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Lake Izabal

The majestic and limitlessly beautiful Lago de Izabal is definitely not on most people’s itineraries; the majority of tourists only make it as far as the better known Lago de Atitlán near Antigua. This, the largest lake in Central America, is around 275 kilometers from Guatemala City - a five to six hour bus journey - and so with no scheduled flights coming out here - making the effort to get here means you will be rewarded with a more serene picture of Guatemala, moving at a slower pace, where life has been altered less by expat businesses and where locals see so few tourists that they welcome your custom. Plus, you’ll be sharing those incredible vistas with hardly anyone else.

The northern road around the lake, past El Castillo de San Felipe, leads to El Estor and the only access to the Reserva Boca del Polochic on the west is now more or less paved all the way, providing an alternative and interesting route to the Verapaces, passing the Finca el Paraíso and the hot springs. Round the southern side of the lake is the sleepy town of Mariscos which allows to you access, at present, the only development on that shore at Denny’s Beach resort.


Serviced by multiple bus routes, waterways and an airport most visitors will probably end up making their way to RĂ­o Dulce/Lake Izabal via bus.


The RĂ­o Dulce airport is located about 10 km outside of town and offers flights to Guatemala City on Fridays and Sundays. Tickets can be booked through Inter (tel. 902-7791) which has offices in the Hotel Ensenada on the south side of the river.


Although less comfortable and more time consuming than air travel most visitors come and go to RĂ­o Dulce by bus. Buses to Guatemala City depart from Fronteras, on the north side of the bridge, several times daily, seven days a week.

Fuentes del Norte in the Turicentro Las Brisas on the south side of the bridge handles service to PoptĂşn and Flores. The 8:30 bus also continues on to the Belizean border. Schedules and prices change often so visit their website to get the latest and most accurate information.

Buses are available to the nearby town of El Estor from Fronteras on the north side of the bridge. However there is no set schedule and you are probably better off taking a cheap pickup truck than sitting around waiting for a bus.

Atitrans also offers an express shuttle from RĂ­o Dulce to Guatemala City and Antigua. They are also located in the Turicentro Las Brisas (tel. 930-5111).


The Cooperativa de Lancheros handles transport on the river and can get you between Livingston and RĂ­o Dulce in around an hour. Boats are nominally scheduled for a 9 a.m. departure but it is not unheard of to delay the launching until the boat is full and sometimes the entire trip can be cancelled if there are not at least ten passengers.


Being a tropical region, things will always be hot, wet and sticky on the RĂ­o Dulce but owing to a shift in the trade winds April, May and June tend to be the worst. The air tends to stay still and refreshing offshore breezes that normally provide relief from the heat and humidity are few and far between.


Other places nearby Lake Izabal: Río Lámpara , Quiriguá, Around Puerto Barrios, Anguiatu, Fronteras/El Relleno (Rio Dulce), Zacapa, Rio Dulce, Jalapa, Jutiapa and Mariscos.

By Joanne Sykes

Born and raised in Yorkshire, England, Jo is currently working as a freelance travel writer in Latin America. With degrees in...

24 Aug 2010

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