CENTRAL AMERICA

GUATEMALA

Antigua & Pacaya Volcano Tour
Lake Atitlán
El Paredon

Antigua

This colorful, colonial town surrounded by volcanoes reminds me a lot of Granada, Nicaragua! There are some great restaurants and even a brewery (Antigua Brewing Company), and it’s all very walkable.
Some highlights– The Mirador at Cerro de la Cruz, Santa Catalina Arch, Ruinas de Santa Teresa, Central Market Antigua, Plaza Mayor/Parque Central, ChocoMuseo, Santuario/Iglesia San Francisco el Grande, and Tanque la Unión. If you have a full day in the town, you could easily walk to all of these sites!

Where we stayed– We chose Earth Lodge because they have tree houses overlooking Antigua! The grounds are beautiful, they have yoga sessions, and their food is all made fresh with communal dining. The only downside to staying here is that you are pretty much forced to take/set up transportation to and from town (it’s too far and too steep to walk). So, if you have several days here, maybe spend a night or two at Earth Lodge and then a night or two in town! Prices start at Q430 weekdays/ Q530 weekends for 2 person occupancy.

Pacaya Volcano Tour

This was the highlight of our stay in Antigua! We did a day trip through one of the hostels (El Hostal BnB, which has since turned into Maxán restaurant…) but there are several tour operators in town that can help to get you set up- Old Town Outfitters is pretty popular. They offer half day (just to the volcano) and full day (volcano plus thermal hot springs and spa) trips- we chose to make it a full day so we could relax in the geothermal pools after our hike! It’s about a 1 hour drive to the base of Volcán Pacaya, and then you will walk about 1.5 hours up to the lava fields. Here, the guides will have marshmallows for you to roast over geothermal hot spots, and you can walk around on the lava fields for a bit. Note: the location of these hot spots changes often because the volcano is still very young and active. After the descent, we went to Santa Teresita Hotel and Spa Termal for our hot springs and spa afternoon. Some tours will even include massages and lunch, so compare pricing! The Thermal Circuit was the way to go after our hike. From their site: “The thermal circuit is a therapy that involves immersing the body in 4 thermal pools at different temperatures for a measured time. These temperature changes in the various pools improve circulation, relax the muscles of the body and eliminate stress.”
Price: Tours with Old Town Outfitters start at $70 (half day) or $170 (full day)
🚼 Not suitable for young children. The hike would be difficult for unexperienced children.

Lake Atitlán

Like almost everyone else (it seems), we had no idea where to stay on the lake. We did a little research and found a bunch of hostels in the towns (Panajachel, San Pedro, San Juan), but we wanted something more secluded/quiet so when we stumbled across La Casa del Mundo, it seemed to be a good fit- not a long taxi ride from Panajachel and not in a town. There is a path at the top of the hillside that you can walk with some great views of the lake, and you can easily catch a water taxi from their private pier. If you miss the stop/the panga misunderstood you, you can also get off at Jaibalito and walk along the shore to get to the hotel (but I wouldn’t recommend it, if you can help it). We ended up doing a day trip to San Pedro & San Juan just to walk around and check it out, and while we were in transit in Panajachel we walked to the Reserva Natural Atitlán. Other than that, we were kind of bored at Atitlán because we couldn’t go swimming in the lake and we didn’t want to party all night in one of the towns or eat dinner at the hotel every night. After our 3 night stay, we decided to head over to El Paredon on the coast.
Prices at La Casa del Mundo: A Standard Room starts at Q680/night, and the Economy Rooms (shared bath) start at Q380/night
Prices at Reserva Natural Atitlán: Adults 12+ Q70, Children under 12 Q40; hours are 8am to 5pm; no reservation required, and you can also stay overnight here!

El Paredon

Our final 3 nights we splurged (and still paid under $100/night) and stayed in a swim-up suite at Swell Surf & Lifestyle Hotel in El Paredon, a coast town with a volcanic black sand beach! This was 100% for relaxation and to be in a more remote town in Guatemala. We walked around, ate at the little restaurants, went to the beach to watch the surfers, and had a handful of beers (each). I would highly recommend the trek out here if you have a couple of extra days!

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