Guatemala shares borders with Belize, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. At the end of July I crossed back into the north eastern part of the country to visit the great pyramids of Tikal and to renew my CA-4 visa.
Where to Stay
The town of Flores, on a small island at the western corner of Lake Peten Itza is the most common spot for tourists to stay while visiting the pyramids. It is a quaint but rather built-up town with many hotels, restaurants, and shopping, and has a nice malecon with a beautiful sunset view.
Instead of going to Flores, on the advice of our hotel in San Ignacio, we stayed at El Remate. Located at the eastern tip of the lake, El Remate is a much smaller town, with tiny hotels and inns, and no real centre to speak of. We chose to stay at Mon Ami, a gorgeous, eclectically decorated hotel with private rooms set into a hillside, and a large A-frame dorm with dark wood floors, large skylights set into a thatched roof, and eight double beds with brightly coloured quilted bedspreads. To enter the room, you climbed up a set of stairs leading up to a heavy wooden trap door. It was something out of a fairytale, and all for the price of 50Q or less than $7 CDN per night! Also memorable was my dinner of fish, fresh from the lake and served with rice, salad, and broccoli!
Almost all of the hostels in El Remate have a private dock that look out over the lake, and after a long day at Tikal, you can hang out by the pier and go for a swim. For those who are looking for more luxury, just down the street is La Lancha a hotel owned by Francis Ford Coppola
After a night in El Remate, we took an early morning bus to Tikal. Set inside a large nature reserve, the pyramids are beautiful and impressive. The site has several different locations and takes a few hours to get through. At the end of it all, we even made a new fury friend.
Renewing your CA-4 VISA
In order to renew your visa you have to physically leave the coverage area, which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Depending on where you are residing, this makes Costa Rica, Mexico and Belize good spots to renew your visa. While the visa stipulates that you need to remain outside the CA area for a minimum of 3 days, many countries will let you do the run with just an overnight stay, or sometimes even return in the same day. If you are planning to do a quick 'visa-run', be prepared to: a) explain while you desperately need to return the same or next day, perhaps for work b) show proof from an employer c) pay a small ‘fee’ (the fee would be arbitrary, so if you are charged, insist on bargaining it down).