Where to begin for one of our favourite stops in Central America.
It started on a 16 hour bus ride from León, Nicaragua through Honduras (where we spotted a rotting cow on the side of the road) through El Salvador (where we didn't see anything rotting on the side of the road) passing through the capital, Guatemala City, and finally reaching the stunningly beautiful, friendly town of Antigua.
As soon as we arrived we felt very welcomed and met several locals as we spent our first day walking around the Colonial town's cobbled streets, admiring the achitecture around Parque Central, sampling the food at the street markets and shopping around for suitable Spanish schools for the both of us. As it happened, we bumped into a friendly chap called Eddie, who had just recently set up a small Spanish School with local teachers, so we decided to attend his school for the next 3 days. The teachers themselves were excellent, we learned a lot and it was interesting to chat to local people about their lives and how they view the world. On our final day in Antigua, we walked up to the cross on the hill to look over the city which we definitley recommend!
Accomodation wise we stumbled across a small hotel called Hotel Casa Rustica, which has lovely clean rooms, a nice roof terrace, fully equipt kitchen and friendly staff. A great find!
We had grown quite attached to Antigua, so we were sad to leave, but excited for our next stop at Lake Atitlan in the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Staying in the "Party Town" of San Pedro, we found a pretty little hostel hidden away behind trees and fairy lights called Pinocchio's, down the enchanting lanes of this lakeside town.
Opposite Pinocchio's is a delightful cafe called 'Home' which serves all natural and organic homemade food and drink. They even had a small library and hammocks available to use. We tried the goats cheese with chutney on toast and the homemade hummus which were both fabulous.
On the way back from the cafe we bumped into a nice bunch of people from all over the world also staying at our hostel. Quite a few drinks later we all went to sample the San Pedro nightlife and were in for a fun-filled night of dancing. Having skipped dinner, by the time we were at our last destination, a lakeside club called Sublime, we were both getting quite peckish - so we picked up a couple of hotdogs from a street vendor which were delicious...HOWEVER, when morning arrived, we were sick, really sick. For 3 days we were bed ridden and only eating a few pringles a day - we were in bad shape.
As soon as we were both feeling slighly better, we got the first bus out of there. Although Lake Atitlan was fun, it held bad memories for us both - so we left for Semuc Champey.
Just before we arrived in the town of Lanquin, we had a blow out on our front tyre, so we hitched a ride about 10km to El Portal Hostel right in the heart of Semuc Champey. Crossing the river to the hostel is a fairly daunting experience as the bridge seems to be lacking a fair few of it's rotting wooden panels, which definiteley keeps you on the edge of your seat. We grabbed some dinner from the restaurant and settled down for the night in our little cabana by the river, ready to explore the next day.
In the morning the sun was shining, so we headed to the peaceful, turquoise natural pools early and spent the morning swimming, jumping and enjoying the waters. It was spectacular. Although, watch out for the pesky fish that nip your feet if you stay in the same spot for too long.
We had heard of another hostel in the town of Lanquin nearby that sounded just our sort of place, so the next day we headed to Zephyr Lodge. This has to be one of the best places we've stayed throughout our whole trip in Central America. Great location, great people, great food, great infinity pool, great view...
The next day couldn't have been more perfect. Our first activity involved swimming through pitch black caves with only a candle for light, climbing and jumping to make our way through before our candle ran out. This was followed by a rope swing and a 12 metre bridge jump into the river, tubing on rubber rings down the running waters while thrown beers from the riverbeds, and a hike up to view the beautiful pools from above. A definite highlight for us both.
The following day, we headed north to Flores to visit the famous Mayan ruins - Tikal. For backpackers, the only place to stay in Flores is Los Amigos. This hostel has a relaxed garden/jungle vibe, serves delicious food and has a jolly little night lounge. They also have an excellent information desk where you can book Tikal excursions and other trips. As we visited Tikal in rainy season, the agent at Los Amigos recommended we stuck to the day tour as opposed to the sunrise or sunset tour due to the weather. Great advice - the weather was perfect and the views were certainly impressive.
Our guide was a fountain of knowlege and actually didn't stop talking for 4 hours - all very interesting though.
Guatemala truely is a marvellous place with warm, welcoming people and scenery very pleasing to the eye.
"El País de la Eterna Primavera" - The Land of the Eternal Spring.
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