Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Amanda, and I work here at Bather’s head office in Toronto!
Give us a bit of background about your trip. Where did you go and who did you go with?
My best friend Nathan and I planned this trip maybe three weeks before we left, but it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. After renting a car and driving around mainland Costa Rica (Poas to La Fortuna to Monteverde) over to the Tamarindo coast for a week, we flew off to Guatemala City!
Where did you stay and how was your experience?
We stayed in a different Airbnb every night, pretty much. It was a lot of work but very worth it. Started off in Guatemala City, then to Antigua for a couple of nights, then to various towns around Lake Atitlan for a few nights, and finished on Isle de Flores after taking a short flight to the east of Guatemala, near Belize.
Did you find yourself immersed in the local culture, and if so, in what way?
I think it was hard not to find yourself immersed in the local culture in Guatemala which was one of the best parts. On the last night of our trip, we spent the night in Tikal, the ancient Mayan Capitol, and spent the day exploring the jungle ruins and immersing ourselves in Mayan history and culture.
What are some common misconceptions people may have about Guatemala? Did anything surprise you while you were there?
Our biggest shock was how many people warned us about how dangerous the trip would be - stories of everything from cartels to kidnapping and theft. When being there, we learned that the locals are incredibly friendly and embrace community, even when it comes to tourists. What’s ironic is that the most unsafe we felt on the trip was during our layover at the Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida where we were rushed out by security due to a bomb threat. Yet in Guatemala, a local stopped me on the street to tell me money had fallen out of my bag.
What is one must-do activity you would recommend to those thinking of heading to Guatemala?
Hike Volcan Acatenango. Without a doubt. It's a 6-hour hike with a steep incline while carrying 50L backpacks, with an extra 4-hour round trip hike if you decide to hike up to the active volcano, Fuego. We did both and highly recommend pushing yourself to hike Fuego - it looks like you’re on a different planet! The base camp on Acatenango is located at 3500m, above the cloud level, which is just beautiful. You are surrounded by Volcan Fuego and Volcan Agua, it’s just mesmerizing.
How would you describe the atmosphere of the different locations you visited on your trip?
Everywhere we went in Guatemala seemed to have the same cheerful and lively atmosphere! The most notable differences would probably have been around Lake Atitlan, where each town around the lake had a different vibe to it. For example, San Marcos was a party town that woke up in the night, while San Pedro was a hub for backpackers, and San Juan curated a creative and colourful vibe for artists.
If you had to choose, what was your trip's most memorable attraction/activity?
Other than climbing the volcano, I would have to go with simply being in and wandering around Antigua. The town is dressed with cobblestone roads and identical shops/houses that are all painted in muted clay-like primary colours. Each store or restaurant you entered was meticulously decorated with a rustic vibe and engulfed in tropical plants. Even the McDonalds' and Taco Bell were absolutely stunning.
Do you have any recommendations you want to share?
La Casa del Mundo Hotel on Lake Atitlan. We only stayed there for one night but instantly regretted the short stay. The grounds are beautifully consumed with cobblestone paths, tropical gardens, and eclectic decorations. They have multiple balconies to lay in a hammock, take in the view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes, and even dive off of into the lake! The best part, it is very inexpensive. We stayed in an economy room and still had a lakefront and volcano view with a hammock on our balcony.
There’s nothing in the works as of yet but it seems like impulsive trips are our forte, so definitely more to come.