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You Don’t Have to Go All the Way to New Zealand to Visit Middle-earth

Live out your 'Lord of the Rings' fantasies at this hobbit-themed eco-park in Guatemala.

Perched nearly 8,000 feet in the sky, high in the ever-misty Sierra Madres Mountains just outside of Antigua, Guatemala, rests the world’s most wondrous eco-park: Hobbitenango.

It’s a place where fantasy meets reality, a place that embodies the philosophies of Middle-earth dwellers—simplicity as a path to happiness, harmony with mother nature, and the life-changing effects of undertaking an epic adventure.

Hobbitenango covers an expansive 26 acres dotted with delicious restaurants and bars, cozy cottages, endless faire-style activities, and some of the best photo-ops anywhere in Central America. Surrounded by five volcanoes jutting above the horizon that stretches across the Panchoy Valley, Hobbitenango’s backdrop is utterly jaw-dropping at every turn.

Those who stick around for the breathtaking sunsets are likely to be rewarded with a glimpse of the explosive Volcan Fuego erupting in front of the stars.

A Regional Symbol for Community-Based Tourism

Hobbitenango, meaning “place of the hobbits” in Mayan, was dreamed up by husband and wife duo Hanna Hall de Arzu and Roberto Arzu to inspire imagination and playfulness in its guests. But since its opening in 2015, it has transformed into a regional symbol for community-based tourism.

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At the time of launch, Hanna said the local village of Vuelta Grande was the poorest in Sacatepequez state, where the predominant industry was agriculture, and unemployment was high; many families had to separate or leave their homes behind to find jobs. Hobbitenango’s co-owners set out to support its closest neighbors with an enchanting vision.

Over the years, Hobbitenango has called in experts to train their local staff in five-star customer service, and the instruction has been so effective that many of their employees have since competed in international culinary and bartending competitions.

“When Hobbitenango began, we prioritized working with the local village and trained everyone little by little in the kitchen, bar, and park. Today we employ more than 100 people from Vuelta Grande, and now beyond, and we are proud to look back and see how we’ve all grown and pieced together a tourism business. We offer exceptional service to our guests–but we couldn’t have done it without the unbelievably optimistic and joyful attitudes of these people,” Hanna says.

Marvin Coxolca

Lodging That’s as Whimsical as It Is Sustainable

This captivating adventure park is more than a picturesque fairyland. Hobbitenango was consciously designed to reflect a deep connection with our planet, and every element blends seamlessly into its surrounding environment. The park’s successful efforts to minimize its ecological footprint while maintaining its magic and allure have made it a global model for sustainable tourism.

Hanna and Roberto collaborated with the residents from Vuelta Grande and together explored building principles that incorporate raw materials sourced on-site, including wood, upcycled plastic and glass, and non-organic waste.

“Thankfully, many people came with construction experience, but we all learned together how to build in ecologically conscious ways, with earthbags, plastic bottles, and green roofs,” Hanna says.

Hobbitenango has three otherworldly casitas for overnight guests. These are whimsically tucked into the grassy hillside and feature adorable architectural touches such as round doors and living roofs with hanging gardens that are not only gorgeous, but increase energy efficiency within the domes and offer a habitat for wildlife.

Inside, the hobbit huts are adorned with on-theme decor and provide eco-amenities like organic toiletries and reusable towels.

Behind the Magic Is Conservation

It’s easy to get caught up in Hobbitenango’s mystical vibes; after all, quirky treasures and robust, earthy bites lurk around every corner. The park has an abundance of faire-style activities attractive to all ages, like ax-throwing, archery, mini-golf, and cruising cliffside on the tallest tree swing in Latin America. And Hobbitenango’s artisanal all-day menus are an experience of their own.

Marvin Coxolca

Locally grown farm-fresh ingredients and gourmet preparation are paired with first-rate service, making it the best restaurant option outside Antigua. Delicious options include egg dishes slow-cooked in clay pots, pesto eggplant served in a cast-iron skillet, grilled lamb paired with salad in a gratin basket, and fruit tarts fired in a wood oven.

INSIDER TIPPlan a visit from mid-November to mid-January, when Hobbitenango hosts a nightly holiday fireworks show, complete with music and lighting effects from ‘Lord of the Rings’ films and free marshmallows to roast at the park’s campfires.

While Hobbitenango is teeming with fun and games, what’s happening behind the beautiful green scenes is a keen focus on conservation. The park’s energy is 100% solar-sourced, and rainwater harvesting combined with low-pressure pipes and a gray-water reuse system helps protect Guatemala’s most precious resource: clean water. Hobbitenango is also committed to responsible waste management, with a full-scale recycling and composting program.

Marvin Coxolca

How to Visit

A place of marvel and delight, guests at Hobbitenango are sure to either have their heads in the clouds or be walking on them. Adventure-seekers will want to arrive with an ATV tour booked in Antigua, but low-key travelers can easily snag a cab or drive from town (though a 4×4 is recommended).

Plan to spend at least an entire daywhether you’re on an action-packed quest or seeking reverie and solitude, there are plenty of mysteries waiting to be explored here. Just come prepared to do a fair amount of walking, and do not forget the camera.