Explore Guatemala's scenic beauty and storied past during this orientation tour through the Motagua Valley, and a visit to the 17th-century Castle of San Felipe.
Depart the pier for the drive through the scenic Motagua Valley. Along the way, you will see an abundance of lush tropical vegetation in the countryside. Upon arrival at the bridge over the Rio Dulce, a stop will be made for spectacular views and photo opportunities of Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce National Park, a protected area and one of the most important ecological reserves in the country. From this vantage-point, you will also see Guatemalan weekend homes, marinas and small hotels dotting both sides of the river and lake.
On Lake Izabal, you will find the tiny Castle of San Felipe, or Castillo de San Felipe, the Spanish fort built to protect the Rio Dulce from invading pirates. You will then take a brief boat ride to the castle for an inside visit. Located just minutes from the bridge, the Castle of San Felipe was built during the 17th century in honor of the Spanish King Felipe II. The fort, with its powerful battery of cannons strategically positioned at the entrance to Lake Izabal, offered protection to Spanish ships crossing its waters, and transporting products and supplies to and from Spain and Havana. Its walls offered protection from pirates that used to navigate the river and attack the boats they encountered along the way.
In 1686, a pirate assault burned most of the fort, and the attacks continued until a series of treaties were signed between Spain and England. As a result, the Castillo lost its importance as a defensive fort, and was converted into a prison. It was later abandoned, and fell into a state of disrepair until its renovation by Architect Francisco Ferrus in 1955. Although rebuilt based upon its original plans, the Castle of San Felipe still retains two cannons dating back to the 1790s, and a pair of 400-year-old towers.
Following your tour, you will proceed to the Catamaran Hotel for refreshments before returning to the ship.
Please note: Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and bring sunscreen a hat, sunglasses and insect repellant from the ship. Guides will assist guests embarking the boats, but guests must be able to step into and out of the boat on their own; a challenging feat during low tide.