We had originally planned to cross the Guatemalan border at the Gracious A Dios border town about 10km to the southwest, as per the excellent route notes posted by Bicycle Nomad. However, this would have meant a 10km backtrack from the beautiful Lake Tziscao where we were camping. We asked a few local people about the little dirt road above the lake which crosses over the border at Lago Internacional. It was possible, they said, but muy inclinado por bicis (very steep for bikes)!
From what I understand, EU and US citizens may enter Guatemala and other countries in Central America without applying for a visa in advance . However, upon entry, visitors will normally receive a 90 day tourist stamp which applies to all member countries of the CA-4 (ie, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. We wondered if we would run into problems at the next border crossing as we travelled south…
We thought it over the night before and then decided to give it a shot in the morning. We were delighted to find a quiet little dirt road, not passable by cars or trucks due to the barricades. We rolled our bikes straight through and bought some tortillas a mano on the other side with some of our remaining pesos.
Once we were back on the truck road on the other side, we realised that there was a steep climb up a loose gravel track (about 200m climb in less than 1.8km). Needless to say, it was quiet a schlep to start off our first day riding into the Guatemalan Highlands!
Bicycle Touring Tips For This Route
Here are few tips if you are planning attempting this crossing and route down towards Nentón.
- Bring plenty of food and water because supplies are quite limited along the way We packed 6 litres of water and a massive tomato, egg & avocado tortilla feast for lunch!
- If you need to exchange pesos in Nentón, you will find that the bank only exchanges US Dollars! They advised me to go and barter with a local shop who is known to offer a descent exchange rate. I found his shop on the corner of the main market street across from the central mercado.
- Don’t eat the street food in Nentón! We got parasites!
- If you are using a Trangia stove for cooking, you may find that the stronger alcohól etílico (96 percent) is not as readily available as in Mexico. After asking at all the farmacias, I finally found it at a ferretaria being sold much cheaper under the name alcohól de quemar. I bought a litre straight from a massive barrel for $15 quetzales (approx £1.30 for a litre).