Seven days in Guatemala

Old Feb 19th, 2009, 04:26 PM
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Seven days in Guatemala

I had wanted to visit Guatemala ever since I saw an article in the New York Times travel magazine. That was at least ten years ago but the day finally came.
I traveled with two other woman and I have to say that this was one of my favorite trips.
We started our trip in Antigua arriving late in the afternoon. I had booked a service so someone would be waiting for us at the airport. This probably wasn't necessary but it's always nice to know someone will be there. We stayed at Casa Florencia our first two nights. It was very clean and the owners helpful. It was a little out of the way but we never mind walking so it was fine for us. Our first night we just walked around to get our bearings and ended up eating at Friedas.
Breakfast was included our first day and it was a very nice buffet. We had booked a hike with Old Town Adventures and they came on time to pick us up. We used Old Town for many of our outings and always had a great time. The guides are very good and professional. We had a great morning hike with a pineapple as a snack. After arriving back in town our guide Rhett treated us to icecream. We quickly went back to our hotel so that we could get ready for our next adventure.. Hiking Pacaya volcano at night. Again we went with Old Town. We were a group of about 12 people and the volcano is about 1.5 hours away. Sadly I got sick on the way.. and I wasn't able to continue. Old Town called someone to come and pick me up and my friends continued. Although I can't comment on the trip my friends said it was excellent. They arrived back at the hotel.. dirty and very tired.
Day 3
Breakfast at Fernando's.. I can't say enough good things about this place. Wonderful coffee, food and chocolate.
Another early pickup from Old Town. Today we are heading to the lake but will ride bikes for part of the way. This trip was excellent. . Not really sure where we started but we rode for quite a few hours. The trip was 70 percent downhill but was still a bit challenging in parts. They made us a nice lunch on the way. One guide rode with us and the other followed us in a van . We ended in Pana and had about an hour to walk around. We had a few drinks and chips before we headed to the dock to catch our boat. Since this was still part of our Old Town trip our guide Ricky came with us. We stayed at Casa Del Mundo. Ricky stayed too as our trip was two days. We really love Casa del Mundo. A great place. We ate our dinner there and used the hot tub before heading off to bed.

Will continue the report tomorrow. I am really not much of a writer and since I can't figure out how to edit .. please just bear with me.
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Old Feb 20th, 2009, 05:07 AM
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thanks for posting and struggling with this poor new format...
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Old Feb 20th, 2009, 05:43 AM
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Great start - thanks for taking the time to share with us!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 06:52 AM
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Day 4
Another early day today. After a wonderful breakfast at Casa del Mundo we were set to start day two of our tour with Ricky which was supossed to be kayaking to one of the towns and then hiking back. It was so windy the whole time we were at the lake that we weren't able to do this part of the trip. Instead we went on a long hike around the lake and then took one of the boats back. We really enjoyed our hike and the beautiful scenery. Once we got back to the Casa it was time to say goodbye to Ricky and to have a late lunch. The breakfast and lunch at Casa del Mundo are amazing but the dinners are just so so.. we spent the rest of the day enjoying the grounds.. there are so many great places to relax.

Day 5
After a another great breakfast and a good hike we sadly had to get ready for the next part of our trip. We hated to leave the lake as we never got a chance to swim because of the wind. I guess that 's a good reason to plan another trip back.
We took the boat to Pana and then took a shuttle to Chichi. We took Hopeful's advice and went to Chichi the day before the market so we could watch them set up. I was really glad that we did this. As soon as we arrived a young man with a red vest (from the tourist office?) met us before we even got out of the van to see if we wanted him to show us around. We fist checked into Hotel Giron. I have to say this was my least favorite hotel of the trip but after looking at other hotels for much more money I think there just isn't much to choose from in Chichi. In hindsite I think that we should have asked to see another room because maybe ours was just lacking..
After checking in our guide Sebastian was waiting for us. I really didn't know if he was really a guide but his English was quite good and we were there for such a short time we figured why not. This turned out to be a great thing as we were there for such a short time and he turned out to be a great guide. He showed us the church and there just happened to be a funeral ending so we got to watch the procession up to the cemetery which was very colorful and interesting. He reccommended a good coffee place Los Cofradias so we all went for coffee. It was nice to visit with Sebastian offer our coffee's and we found out that his Mother and Grandmother would be at the market the next day. We asked him to join us in the morning so we could meet his family and he could show us the highlights of the market. While we were with him we were never asked to buy a thing but as soon as he stepped away and I mean as soon woman started asking us to buy there wares. We also ate our dinner at Los Cofradias and it was very good. Our night at Hotel Giron turned out to be the funniest night of our trip. It was so cold that we were bundled up in everything we had.. hats, gloves, coats.. and we were awake all night by either babies, cats, trucks,and the list goes on..we couldn't wait to get up!

Day 6
Ater breakfast with Sebastian we toured the market. I found this to be amazing, colorful and I was so glad that I traveled to this part of Guatemala. We hired a service through Elizabeth Bell to pick us up at 9:30 and I think that was just the right amount of time in Chichi. Enough time to see everything but not so much that you were waiting to leave. We had a fine trip back but there was a lot of constuction going on so I imagine the trip once the road is completed will be much faster.
We arrived back to Antigua and checked in to Casa Azul and then had a quick lunch at La Fonda de la Calle Real. We enjoyed our lunch and agreed to go back for dinner.
We booked a Maya Ceremony through Elizabeth Bell and this was one of my favorite things I did in Guatemala. Our ceremony was in a yard of someone's house with Calixta Gabriel who is of a higher degree then a shaman. This ceremony was very serious and really moving. This was done in a small group.
After our ceremony we walked around the town for a bit and found a few good candy and icecream stores that we made a note to return to.


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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 10:03 AM
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Sorry you didn't enjoy Hotel Girón but glad the timing of your visit to Chichi worked out well for you. We were there in August (warmer?) and the room was very nice. The only noise problem we had was the owner's daughter's birthday party but we got a charge out of that and it didn't last late. We also left around 9:30 in the morning though we were heading further into the highlands, to Nebaj.

Can you tell me what you paid your guide? I wasn't tempted by them on my last visit there but might be this summer when I'm back with a group in tow. Thanks so much for sharing such a helpful travelogue!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 11:22 AM
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Although I didn't love hotel Giron in all honestly I would probably stay there again unless I really splurged and stayed at Hotel Santo Tomas. We looked at the Mayan Inn and they were charging 148.00 and the room wasn't very nice for the price. It was then we decided to stay at Hotel Giron which is at least decent for the price we paid.. 30.00 which I believe it a bit more then what you pay. We went through a travel agent.
I think we paid Sebastian 15 dollars the first day and 12 the second. We also treated him to lattes and gave him some clothes for his wife. He was only 21 years old and already was expecting his second child.
I still have one day left of my travelog.. will finish it later with luck.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 01:33 PM
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Thanks for the additional information, ttraveler - helpful. We paid $16/double, I think, which is the rate I was quoted for my group which will be staying there this summer. The only way to contact them directly (and get the lower rate) is by phone and it's Spanish only.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 02:42 PM
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Hopeful,
After going to Guatemala I really fell in love with in and the people. I can see why you go back year after year. One day I would love to take a spanish class like you do. The girls I traveled with would really love to go back again this year. There is so much we missed and I would go back to Antigua in a minute. Until then I guess I could always have my Spanish speaking friend make my reservations..
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 03:32 PM
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I lead a group for Spanish study every year now, but not always Guatemala (last year Honduras, next year Panamá?). I have worked out arrangements with Antioch University Seattle for the travelers to receive up to 10 graduate quarter hours for study; I can arrange the same for independent groups heading to Honduras or Guatemala. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you if you decide to study. It continues to surprise and thrill me how much richer and more memorable my trips to CA are now that I am conversant in Spanish. Happy trails!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 04:05 PM
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Day 7
Our full day in Guatemala. Why is it that the last part of the trip goes by so fast. We had breakfast at Casa Azul and then met Elizabeth Bell and the rest of the group that signed up for her city tour in the main square. Our tour with Elizabeth was wonderful. We learned so much that day about Guatemala culture. We ended the tour at Casa Santo Domingo and toured the museum there. What an awesome place.
We had a quick lunch of icecream and then met up with one of Elizabeth's coworkers for a tour of the towns outside of Antigua ending at a weavers co-op. Here we learned about the weavings and what they mean to the Maya's. Again just a wonderful tour.
We had our last dinner at La Fonda where I finally tried and loved the Kac Ik. I think I would go back to Guatemala just for that. I can't get it out of my mind. It really reminded me of Thai soup where you get all of the spices on the side and then add as you like. It was just delicious. We went to La Pena del sol Latina that night to listen to music.

Day 8
Time to head back to the cold states.. We got up early and headed over to Fernando's for our last breakfast. We also ended up buying a lot of stuff to bring home. Coffee, chocolates and even textiles. I was so overwhelmed with everything I saw, it was actually easier having less to choose from. We also went to Jades S. A. ( for probably the 4th time) to pick out some jewelry. I ended up having them make me a beautiful bracelet with earrings to match. They made it up quite quickly.. it was picking out everything that was hard. We then headed to the nearby candy store to pick up a few cermanic owls. They are so cute and very reasonable.
I travel a lot but this was probably one of my favorite trips. I loved having the opportunity to be active and yet have so much history and culture to absorb. Hopefully I will make it back again soon.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 04:07 PM
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So sorry for all of these mistakes! I hate not being able to edit.
Hopeful, Thanks again for all of your wonderful help you gave me to plan this trip. I appreciate your offer to help me if I do get the chance to go study.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 07:43 PM
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Thank YOU for taking the time to post such a complete and helpful travelogue. It's making me really yearn to be back there - less than 5 months to go!
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Old Mar 7th, 2009, 04:47 AM
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I have enjoyed your trip report--have been reading posts about Guatemala as a follow up to our own trip there last week.
We also were intrigued by the spicy food options like Kak'Iq (traditional turkey soup from the Coban region), Pepian (chicken pieces in a slightly spicy tomato-based sauce) and tapado (seafood stew with coconut, banana, cilantro). I just got a recipe for the tapado off the internet.
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Old Mar 7th, 2009, 08:46 AM
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Stop apologizing! Your report was great. We visited Guatemala 2 years in a row and I would head back in a blink of an eye if someone said let's go. I live in Costa Rica now and may take the bus up one of these days. So many things to see and do yet. We repeated our first trip almost exactly because we hadn't enough time the first time. I just love it there. I have a menu from Frida's. Did you go shopping next door? I missed out on Fridas the first trip because I was sick. Check out Nifu Nifa next time you go. It is in Antigua not too far from Casa Santa Domingo. We found it when walking back into the center of town after taking the Bell tour. It is actually an Argentina chain and there is one here in Costa Rica as well. Not as pretty as the one in Antigua though. It didn't look like anything from the outside but my husband had lived in Argentina when he was a kid so he was interested in taking a closer look. Like so many beautiful places in Antigua it turned out to have the beautiful gardens inside. There is also a great coffee tour not far out of antigua that was fun. So sorry you missed the hike to Pacaya. One of the highlights of our last trip. I am drawing a blank on the name but I am sure someone can help. There is a lovely coffee shop hidden just off the square in Antigua. We found it when wandering through a bookstore right on the square. Did you get to see Maximon while on Lake Atitlan? You need to hire a local guide as his location changes. Do a wiki search for maximon, it is quite interesting.

Hard to resist that Jade. I also hit an amber jewelry store and bought a few things.

Will definitely check out Fernandos. The chocolate word got me. So many other interesting things to check out now as well. Thanks for all the recs.

I used to do a lot of biking so your trip really was intriguing to me. I hurt my back a few years ago and couldn't ride but it is better now. I would love to get into biking again.

Those women in the market can get pesty. Will have to remember the guide.

If you get to Tikal sometime there is a great guide named Luis. We spent a lot of time with him on both trips and he is just amazing. We saw 100 species of birds in one day and got much more info from him about the temples than we did from our first guide just a couple of days earlier. He grew up in the park and his dad was a guide. He even got permission for us to go to the top of temple 4 to view the sunset. Still haven't seen the sunrise but one of these days we will. It was cloudy when were tried. We are still planning on heading back there to do more birding with him in Guatemala and Honduras one of these days.

I will have to try some of those interesting dishes. I am usually afraid to try but I am getting braver in my old age.
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Old Mar 7th, 2009, 02:45 PM
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No, we didn't get to see Maximon, it was something I really wanted to do but just didn't have the time. I also wanted to go to the Antigua cooking school. Now, thanks to you I have some other fun things to look for. I could have stayed in Antigua for days just drinking coffee, eating the good food and taking in the sights. I want to go back! Thanks for your kind words.
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