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Guatemala: Caribbean coast: Rio Dulce and Livingston

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Lying to the east of Guatemala City and connecting with the Caribbean coast is the Motagua Valley, which broadens into a steamy tropical floodplain carpeted with banana plantations. This less-visited region of Guatemala provides a very different aspect: an Afro-Caribbean culture focused on the genial garifuna settlement of Livingston, the cool clear waters of the country’s biggest lake, Izabal, and the tropical river Rio Dulce, which ploughs a furrow through an unbroken wall of dense rainforest. Rising from the lake’s mouth is the castle-like fort Castillo de San Felipe which protected this major transport artery from pirates in colonial times.

Our holidays to Caribbean coast: Rio Dulce and Livingston

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Honduran mountains

Guatemala and Honduras uncovered

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14 days from £3,390pp

Our insider tips for Caribbean coast: Rio Dulce and Livingston

Rafe Stone

Rafe Stone

Discovering the Mayan ruined trading post of Quiriguá, accessed from the Atlantic Highway which runs from the capital to the Caribbean coast. The ornate ruins include the tallest stellae in the Mayan world.


Isabelle Mazille

Riding a boat down the Rio Dulce past vertical cliff walls smothered in luscious vegetation, spotting little marinas and floating restaurants as you approach the lazy port of Livingston.

Nicola Gude

Nicola Gude

Wandering round the streets of sultry Livingston, which has a distinctly Caribbean flavour and where English is spoken as well as the population’s own indigenous garifuna language.

Jim Ashworth

Exploring the Spanish colonial Castillo de San Felipe, now open to visitors. The well-conserved fort has grand entrance and a labyrinth of tunnels. It is both an impressive defensive complex and excellent example of Spanish military architecture.

What our experts say

The Caribbean coast of Guatemala is worlds away from the traditional indian highlands. Tropical forests and rivers, a Spanish colonial fort, leisure boat marinas, floating restaurants and a real Caribbean feel dominate. Lake Izabal, a huge expanse of ethereal, silvery waters, is virtually unknown outside the country but I thought it was breathtaking.  

Claire Milner

Claire Milner

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