A Colorful Look at Antigua, Guatemala

Arriving into Guatemala City, I was met by my private car and a friend of a friend who is going to store my scuba diving gear for a few weeks. A 45 minute ride takes me to the Colonial City of Antigua, Guatemala. My first stop and a wonderful surprise where I will spend the next 9 days. A beautiful, but crumbling, city bustling with all walks of life. in the center of town is the Central Plaza where local men, women and children congregate selling, very aggressively, their wares until late. The colorful scarves, wristbands and jewelry can be acquired for just a few Quetzals but you must work at getting the best price. Considered a backpackers dream destination.
The cobblestone streets make walking a treacherous endeavor but well worth it. If your not up to walking there are many modes of travel. The tuktuks are a cheap ride but bumpy or the slow horse drawn buggy can be found around the busy central park.
Although I stayed at several hostels, the Holistico Hostal

 is my favorite so far. A wonderful place, not only to lay your head, but to meet and enjoy new friends and trade travel stories. The accommodations are clean and well taken care by the hard working, respectful employees. A wide variety of breakfast options are is served daily in just a matter of minutes and the relaxing atmosphere is a welcoming change to the fast pace of Antigua. Come and enjoy. Sergio Martinez, the owner, is the host with the most! Make early plans to stay additional nights because Hostal Holistico has a large following with many who return time and time again.

Although nights come alive with the sound of music drifting out of the pubs and restaurants the streets are somewhat dark and can be a little intimidating until you get used to it. Antigua is a party town for the young and old alike and bars stay open until late I to the night.
Off the beaten path, outside of Antigua, you will find the small city of Partanos where custom leather boots are made within days to your specifications. The prices will astound and is usually around $30 and up. Very well made with the exact heel height you want as well as the type of leather.
Only a few kilometers outside of Pastores is the Aquas Calientes, or hot springs where the incoming volcano waters can soothe and heal the body. Located at the base of volcanoes And hidden off of the highway, a short walk down a dirt road you will arrive at the entrance. At only Q10 or $1.25 to enter, it is a special treat and one will leave feeling refreshed.
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Bloody Mary will Travel

Airports all over the world offer wonderful Bloody Mary’s in the bars and restaurants. It may be because many travelers need that pep to get relaxed before their next flight or maybe just because they’re the best made by the bartenders of the jet set. For what ever reason they are good, pack a punch and they are expensive. Don’t leave home without it!

Laguna Lodge, an Osis on Late Atitlan

As the sun begins to set on Lake Atitlan; the sound of the waves gently lap below the stone deck of Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve. The awesome sunsets are among the most profound which turn into a star studded night.
The indigenous staff not only work here, they were among the many who helped to build this wonderland. They are so kind and make every effort to make your stay at Laguna Lodge an experience to remember. Love has certainly gone onto this spectacular lodge and nature reserve.
Arrival by boat is the only available transportation to Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature Reserve. This luxurious, natural 5 star boutique hotel comes complete with sweeping views of a trio of dramatic volcanoes. Sitting lakeside on 40 acres along Lake Atitlan; this truly amazing resort is a perfect solution for any type of getaway.
Situated in Tzantizotz which in local Kaqchikel is Point of Bats, the lodge and reserve begins lakeside at 5135 ft. above sea level. The top of the reserve is at 6,440ft with some of the last remaining primary forest on the lake. From a distance, the thatched roofs blend perfectly with the natural backdrop of coffee and banana trees among the forest! with just a glimpse of the trail above.
The trails are made up of large cliffs and ancient Mayan ceremonial rocks. Organic coffee is grown on the lower slopes of the reserve which is served in the Zotz Restaurant.
The lodge was created from volcanic stone, adobe and palm with magnificent, spacious lakeside suites. The meandering stone walks, walls and planters run throughout the lodge giving the soothing feeling of being back in history and in tune with nature.
The award-winning Zotz restaurant has a spectacular, large stone fireplace which gives a warm ambience for a wonderful dining experience or relaxing in the bar.The restaurant, gathering areas and patios are adorned with unique indigenous antiques and decor which gives the most inviting feeling, while soothing music plays throughout the lodge.
Exquisite rooms and suites offer spectacular views, even from the bath areas. Fashioned with stone walls, wood floors and green Guatemalan marble carved bedside lamps, stone writing desk and antiques.
The baths are a Botanical dream including toiletries, oversized towels and bath robes. The mini bars offer organic wines, chocolates and nuts with complimentary drinking water, fresh floral arrangements and a delightful spa pool.

Website    Http://www.thelagunalodge.com

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How to get to Laguna Lodge
Laguna Lodge is 147km west of Guatemala City, approximately two and a half hours away by the pan american highway (CA1). Guatemala City is serviced daily by American Airlines, Delta, United, Continental, Taca, US Airways, Air Canada, China Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Avianca, Spirit or their partners. Arrival airport code is (GUA) Guatemala City Aurora Airport.
If you choose to use their private shuttle service, they will meet you at the airport. The chauffeur will be waiting at the front arrivals gate with a sign with your name on it and will bring you safely and comfortably to Panajachel. The lodge’s private boat will be waiting to take you directly to the lodge just 10 minutes away.
The Lodge is situated in the municipality of Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlan National Park, in the western highlands province of Sololá. Conveniently located near Panajachel, public water taxis will stop at our dock regularly throughout the day to take you to other destinations around the lake. Water taxis leave regularly for Santa Cruz La Laguna and first pass the dock of Laguna Lodge. The boats will stop at our private dock when asked. Private boats can be arranged to and from Laguna Lodge 24hrs.

Utopia, Deep in the Guatemala Jungle

While touring Guatemala, I found myself in the village of Coban. This busy little town is not a tourist attraction and surprisingly nether is the spectacular Semuc Champey, deep in the rain forest. So far off the beaten path, even many Guatemalans have never visited or heard of this beautiful reserve. This is not an easy trip. From Coban you will experience an hour drive crossing the lush green mountains including major hairpin blind curves and broken asphalt with craters so large they can’t be avoided. The next 11 kilometers will bring you onto Lanquin, known for bat caves used for religious ceremonies, coffee plantations and condone farming and processing. The usual scent of burning plastic floats throughout this kercahel speaking village while you experience a spiritual closeness to the native Mayans. Upon arriving in the dusty center of town, 4-wheel drive trucks and motorcycles are needed to cross from mountain top to mountain top, another 10 kilometers, riding in the back of one of these trucks, equipped with aluminum rails. This one Lane dirt road winds through the jungle, occasionally crossing the river and usually heading straight down or straight up. Along the way, many women can be seen walking through the jungle for miles, accompanied with a child in tow and one bundled on their back. The men walking with hundreds of pounds of cut wood strapped to their backs with the ropes across their forehead to keep it balanced. Native farms, adorned in only corrugated tin roofs dot the mountainside, deep in jungle, between banana trees and farm land. Chickens scratch in the rich, mineral packed soil, dogs wander sniffing for anything to eat and pigs laying asleep on the side of the road. Situated in the deep jungle is one of nature best kept secrets, Semuc Champey Reserve. The upper waterfalls come together in a crashing flow of crystal clear water to the pools below. Trails of rock paths and deck like walkways are there to take you from the wood bridge all the way to the head of the falls where lookout areas are available. Care is needed when crossing over the slime covered rocks, they’re quite slippery. A beautiful Hostel and Restaurant is situated directly on the river, a scattering of coffee trees, banana trees and cocoa trees complete with hanging pods surround the area.

An Uphill Journey to Earth Lodge

Earth Lodge is a wonderful change from the fast pace of Antigua. An avocado farm located 6000 feet into the mountains above Antigua. Views of the volcanoes and the city below is nothing less than breathtaking.
Hammocks and picnic tables surround the reception area where visitors for the day, night or week come for some peace and quiet.
Hiking trails surround the lodge, cabins and dorms that lead into the forest up or down the mountain. Smoke from the distant Volcano Fuego is a normal sight.
Home cooked meals are served 3 times a day with avocados a major part of every meal, even the cake frosting.
This natural retreat is popular with backpackers as well as visiting families who are ready for relaxing between tours and the next destination on their itinerary.

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Wake Up America

After visiting Guatemala for the first time, I am totally convinced that Americans are led to believe that Central and South America are not only war riddled countries but full of drug crazed citizens who will kill anyone who looks their way. Such a misconception on the part of the American people.

Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries one can visit or live. Why are we made to believe that we have no business here? Is it because of the crime or is it to keep us from thinking for ourselves and seeking a simpler way of life?

Don’t get me wrong, countries such as Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala have their share of crime, protests and disruptions. Escalating cases of lynchings, rapes and murders are being reported throughout these countries, some very brutal. Many feel the indigenous people are fed up with their corrupt Governments that do not do enough to prosecute illegal activities and are taking matters into their own hands. Are our Government officials any less corrupt in their own way?

While meeting dozens of travelers here, in the city of Antigua, Guatemala, I found the majority of expats, backpackers and visitors come from all over the world, the minority comes from the U.S. Many Canadians, Europeans and especially Australians are here enjoying and learning the language as well as the culture. I can count on one hand the number of Americans I have met here, men and women alike, usually traveling solo, and they all have come to the same conclusion… Their friends were too scared to come with them.

My opinion is young Americans would rather take their vacations in the commercial cities like Cancun. They can party all night, buy cheap souvenirs made in China and return with no clue as to what they did beside pull all night drinking binges, all with their parents blessings. Not to mention the average American family save their earnings year round to spend a week in the over rated, over priced Disney World of make believe instead of enjoying history and culture.

After speaking to several prominent businessmen in Antigua, I am convinced that the drug problem does exist here, yes there are druggies, but the problem lies with the demand of the U.S. While these countries make billions, that money comes from American Citizens who will do anything for a fix. Sad to believe that America has fallen to such a dire state when it comes to drug abuse. Can you really blame the growers? Our drug habits are not their problem, it is their solution to a repressed way of living.