Saturday, June 15, 2013


After our 3 nights in Copán Ruinas, Honduras, we'll head into Guatemala. 1st stop will be the Quiriguá Maya site, known for it's huge, beautiful stelae. After our tour there with Roxy, we'll head to Antigua; Roxy might take us part way if she's heading to Guatemala City but if she's heading to Petén in northern Guatemala, we'll take a bus into GC and shuttle to Antigua. We can figure out that part later.

In ANTIGUA we'll stay at my favorite hotel, Casa Cristina - secure, great location, cute (though smallish) rooms, free purified water and internet, and friendly, helpful owners, $25-40/double, depending on the room. Here's the Moon Handbook write-up about this hotel:

The excellent value Casa Cristina (Callejón Camposeco #3A, between 6a and 7a Avenida, tel. 7832-0623,, $22–37 d) has beautifully decorated, colorful rooms with wrought-iron accents, Guatemalan bedspreads, tile floors, and private hot-water bathroom. Pricier “standard plus” rooms have cable TV, while deluxe rooms also have gorgeous volcano views and minifridge. Room rates include unlimited use of wireless Internet, purified drinking water, coffee, and tea.
This is the view of lovely La Merced church from the rooftop terrace:
and here's a closer view of La Merced.
Fernando's Kaffee is a terrific coffee and breakfast place on the corner between those 2 hotels.
I have specific spots in mind for lunch and dinner, too. Antigua is a United Nations World Heritage Site. The streets are lined with interesting architecture and lots of cultural color.
There are lots of ruins to explore,
fascinating markets and stores,
and some excellent museums.
We'll only have 1 full day in Antigua but might want to make time for a chocolate making class at the ChocoMuseo - really entertaining. Chocolate has a huge significance in Maya history - there was a time when its trade value was higher than gold.
Antigua's altitude is about 5000 feet and weather is springlike year round. Daytime temperatures are usually in the 70's with night temps in the 60's. A July visit is during the rainy season (they call it winter) so expect mornings to be gorgeous and for it to rain sometimes in the afternoons/evenings. That close to the equator the days are a similar length year round; in summer the sun rises around 5:30am and sets around 6:20pm.

Next stop: LAKE ATITLÁN, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Author, humanist, and philosopher Aldous Huxley said, "Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissably picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing."

Weather on the lake is similar to Antigua's - gorgeous mornings, temperatures averaging in the 70's, occasional rain in the afternoons or evenings. Sometimes the breeze picks up in the afternoons and makes lake crossings a bit choppier.

In addition to the natural beauty, Lake Atitlán's shoreline is dotted with villages.
Each has it's own unique customs and traditional dress - a visit to this part of the world feels like a step back in time. We'll stay in San Pedro La Laguna.
We can decide on our lodging there later; here are 2 contenders:

Hotel Mikaso is on the lake in San Pedro a short walk from my beloved Cooperativa Spanish School. It has a terrace, a restaurant, a hot tub, a pool table, a common kitchen, and a variety of room configurations (1-4 or 5 per room) with rates from $18-$49. I think all or at least most of us will want to stay there to have a common base. Here's the review from the Moon Handbook for Guatemala:

The nicest place in San Pedro is Mikaso Hotel (tel. 5973-3129,, $8 p/p in dorm, $25–45 d) with 11 rooms and a dormitory housed in an attractive Spanish neocolonial-style building fronting the lakeshore. Rooms have tile bathrooms, ceiling fans, tile floors, and tasteful decor. The rooftop restaurant here is also quite smart, serving Mediterranean Spanish food, including delicious bocadillos (sandwiches), and open 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Movies are shown three times a week on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights.
Another good value option is Hotel El Amanecer Sak'cari, a few blocks away which has simple, clean rooms and a garden overlooking the lake. Rates have doubled in the last 2 years; a room with 3 twin beds would be about $50. Here's the Moon Handbook summary:

Hotelito El Amanecer Sak'cari (7a Avenida 2-12 Zona 2, tel. 7721-8096, $26 d) feels a bit like a motel, though the rooms on the second floor have nice lake views with hammocks out front. All rooms have a private bathroom.
Our focus will be the cultural aspects of Lake Atitlán, but there's something for everyone in terms of outdoor adventures, too; these vary in expense and degree of difficulty. Some can be done without a tour provider and I have friends who can help us set up others. Also, Atitlán Adventures has been recommended to me.

Panajachel Reserve offers a beautiful waterfall plus canopy bridges and monkeys. We'll stop in Panajachel coming and going and if the weather cooperates, we'd have time for a quick hike.
San Pedro volcano and the hike to La Nariz de Indio (Indian Nose, top peak in the photo below) are both popular options - challenging hikes rewarded by gorgeous views. Here's a blog post about my hike last summer to the top of La Nariz de Indio.
There are options for ziplining,
horseback riding,
and kayaking on the lake, easy and popular.
San Pedro also has a nice pool.
I'll set up cultural activities for us. These might include salsa dance lessons,
weaving demonstrations,
cooking classes,
visits to art galleries,
and visits to other villages for shopping and cultural experiences.
Here is Maximón, patron saint of tobacco, alcohol, and prostitutes who moves to a new home every year in the village of Santiago Atitlán.
The Beca Project will be a main focus in San Pedro. The staff of the Cooperativa Spanish School (below) helped me establish this project.
Visiting some of the students in their homes can be a powerful, memorable experience. Homes are humble and construction materials vary; cinder block, mud or adobe bricks, corrugated metal roofing, corn stalks, and/or plastic sheeting are used. Most have dirt floors and lack running water. The families are friendly and welcoming.
We'll need the Beca Project's main advisor in San Pedro, Mynor (below), to lead the way and serve as translator. The native language in the community is Tz'utujil, a Maya language. The Beca kids learn Spanish in school but the parents - who had limited access to education for financial reasons - rarely speak it. There are only a few streets big enough for cars in San Pedro; most of the families live on narrow alleys and footpaths like the one shown here.
We may spend our last night in San Pedro and catch an early boat across the lake to Panajachel, or we may decide to leave San Pedro our last afternoon and spend the last night in Panajachel. The shopping is fantastic there - likely the best in Guatemala - and we'd stay at one of my favorite budget hotels anywhere, Mario's Rooms.
Either way we'll leave for the airport in Guatemala City by 8:30am via private shuttle, provided by Adrenalina Tours.

There are additional links to the upper right including travel forums (always search 1st before asking a question) and my photo collections on Flickr; check out the blog, travelogue, and review links on the main page of each collection if you're interested. If you click on a set there's a slideshow link above on the right. 


No comments:

Post a Comment