Planning Your Trip
On January 1, 2008, Guatemala began adhering to the Hague Adoption Convention, hoping to curtail corruption in the adoption process and reduce the number of abducted or "baby-farmed" infants entering the system.
With clean, well-lit rooms and a laid-back hostel-like vibe, Xamanek Student Inn, 13 Calle 3-57, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2360-8345; www.mayaworld.net), is an excellent new budget hotel in the heart of the Zona Viva.
The Zona Viva branch of Hacienda Real (tel. 502/2380-8383) has a new home on the corner of 5a Avenida and 15a Calle.
After many years and a successful run in Zona 1, Galería El Túnel (tel. 502/2367-3266) has moved to new digs in Zona 10 at Plaza Obelisco 16a Calle 1-01.
The Guatemala Tourism Commission, INGUAT, has moved its main office and information desk to 4a Calle between 4a and 5a avenidas, inside "Casa El Jaulon" (tel. 502/7832-0763; www.visitguatemala.com). They are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm.
Hector's (tel. 502/7832-9867) is an excellent new restaurant serving fine food in an intimate and informal environment. The restaurant is located at 1a Calle Poniente, #9a, just across from the La Merced church.
There are now a few cozy rooms set in the forest at the Reserva Natural Atitlán (tel. 502/7762-2565; www.atitlanreserva.com) on the outskirts of Panajachel.
For an even more isolated experience, you might consider staying at the new Terraza Choi (tel. 502/5847-4852; www.terrazachoi.com), a small bed-and-breakfast located between Panajachel and Santa Catalina Palapó.
In San Pedro, Zoola (tel. 502/5847-4857) is a hip new restaurant with cozy floor seating (on pillows and rugs) and a tasty Middle Eastern-inspired menu.
Xela has an excellent new tapas restaurant and bar, Restaurante Mediterraneo (tel. 502/5515-6724), located inside the centrally located El Pasaje Enriquez. This new place somewhat makes up for the closings of Al Andalus and El Alquimista.
Those overnighting in Huehuetenango can opt for the new, modern, business-class Royal Park Hotel (tel. 502/7762-7774; email@example.com), located just a block off of the city's central park.
Tikal & the Petén
Entrance fees have been raise at Tikal to Q150 ($20/£10) per person per day; and at Yaxhá to Q80 ($11/£5.50).
San Juan Travel (tel. 502/7926-0042) now offers an official, daily sunrise tour to Tikal, leaving Flores at 3:30am, and guaranteeing you'll be well situated at the top of a pyramid for sunrise.
There is now a language school located in the heart of Flores, Dos Mundos Spanish Academy (tel. 502/5830-2060; www.flores-spanish.com), offering a wide range of course and accommodations options.
More and more tourists are beginning to explore the massive and remote ruins of El Mirador. The trip generally takes 5 full days and includes considerable amounts of hiking. If you're interested, Martsam Travel (tel. 866/832-2776 in the U.S. and Canada, or 502/7867-5093 in Guatemala; www.martsam.com) is the best operator to contact for one of these trips.
There's an excellent new coffee shop and restaurant, X'kape Kob'an (tel. 502/7951-4152), in the heart of Cobán. These folks specialize in modern re-creations of traditional Maya dishes, and have a good little gift shop attached.
For those making it down to Copán, it's worth checking out the boutique hotel Yat B'alam (tel. 504/651-4338; www.yatbalam.com), a unique new offering in the town of Copán Ruinas.
Izabal & the Atlantic Lowlands
There's been some action in sleepy Livingston. Hotel Gil Resort (tel. 502/7947-0039; www.gilresorthotel.com) is a cozy new hotel on a high hillside.
Meanwhile, down at the bottom of the hill, you'll find Tropicool Disco, a waterfront bar and disco that's quickly become one of the town's top nightspots.
For folks driving to Monterrico, there is now a bridge connecting Iztapa and Pueblo Viejo, making the trip much easier, and eliminating the need to ride a small car ferry.
Dos Mundos Pacific Resort (tel./fax 502/7848-1407; www.dosmundospacific.com) ups the ante and is proving to be the town's top beach resort.
Sport fishermen and -women looking for luxury should check out the upgraded Pacific Fins (tel. 888/700-3467 in the U.S. or Canada; www.pacificfins.com) in the town of Iztapa.
In Retalhuleu, the new Hostal Casa Santa Maria (tel. 502/7771-6136; www.hostalcasasantamaria.com) is an excellent budget option, run by the folks behind the region's best adventure-tour company, Reuxtreme (tel. 502/7771-0443; www.reuxtreme.com).