Subject: Re: Guatemala and Belize ???
Hi, Frank

It's taken me a while to respond to your question about Guatemala & Belize, but I hope you are still in planning stages for your trip in March of 06.

Palenque is well worth a visit, & if you can stay at one of the lodges near the site to enjoy early morning & late afternoon rambles among the ruins, even better. Agua Azul is fine for a day's picnic/hike too.

As for Flores vs Belize, I guess I'd go with Belize as a staging area for exploring the ruins. The highland lodges of Belize are terrific: Chaa Creek (bird watching), Windy Hill (laid back), even Blancaneaux (Francis Ford Coppola's funky place). There are lots of ruins nearby, including Caracol & the upriver trip to Lamanai. Belize City hasn't got too much to offer for an extended stay & the highland lodges are closer to most ruins.

If you want to duck into the Peten for Tikal, you can do it overland from Belize, but even I would recommend a driver/guide to help you across that border. You can hire a driver quite reasonably if you ask at any of the lodges I mentioned. I've crossed borders by myself or with friends for years & the Belize / Guatemala border is one of the creepiest ever. I was traveling with my son (big, strong, assertive guy) & my darling d-i-l (who had never been further away than Tijuana) & I was plenty glad my son & our driver were there. The border officials wanted to split us up & take us into different rooms in the border shack. Nope, our guide signaled with a movement of his head. So we went thru together, my son providing the brawn, I, the Spanish & my d-i-l the "eye candy" for the border guards.

The Peten is lovely, Tikal is beyond your imagining, but it is not easy. You need to be watchful. There's lots of unrest in the area still.

The first year our medical jornada (80 docs, nurses & interpreters) went to an area just outside the Peten & had to have guards patrolling the compound 24/7 & in fact packed up the unit & left in the middle of the night because of threatened violence. Since, we have moved to another area, near Lake Atitlan, where death squads operated as late as 1996, but is quite comfortable now. I've wandered the area by myself on "chicken buses" without fear. Since I haven't returned to the Peten for several years, I can't say if things feel more stable there as well.

Hope this helps.

Gail In Eugene