As part of my role at Vision Travel, I help create itineraries for people traveling around Guatemala. We are usually packed full of travelers of all ages, looking through the many guidebooks available to read, scanning the maps, and talking with other clients about their many adventures.
I decided to travel one very popular route – Rio Dulce/Poptun/Tikal. There were 6 of us traveling. Taking information I have gathered from others, as well as information from Vision, we set off. Knowing that we had a long bus ride from Guatemala City to Rio Dulce, we decided to take a shuttle ($5.00 per person) from Antigua to the bus station in Guatemala City. At 7:30am, we boarded the Fuente Del Norte bus bound for Flores (Tikal), by way of Rio Dulce. The cost for us to go to Poptun – 4 hours south of Flores – was 40Q per person. We were in high spirits, looking forward to our great adventure. We already had made a reservation at Finca Ixobel in Poptun for the night. On the bus, we each had our own seat and had packed banana bread, snacks, and water.
Four hours later, we were only as far as Rio Hondo – the junction where you turn for Copan, Honduras… Soon after, we pulled over to change a flat tire and took advantage of the opportunity to relieve ourselves behind a building. About 1 hour later, we were given an “official” rest stop, and pulled into an area that sold over priced drinks and snacks. By then, it was after 1 pm, and the bus was very hot and stuffy in the midday heat.
We pulled into Rio Dulce a little bit before 3pm, and the bus filled up with as many people as it could fit. At that point, though we each had our own seats, we were subjected to people and their belongings hanging all over us. All we wanted to do was arrive in Poptun, shower, eat and sleep…
Just past Rio Dulce, the road deteriorated to a thin, unpaved and dusty trail. We continued to stop and take on passengers. By the time we arrived at the turnoff to Finca Ixobel, it was just before 6pm. We were hot, tired, hungry, sore, and not real happy… and, we had a 15 minute walk ahead of us to reach the finca. Thankfully, an angel appeared – named Ceasar – who was driving a 1972 Land Rover and took us to the front gate. We immediately put our things down and headed for the community refrigerator for a cold beer.
We were given a choice of accomodations, and the guys took a tree house in the primitive campground area, while us 4 women stayed in a dormitory – next to the hot water shower and near the bathrooms. Needless to say, we were happy to be off the bus.
After receiving our brief orientation to the finca and feasting on the freshly prepared dinner buffet, we each went to sleep early, only to wake to the sounds of birds and the wind in the trees.
We then spent the next 2 days doing various activities – hiking, swimming, resting, meditating – available at the finca, while feasting daily on the fresh fruits, veggies, beads and meats offered and served. We were completely over the trauma of the initial bus ride, when it was time to board another bus headed for Flores and El Remate.
The final bus ride from Poptun to Santa Elena airport (where some of us headed back to Guatemala City by plane, and others stayed to see Tikal) was another almost 4 hour bus ride over an unpaved dusty road. I guess for 20Q each, it was unreasonable to think we would be in anything other than a “good old chicken bus”.
All in all, if we were to do it all over again, we all agreed that it is best to spend $35. and fly to Flores, then take only one bus for almost 4 hours to go to Poptun, then return to fly back. The Finca Ixobel is a GREAT place to spend time and relax, and El Remate is an economical place to stay when visiting Tikal.