, Palenque, Panajachel,Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Bacalar Lagoon, San Cristobal, Antigua, Flores, Lanquin and Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido.
Our main mode of transport was going to either be, booking a 1 month pass from Bamba bus and being able to visit all these locations or just use the local buses and go from there.
How would you guys recommend we should go about it, are we trying to do too much, is it logically possible to go to all these destinations and more. Any destinations worth adding/removing, which activities do you recommend in those particular cities are a 'must-do', where should we definitely book in advance and what parts of the trip are good to be flexible to improvise and even try to get some accomodation on the day.
I know it's a lot of questions bu I'm still in the early research phase so any tips and advice would definitely go a long way towards helping us figure our itinerary out and i'm happy to clarify any other information if it will help.
Thanks in advance, guys!
Jul 29, 2012 4:52 AM
Jul 29, 2012 6:23 AM
Jul 29, 2012 6:54 AM
3If I was you I would cut Guatemala and Puerto Esscondido. The rest is doable.
Jul 29, 2012 8:25 AM
4I've done more or less the same trip, and it's doable. You will encounter huge crowds at the beach around both Christmas and New Year's, so best to be hunkered down elsewhere on those days. Probably on a bus back from Oaxaca on New Year's.
I'd spend more time at Lago Atitlan, exploring the villages. You'll read our thoughts on Bamba as you search the posts here.
Jul 29, 2012 8:58 AM
5I have nothing against Oaxaca city and the Oaxaca beaches but I do think they are too much out of your way and you should drop them. One easy way to do Guatemala is to go from San Cristobal to Xela, a good base for the Maya towns around and then go down to Panajachel.
You should try to go to Tikal and one way is to go from Palenque to Tikal through the jungle. There is transportation for this. You could then loop back to Mexico via Belize City.
Busses in Mexico are so superior that I can't imagine why one would ever want to use a service like Bamba.
Jul 29, 2012 7:37 PM
6You have charted a ton of ground to cover and you may find places that you want to stay a few days or longer. I offer this as a route but I agree with others that you will need to cut some of this out. I hate to say it but Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido might have to go or Guatemala.
I covered much of this ground last December January. Note that from the 15th of December until the end of the first week of January much of Mexico takes a vacation and heads to the beaches and the colonial cities. Check on the availability of lodging in the resort areas ahead if you can. You will spend much time in transit and not on the beaches with this itinerary, but here goes.
From the airport at Cancun take the shuttle to Playa del Carmen, either ADO Bus or collective cab. Collective vans run regular service to Tulum from Playa del Carmen. From Tulum, ADO Bus runs to Chetumal. You can request drop off at Bacalar on the way. Reach the Belize border from Chetumal. You could take a boat to Caye Caulker in Belize from Chetumal or walk across the bridge and to the Belize border station where you will find collective cabs to the bus station at Corozal for the bus to Belize City. In Belize City, San Juan Tours runs morning trips to Flores Guatemala from the boat terminal. (You read some disparaging post about San Juan but I took this trip in January and they did a good job. They provide transportation not really tours)
In Flores you will find lodging, ATMs, clubs, and transportation to Tikal. Buses run from Flores to Guatemala City. Reach Lanquin about half way between and Panajachel from Guatemala City.
From Guatemala head back into Mexico at Tapachula Chiapas.
OCC Bus runs northwest from Tapachula along the coast to Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. You will have the option of Zipolite, Mazunte, and Puerto Escondido. (and others) From Puerto Escondido or Pochutla take an inexpensive shared van over the mountains to Oaxaca City. Take an ADO night bus to San Cristobal. From there go to Palenque and then from there to Campeche, Merida, and the ruins of Uxmal. From Merida, ADO bus serves to Valladolid and Chichen Itza. Visit Chichen Itza early from Valladolid to avoid the crowds. From the gift shop area at Chichen Itza you can buy a ticket on ADO Bus back to Cancun.
Jul 29, 2012 9:48 PM
7Dr. Hoo -- You're very lucky to be planning a month long trip to a very interesting corner of the world. Don't worry about possibly becoming bored at stops along whatever route you take. There is much more to see and do in and around particular places than what guidebook listings suggest. Allow some time on your trip to simply observe and participate in everyday Mexican and/or Guatemalan life. And, the fact that your girlfriend is native Spanish speaker could enable the two of you to occasionally venture off of the established "guidebook inspired backpacker tourist trail" if you choose to do so.
To create a better itinerary than the one originally contemplated, substantially reduce the number of destinations that you'll visit. Instead, spend more time in each of fewer places. Also make your routing more compact.
Many travelers, especially those flying in from distant continents, underestimate both (1) the amount of time and energy required to travel back and forth between far flung destinations in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala; and (2) how many interesting things can be done within relatively small, compact areas in Mexico and/or Central America. Guidebooks only describe a small part of what's there to see and so.
The suggestion that you drop either Oaxaca State (the city and Puerto Escondido) OR Guatemala from the plan makes sense. Or, Cancun-Palenque-San Cristobal-Oaxaca City-Mexico City could also work for you since you have a month at your disposal. You have some delectable choices to make.
Do more guidebook and Internet reading and then, before stringing together particular destinations, think about the kinds of experiences you want to have, in other words the types of activities you most want to pursue.
The various places that you've named together offer beaches, ruins, natural beauty, encounters with Native American cultures, and cosmopolitan/cultural urban experiences. Which of those interests are more important to you than others? Or, to ask the question another way, what mixture of varied kinds of Mexican (and/or Guatemalan) experiences do the two of you want to have?
Jul 29, 2012 10:07 PM
8"Busses in Mexico are so superior that I can't imagine why one would ever want to use a service like Bamba:
I completely agree with this advise. Not using Bamba will both save you money and give you much more flexibility concerning when and where you travel. Even without having a fluent Spanish speaker along. you could easily learn how to make public transportation (bus and taxi) arrangements yourself.
Aug 12, 2012 12:14 PM
9Even if you speak bad spanish, asking for a bus is easy. Go to a terminal, ask a guy: Para el autobus a: (name village or city you wish to visit)??, they will point their finger to the booth or name of bus company you need to buy your ticket in. In Guatemala in some rural areas the buses and minibuses to a desired village will have the name of the village posted on the bus or an assistant guy will be yelling out loud the name of the village they go to.
In Mexico many times you have to stay alert to where you bus stop is if you half to get off at a halfway point of their route, but in Guatemala I found the driver is always insanely helpful in telling you where you bus stop is so that you don't skip it while taking a snooze. The assistant in every trip I had always kept a good eye on my luggage.
Lake Atitlan needs ideally 3 days (even better if you are around on a Thursday or Sunday to see the Chichicastenango market), Tikal 2 days, Lanquin-Semuc Champey is best done as a 1 day trip from Coban which is a decent halfway point between lake Atitlan and Tikal. The only downfall of getting to Coban quickly from Atitlan is that you will be forced to detour back to Guatemala city and then a 4 hour bus ride to Coban. I did the other route which was take minibuses from Panajachel-Chichicastenango-Quiche-Sacapulas-Cunen-Uspantan, then spend the night in Uspantan to rest and then take the dreadful bus trip from Uspantan-Coban the next day. They say they have been improving the road and the trip no longer takes 4 hours, but it's definitely not going to be a quick trip. I did this route because I had time to spare and wanted to tour Sacapulas on purpose but you might not be interested or have the two days to spare. Even with the improved road conditions, from Atitlan to Coban from the route I took it will be easily 8 hours because the roads are windy in the mountains and you change buses 3 times.
If you urgently want to see Atitlan and Antigua coming from Chiapas and lack the time, you can choose high speed shuttles that always detour to Guatemala City but expect to pay more. Another option is to to Atitlan-Antigua-GC and take a 40 minute plane flight to Flores and visit Tikal and from there return to Chiapas or go to Belize.If you do this you might have to skip Lanquin and Semuc Champey if time is a must. The GC-Flores plane flights book up early, plan in advance, expect to pay 150-200 USD per person. I know a few people that visited Campeche City and hated it, better as a starting point to visit ruins or a halfway point to Merida which is 3 hours from Chichen-Itza.
Sep 4, 2012 9:58 AM
10Some very helpful tips from everyone, thanks very much, we've been doing a lot of research the past month and we've narrowed down the general route we're taking for the trip. it'll go something like this for the duration of the 35 days we're there:
Playa del Carmen-Valladolid(Chichen Itza, Rio Lagartos, Ek Balam) -Merida( Uxmal)-Campeche-Palenque-San Cristobal-Lake Atitlan-Semuc Champey-Rio Dulce-Flores-Bacalar-Caye Caulker and back up to Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres for the end of the trip.
What does everyone think? Generally we'll be staying an average of 3 days in each city give or take 1 depending on our enjoyment, we're still finalising the end part of the trip but we're leaning towards Playa Del Carmen for new years, unless there's somewhere else more amazing to be for new years.
We're also budgeting for about $100 AU a day for the trip including accomodation and transport. Is that doable, or do you guys think that's too little or a lot?
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