- What’s good: great coffee, beautiful scenery, friendly people, and delicious food
- Last time I was there: Summer 2014
- Reason for my trip: Visit family
- Weather: perfect! It’s spring all year round. Okay, so it rains for half the year but who doesn’t love rain-I know I do!
- Personal star rating: 4! Just note that I’m biased because I am an American-born Guatemalan.
1. Stayed with family in Guatemala City and ate… a lot!
Staying with someone you know (in this case, my grandparents) has many advantages but the main one being home-cooked meals. My grandma’s cooking is hands-down my favorite kind of cooking. Also, Guatemala is known for its rich agriculture, which allows for the freshest of fruits and veggies- just look at the size of those mangos! My favorite time of the day in Guatemala, is coffee time! There’s a name for it, but I can’t spell it so I’ll just stick with coffee time. The culture around it involves getting together with all your family- cousins, grandparents, uncles, and aunts included. It’s basically afternoon coffee pause with the wonder that is ‘champurradas’. Think of them as large cookies made from a not-so-sweet dough that doubles in flavor when dunked in coffee. Sure, I gained a couple, but it was definitely worth it.
- Paseo Cayalá: For the longest time my social media feed was bombarded with posts from cousins and friends about this place. There’s never been anything like it in the city before. It’s basically a large shopping center with a movie theatre, restaurants, bars, and more. What makes this place stand out is that it is safe to walk around, even at night. Take a stroll down this cobblestoned avenue before leaving the city.
2. Weekend Trip to Antigua
Antigua is quite touristy and it is so for a reason. It is located between three volcanoes giving it a beautiful view 360° around. Every single one of its streets are cobblestoned and all the buildings are brightly painted. I think one of the great things about Antigua is that there are no sky scrapers, actually, it’s rare to find a building taller than two stories, and all buildings are required to match the city’s unique and colorful style. I spent half my time walking around and the other half stopping for a refreshing ice cream and/or Guatemalan coffee. Quick story: I’m the only blond in my family, so when my sisters want to shop in the market, they leave my behind. They do so because as soon as the vendors see me, they try speaking their best English (assuming, correctly, that I’m an American) and they double the prices. This picture was captured at the moment, when the vendors found out, that I do, in fact, speak Spanish.
- Finca Filadelfia: It’s a coffee plantation and a resort! I won’t say more, you’ll have to check out its wonder on your own.
- Market: Open on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you’ll find a rainbow of textiles. Don’t be shy to bargain for a hammock or a rain stick, because we all know how necessary a hammock is.
3. I climbed a volcano!
How cool does that sound? Believe me it was even cooler than that! I took a day-trip to ‘Volcan Pacaya’ with my cousin and his friend, and it’s a lovely 1hr drive from Antigua. It’s about a 2.5hrs steep climb, worth the muscle soreness. My suggestion is to go as early as possible to fight the afternoon fog and get the best view of Guatemala you may even be able to see the coast from the climb up. You’ll notice you’re getting closer to the crater, once you feel heat emerging from the rocks into your socks. So don’t stand in one place for too long or the bottom of your shoes may start to melt. At the top, because of the last eruption I wasn’t able to go all the way to the crater, but I got to roast marshmallows on the volcanic rocks. They were very tashty (pun intended). What goes up, must come down right? Right! The descend was hands-down my favorite part about my volcano adventure! Our guide (who has lived in a town on the volcano his entire life) stopped us right before going down and said: “tie your shoes, hide your cameras and do as I do..” And without warning we were sprinting down the volcano like a bunch of gazelles. I don’t even know if any gazelle has ever been near a volcano, but that’s what we were like. To avoid getting stuck in knee-deep volcanic sand, you have to take long strides down, lean back and dig your heels into the sand. Remember the 2.5hr ascend? Well, it takes only about 20 minutes to get down!
- The Lava Store: There’s exactly one store at the top of this volcano. Unfortunately, you cannot actually buy lava.