First I wanted to start off by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Guatemala during this difficult time. Mother nature sure has been punishing the world lately and I can only hope that it gets better and less extreme as the years go on.
I went to Guatemala to attend my friend’s wedding which was taking place in Lake Atitlan, however we started off in the quaint city of Antigua. When I arrived, I took a 2 hour shuttle from the airport to Antigua. It was very cheap, if I remember correctly, only around $13. Six of us stayed in this beautiful Airbnb in the center of Antigua and almost everything was within walking distance to our place. It was like a compound and incredibly reasonable price wise for such a beautiful home with an awesome pool.
The first evening, I met Brianna, her mother, a few of her friends, and I also met Alejandro (Brianna’s husband-to-be), for the first time! I was SO excited to finally meet the man that Brianna had been talking about for so long! We had a lovely dinner at El Cazador where we indulged in some tasty pizza and pasta.
The next morning, I was up super early to go hike the Pacaya Volcano. Volcanoes have always fascinated me ever since I can remember and I was SO excited to be climbing my first one! There are 3 major volcanoes in Antigua; Pacaya (active and the smallest one), Volcan de Fuego (the one erupting now), and Acatenango (active). I decided to hike by myself, as no one else wanted to go with me at the time. And honestly, it was good for me to have some alone time and to process my thoughts and feelings that I had been going through the past week.
A few things to bring:
– Bug spray
– A light jacket, it can get cold up there
– A walking stick (or you can just get one there for like 5q’s)
– Decent shoes, you can wear tennis shoes, but just be prepared for them to be covered with black dust in the end. I wore hiking boots, and I’m actually glad that I did for the support around my ankles and soles of my feet.
– Bring cash, I believe it was around 200Q’s to get into the park once you get there.
– Water, there are spots on the trail where you can buy water, but I would definitely bring a water bottle with you.
I purchased my tour for around $20 on Tripadvisor and it was perfect. There are many tours that provide lunch and are much more expensive, but I didn’t feel that I needed anything other than the bus ride there, a tour guide once I got there (which was provided with my $20 purchase on Tripadvisor) and a ride home.
I will say, this hike isn’t very easy… the sign at the beginning said medium difficulty, but some people say it is hard. For the first two hours or so I walked straight up a mountain. I was oftentimes the last person in the group, but I still kept going. The entire hike, there were young Guatemalan boys climbing side by side with us on horses, and kept saying, “TAXI! TAXI!” I said, F that. No Taxi for me, but they kept on asking! I was determined to climb this mountain on my own, no matter how long it took me. There were times when I literally would say aloud, “YOU CAN DO THIS. JUST KEEP ON GOING!” And so I did. My calves, thighs, and butt, were lets just say, on fire, but it didn’t matter. I kept cheering myself on and kept on going.
This one phrase is very indicative of my life right now. I feel my self constantly having to tell myself, “JUST KEEP ON GOING! DON’T GIVE UP! DON’T TAKE THE EASY WAY AND RIDE THE TAXI, JUST DO YOUR BEST AND KEEP ON TRYING!” And in this case, I made it to the top. Hopefully I can replicate that success soon in other ways throughout my life as well. 🙂
Along the way, we roasted marshmallows in a hot spot in the ground, I picked up a few volcanic rocks to put on my grandpas grave, which they later confiscated at the airport 🙁 , and we saw the lava rolling down the side of the mountain. It was a remarkable experience that I will never forget and was definitely one of the highlights of the trip!
One last thing about a volcano, one night we were walking to dinner and we turned around and a volcano was erupting! I’m talking bright red lava spewing in the air non stop! It was THE MOST INCREDIBLE thing I have ever seen in my life! So incredible that I stopped in the middle of the street, someone tripped on my shoe and broke it! HAHA I was seriously mesmerized!
Later in the day we went to Earth Lodge where you have incredible views of Antigua, you can take a yoga class, stay in a tree house, hang out in the steam room hut, or just relax and read a book in a hammock. It is very relaxing and a great place to bring your family and stay there for a couple of days.
The rest of the time in Antigua we spent walking around a lot, hanging out at our large Airbnb by the pool, which by the way was great (if you need a recommendation and have a large group let me know), and eating!
Como Como: One of my favorites! We had a huge group there, so it look a little longer than we would have liked, but the food and atmosphere was great! I had a wonderful pasta dish and we all tried each of the salads, which were all incredibly tasty! I definitely recommend this place!
Y Tu Pina Tambien: We happen to stumble upon this cute little cafe that served up a cheap and awesome breakfast! They also have delicious and incredibly fresh smoothies that were great on a warm day!
On a side note, they had the NICEST Taco Bell I have EVER SEEN in my life! It was absolutely beautiful! You could throw a wedding or awesome party there and have your chalupas as well 😉 hey, it would be cheap! 🙂
I will say, this town is so cute and quaint. The people were so warm, the food was great overall, and its also cheap!
On another side note, women especially, should be careful when walking around at night… I really hate to write this, but really be very aware of your surroundings while you are there.
A three hour shuttle ride later, and we arrived to Lake Atitlan. This, by far, was my favorite place on the trip. It was absolutely breathtaking with our views overlooking a lake and two volcanoes, it was truly a unique experience!
For the wedding, we had rented out a huge house for 6 of us, and the rest of the wedding party had houses that were up the mountain. It was a great setup, and if you have a large group of people I definitely recommend it. Again, if you need the information just let me know and I’m happy to send it to you.
A few tips for visiting Lake Atitlan:
- Always have cash there! A lot of restaurants take credit cards, but a lot of little stores only take cash.
- Boats are the main way to get from dock to dock, so make sure to again, have cash, and take your drammamine if you tend to get sea sick. Later in the day can get pretty choppy.
- Bring a backpack as opposed to a piece of luggage. Its MUCH easier to shlep a backpack on a boat and up the hill than it is a big piece of luggage.
- Wear good walking shoes! You are going to be getting in and out of boats, hiking up big hills, and walking around cities.
- Negotiate when you get on a tuktuk (little cab). Don’t just take the first price they give you
These were some of my favorite moments during my time in Lake Atitlan:
Cafe El Artesano: MAN. If you like wine and cheese then this is the place to go! It is an amazing setting, quaint, cute, and beautiful, and the wine and cheese is to die for! It’s not cheap, but the experience is worth it and make sure that you have a reservation because this place fills up fast!
Brianna and Alejandro’s wedding:
I have known Brianna since our days in AKPsi in college and we have been great friends ever since. Brianna is such a carefree, loving, and warm friend who has traveled around the world and it was truly fitting that she have a destination wedding overlooking a lake and two volcanoes. Her wedding was truly magical. She incorporated her friends and the people who visited into the wedding so that they could feel like they were not just witnessing Bri and Ale getting married, but be a part of the ceremony and share in their happiness and love together. It was truly a beautiful experience that was one-of-a-kind and perfectly Brianna. I was truly so honored to be able to share in this experience with them to witness such a special moment for the both of them. These are some of my favorite memories from the wedding:
- Brianna walking down the aisle and breaking down crying. It was such a beautiful moment and I think everyone in the audience felt the emotions with her!
- Sarah’s rap! Enough said.
- Coco’s singing: Girl you are fierce and gifted! And you truly added another dimension to the beautiful wedding! So thank you for sharing your gift with us!
- Sitting down with Bri and just talking with her and taking it all in! It was a busy week, so it was SO nice just to have a few minutes to share with the bride on her special day.
- Seeing friends that I haven’t seen since college! It was SO great to catch up and hear all about your new adventures being a mom or dad!
- Shmillery officiating the wedding! You did an amazing job and truly brought Bri and Ale’s vision to life for the wedding!
- Seeing my friend Michelle’s photo and her mother at the wedding. I loved being able to catch up with Jocelyn and I kept wondering what it would have been like to have Michelle there. I think about Michelle all of the time and it was really special to have her mother there! Jocelyn, you are amazing! <3
During the wedding, I took a moment and walked home to get a jacket, I sat on our balcony, and watched the sunset. In that moment, I was overcome with SO many emotions. I felt sadness that this journey was coming to an end and that I had to go back home to face many realities, happiness for my dear friends that had just gotten married and that I got to spend this time meeting so many great people and spending time with my old friends, and I really just felt grateful that I was able to be there, even though at times it was definitely difficult for me.
This trip was a challenge. It wasn’t glamorous, or easy, but it was challenging, raw, and different. I appreciated it and all of its challenges that it brought me along the way. Thank you to everyone who made this trip what it was. For the crazy dancing nights till 3 am, the amazing cooking (JULIA!), sitting on rooftops where the umbrellas blow over, for saving my leg when I fell in a hole, for doing dance jam with me when it is 95 degrees outside, for the long talks about life, eating at hole in the wall restaurants, and really, just supporting me during a difficult time. I am truly grateful for the friendship and kindness that each of you showed me!
And most of all, Guatemala, thank you for your beauty, incredibly warm and kind people, and great food. I’ll be back. And next time, I’ll be there to climb your most difficult volcano. You haven’t seen the last of Casie!