Guatemala Journals

Guatemala: A Land Diverse

An April 2004 trip to Guatemala by Bethany Davidson-Widby

With wide eyes Photo, Guatemala, Central America More Photos
Quote: From volcanoes to beaches, cloud forests to rain forests, Guatemala will continue to surprise and delight you.

Guatemala: A Land Diverse

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Overview

With wide eyes Photo, Guatemala, Central America
Quote:
Climb the temples of Tikal, swim in the crystalline pools of Semuc Champey, climb the many volcanoes, live with a Mayan family through Projecto Eco-Quetzal, do your grocery shopping at the many local markets, learn how to make tortillas, shop the beautiful handmade wares in Panajachel and Chichi, relax, enjoy, reflect. . . there's so much to do and so much to see. Quick Tips: Have a flexible itinerary and lots of time -- there's much to be discovered. If you're going to be in Guatemala during Holy Week, Antigua is truly a spectacular place to be, though the town will be overflowing with people. Make your reservations early and try to stay for the whole week. Room prices are usually doubl...Read More

Casa de Don Ismael

Hotel | "Hotel la Casa de Don Ismael, Antigua"

Quote:
The small but quaint rooms are pleasantly arranged around a flower-filled courtyard. Lounge on the roof to take in some sun, watch the stars, or be in awe of the towering volcanoes. Soft and soothing music is played nightly while the courtyard is lit with candles. There are four bathrooms for the hotel, which are kept very clean. The water in the showers is not always hot, and tends to be more lukewarm than cold. The front desk can arrange for door-to-door shuttle service. The hotel is located in a nice quiet area of Antigua, approximately three blocks from the supermercado, two blocks from the town mercado, and two blocks from an internet cafe. The door to the hotel is always locked; ho...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 30, 2004

Casa de Don Ismael

Antigua, Guatemala

Casa D'Acuna

Hotel | "Casa D'Acuna, Coban"

Quote:
Casa D'Acuna is THE best budget place to stay in Coban. It is located down a steep hill from the main plaza in Coban, on a quiet street. While rooms may be a bit more pricey than other hostels, the rooms are always clean, the showers have hot water, and a great restaurant is just a few steps away.

The hostel runs a shuttle service to Lanquin/Semuc Champey, Flores, and Guatemala City/Antigua, and shuttle driver Felix will give you great information about the area during the drive. They also have a daily tour to Semuc Champey with experienced guides. Also on-site is a gift shop with many beautiful gifts made in the area, and from local Mayan families.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 30, 2004

Casa D'Acuna
4a Calle 3-11, Zona 2
Coban, Guatemala
951-0482

Las Marias, Semuc Champey

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Hotel

Quote:
I literally had to drag myself from this amazing place. Las Marias opened just this year and is already a hit to those who have heard about it. The hostel sits across the road from Rio Cahabon in the woods, just a 15-minute walk from the pools of Semuc Champey. Rooms are either dorm-style or doubles, and the beds are actually quite comfortable. There are hammocks everywhere to lounge in and a grassy space for camping. Take a tube and float downstream back to the hostel FOR FREE!! Go on a 2-hour cave tour in the caves owned by the hostel, you're guaranteed to climb up and down waterfalls, swim in the chilly yet invigorating water, and have a blast while you're at it. At night the place really ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 30, 2004

Casa Argentina

Hotel | "Casa Argentina, Xela"

Quote:
There are a variety of rooms to choose from: singles, doubles, or dorm-style. The dorm tends to be quite noisy all night long, yet is the cheapest option. The singles and doubles allow for more privacy, but try to get a room that's not too close to the Quetzaltrekker office as they tend to stay up late and get up really early.

There are kitchen facilities, but you may have to search for a clean dish. It's a good short-term option, but not for someone looking for a bit of privacy and relaxation.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 30, 2004

Casa Argentina
Diagonal 12 8-37
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
761-2470

Quote:
Spacious rooms are arranged around a flower-and-plant-filled courtyard. Each room is decorated with pictures and rugs and nice curtains and linens. Outside each room is a private table and chair. Rooms are available with or without private bathrooms, but beware: the rooms with private showers only have cold water. There is free purified drinking water and coffee for the much needed pick-me-up after a late night out in Pana. Watch out for falling avocados from the avocado trees that tower over the hotel and provide much shade on the hot days. There is a third floor terrace for lying out in the sun or getting a great view of Panajachel and Lake Atitlan. The community showers are n...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 31, 2004

Quote:
This place is cheap and basic, but with a great central location. Double rooms (double beds or two twins) cost around 15Q for one person, but it’s negotiable if for a longer period of time. The hostel itself is relatively quiet, and very laid-back. It's located across from El Otro Lado Bar near Munchie's restaurant, along the path to the dock for Santiago Atitlan. There is one shower for the entire complex and two bathrooms. The top level of the second building is not yet complete, however is a great place to hang out at night and watch the stars or play your guitar. There is a small pool there, but it was not filled while we were there. There is a washboard for washing your clothes, ...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on June 4, 2004

Hotel Mayab

Hotel | "Hotel Mayab, Flores"

Quote:
My room was perfectly clean with a private bathroom with hot water for 50Q. There are around 12 rooms there, some with double beds, some with two twin beds. The hotel is located right on the water and has its own private dock for swimming. While there is no air conditioning in the hotel, each room has an overhead fan and tile floors that tent to keep the rooms cool at night. Around the hotel are numerous restaurants, shops, and an internet cafe. You can have your laundry done a block away for a very reasonable price. Sit on the terrace or on the balcony and enjoy the sunset and the evening breeze. The front desk staff is very helpful, and there is an English-speaking receptionist. They ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 30, 2004

Hotel Mayab
Calle 30 de Junio
Flores, Guatemala

Quote:
Rainbow Cafe is great anytime of the day. Come for a huge earlybird breakfast special. Try the tasty sandwiches and soups for lunch (early soup/sandwich lunch special). There are lots of choices for dinner for both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Stay for an evening of live music and a bonfire while enjoying a cocktail or beer.


Get 15 free minutes at their internet cafe when you eat a meal at Rainbow. Check out bookstore/book exchange for some on the road reading.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 31, 2004

Munchies

Restaurant | "Munchie's, San Pedro la Laguna"

Quote:
This place served the best vegetarian food I had in Guatemala. Try the fresh squeezed fruit drinks, and the large portioned soups, salads, and sandwiches. Enjoy the casual atmosphere, especially in the evenings. It's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The staff speaks English.

Ask the owner if there's room in his hostel because you'll get a discount on your food if you stay there.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 4, 2004

Munchies
On The Path
San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala

Quote:
Looking for a great place to hang out with friends and have a good meal? Check out Nick's Place, a popular hangout on the water, just up the stairs from the dock to Panajachel. There's a spacious patio to sit on, and it's big enough for a large group of people. The thin crust pizzas are tasty and large enough to split. Bring your journal and have a nice leisurely breakfast while watching the lanchas arrive at the dock below. If you're with a large group of people, beware that dividing up the check has proved to be complicated for the staff at Nick's; it's better to pay for food and drinks as you go, instead of waiting until the end. Don't arrive too late for din...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 4, 2004

El Bistro, Coban

Restaurant

Quote:
For the best Italian and other European food, head to El Bistro, which is located adjacent to Casa D'Acuna. Candlelit tables are set around a beautiful courtyard and in thoughtfully decorated rooms. It’s a perfect setting for a private party or just meeting up with friends.


The vegetarian lasagna was splendid, as was the daily variety of homemade bread that came with it. The menu is diverse and well-priced, ranging from hot and cold appetizers, meat and poultry dishes, entree salads and decadent desserts. I highly recommend the chocolate macadamia pie for a real treat.


El Bistro opens at 7am and stays open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 31, 2004

Monoloco, Antigua

Attraction

Quote:
Monoloco is THE place to meet up with other foreigners when you're a bit road weary. Located just a block away from the central park, it's easy to get to and easy to find. It's guaranteed to be packed on Ladies Night, on the weekends, and any other night when they have one of their theme parties going on. Chill downstairs at the bar and watch a baseball game. Head upstairs to mingle with the crowd. If you're hungry for a bite, try one of the many great things on their menu. Make sure you say hi to Jake and the rest of the friendly and fun barstaff -- they're sure to make your visit one you won't forget!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 30, 2004

Quote:
The W.E. Dieseldorff cafe finca in Coban is one of the oldest and most established fincas in all of Guatemala. Our tour guide spoke English and Spanish fluently, and has worked at the finca for many years and was therefore very knowledgeable. It is not necessary to make reservations for the tour, as there is no minimum number of persons required. During the tour, you will learn about the history of the coffee industry in Guatemala, you will get a chance to see the coffee-making process from start to finish, you will learn about the role other vegetation plays in the growing process, and you will be able to ask questions along the way. At the conclusion of the tour, you will be treated to a cup of ve...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 1, 2004

Oh the smell of coffee beans...

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Story/Tip

Santiago Atitlan dock Photo, Guatemala, Central America
Quote:
As I look out the window from an internet cafe overlooking the boat docks here in San Pedro la Laguna, my sense of smell is being assaulted by the drying of coffee beans in the street. The pungent smell carries with the wind and surrounds you wherever you are in this small little lake village. San Pedro is truly a place of its own, a hippie village in the midst of the Mayan highlands. Many foreigners come here and never leave. As is the case with a man whom many of you have met, or will meet, a tall skinny old hippie with his long white beard, a rasta hat covering his long white hair, and clothes reminiscent of East Asia. He is truly an institution in this town, and wherever you go, he seems to...Read More

Cluck Cluck Cluck. . .

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Cluck cluck cluck. . . So I got to ride my first chicken bus, but alas, there were no chickens to be had. . . oh well, maybe next time. I was leaving San Pedro with two of my friends and we decided to take the cheap route. Now you have to understand that the departure and arrival of buses in a small town like San Pedro is an event, a cause for celebration, as buses are the link to the outside world. So at 8:30am on a Tuesday morning, there was quite a stir as bags were loaded on top of the bus, people piled in, and the disco music was turned on, all in preparation for "the ride" to Antigua. We each had our own seat for what I consider a second, before filling up even before we reache...Read More

Ketchup Spaghetti

Story/Tip

Quote:
I thought I was doing really well with my Spanish up until now. While sitting down to dinner tonight in Panajachel, I realized that I have a long way to go. I ordered three-cheese spaghetti at a popular pizza place, expecting it to be somewhat what I’m used to, but whoa was I way off! When my dinner was delivered, the first thing I noticed was that one of the "three cheeses" closely resembled melted Kraft slices. Hmmmm. . . and there was no sauce with it. So I requested "salsa de tomate" -- directly translated as "tomato sauce" -- to try to fix the spaghetti a bit. The waiter returned and quickly dropped off my "salsa de tomate," a bottle of ketchup and not even McDonald’s-style ketchup, but really sw...Read More

Saasa!

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Story/Tip

Child full of laughter Photo, Guatemala, Central America
Quote:
"Saasa!" "That’s good." This is one of the few words I actually mastered in the language of K’echi, the language spoken by my host family in the village of San Lucas, in the cloud forest of Alta Verapaz. For three days and two nights, I experienced a culture very different than that I have been living in for the last four weeks. The hut I lived in was simple, with dirt floors, three beds with a thin foam mattress, no electricity, and everything cooked over an open fire. My attempt at making tortillas failed miserably, with my family breaking into laughter, as I attempted to keep it from falling to pieces. Good thing they had perfected the art of tortilla making by hand because we wou...Read More
Quote:
Some consider it the 8th Wonder of the World. The limestone pools of Semuc Champey, forming a natural bridge over a rushing river. An oasis of sorts, you might say. Each pool cascades down into the next through a series of waterfalls, each varying in size. I walk up to the top pool to get a look at the tunnel the river flows into, and timidly get as close to the edge as I deem safe to take pictures. A miniature Niagara Falls. They say people have fallen in before, only to come out in pieces days later. . . no thank you, I'd like to stay intact. So I laze the days away, swimming in the pools, among the tiny fish and shrimp that make these crystalline pools their home. "Jump...Read More

Brr. . . it's cold.

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Story/Tip

Day in the Park Photo, Guatemala, Central America
Quote:
Brrr, it’s cold. Xela (Quetzaltenango) is Guatemala´s second largest city and the center of Guatemala´s Mayan culture making up 50% of the population. Located in the western highlands of Guatemala at 2335 meters (over 7000ft.) in elevation, Xela is surrounded by volcanoes and mountains, and it’s no wonder it’s cold at night. While Xela in itself is not a prime destination to visit, the surrounding villages are. Upon entering the village of Zunil aboard a chicken bus from Xela, we are greeted by a beautiful sight of the town below. Rising above the town is a beautiful white steeple, with lush green farms serving as a backdrop. I glance over the bridge on our way into town a...Read More
Temple of Tikal Photo, Guatemala, Central America
Quote:
Walking along the trail leading out of the magnificent ruins of Tikal, I stopped beside a couple on the path, interested in what they were staring at in the trees. Swinging from the branches above were little monkeys, detected only by the sound of the rustling leaves in the trees from which they were jumping. I looked down to glance at my watch noting it was exactly noon and I had a half hour to catch the 12:30 shuttle back to Flores. As I turned to continue on my way, I heard a small roar from the area behind me. The roaring became louder and louder, one voice becoming two until there was a chorus of voices, each with its own pitch and tone. The couple turned to me with petrified looks on thei...Read More

And the people mourn. . .

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Story/Tip

100 Men Photo, Guatemala, Central America
Quote:
The clouds of incense envelop me as I stand on the street corner surrounded by thousands of Guatemalans and tourists waiting anxiously for “the sight” to appear. I can hear the music, a solemn ballad. . . boom, boom, boom goes the drum. . . the procession is coming. Thousands of men, adorned in black capes and hoods, precede “the sight”, lining each side of the street. Then it appears, a massive creation, adorned with gold painted statues of angels and disciples, surrounded the a glass casket containing a life-sized statue of Christ, carried on the shoulders of one hundred men through the streets of Antigua for nine hours. Today is Good Friday, and the people mourn. . . The streets of Antigua are ...Read More