I feel so excited to tell you about this country. Everytime I go back to Portugal I think about my favourite country in the trip because I know that it's gonna be the main question. Not that I like it, all countries I've been are special, always stories to tell. This Central America journey I decided that Guatemala was my fave... 50% of the population is still maya, the landscape is magical and the smiles are constant!
To enter Guatemala you pay Q20 (Quetzal is the currency in this country; discover yourself what is a quetzal) and main language is spanish but watch out!! there're a lot of people (esp. in small villages) who speaks mayan. So if you ask something to someone who doesn't answer, maybe that person doesn't speak spanish.
- Xela or Quetzaltenango: Big city. We went to Zunil to visit the Aguas Amargas but sadly it was destroyed when we got there. Before, we been in the flowers, corn, onion, etc plantations, it's so pretty! You can also go to the Hot Springs, it's not a big deal but walking around is nice. You can also climb the mountain close to the Hot Springs * We also been in Parque El Baul, it's a good place to have a view to the city from above * The center is nice during the night esp. and you can eat for cheap in one Comedor (small restaurant with local food) in the market. We stayed in tenejon hotel, far from the Center for Q80 a night/room.
(the famous "chicken bus" in Xela)
- Lago de Atitlan: a must go in Guatemala. You have this huge lake with small villages all around. It's touristy but the locals are pretty kind and you have a lot to do. I met many people who were there for the 3rd, 4th or 5th time! You have great spanish lessons opportunities and Volunteering Work. We stayed San Pedro, in Hotel S. Francisco Q20/person/room but you have tons of options closer to the lake. In San Pedro you have the better night life, a street with few bars with music for all tastes. You can be easily invited for house parties and trance parties :) Besides swimming in the lake and just chilling all day you can go cannoying around the lake. Hike San Pedro volcan for the sunset or sunrise. Try the delicious chai of Shanti Shanti, while you have a great view to the lake.
You can get a boat to Santiago for a day trip (or you can stay there overnight) and hire a tuk tuk driver for an hour to show you the must of the place. They have this weird ritual of a statue drinking alcohol and smoking tabacco... we still don't know if it's a real thing or something just for tourists (you only pay Q5 to get in).
San Marcos is great to stay few weeks also, if you are more chilled you better stay here. You have great opportunities of workshops and courses of yoga, meditation, massage, etc. etc. here.
To go shopping you have to main markets: The Solala Market (more a local market but the way there is beautiful) and Chi Chi Market where you can find amazing handmade products for low prices (but bargain anyway).
- Antigua: didn't like so much, too touristy and not the backpacker style tourism. It's expensive. You can climb the Water Volcano and the Pacaya Volcano, the best option is to camp there so you can take your time ;) You have a cool Craft Market close to the bus station.
In your way to Guatemala City visit the Rehab Center for Alcohol and Drug addicters called "La luz de Jesus" We left some clothes there but they were happier for the fact of being there and see different people.
- Lanquin: So beautiful! You can stay in El Retiro, it's a Eco-Tourism hostel with Cabanas made of wood and you have a river inside where you can try tubbing and swim, it's great fun! This is also the village you can stay if you want to visti Semuc champey... well you have no option actually because this place is AMAZING (check the picture hehe) You also have the option of just staying/camping close to Semuc champey, instead of staying in Lanquin.
- Puerto Barrios: A bit "left behind" place with mayor black population. It's was cool to walk around for one morning!
DON'T MISS: Tikal, Flores and Peten. A lot of people say that if you don't go to tikal you haven't been in Guatemala, but we already been in four different Mayan ruins and didn't fell like going up for 2 days and down again just to watch more pyramides... Maybe in another trip.