Guatemala's East

EL ESTOR

Global Mark : 15.53    Top Five : No1

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 5 5 1 4 2 5 2 3 13.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
9 100% 100% 100% 14 to 20 17.56


Description :
A tiny village between lake and mountains

Comments : Add the nearby natural wonders to the great setting & relaxed atmosphere and you obtain one of the travelers' favorite place. 

What to do ? Adapt the pace of the village : cool ! / Swim : in the lake, by a hot waterfall or in a canyon, the setting is always gorgeous ! / Smell the bats and, if you dare, spot them ! / Explore caves / Spot parrots, howler monkeys (the scary 'lion' howl) and plenty of lizards / Canoe a canyon / Visit the Rio Polochic delta, a swamp wildlife reserve with plenty of birds (accessible by boat, around Q300) / See cowboys at work / Fish in the lake / At 8pm, watch a bad movie for Q1, sometimes a porn (Cine Allan, by the dock) / Alternatively, play pools 

What you may not like ? Having little to do but relax in the village / The lack of good really cheap places to stay / The hot sun & dusty roads / 

How long ? One day in theory, a week in practice ? Three days would actually be a fair deal...

Where to stay ? Most places are concentrated within a few blocks of the Plaza. With the sticky weather, you will need a fan or a lake breeze.

  • Santa Clara Hotel, 5 Av / 20(1) or 32(2) downstairs without fan, 25(1) or 32(2) upstairs still without fan, 36(1) or 48(2) upstairs w. fan & shower / Go there for the cheapest rooms and the correct rooms w. shower, facing the lake / What you may not like : the rooms downstairs lack fresh air and it can be noisy.
  • Hotel Vista Del Lago, beside the dock / w. shower & fan 50 per person / Go there for the nicest & cleanest rooms, if possible upstairs for the view from the terrace / What you may not like : the rooms are rather small
  • Hotel Villela, 6 Av / Sgl w. fan 25, w. shower 30 per person / Go there for the nice garden and the cheapest & largest rooms w. shower / What you may not like : the rooms are rather hot & humid and some mattresses are really bad.
  • Hospedaje La Posada de Don Juan, by the Plaza / w. fan 25 per person / Basic and not as nice setting
  • Hotel Central, behind the above / w. shower & fan 48(1) or 72(2) / Tiny Cable TV on balcony / Rather expensive for what you get
    Hotel Ecologico 'Cabanas del Lago', 10mn walk along the lake / 60 per person or 250 for bungalow (up to 5) with kitchen, 50 or 200 without / Go there for the great setting, the private 'beach' and the nice bungalows, ideal for a family. 

Where to eat ? A few places charge very reasonable rates for full meal or good dishes : Comedor Torita (by the dock) charges Q10 for the basic meat meal. Tiny Comedor Heydi (6 Av.) has new fair to good dishes every evenings w. tortillas for Q10. There is an ice-cream parlor for desserts by the plaza but, as usual, it is not cheap. The place by the cinema (same owner) sell good biscuits for Q2 the big bag. 

Banks ? Corpobanco & Banrural both change TC of any kind. The first one was offering a much better rate. 

Bike ? On 6 Av. 4-26. Q15 for 6 hours. Bear in mind however that the road is bad, the sun is hot, the stealing of the bike is an issue and the bus probably cheaper.

Backpacker's Tips :  Anthony Asael, Belgium (Nov 01)
 New internet cafe in El Estor... in the church, ask for the Father !


A waterfall paradise ?
The hot waterfall of El Paraiso (Q5 entrance fee) should be high on everybody's list. The setting is lovely, the river fresh (or warm) and the waterfall really hot ! Sitting next to it, you can smell the sulfur and feel like in a sauna. When you have sweated enough, dive into the refreshing pool ! There are plenty of fishes there so do not forget your mask. There are also plenty of caves so do not forget your flashlight, if possible waterproof as you need to swim to some of them. On the right of the waterfall, a path leads you to the top. The cave immediately to the right of this path is inhabited by thousands of bats, a truly impressive sight and a smelly experience. Of course, if you disturb them too much, there is a small risk of being bitten and, in this case, you will definitively need the ten rabies shots... It is better to reach the spot in the morning as it gets busy in the afternoon. Avoid the WE and the noisy locals. It cost Q5 from Rio Dulce or El Estor (about 45mn) but foreigners are sometimes asked for Q7 by the dishonest guys of this damn 'Fuente Del Norte' Bus Company. 
The El Paraiso Hotel (9497122) is located 20mn walk away on the other side of the road. The setting is great w. a black sand beach and the bungalows (for up to 4 people, great for a family) by the lake are comfortable. They however cost 100(1), 170(2) or 250(3 or 4). A much better option, if equipped, could be the lovely camping ground : Q25. Unfortunately, there are no common showers. The restaurant is a bit pricey : Q20 for eggs dinner, Q40 for meat. Water cost the normal bottle prices.

A Canyon Experience ? El Boqueron Canyon, 8km toward Rio Dulce, is the second (some would say first) natural wonder of the area. It is not so much about swimming (possible but long and safety issues with your belongings) than renting a canoe (Q20) to navigate the river inside the narrow corridor. It is splendid and, early in the morning or late in the afternoon, you may hear Howlers monkeys. By showing up early, you may also find the place deserted : take a canoe and negotiate the price when you return, that is if the owner did show up in between...

 << Discover the natural attractions


Leaving ?
Unfortunately, you have to one day... Hourly buses to Rio Dulce from 6 to 19 (Q10, 2 hours). Going West toward Coban, one bus daily at 11:30. The bus goes first to Pazos (Q6, 1 hour), then to Cahabon (Q15, 4 hours), then to Lanquin and Coban. Problem is that it will leave Cahabon at 2am only ! You therefore need to board another bus or pick-up (Q5, 1 hour).

The trip back to Rio Dulce : SSS / Right / Q10 / 1.5 hrs
Another day well started : waking up at 5:45 for the 6am bus ! I bet my previous record, leaving the room within 10 minutes... to find the garden gate locked ! To make the key keeper understand that I was in a hurry was another challenge but I still managed to catch the bus.
It was full, as are most of the first buses. Showing up a bit earlier at the departure location is therefore recommended. Actually, I was lucky : one seat was only occupied by an umbrella. - "Can I seat here ?" - "No, it is for an old fat lady" Seeing no fat lady standing nor waiting outside, I decided to seat anyway. And I was right because she never showed up. Late wake up or locked gate, I don't know... 
This 6am bus was actually going to Puerto Barrios (Q17, 3.5 hours). I therefore wondered whether to stop in Rio Dulce or save money by taking the 10am ferry from the city. I opted for the boat scenery and got off at 6:20.