Blogs from Western Highlands, Guatemala, Central America Caribbean - page 9


We've been slowly trying to get the lay of the land, so we ventured out to the market today. First we had to take money out of an ATM... that took forever. Turns out, we don't know how to ask where an ATM is, and even if we did manage to ask someone correctly, we can't understand the directions we gave them. I think it was the 5th or 6th bank guard we asked before we finally each understood each other enough to get Rog and I to the nearest working ATM. *Sidenote: all banks around here have armed guards standing outside, and inside the doors. One bank, we had to go through a metal detector as well.* We each took out 1,000 Quetzales, which sounds like a lot, but really is only about $130. And ... read more

WE MADE IT :) We left Minneapolis around 7pm Saturday and by 8 pmish Sunday (tonight) we were finally here. Our travels started off ridiculous. In all our superb planning, Rog and I never thought to double check the departure time for our first flight (MSP to Dallas/Fort Worth). We thought it left at 7:40, so we got to the airport right around 6 pm (btw, we had to pay $100 to check our bags, boooo). Turns out it was supposed to leave at 5:40 and really, we got crazy lucky that it was very delayed. Yikes. We land in Dallas around 9 or 10 and the airports like shut down. We were planning on staying there but realized that probably wasn't going to happen. Then we started thinking that maybe our luggage didn't go all ... read more

I got up early to try breakfast at one of the restaurants in Panajachel. I had the most delicious pancakes with some fruit. Panajachel has lots of nice eating places, bars and street food. It’s definitely a good place to stay if you want to see Lake Atitlan. After breakfast, the whole group got together and we went on this speed boat and crossed Lake Atitlan to visit a small popular village called San Juan, this was a great experience when travelling over the lake, as you get to see the volcano/mountain scenery and local people collecting pond weed from their boats. Once we got to the other side of the lake, we were greeted by a local tour guide who showed us around San Juan. We first visited an art shop where they had loads ... read more
Men collecting pond weed
Me with Lake Atitlan
Equipment used for cotton

The previous day we left Mexico and headed to Panajachel in Guatemala. It was a fairly long day as we travelled by bus. Our first full day in Panajachel and we headed over to the biggest Mayan market in Central America in a town called Chichicastenango. On the way to the market, the bus driver pulled over so that we could get some great shots of Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is this massive lake which Panajachel is situated next to and we got some great photos of the lake as the bus driver stopped by when going up the mountains. When we got to the Mayan market it was extremely busy with Mayans and tourists. We first visited this little church which was like the second church in San Cristobal; Catholic but with a Mayan feel ... read more
Mayan lady selling clothes
Church at Chichicastenango
Crowded Market

Todos Santos was the last and most interesting town I visited as part of a six-day trek from Nebaj to Todos Santos, with Quetzaltrekkers, which is located in the back of Casa Argentina in Xela (Quetaltenango). This blog is mainly a cursory account of my trip and a review of the trek. SIX DAYS, INCLUDING TWO DAYS OF TRAVEL. I definitely wanted to get into the Guatemalan highlands, not only for the scenery, but because this area was so deeply impacted by the civil war. I met some travelers who went to Nebaj on their own, and they seemed pretty disappointed. There isn´t much there to see; however, the four or five hour trip to Todos Santos might be worth it, as it´s an interesting, proud, vibrant town. QT calls this a six-day trek, though it´s ... read more
Dog and Me

I was gasping for air and my head was pounding. At over 3000 meters, the air was pretty thin. I took it one step at a time, taking a break every 5-10 minutes. It was the only way to make it to the top in one piece. By the time I got to the top of the mountain, at 3750m (12,300 ft), my breathing had slowed a little but my heart was still beating fast and my head felt heavy. I was not in the best shape, which didn't help, but it was the altitude that was more exhausting than anything. Standing at the peak of the mountain, called La Torre, I was at the highest non-volcanic peak in Central America (Volcano Tajamulco in Guatemala is at 4,200m). Hours before I had left the town of ... read more
Road to Todos Santos
In Todos Santos

I walked this three-day, 48 km hike through Quetzaltrekkers (, so this is mainly a review of their organized trek. Typically I like to walk alone, but the trail would be impossible to follow without a guide, and apparently some areas are too dangerous to attempt alone. The first two days are pretty strenous, with lots of shifts in altitude, pretty technical walking actually, with pretty nice views of the forest. At one point one the first day there was a marked difference in the scenery when the group reached the highest altitude of the trip. We emerged from the forest to see beautiful highland farms. Other than the views of the lake, this was a highlight for me. You can read other details on their website. The guides facilitate good camaraderie in the group and ... read more
Lago Atitlan
Soccer pitch

ARRIVAL IN SAN JUANI walked to San Juan from Indian Nose, the admittedly majestic shape of a facial profile on the Northwestern end of the lake. This was on the tail-end of my backpacking trip with Quetzaltrekkers. Most people arrive in Panajachel or San Pedro, however. The town seemed traditional and authentic, and could be a refuge from its far more touristy neighbor, San Pedro.It should cost about 5 quetzales per person to take a tuk tuk or pickup truck to San Pedro, the next town. After hearing some horror stories of machete attacks, etc. on the paths between the towns, I hopped in the back of a pickup truck with a few others from the trek for a ten minute standing ride to San Pedro. Every gringo local I asked said it was unsafe to ... read more
Other Side
Coffee Factory Day Trip
View from Tuk-Tuk

This was the real Guatemala. There I was, barrelling up and down the switchback roads of the highlands, occasionally passing small villages. I was squished into a minivan with 23 other passengers, but it did not matter. This was the experience I was looking for. I was on my way to Nebaj, and the scenery was beautiful. Lush green hills and valleys all around, as far as the eye could see. Hours before I had still been in Lago de Atitlan. I was disappointed to leave, but knew I had to keep going. After taking a bus to Chichicastenago, where I had been to the market days before, I took a "chicken bus" to another town, Quiche. Chicken buses are the cheapest and most common mode of transportation in Guatemala. They are old yellow American school ... read more

THE CITY If you aren't planning on studying Spanish or doing a trek in the highlands, I suppose Xela (Quetzaltenango's nickname, pronounced "Shayla") is a place you could skip. But I loved it there. There aren't many tourists aside from a few backpackers, and the city is unassuming and the people more or less ignore an outsider's existence (no touting, hassles, high prices, etc.). It's safe, pretty clean, and relatively quiet around the perimeter -- essentially the opposite of Guatemala City, which I avoided at all costs. The expat scene is sociable and the atmosphere in the nicer restaurants, bars, and clubs is lively and genuine. ACTIVITIES IN THE AREA I did two treks here through Quetzaltrekkers: a three-day walk from Xela to Lago Atitlan, and a six-day ... read more
Mi Maestra
con Dona Esperanza y su nieta

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