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Dates of visit:
March 28, 2006 -
April 18, 2006

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Mayan ruins
 Jungles
 Caribbean coast
 Indian cultures
 Markets
 Semana Santa
 Sawdust carpets
 Processions
 Church ruins
 Volcanoes
 Dirt poor
 

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*** Rio Dulce & Livingston ***
*** Castillo de San Felipe ***
*** Flores & Santa Elena ***
*** Mayan Ruins of Tikal ***
Go to first page - Guatemala - Country & Culture
Go to second page - Guatemala City, Esquipulas, Quirigua Ruins
Go to fourth page - La Antigua, Popenoe House, Chichicastenango, Panajachel
Go to fifth page - Semana Santa (Holy Week) Sawdust Carpets & Processions
        Rio Dulce
        Location of Rio Dulce
        Site Gallery - Rio Dulce
        Port Town of Livingston
        Location of Livingston
        Site Gallery - Livingston
        Castillo de San Felipe
        Location of Castillo de San Felipe
        Site Gallery - Castillo de San Felipe
        Flores & Santa Elena
        Location of Flores
        Site Gallery - Flores & Santa Elena
        Mayan Ruins of Tikal
        Location of Tikal
        Video Tour of Tikal
        Site Gallery - Mayan Ruins of Tikal
Rio Dulce
Rio DulceThe area called "the Rio Dulce" begins at the mouth of the river on the Bahia de Amatique at the Garifuna town of Livingston on the Caribbean coast. Going upriver, one passes through a spectacular steep walled canyon lined with jungle vegetation and wildlife. The river then widens into a small lake, El Golfete, the shores of which are lined with beautiful locations, Mayan settlements and a manatee reserve. The river then narrows and passes the towns of Fronteras and El Relleno (at the bridge) where there is an abundance of hotels, restaurants, marinas, services for boaters, medical care, communications and transportation.

A little further and the river widens into 590 square kilometer Lake Izabal, the largest lake in Guatemala.The Rio Dulce is a large river that is 500 to 1500 meters (1/3 to 1 mile) wide over much of its length. The narrowest spot is at a point called La Vaca where the river narrows to a little over 100 meters (300 feet) as it squeezes through The Canyon. The river and both lakes are navigable by vessels of modest draft. Many smaller rivers and countless creeks and streams feed the river and lakes. Many of these rivers can be traveled for miles by dinghy or canoe through beautiful forests and grassy meadows. The Rio Dulce is an aquatic community. The highway passing through Fronteras / El Relleno on its way up to the Peten is the only access road to the area. Outside the towns there are no roads or footpaths other than a road leading to Castile San Felipe and El Estor.

The get around to different places on the Rio one must travel by boat. Homes and businesses on the Rio Dulce have a boat dock ...cruisers usually have a dinghy with a small outboard so getting around is easy. Travelers arriving by land will have to hire a speedboat (lancha) to get around. The people along the Rio Dulce are among the friendliest. The Rio Dulce is a favorite vacation spot for many wealthy Guatis. Emphasis is on boating and water sports. Backpackers and travelers from all parts of the world use Rio Dulce as a jumping-off point for trips into the Peten, the rest of Guatemala, and to Belize and Honduras.
Source: http://www.mayaparadise.com/rioinfe.htm


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Site Gallery - Rio Dulce
 
Views Along the Rio
On the Rio On the Rio On the Rio
On the Rio On the Rio On the Rio
On the Rio On the Rio On the Rio
On the Rio On the Rio On the Rio

Port Town of Livingston
LivingstonA charming town located at the mouth of the Rio Dulce. It is unique in Guatemala due to its Garifuna culture. Originally a cross between a native tribe, the Kalipuna's and slaves from Nigeria they mixed in the 17th century and conserved their own language, music and religion. This small town of brightly painted wooden houses and balconies is located in the jungle among coconut groves. Formerly the departure point for coffee farmed in the plantations of the Verapaz region, it still has a small fishing economy. The language here sounds almost as if one were in Jamaica.
Source: http://www.enjoyguatemala.com/izabal.htm


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Site Gallery - Port Town of Livingston
 

On the Rio to Livingston
To Livingston To Livingston To Livingston
To Livingston To Livingston To Livingston
Town of Livingston
To Livingston To Livingston To Livingston
To Livingston To Livingston To Livingston
To Livingston To Livingston To Livingston

Castillo de San Felipe
Castillo de San FelipeEarly in the 16th Century, trade was established between Guatemala and Spain via what was then called the Golfo Dulce. Constant attacks by pirates in the Gulf of Mexico and incursions into Guatemala through the Rio Dulce made it necessary to defend the entrance to Lake Izabal where warehouses had been set up for goods entering from or leaving for Spain. In 1595 the Governor informed King Philip II of Spain of the attacks suffered and it was decided to build a tower equipped with twelve artillery pieces and twelve soldiers. The tower was called the Sande Tower.

In 1604 after the first tower was destroyed, Captain Don Pedro de Bustamante, from whom it took its name, the Bustamante Tower, rebuilt it. It was around this time that the port at Santo Tomas de Castilla was founded. By 1640 the pirates intensified their attacks in this area. Some rather famous (or infamous) pirates were involved in the attacks on the Rio Dulce including: Diego the Mulatto, Lieutenant of "Pegleg" Anthony Shirly. Shirly was a pirate of aristocratic birth, called the Adventurous Gentleman, the Highwayman from Jamaica and Puerto Rico. 1651 saw Judge Lara y Mogrovejo rebuilt the fort a second time, calling it San Felipe de Lara Castle in honor of the king and himself.

By 1655 pirate attacks decreased and the fort became a prison and place of exile because of the harsh climate. Between 1660 and 1688 the fort was rebuilt three times and peace returned to the region. By 1736 three additional lookout points were completed and the fort remained in use until its function and purpose declined in the late 1800s. In the 1950s the fort, suffering severe deterioration, was restored and cannons, found upriver, were returned. Today it is a museum offering insight into piracy.


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Site Gallery - Castillo de San Felipe
 

Castillo de San Felipe Castillo de San Felipe Castillo de San Felipe
Castillo de San Felipe Castillo de San Felipe Castillo de San Felipe
Castillo de San Felipe Castillo de San Felipe Castillo de San Felipe

Flores & Santa Elena
Flores sunsetThe Island of Flores is located on Lake Peten Itza and dates from 9th century. It was formerly called Tayasal. In the 15th century, Pedro de Alvarado arrived on the Island while on a trip to Honduras. He gave King Canek a Spanish horse, which the Mayas treated almost like a god. After several failed attempts to convert the natives to Christianity, the Spaniards destroyed Tayasal in 16th century and it was then abandoned until the 18th century.

The Island is named after Cirilo Flores, one of the first Guatemaltecos to call for independence from the Colonial powers. The Island of Flores is quiet small, but it is hosting lots of restaurants, hotels, guesthouses, handicraft and souvenir stores, Internet caffee’s, etc. The city of Flores is geared towards the tourists that are visiting the ruins of Tikal. This splendid Mayan site is 65km (40 miles) away from Flores and reachable by bus or car in 45 – 60 minutes.

The charming streets and alleys of Flores deserve to be visited. Flores is built over the old city of Tayasal and in the center the plaza and some stelaes remain. You can walk the city and at sunset enjoy a drink or an appetizer in one of the restaurants along the lake.

None of the Mayan structures survived the arrival of the conquistadors who built their main plaza, church and government building on the top of the hill in the center of the island. A causeway connects Flores to the mainland town of Santa Elena, where the banks and main shops are located. Accessible from Flores is the Cerro Cahuí Biosphere – a 600-hectare (1482-acre) nature reserve that contains cedar, sapodilla, indigo and mahogany trees, orchids and ferns as well as fauna such as white-tailed deer, armadillos, spider monkeys, hawks, parrots and toucans.
Source: http://www.enjoyguatemala.com/flores.htm


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Site Gallery - Flores& Santa Elena
 

Flores
Flores Flores Flores
Santa Elena
Flores Flores Flores

Mayan Ruins of Tikal
Tikal - above the jungle
Templo II - TikalThe spectacular Mayan ruins of Tikal (City of Voices) encompass vast pyramidal temples, ball courts, causeways, plazas and public buildings that extend over some 16 sq. km. (6 sq. miles). While there are about 3000 known structures, many more lie buried under dense jungle vegetation. First occupied in about 800 BC, this great city was eventually abandoned around 1000 years later. Copies of some of the more elaborate friezes, stelae, sculptures and bas-reliefs are found in the Sylvanus Morley Museum, which is near the entrance.

At least two days are recommended to see all of the archaeological sites. Visitors can stay in the park lodges, in Flores, Santa Elena or El Remate, and guided tours around the ruins can be arranged both for the evening and at sunrise. The site is located in the heart of Tikal National Park, where there are over 50,587 hectares (125,000 acres) of rare forest (kapoka, breadnut, mahogany and cedar) and tropical vegetation. Wildlife that can be seen there includes howler monkeys, tropical birds, reptiles, red Coates, raccoons and white-tailed deer. Tikal National Park is itself situated in the much larger Mayan Biosphere Reserve.

Tikal has been known as “The place of the spirit’s voices” … it was discovered in 1848 (although it has never been “lost”) by the co-regent of Peten and by it’s then governor. In 1979 UNESCO declared this park “Humanity’s Cultural Patrimony”. This area was also preserved as “The Mayan Biosphere Reserve”. It was declared a National Park in 1995 and soon after a National Monument. Tikal’s glory days were within two of the three great periods into which the Mayan civilization is divided … Old Age Pre-Classic Period (from 1500 BC to 200 AD) and Classic Period (from 200 AD to 925 AD). At its peak, its extension included no less than 3,000 structures and 200 monuments with a population of between 90- to 120,000 inhabitants, including the surrounding villages. Tikal was abandoned in the late 10th century.
Source: http://www.enjoyguatemala.com/flores.htm

 

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Site Gallery - Mayan Ruins of Tikal
 

Tikal Tikal Tikal
Tikal Tikal Tikal
Tikal Tikal Tikal
Tikal Tikal Tikal

Text partially extracted from the Internet sites referenced
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