Learning Spanish for a better connection to local people
As you see our big adventure began in Antigua (Guatemala) which is a beautiful small colonial city. For a better start in our long journey we spent two weeks at the Mundo Spanish School to learn some basic spanish and have better possibilities in the future to get connected with local peoples. Before we took this school we compared many Spanish schools around Antigua. At the end we picked this school because it had the best price performance ratio. There we enjoyed 4 hours per day of private lessons (every person has his own teacher) and 5 days a week for 140 $ per person. We had free WLAN, tea, water and coffee included. Besides the nice staff we also have to praise the activities. There is a weekly changing plan which offers mostly free activities. For example, we were at a free Salsa and Bachata course (at NewSensationSalsa) and went to the “Valhalla” Macadamia farm (where only the bus ride of 4GTQ had to be paid for – recommendable)!
Accommodation with a beautiful local family
Thought the Spanish school we had the opportunity to spent our time in Antigua with a local Family as a homestay. It was a unforgettable time with our Family Armas Lopez! We were cooked with typical local dishes by guest mommy Arely, could practice our Spanish the whole days and got an insight into the local family life. Besides this we helped the eight year old daughter Mariana to improve her English. Little Samuel (4 years old) was available for every game, especially if it has to do with superheroes. We played football or acted like Superheroes for example like hulk. With the guest father Felix we watched great football with a lot of passion, listen and sing to Rammstein music while drinking all together some local beer Gallo. Thanks for the amazing time family Armas Lopez. We miss you already! If you locking for an authentic local stay in Antigua check out this beautiful family!
Contact datas of our beautiful Family Armas Lopez:
Felix Armas +50249797131
Arely López +50231154369
Delicious and cheap food recommendations
In Antigua you have two options to enjoy cheap and delicous food. On one hand you can find the best prices on the local markets where you buy for example avocados, mangoes, pineapples, bananas and bread for a good price and cook at your accommodation. Local supermarkets offers all kinds of stuff but you have to be lucky that what you want is on offer. The second way is to go to local restaurant where you find most beautiful and authentic food. In Antigua we would recommend you the Ricon Tipico. There you get whole menus for 30GTQ (~3,50€), e.g. half chicken from the grill with grilled potatoes, salad, drink and tortillas. The grilled potatoes are awesome and the portions are huge! The drinks (usually a mixture of water and juice) can be refilled as often as you like. In addition we found it very great and inexpensive around 30GTQ to eat at the Taqueria Doña Lupita. Here you can put together your own nachos, tacos etc. and decorate them with salsa, avocado cream or similar. Those two restaurants have so many different meal so that you can go their more than one time and enjoy the best local cheap food. Enjoy your meal! 🙂
Besides this we would recommend not to eat but visit the McDonalds in Antigua. Properly it´s the most beautiful one in the world. They have a huge garden with a direct view at one of the volcanos. Its a nice place to relaxe and maybe enjoy a small ice.
Hiking the Vulcan Acatenango and watch the Vulcan Fuego
Besides learning Spanish for a got price, enjoy the local family life and eat cheap and delicious food around Antigua you will find one of the most unreal activities of your life. Hiking up the Vulcan Acatenango and watch the Vulcan Fuego spitting lava all night long is a MUST-THING-TO-DO!
Around Antigua you will find a lot of different Agencies for this trip. Because of the recommendation of our lovely german friends from stadtlandboard we decided to hike the Vulcano Acatenango with the local agency Soy Tours for 350 GTQ per person (ca. 40€) and we don’t regret it. Besides the good price we completely enjoyed the adventure with Soy Tours and would do it again with them. The Service of them includes the pickup and drop off in Antigua, 3 good meals, plenty guides for the safety and a comfortable accommodation at the base camp. Besides this the tents, sleeping bags etc. already set up at the basecamp. You could even rent a warm jacket, gloves and a hiking stick if you like to. On the first day we hiked 4-5 hours up the Vulcano Acatenango. On the way up to the basecamp it was fascinating to hear the Vulcano Fuego erupting all the time. It sounded like huge thunders. After we arrived at the basecamp it was unbelievable to see the Vulcano Fuego erupting while sunset and also by night. The next morning we startet very early at 4 am to hike at the top of the Vulcano Acatenango to watch the sunrise. After the sunrise we hiked back to the basecamp, ate our breakfast, hiked down and driven back to Antigua. All in all its was a unique experience for us. Especially for Franz as a photographer the landscape gave him endless opportunities. Check out the PhotoInspiration of Guatemala to see surreal pictures of this adventure.
After Antigua we decided that our next stop in Guatemala will be the Lago Atitlan. We drove about 3-4 hours from Antigua to Panajachel for 36 GTQ per person (ca. 4€) with an local Chickenbus (called camioneta). Those cheap tickets we bought near the central supermarket at this ticketshop (opposite of the back entrance of the supermarket).
Panajachel is a good place to arrive at the Lago Atitlan and hang out for 1-2 days. It seems to be a quite nice beach place, where you can go on the local market, train in the outdoor gym at the habour or have a good party at the beach. We also had a good dinner at Cheros Pupuseria, where you get cheese-filled tortillas with different other ingredients for 10GTQ (~1€) each. So when you look for a local and cheap place check it out! 🙂
Our first accommodation was Sueños Dulces, where we paid 95 GTQ (~11€) for a night in a double room with private bath including breakfast. We liked it their because it was a nice place to calm down and also you have a clean kitchen too cook some food and safe money.
Our highlight in Panajachel was the Reserva Natural Atitlan. It´s a wonderfull place to spend a whole day to see beautiful butterflies, monkeys, waterfalls, walk over hanging bridges and check out the Lake Atitlan from a „privat“ beach. For the entrance you have to pay 70 GTQ (~8€) per person. It´s a lot of money but in our opinion it was totally worth it. TIP: safe the money for a tuk-tuk which cost one way 20GTQ to the reserve from Panajachel and walk the 25-30min. by yourself!
After 2 days we went to San Pedro by Lancha (local boats) for 20 GTQ (~2€) per person from the habor. It´s a place located at the opposite side of the lake compared to Panajachel which offers some activities. We stayed at a nice place called „Una noche con Mical“ for 120 GTQ (~14€). We had a double room with shared bathrooms, free water, a rooftop terrace and a little kitchen. When we went there in may it was low season. Because of that the city was in our 2 days like a lost city. Not many people and a lot of restaurants where closed. Besides this we had not the best weather. Because of that we decided not to stay so long. But before we left we wanted to do the famous Indian Nose sunrise tour. It´s a hiking tour which brings you to a stunning viewpoint all over the Lake Atitlan. We payed 100 GTQ (~11€) per person which includes the shuttle, a guide and a hot drink at the viewpoint. TIP: Check out different local agencies. Other members of our group got the tour for 80GTQ per person. And now take a look the beautiful pictures of the Indian Nose and the Lake Atitlan in our Photoinspiration of Guatemala :).
After Lake Atitlan we decided to take a 10 hour bus transport from San Pedro to Lanquin via Antigua for 180 GTQ (~21€) per person to visit the famous Semuc Champey Nationalpark. When we arrived in Lanquin we got a free and direct shuttle from our booked Hostel Pachamaya Eco Lodge. We were pretty lucky with this accommodation because it was only 2 weeks old and so we got a extrem low promotion price for 65 GTQ (~8€) the night in the dorm. Independent of the low price we would recommend you this place because it´s located in the middle of the rain forest (no internet) to relax in the nature and also you can walk from their to the entrance of the Nationalpark which safe you some money for the transport from Lanquin and you can do it without a tour. Because of the location of the hostel there are no small shops around. So bring a little bit of snacks with yourself for the time between the meals. They meals in the hostel are very delicious. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner for around 50 GTQ (~6€) per person.
Through the perfect location we had the opportunity to spend a hole day at the Nationalpark of Semuc Champey. You walk about 10 minutes from the hostel and pay 50 GTQ (~6€) for the entrance. We enjoyed the natural pools with some friends the whole day, took a swim and got a peeling-retreat from the little fishes inside the pools. Besides this you can walk to the viewpoint (~25min) by yourself to get a stunning view over the pools. Be sure to bring yourself something to eat because there is nothing to buy inside the park.
TIP: Don’t go for a tour and get in hurry! Enjoy the beautiful Nationalpark and his beauty relaxed by yourself. It´s safe and easy to walk around!
After some relaxing days around the Nationalpark of Semuc Champey we were motivated to explore the rest of Guatemala and so we put Flores (Tikal) on our next destination. For the Transport out of the jungle we ask the hostel owner and we got a Shuttle to Lanquin for 20 GTQ (~2,5€) per person and a bus shuttle to Flores for 100 GTQ (~11,5€) per person.
On our way to Flores five minutes before we arrived a Lady (Libby) went into our bus and presented herself. She was from the local travel agency (Getaway Travel agency) and introduced us to everything special about the place for example Tikal and all transport options to other places like Belize and México. Many of the people in the bus directly booked different tours. We decided to first arrive in our hostel, research for some other local agencies and then book the suitable tour for us. After some time with google we found out that Libbys Agency has some really good reviews and so we booked our package with them. We decided us for a package for 300 GTQ (~35€) per person which includes 75 GTQ for the transport to Tikal with guide and 225 GTQ for the transport to our next destination México (Palenque).
In Flores we stayed for 5 Days in the Hostel Don Cenobio which is a very local hostel with a nice kitchen and rooftop to relax for 125 GTQ (~ 14,5€) the night in a double room. On our first days in Flores we relaxed and visited the nearby local beach of San Miguel including the viewpoint which gives you a nice view over the Island of Flores. From Flores you can reach San Miguel with a lancha (boat) for 10 GTQ (~1,5€). From their we walked through the forest to the viewpoint and we saw some monkeys. After the hiking up to the viewpoint its nice to walk to the nearby Playa (beach) Chechenal peten (entrance fee 5 GTQ per person). We enjoyed it a lot because it was our first beach in Guatemala and it was nice to watch the local people spending their time here at the weekend.
After 3 days we went out to Tikal with our booked tour. At the entrance of the Nationalpark we and all the other visitors had to pay the additional entrance fee of 150 GTQ (~17€). Besides this its necessary to show your passport (original or copy on smartphone). Our guide was very good. He talked a lot about the building of Tikal, knows every stone and showed us different wild animals like Tucans and nose bears (Coatimundi). Check out the PhotoInspration of Flores to see those beautiful animals and the place which George Lucas used for Star Wars!
In Tikal we stayed nearly the whole day from 6am to 3pm. Take a lot of water and some food because its a long and hot day. In the park you also have shops to buy some food and drinks. We enjoyed the time in the nature and recommend everybody to take a lot of time to explore the whole area. Enjoy the adventure! 🙂
If you like to read more about Guatemala check out the german website of our friends Julius and Franzi from stadtlandboard.