Oriente and Izabal
The east region of Guatemala offers a vast contrast of near deserts, rainforests, mountains, and lakes.
The east region of Guatemala offers a vast contrast of near deserts, rainforests, mountains, and lakes. The population in this area is mainly ladinos, a mix between indigenous people and Spaniards or Europeans, and isolated communities of Mayas.
The eastern highlands, called Oriente, connect Guatemala City with El Salvador and Honduras and is probably the least-visited part of the country. The landscape is dry, with sun-scorched mountains and heavily eroded volcanoes. From this region, it’s a short hop to the ruins of Copán in Honduras.
Esquipulas, the Central American capital of faith and home of the famous Cristo Negro (black Christ), is the scene of Central America’s largest annual pilgrimage. The Ipala volcano and its lovely volcanic crater lake are also in this area.
Quiriguá hosts the largest stelae of the Mayan world, which is why UNESCO named it a world heritage site.
Izabal, our green Caribbean, has a distinctive tropical vibe. It was densely populated in Maya times, served as an important trade route, and was one of the main sources of jade. Following the decline of the Maya civilization, the area lay virtually abandoned until the end of the nineteenth century when the United Fruit Company established massive banana plantations.
One of my favorite stops on the way to Río Dulce is Quiriguá. Quiriguá hosts the largest stelae of the Mayan world, which is why UNESCO named it a world heritage site.
I wouldn’t dream of driving through Río Dulce without stopping to eat mojarra (fish) on the river’s shore. Once here, the tapado is also a must. Tapado is the region’s signature dish, a seafood soup that’s a superb mix of fish, prawns, coconut milk, peppers, plantain, and spices.
What to do in Rio Dulce?
Castillo de San Felipe, a castle built by the Spanish in 1652, protected the town and lake from pirates. It served later on as a prison. The current building was reconstructed in 1956. It’s worth checking out, it has small rooms, old canons, and fabulous views of Lake Izabal.
Finca El Paraíso. A short day trip and a hidden gem. A 12-meter warm waterfall descends into a pool cooled by surrounding streams, with some caves above the falls that can be explored.
Livingston, accessible only by boat, is the only place in Guatemala where you can experience Garifuna culture. To get there, you’ll take a breathtaking boat ride through the lush tropical forest and deep limestone canyon walls.
Playa Blanca is said to be one of the best beaches in Guatemala. It is a private beach accessible only by water. Here you will enjoy the white sand and turquoise sea beach. It is a peaceful beach where you can relax, swim in the warm Caribbean sea, and enjoy a seafood lunch.
Normally this tour will include a morning visit to Siete Altares, a series of natural freshwater pools and waterfalls formed by nature, surrounded by lush vegetation.
I love that Guatemala speaks to you and you want to know more about it. Let me know how I can help you!