Solo Travelers, Are We Safe?

Is it safe for the single female to travel through Central America? It depends on who you ask.

Deciding to get “off the grid” 6 months ago took me to the quaint little island off of Nicaragua, Little Corn Island, for a week. Located about 50 miles east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and only about 1.5 sq miles in size, but an oasis of tranquility, and a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the U.S. The only fear that registered was driving through Miami to the airport.

I arrived on Little Corn Island at sunset on a local Panga boat and all I could do was smile from ear to ear. This little island had more personality than anything I had come across in a long time.
He dropped me onto the sand beach and the most unique tropical island complete with local dogs running loose, the smell of lobster grilling and music coming from one of the few cafe/bars on the island. Lobster being the main export certainly was a plus right at arrival and dinnertime.

There were no cars on the island which means no roads which means no street lights so I was glad I had done my homework and had brought my flashlight for walking after dark down the sidewalk. I was welcomed by friendly, fast speaking locals, expats and those like myself, whom were on a new adventure in uncharted territory. What a hoot! Being a boat captain and long time scuba diver I felt right at home on this lush, remote paradise minus the comfort of a/c. The island’s generator had gone down that morning and still was not working by the time I left.

Being a female and traveling alone, I sometimes get funny looks or a shocked expression but I love to travel alone and there on Little Corn never did I feel uncomfortable or threatened. Of course I am always aware of my surroundings and make sure I don’t find myself in any seedy areas alone and always keep my belongings close.

My days were spent diving, snorkeling, exploring the island, reading in the waterfront hammocks and watching the kids play in the water with their friends and dogs. Afternoons were spent at one of the openair cafe’s waiting for the hotel’s backup generator to kick on to enjoy a cool shower and a short nap before the nightlife picked up.

The local fishermen could be seen daily sitting in the shade preparing bait for their lobster pots while the recently established police department’s patrol woman stopped by the establishments making small talk.
This was the life on Little Corn and I hope to make it back again in the near future but I have learned a few things if I should go back…. travel extra light, bring good walking shoes because you will be walking where ever you go, bring the bug spray (although the bugs were not bad at all while I was there) and make sure to bring your appetite for some wonderful seafood, rice, fruit and black beans.

In the months ahead I could not get Little Corn off of my mind after returning home to Florida. So I am now crossing the country of Guatemala. On the road for almost a month now, I say “yes” it is safe. However, I am always cautious with my belongings as in any country.

After arriving in Guatemala City, my first destination was Antigua, just 45 minutes away. Spending my first afternoon getting accustomed to new surroundings was a great experience. Cobblestone streets, horse drawn buggy’s and a mixture of travelers from all over the world coexisting in harmony.

The first night walking the streets after dark, sent me into an unusual paranoid state. The glow from the low watt street lamps gave me a feeling of foreboding as well as the local men gathered in doorways of bars and on street corners. I took an early dinner and returned to my hotel and comfort zone.

Over the next few days I began to relax and enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread, shoe polish from the shoeshine boys and even the horse hung.

The women I interviewed here also had no fear of being in Guatemala alone and most felt confident and safe. Surprisingly there are many women traveling solo throughout Guatemala. Some have settled in Guatemala for extended stays and the majority have visited several countries and have an extended itinerary or have found a community they felt comfortable in and put down roots.

How are they financially able to stay? The cost of living in Central America is very affordable, much more than the states. Many women have homes which they rent to long term tenants. This can easily be enough to travel comfortable for quite a while. One female backpacker had been traveling 4 years from the income of her rental home in Sydney, Australia. Her average cost per year, for her travels, was $25,000. Others have internet businesses or work locally as yoga instructors and, of course, teachers.


Lake Atitlan, where the Rainbow get’s it’s colors

The word Atitlán is a Mayan word that translates as “the place where the rainbow gets its colors”. The village residents are mostly indigenous, Cakchiquel Mayas.
Lake Atitlán is situated at an altitude of 5118 ft., located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala and approximately four hours from Guatemala City. The lake was formed 150,000 years ago when Tolimán, after years of building pressure, discharged in a violent expulsion of magma, ash and sand. The eruptive column reached heights of 25 to 34 miles and dispersed ash over an area from Florida to Ecuador. So much magma had been expelled that only an empty cavity remained. The area collapsed due to the weight of the earth above it forming the the 11 mile diameter caldera. The caldera filled over time with rainwater and sediment to create the present lake of today and at it’s deepest depth is 340 miles.

Seismic activity has been low in the last decade, but volcanic activity does influence relatively long-period fluctuations in the lakes level. Due to changes, caused by a rising and falling of the silt layer at the bottom of the lake, cycles of volcanic activity and inactivity has caused an approximate 50-60 year cycle.
The main village along Lake Atitlán would be Panajachel, Lake Atitlán’s most visited town and transport hub for the whole lake. A large part of the successful tourist infrastructure.
San Pedro La Laguna has become the poplar destination for backpackers and known for a laid-back hippyish small town as well as the indigenous local residents.
San Marcos La Laguna is well known as the village of meditation. Offering reiki, yoga, massages, aromatherapies, Chinese health therapies, reflexology, meditation, holistic treatments and other new age therapies.
On the south side of the lake is Santiago, the largest community around the lake where many still practice many of the old traditions. The main street up from the dock offer stores and stands where the local artisans sell wooden and other handcrafted products. The town offers a small variety of quality hotel-restaurants, although not as widely poplar as some of the other busy villages, this small town is famous for a shrine to Maximón.
Santa Cruz La Laguna, located on north side of Lake Atitlán and has been growing in popularity recently.
San Juan La Laguna is considered the hub for its natural colored dyed fabrics and clothing. Agriculture is most important for the economy as well with the service sector growing, especially as the number of tourists increase.
There are a total of 12 villages on the lake and all are just a boat ride away.

Laguna Lodge, an Osis on Late Atitlan

As the sun begins to set on Lake Atitlan; the sound of the waves gently lap below the stone deck of Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve. The awesome sunsets are among the most profound which turn into a star studded night.
The indigenous staff not only work here, they were among the many who helped to build this wonderland. They are so kind and make every effort to make your stay at Laguna Lodge an experience to remember. Love has certainly gone onto this spectacular lodge and nature reserve.
Arrival by boat is the only available transportation to Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature Reserve. This luxurious, natural 5 star boutique hotel comes complete with sweeping views of a trio of dramatic volcanoes. Sitting lakeside on 40 acres along Lake Atitlan; this truly amazing resort is a perfect solution for any type of getaway.
Situated in Tzantizotz which in local Kaqchikel is Point of Bats, the lodge and reserve begins lakeside at 5135 ft. above sea level. The top of the reserve is at 6,440ft with some of the last remaining primary forest on the lake. From a distance, the thatched roofs blend perfectly with the natural backdrop of coffee and banana trees among the forest! with just a glimpse of the trail above.
The trails are made up of large cliffs and ancient Mayan ceremonial rocks. Organic coffee is grown on the lower slopes of the reserve which is served in the Zotz Restaurant.
The lodge was created from volcanic stone, adobe and palm with magnificent, spacious lakeside suites. The meandering stone walks, walls and planters run throughout the lodge giving the soothing feeling of being back in history and in tune with nature.
The award-winning Zotz restaurant has a spectacular, large stone fireplace which gives a warm ambience for a wonderful dining experience or relaxing in the bar.The restaurant, gathering areas and patios are adorned with unique indigenous antiques and decor which gives the most inviting feeling, while soothing music plays throughout the lodge.
Exquisite rooms and suites offer spectacular views, even from the bath areas. Fashioned with stone walls, wood floors and green Guatemalan marble carved bedside lamps, stone writing desk and antiques.
The baths are a Botanical dream including toiletries, oversized towels and bath robes. The mini bars offer organic wines, chocolates and nuts with complimentary drinking water, fresh floral arrangements and a delightful spa pool.

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How to get to Laguna Lodge
Laguna Lodge is 147km west of Guatemala City, approximately two and a half hours away by the pan american highway (CA1). Guatemala City is serviced daily by American Airlines, Delta, United, Continental, Taca, US Airways, Air Canada, China Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Avianca, Spirit or their partners. Arrival airport code is (GUA) Guatemala City Aurora Airport.
If you choose to use their private shuttle service, they will meet you at the airport. The chauffeur will be waiting at the front arrivals gate with a sign with your name on it and will bring you safely and comfortably to Panajachel. The lodge’s private boat will be waiting to take you directly to the lodge just 10 minutes away.
The Lodge is situated in the municipality of Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlan National Park, in the western highlands province of Sololá. Conveniently located near Panajachel, public water taxis will stop at our dock regularly throughout the day to take you to other destinations around the lake. Water taxis leave regularly for Santa Cruz La Laguna and first pass the dock of Laguna Lodge. The boats will stop at our private dock when asked. Private boats can be arranged to and from Laguna Lodge 24hrs.