GUATEMALA – From Yaxha to Biotopo del Quetzal, our Quetzal quest

by | 2 Jun 2017 | Guatemala, On the Panamerican road | 0 comments

Date de dernière mise à jour : le 30 July 2018

After our evening with Fred and Chloe, we wake up in Flores with a dilemma: do we continue the road to Lake Atitlan, or should we go back near the Belizean border to see another Mayan site?

We decide to drive first to this Mayan site that we did not visit during our first trip in Guatemala


Yaxha is a much less known than Tikal and that means less visitors! We access the site through a good old fashion trail with big holes that we love. Nothing to be compared to the perfect road leading to Tikal! After the entrance, we find a place on the campground near the lac. The view is nice and even if we would like to take a quick dip, we should not forget that we are not the only ones who love baths in the area! Not for us this time!


While we wait for the temperature to be cooler, we enjoy a nice lunch under the shadow of the trees before visiting the little museum at the visitor center.

Around 3PM, we enter the jungle for our visit of the archeological site. More than Tikal or even Palenque, here, the majority of the pyramids is still under the ground! The trails are easy to follow and we pass between all these small hills that just allow us to imagine how big the site really is.

The most important pyramids seem to have been discovered but the work remains huge before the site is completely out of the ground. But maybe it is this specific point that makes this site so special, the fact that it is still so wild.

We meet our friends the spider monkeys, they look at us from the top of their trees and seem to not really care of our presence.

And then, maybe because we have been lucky but maybe also because of the few visitors on site, we made a great encounter. A little curious fox (he seems to have big eyes, doesn’t he?!)

We finally leave our new friend to his business, and we hurry up for the sunset. All visitors (well, the 10 of us) walk up to the highest pyramid to enjoy not such a bad view.

And when the night starts to shroud the jungle, we go to the van.

Coban, THE stopover town

The day after, we go back on the road, direction Coban. A few hours on the road, a boat on the river for Tikal and we arrive around 5PM while the rain starts.

Coban. We already passed into this town 2 years ago. The last time we arrived here after a ton of collectivos, and after the last one left us along the road after a break down. We discovered Coban by night. Now there is still daylight. Well under the gray sky, we do not really know… Anyway, there is still nothing to do in Coban.

Whereas the first time we just stayed one night before leaving in the early morning for our next destination, this time… it will be the same. Except the fact that now, it is raining. That leaves even less possibilities!

We decide to drink a local hot chocolate and have diner in a restaurant.

In the early morning we leave for the Biotopo del Quetzal.

Biotopo del Quetzal

As its name can suggest, it is a reserve where the famous Quetzal lives (not the currency but the animal, symbol of Guatemala. That may explain). His other name is “bird of paradise”. Well, I guess he is very happy as he lives very hidden in the cloud forests, over 1.500 meters high.

But we are well determined to find him!

Well, actually, it won’t be easy. It is raining since yesterday morning. And obviously, it is not getting any better with the altitude or the cloud forest…

So we enter the reserve with our coats and hoods but with our camera in our hands, well determined to find anything that would move around us.

Except… we do not see anything!

The atmosphere is really nice and particular. When the rain stops (because it stopped for a while), we feel like surrounded by cotton: the noise of the water falling from the trees, the wind whispering in our ears and that mist. Deep. That shrouds us.

So we will not see much. Except for that little bird that looks like a Chinese shadow. But obviously, it is not a Quetzal.

It is still a nice walk. We are a bit disappointed but we should have known that before, it is called: “Biotopo DEL Quetzal”. It looks like there is only ONE Quetzal in this park!

Back in Tikal, we drive back to Coban and we take the direction of Chichicastenango

The roads of Guatemala

We are making progress, the road has some holes but nothing big, it is just a fair compensation with the topes. That reminds us that moment, 2 years ago, when we were in that collectivo:

“do you remember that horrible road, full with huge holes? And the head of our seat neighbor, hitting the window at each hole and the fact that nothing seem to be able to awake him?!”


Yes that road. There it is.

Well, it seems that after two years not much work has been done over here. It is one of the principal routes of Guatemala. The kind of road that cross the country.

But it is field. Why should they put any asphalt?

Well, not really field. Mud. Because it is raining.

And the holes are enormous. But what it is fun when it is raining is the fact that the holes are full with water. That creates a great suspense: you have to guess how deep they are!

Anyway, it shakes, it swings, it sways. Near a huge cliff. And the trucks are coming from the opposite side.

Yyyyyyhhhhaaaa !

“Hey, hopefully the rack is well maintained! “ Hum…

Well, yes, as you may have noticed, we love humor. And as it is funnier to work under the rain, on the road, between the trucks and the cliff, that’s where we have to stop.

Stéphane manage to fix “mas o menos” the rack and we go back on the road. After a few kilometers, the asphalt is back and we finally park into the parking lot of a hotel for the night. Under the rain.

Tomorrow, let’s go to Chichicastenango and its famous market. We hope a better road…

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