After spending six sensational weeks in Guatemala, its hard to decide what was the best of the best! The guide books weren’t wrong when they advise that it’s easy to fall in love with this magnificent country, and you might stay longer then you may have originally intended!
1. Lake Atitlan – spending time relaxing or partying around the many towns surrounding the lake. Each has it’s own personality and vibe – personally I loved the atmosphere and food choices available in San Pedro, and spending time during the day at San Marcos swimming and diving from the raised platform on the cliffside. Admission is 15Q, and take your own food/drinks or buy some in town as there is none at the swimming hole. You can also hike the Indian Nose or Volcan Atitlan if you have a little more time, or study Spanish by the lake. Shuttles to San Pedro cost around 65-90Q and boat trips across the lake are usually around 10-20Q return.
2. Acetenango hike – one of the most rewarding but physically and mentally challenging things I have done in my life. Sunset above the clouds watching the nearby volcano erupt was just magical. I did my tour through NEWay tours (300Q) plus park entrance fee of 50Q
Read more and see the stunning photos in my post about the hike here.
3. Semuc Champay/Lanquin – the natural beauty of the national park is just breathtaking. Spending an afternoon swimming in the rockpools was the best after exploring the underground cave system, and hiking up to enjoy the beautiful view. We stayed on the mountainside at Zephyr lodge, treated to our own pool and magnificent views of the valley from the facilities! A day tour of the national park costs around 150Q (cheaper if you book in town rather than at the hostel). Hear the story.
4. Antigua – I spent four weeks in this old colonial town, studying Spanish and soaking up the atmosphere. It has so much to offer – culture, history, architecture, great food, nighhtlife and of course a beautiful backdrop of mountains. Over Semana Santa it becomes a hub for both national and international tourists to see the colourful and vibrant parades that snake down the cobblestone streets, over beautiful ‘carpets’ laid down by the locals. The food markets at Iglesia La Merced leading up to easter was a definite highlight, as was my host family mother’s home cooked Guatemalan food. A week at spanish school, homestay and three meals a day cost approximately 1300Q. Last but not least, the nightlife is buzzing, and if you are female you are in luck – it’a always ladies night somewhere! Rotating between establishments on a nightly basis, you can get free drinks and even a free massage on a Wednesday!
5. Tikal– spending a day climbing the ancient Mayan ruins of this old city, taking in the scenery and the wildlife. For the brave, you can camp overnight on the ruins if you manage to talk the security guards into it with a small offering, but be prepared for a cold night! Another hidden Mayan ruin can be found at thr lost Mirador, however to reach it incolves a six day hike through the jungle from Flores. Admission into the park costs 150Q (extra for sunrise tour).
6. Flores/ rope swing – this lovely little town is quaint and peaceful, you can walk around e island in around 15 minutes. We took a day trip over the lake to the rope swing, where you can spend time swimming, relaxing in a hammock or launching yourself off a dive platform (as some of us did). You are actually able to stay overnight there (hammocks or cabins), which I imagine would be amazing! The owner will come and pick you up in their boat (70Q per boatload) and it is 15Q for admission.
7. Pacaya hike – for those who aren’t quite willing to put themselves through the pain of the overnight Acetenango hike, Pacaya is a nice compromose. The hike is a relatively gentle 90minute climb to the crater rim, where you can roast marshmallows on the volcanic molten rock. There are two tours a day, 6am and 2pm, cost is 60-80Q plus 50Q park admission fee.
8. Breakfast/dinner at Cerro San Cristobal – affording an amazing view over Antigua, this cliffside restaurant has great food as well! Just be sure to ask them when it closes, as we were served a second bottle of wine after dinner only to then be told they were closing in ten minutes – at 8pm on a weekend! The return sttle can be arranged through Nim P’ot craft mark underneath the Santa Catalina Arch, and costs 10Q. In my opinion, the mirador is mich better than that at El Tenedor (reached by free shuttle from the Hotel Santo Domingo).
9. Yoga class at Hobbitenango – I was lucky enough to be introduced to this great place by Yoga by Lewis. It’s a short drive from Antigua and an amazing way to start your day. Transport, yoga and a fruit breakfast included for 120Q.
10. Monterrico – who can go to Guatemala without seeing a volcanic black sand beach? To be fair, I was short on time so didn’t visit El Parédon which is more of a surf beach. Staying at Johnny’s place, the service was great, and I never had to leave as I had everything I needed right there – food, drinks, pool, beach, billiards and even a beach soccer goal. Return shuttle 140Q and dorm accomodation with fan was 45Q (includes breakfast). Could easily have spent more time there!