Tikal Basecamp Option #1 – El Remate, Guatemala

If you want to visit Tikal National Park and archaeological site (and you do) there are two basecamp options for travelers:  Flores or El Remate. We spent time in both towns. We’ll tell you all about Flores in our next post. For now, we’re focusing on El Remate on Lake Peten Itza which we believe is emerging as the better of the two options.

Sunset over Lake Peten Itza as seen from El Remate, Guatemala.

El Remate is a chill, lakeside village near the Biotopo Cerro Cauhi which has a growing list of budget and mid-range accommodations and a few solid economical eating options. El Remate is also closer to Tikal than Flores is, making your trip to the dramatic remains of this Mayan city shorter and cheaper. It has the look and feel of what Panajachel on Lake Atitlan might have been like 30 years ago.

Sleeping in El Remate

El Remate has a small selection of the usual passably clean hostels and dumpy guest houses. But if you have  few more quetzales to rub together El Remate also offers some real values for money, all on the north side of the lake.

Looking down at Lake Peten Itza while horseback riding in the hills above El Remate, Guatemala.

Mon Ami had nice-looking stand alone bungalows in a quiet back garden for around US$20, but we didn’t stay there because we were being hosted at Posada del Cerro (300Q doubles, or about US$36, including breakfast featuring homemade bread) which turned out to be as interesting and worthy as we hoped it would.

Owned by a German biologist and community organizer named George and his Brazilian wife Raimunda, Posada del Cerro opened in 2008 right next to the entrance to Biotopo Cerro Cauhi. The Posada has seven rooms and bungalows, two charming apartments with kitchenettes and one guesthouse with seven beds. Each one of them contains no less than five different types of local woods, some of them costing more than $25 per foot on the open market. These gorgeous woods (yellow, toffee, dark chocolate) were used in building construction and in the clean, crisp furniture–much of it designed and created by George.

Our room at the charmingly hand-crafted Posada del Cerro boutique guesthouse in El Remate, Guatemala.

Rooms are minimal, homey and stylish–like an IKEA catalog (utilitarian design, primary colors) in the jungle and the place reminded us a bit of a budget version of Verana boutique hotel in Mexico. Excellent home cooked meals are available (often eaten with George and his family) and there’s WiFi throughout and good views of the lake from some rooms. Check the mattresses before settling on a room, however. They’re all new and clean but some are very, very hard.

A romantic open-air loft room at Posada del Cerro boutique guesthouse in El Remate, Guatemala.

Right across the road there’s even a lovely dock jutting into the blue/green water of the surprisingly long and clear Lake Peten Itza, perfect for a cooling swim.

Karen starting the day off right at Palomino Ranch Hotel with two of her favorite things: coffee and a horse.

A slightly splurgier accommodation option in El Remate is Palomino Ranch Hotel (400Q doubles, or about US$50). The place has a dude-ranch-meets-hacienda vibe and a swimming pool with a horsehead tiled into the bottom. There’s also a stable full of real horses–appaloosas, quarter horses, palominos and even a cremello stallion–a horse that’s pure white with blue eyes and whose genes guarantee to produce a palomino (beige coat with white mane and tail) foal when bred with a chestnut mare. It’s genetic magic.

Palomino Ranch owner Arturo Iriarte has been passionate about horses since he worked on his dad’s ranch as a child. Looking at him at the ranch you’d never guess he owns an advertising business in Guatemala City. Arturo’s well-trained horses (overseen by maestro de caballos Jose) were a pleasure to ride.

 

Maestro de caballos Jose with the distinctive cremello stallion at Palomino Ranch Hotel in El Remate, Guatemala.

Us riding around Lake Peten Itza with gorgeous horses from Palomino Ranch Hotel in El Remate, Guatemala.

Arturo also owns a chunk of land near his hotel that’s dotted with unearthed Mayan ruins and abuts the neighboring Biotopo Cerro Cauhi which means he has fantastic, essentially private trails as well. Riding through these steep, jungly hills (150 Q or US$20 for three hours) we got great views out over Lake Peten Itza and ample opportunities to dismount and wander through areas full of the remains of small Mayan settlements, mostly untouched by archaeologists and unvisited by tourists.

Owner Arturo Iriarte showing off the jumping skills of one of his horses at Palomino Ranch Hotel in El Remate, Guatemala.

Palomino Ranch Hotel owner Arturo Iriarte in the saddle.

The next day we took the horses along the shores of nearby Lake Salpetén then looped back to the Ixlu archaeological site. The remains of this Mayan civilization have been excavated (and are probably being meticulously raked and swept by the devoted care taker even as we speak). Riding around and amongst the hulking structures added a fresh layer of adventure to the site. There’s just something cool about signing the visitor book at an archaeological site from horseback.

Jose, Palomino Ranch Hotel’s maestro de caballos, takes a break.

Eating in El Remate

Mon Ami, which had the bungalows in the garden which we mentioned before, is also known for it’s food which was much better than average and very reasonably priced. One warning: Don’t get hoodwinked by their less-than-clear sign about internet charges. The 10Q (about US$1.25) amount posted is PER HOUR even though that’s not mentioned on the sign…

Two places that caught our eye but we never got the chance to try are Sugar Sap, an open-air cafe with homemade desserts and what looked (and smelled) like real coffee (located near Mon Ami) and Las Orquídeas (also near Mon Ami) where people swear by the pizza.

The crystal clear waters of Lake Peten Itza at El Remate in Guatemala.

Read more about travel in Guatemala

 

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  1. Very intresting article about guatemala is my favourite place, i enjoy it keep up good work, thanks for sharing.
    Kristen Marie recently posted..ForexMy Profile

  2. Good job Eric and Karen! your blog is very interesting and informative, it will help a lot of people that want to visit Tikal and El Remate. Hope every trip you make is full of blessings and new adventures.

    To all the people that want to come to El Remate and visit Palomino Ranch Hotel can contact us on our web page or at reservaciones@hotelpalominoranch.com
    It would be an honor to have you at the Ranch.

    Greetings,

    Arturo Iriarte
    Manager
    Palomino Ranch Hotel

  3. I enjoyed taking your truck ride via yout truck-mounted video; however, I would have enjoyed it more if I could have slowed it down @ my pace and revisit that sight when I have more time—-