|Subject: Re: Mexico,Guatemala,Belize (long)|
that seems like a very ambitious plan for one month (I think that's the time you said you were going to spend in Mexico and Guatemala). A couple of years ago we visited for three weeks Guatemala and Mexico (Yucatan area) and we did not visit so many places (we like to take things easy when we travel). In any case, Mexico and even more Guatemala are extremly interesting places to visit and, whatever you end up seeing, I'm sure you will enjoy it. Let me throw some comments on your intinerary (the Yuacatan and Guatemala part of it).
Unless you really have an special interest in Chichen ruins, it's not worth taking the big deviation in the itinerary. Althought Chichen Itza is very nice, there is no comparison with Tikal (really impressive ruins in the middle of the jungle) and Palenque (I haven't been there, but I've heard that is also more impressing than Chichen). In case you still decide to go all the way to Chichen Itza, you should also try to visit Uxmal ruins near Merida. Merida itslef is also a nice and very friendly city. Valladolid is also a nice little town; if you make it there, don't forget to take a swim in the zenote (I don't remember the name, but is the one that is out of town, in the road from Chichen Itza; NOT the one that is in the middle of the town).
If you make it all the way to Chichen, you should also visit Uxmal and some of the other minor archeological sites nearby. In fact, they are very close to Ticul. In Ticul there is an excelent restaurant: Los Almendros that specializes in yucatecan food.
Althought in some guidebooks and some reports Flores sounds like a not very interesting place, I really liked it. It is a quite slow and relaxing town. It is better that you stay in Flores itself (in the island in the middle of the lake) rather than in the town on the lake shore (I don't remember the name, but I think it was Santa Elena).
Tikal was oe of the highlights of our trip. I would recoomed to take a guide at the gate. They were not very expensive and it was really worth it. Tikal site is huge and most of it has not been explored and the guide took us throughthe jungle to see some of the unrestored pyramids and temples. If you go early in the morning you can see the sun rising (if it's not raining like when we were there ;-( and dawn is also the best time to see animals in the jungle. It is an experienec to hear the hawler monkeys in the middle of the jungle, among unexcavated mayan ruins!
Chichicastenango is nice, but I found the famous market a little too much touristized fpr my taste. The reason was, probably, that we visited the market in Solola before going to Chichi. Solola market was more traditional and that spoiled my expectations on Chichi...
I also liked a lot the Atitlan area; we spent a couple of days visiting the small villages on the lake and they were very interesting.
We used the Lonely Planet guide which was veru acqurate (it was just released few weeks before we left!); but probably it won't be a little out of date (I don't know if they have released a new version).
If you need more specific data, let me know. I don't remember right now many details on places to stay and/or eat, but I can look for all that data at home