Guatemala is an amazing country with many stunning places to visit. I’m an ex-pat living in this country for the past few years and I can confidently say that Lake Izabal or Lago de Izabal is one of the hidden gems of the country, it doesn’t get the tourist attention it deserves. That’s why I decided to make a full blog post about Lake Izabal, what to do in the lake and around, also I’ll tell you some interesting information about Lago Izabal.
Lake Izabal in Guatemala
What is the largest lake in Guatemala?
Lake Izabal is known as the country’s largest lake (about 24 km wide and 48 km long, with a huge area of 590 km²) and is located in the Caribbean region of Guatemala. It is right in the middle of an isolated, stunningly beautiful, forested section of the country, which has only recently been discovered by tourists. There are some hotels & restaurants around, but the area is not as developed in terms of tourism as Tikal National Park or Antigua Guatemala. The largest town in the area is called Fronteras which is commonly known as Rio Dulce.
This lake is perfect for those looking for some sport fishing because it is rich in perch, tarpon and other game fish. You might even run into the endangered fresh-water manatee or sea cow.
If you come to this area these are the things you can’t miss: swimming in a little pool formed by one of the waterfalls in Finca Paraiso, take a boat tour to the Boqueron Canyon, visiting the Mariscos Town & Rio Dulce towns and enjoy a tour in the Chocon Machacas Biotope.
Things to Do In Lake Izabal, Guatemala
1. Boat Tours
There are several tours being offered in the lake and on the nearby rivers. you can choose between exploring mangroves, going to the nearby Livingston town seeing the San Felipe fortress (more information about it below). for a better service try going with a tour agency, locals also offer them but they tend to charge too much if they see you aren’t a local.
2. Hiking at Cerro San Gil
This is a large reserve where the humid tropical forest is protected. It is mainly dedicated to caring for its rivers and flora, so you will find a lush forest with tons of gorgeous, crystal clear rivers.
The beauty of these kinds of tours is that you get to rent a Kayak and explore as you like, there are no schedules or having to deal with other people. Finca Tatin is one of the places where you can rent them.
4. San Felipe Fortress
This is where Spaniards used to fight off attacks from the English, French, and pirates who were looking to get control over the Central American region of which Guatemala was the capital back in the colonial days. you can reach it from the lake or from the town.
5. Quirigua Mayan Ruins
This small Mayan archaeological site was declared a UNESCO heritage site because, in it, archaeologists found extremely detailed and well-preserved stelae that allowed them to learn a lot more about their culture, it is also where the highest Mayan stelae ever found is.
6. See manatee
The rare and endangered manatee lives in the waters of Izabal Lake. There are a few boat tours in the area that leaves early in the morning and take you to areas where manatee like to hang out in.
Bonus: Swim on a naturally heated hot spring pool and a small waterfall called in a place called Finca Paraiso.
Where is Lago de Izabal?
Lake Izabal is located in the Izabal Department, one of the 22 departments you can find in the country. In the Caribbean region of Guatemala. It is specifically located in the middle of an isolated, but a beautiful, green section of the country.
The Izabal Deparment shares a border with Belize on the north and Honduras on the east. Also, with some other Guatemalan Deparments like Peten to the northwest, Zacapa to the south, and Alta Verapaz to the west.
How to get to Lake Izabal?
Is really fun the travel to Lake Izabal, you first need to get to the town of Frontera (also called just Rio Dulce), you can get to this place by renting a car, using the local bus or just a special transportation tour from Guatemala City or Antigua.
After you get to Fronteras, you need to head to the main boat dock that’s located at the base of the bridge in Fronteras, yes, the best way to go to Lake Izabal is by boat, there are many boat-taxi services in Fronteras that will take you all the way through Rio Dulce river to Lake Izabal. There are collective boats too, they leave Rio Dulce to Livingston at 9, 11 am, and 1 pm every day, usually, the price is q115 one way or q180 for the round trip (like $15 and $25 respectively). Another great option is to just rent a boat that can carry up to 10 people for around q750 (like $100).
This is an area of Guatemala that does not get as much attention as the more popular Antigua and Tikal. And I don’t think it should be your main destination when traveling to Guatemala but if you have the time it is definitely worth checking out.
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