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Thomas Carter

British Ambassador to Guatemala

Part of UK in Guatemala

29th September 2016 Guatemala City

Travels in Guatemala, Part 2


As offered, this is the second part of the blog about the adventures we had on holidays in Guatemala, hope you enjoy!

The following day we drove up through Flores (a really delightful town on its compact little island in lake Peten Itza) and on to Tikal.  Tikal is the jewel of all Mayan sites – not only does it boast the tallest temples, which soar above the forest canopy, but it is a hugely extensive site, with remarkably well preserved and restored structures and buildings from different periods of Mayan history.  But there are two things I especially like about Tikal – unlike the terribly busy sites over the Mexican border in Yucatan, you can easily escape the crowds at Tikal and have the majestic sites to yourself.  And the second thing are the birds and animals.  We saw toucans, toucanets, parrots, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and an endless variety of creatures with long pointy noses running around on the ground and in the trees.  We also went into the museum to look at the photographs taken of Tikal in the 1890s by the great British explorer and archaeologist, Alfred Maudslay; they are remarkable, and rekindled my desire to work with the British Museum in London to highlight some of the work Maudslay did to record and conserve so much Mayan history in Guatemala.

The next day we went to the much less visited Mayan site of Yaxha.  Indeed, we were almost the only visitors.  The setting is stunningly beautiful, and from the tops of various temples you get magnificent views of the large Lake of Yaxha.   It is another huge site, like Tikal set in thick forest full of animals and bird life (we saw a pair of blue-crowned Motmots who had made their nest inside one of the temples).  Some parts have been impressively restored, like the Preclassic Acropolis Norte.  But a large number of the structures have not yet been uncovered and are still waiting to reveal their secrets to future generations of archaeologists, which somehow adds to the charm and mystery of the place.  Yaxha deserves to be better known – I would recommend a visit!  And it is impressively well-run by CONAP, and the visitors’ facilities are frankly rather better than at Tikal.

The only thing Guatemala lacks is good beaches.  So we allowed ourselves a little diversion, and on our way back to Guatemala City we stopped (again) in Rio Dulce and took a boat out to the Sapodilla Cayes in Belize, where we found some idyllic little islands and did some snorkelling and diving.  And, once back in Rio Dulce, we visited the remarkable Castillo de San Felipe, built we were told by the Spanish back in the 1650s to resist those audacious British pirates who kept stealing their booty.

So that was our tour around Guatemala.  It was hugely varied, always visually stunning, and we were made to feel very welcome wherever we went.  According to the Guatemalan tourist body INGUAT, 30,000 British tourists visited Guatemala last year.  Having seen the marvels we saw on our trip, that number deserves to grow considerably!

Coati at Tikal


Toucanet at Tikal


Motmots at Yaxha


Sunset from Flores


Castillo de San Felipe


About Thomas Carter

Tom Carter arrived in Guatemala in August 2015. This is his second ambassadorial job, the first being as British High Commissioner to Zambia (2008 to 2012). Tom worked on the…

Tom Carter arrived in Guatemala in August 2015. This is his second ambassadorial job, the first being as British High Commissioner to Zambia (2008 to 2012). Tom worked on the London 2012 Olympic Games, and was until recently in charge of the FCO’s global consular policy, working out of London. He has spent much of his career in Europe (France, Germany and Slovakia), but also in Colombia and Thailand. Tom is married to another career diplomat, Carolyn Davidson, with whom he shared the job in Zambia and who is now British Ambassador to Honduras. They have two teenage sons.

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