Guatemala – Mayan, romance, and salsa

Antigua

I truly loved Antigua. A peaceful and romantic little city surrounded by active volcanos that attracts many free spirits. I was lucky to see the Volcan de fuego erupting from the city. I felt welcome in the very beginning. Seems they know how important tourists are for the economy. On the cobblestoned road are still horse-drawn carriages. The restaurants are arranged with much detail which provides the romantic ambience. Even the McDonalds is worth a visit. It has been a while since I felt such a strong mystic energy in a city. I felt so safe that I even walked around alone by night.

To do

  • Live music: Cantina royal in Uxibal bar and Cafe No Se
  • Art galleries: e.g. la antigua galeria de arte (free)
  • sunset from a hill: Cerro de la Cruz
  • sunset from an excellent roof-top bar (The Terrace): An undisturbed view of the volcanoes and a great place to chill-out.
  • getting lost at the local market (food, toiletries, flowers, cloths, electronic equipment)
  • Dancing salsa: Las Palmas (friday and saturday)

Organic finca de macadamia (Valhalla)

A sustainable macadamia farm run by a family. Over the last 15 years they planted 350’000 macadamia trees in Guatemala. The nuts are getting picked and separated out by hand. Many new jobs. Take a chicken bus near the market to San Miguel Dueñas (leaving every 30 mins). Ask the driver to drop you off at the Macadamia farm. The trip is about 10 to 15 mins and costs 4 Quetzal from Antigua. Valhalla is open every day from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and a short tour is provided to anyone who pops by. A small jar costs 4 USD. Anywhere else you pay at least double.

Huehuetenango

Since I wanted to explore another but not touristic place in Guatemala I decided to visit Huehuetenango. It is close to the Mexican border and was therefore on my way. My host and his wife picked me up with a big smile. I felt like an old friend. They showed me the whole city in only a few hours. All with lots of energy and love. The next morning we went to Lagos de Colón in Mexico. Illegal. It would have been too complicated to get a permission to enter Mexico legal for them. In case the police would have stopped us we would just have payed. One of the reasons I love Couchsurfing so much. Never knowing what I will experience. Pictures from those beautiful lakes will be in my blog entry about Mexico.

Accommodation

  • Couchsurfing is pretty popular in Antigua and Huehuetenango
  • hostels are available for 7 USD per night

Food

In Guatemala it was really hard to find a local restaurant or stall that did not offer meat. Everything was already mixed with meat so it was not even possible to take it out. A meal is between 10 and 40 Quetzal. But the local food markets were so cheap and offered a huge variety that I had more than I needed. Some examples to have an idea: avocado (2 Quetzal), banana (1 Quetzal), three potatoes (4 Quetzal), five tomatoes (2 Quetzal). The supermarket is pretty cheap as well (close to the local market): lentils (12 Quetzal), red beans past (3 Quetzal), corn flower (4 Quetzal). An Espresso at a good coffee place is 11 Quetzal. The tap water is not recommended to drink.

Transport

Many bus routes do not run after sundown. I used the chicken buses which are especially beautiful painted here. I payed 52 Quetzal (four buses) from Antigua to Huehuetenango. Just go to the bus station and say where you want to go. They will tell you where you need to change the bus.

Currency

Currency: Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ)

Languages

Spanish is the official language. Antigua offers many language schools and therefore many locals speak also English. There are still over 20 Mayan languages in use. Often those people do not understand Spanish.

Safety

Like anywhere else it is important to be careful and use plain common sense. It is safe to walk around during daytime.

Climate

The weather in Guatemala varies significantly by altitude and season. There are two seasons. The dry season from November to May and the rainy season. It rains only a few hours in the rainy season. It was hot during the day but it got quiet cold in the evening (end of January). A warm sweater is enough. It is best to visit from November until late February. Probably the worst time to visit is between mid March until mid May.

Border crossing to Mexico

  • bus from Huehuetenango to the border La Mesilla (20 Quetzal, 2 hours).
  • walk downhill to the border (10 mins). Change enough Quetzales into Mexican pesos to pay for the buses.
  • Exit Guatemala: free
  • colectivo (small minibus) to the border of Mexico (Ciudad Cuauhtémoc). 10 mins. 10 pesos.
  • Enter Mexico: free
  • Colectivo bus to Comitan (leaves every half hour, 50 pesos, 90 mins.)
  • Colectivo bus to San Cristobal de las Casas (55 persos, 2 hours).
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