Guatemala, June 2019

Welcome to our travel blog! We are a family with 3 kids and love to travel! Our children love adventure. They love to visit new places and to learn new things. We just came back from Guatemala and had the best time! I am excited to share our photos and experiences from this trip.

Day 1: Wednesday- Antigua Guatemala

We landed in Guatemala City and went straight to Antigua, which is one hour away from the airport. From my research, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Guatemala City, and it isn’t very safe. Chabad of Antigua arranged for a driver to pick us up, though Uber also works great in Guatemala!

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Chabad of Antigua has six beautiful, Spanish Colonial apartments available for rent. They are each complete with a kitchen, fridge, stove top, eating area and an upstairs, which is a very large bedroom and bathroom. The apartments are all in one compound with the Chabad Synagogue and restaurant, making it super convenient for Jewish families. Even though there is no Eiruv in Antigua, for Shabbos everything in the Chabad is self contained so there is no fear of carrying.

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After putting our luggage away and eating a warm kosher meal, we ventured out to the center of Antigua, followed by an indoor artisan market. This artisan market is one of the best we went to in Guatemala, and is called “Mercadito.” There is a small door to enter that really makes it look like a hole in the wall, but you are met with tables and tables of beautiful artistry. We shopped some, walked a lot, and took lots of photos of the people in this cute cobblestone city we just arrived in. We were told not to go out at night, especially with the kids, so we headed back to our apartment before nightfall.

Day 2: Thursday - Museums

The next morning, we decided to check out some of the museums in Antigua. We stopped at this incredible plant nursery and cafe next door to Chabad! Antigua has only cobblestone streets, so we left our stroller at home, which was so hard for me to do. It would have been impossible to push a stroller there, though, so I am glad we left it at home. We carried Baruch in a carrier and Nachshon and Hadassah walked like champs. After the nursery, we went to an old books museum for 60Q ($7.80) for (adult) tourists, and then a jade museum (Free). We went back to Chabad for lunch and a little siesta. Chabad had a little kids pool and my kids really enjoyed it. After swimming and relaxing, we took a 30Q ($4) Uber (20 minute drive) to Cerro de la Cruz, a view point where you can see all of Antigua. On a clear day you can also see a large volcano near the city. It was cloudy, so we couldn’t see it, and later we were told it is better to go in the morning. It was still neat to see the whole city! After this, we stopped at a used book store — called Dyslexia — because Danny has to do this at every city we go to. It was a cool place owned by expats. For every book you buy, you get a free beer :)

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Day 3: Friday- Hobbitenango

The next morning, we set out to an eco-lodge with spectacular views of the volcanoes across the valley. It is called Hobbitenango, because it looks like the Shire in the Lord of the Rings! To get here, we took an Uber for 40Q ($5) to the Hobbitenango shuttle, which then drives you up the mountain. The shuttle is 10Q ($1.5) per adult (kids are free for most things in Guatemala!) Entrance to the eco-lodge itself free. They have a playground, mini-golf, carnival-type games and hiking. The kids really enjoyed it! We brought lunch with us so that we could stay out longer, though there is a restaurant there with amazing views if you don’t keep kosher. We then took an Uber to Hotel Casa Santa Domingo. This is the fanciest hotel in Antigua that used to be a convent during the colonial period. It is absolutely beautiful and has several museums and workshops inside. We enjoyed walking through the grounds and checking out their chocolate and candle workshops. After this, the kids went swimming again at Chabad and we got ready for Shabbat!

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Day 4: Saturday- Caoba Farms

There is the most amazing farm five minutes walking distance from Chabad. It has rows and rows or different vegetables and unique plants. There is a playground and they also have a butterfly house! When we went on Saturday they also had a market and live music. Check their website to see what days they have it. If you don’t keep kosher, you can eat from their restaurant and the atmosphere is just lovely. The rest of Saturday we just hung out at Chabad.

Day 5: Sunday- Leave Antigua for San Pedro

Before our trip, we debated whether we should make the three hour drive to San Pedro, a village on Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by various villages and volcanoes, and we’re glad we went! Each village is unique and you can take a lancha (motorboat) to visit each one. It is about 15Q ($1.95) per person, depending on which village you are going to. We chose to stay in San Pedro from all the other villages because it has Chabad and kosher food. In San Pedro, we rented an Air BnB through Chabad which was a three minute walk from them. We walked around San Pedro and took in the views of the lake surrounded by mountains. It is just breathtaking. I couldn’t believe we even considered not going. If you are going to Guatemala, you need to visit Lake Atitlan.

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Day 6: Monday - Indian Nose, Panajachel

A very popular attraction, which Chabad organizes, is a hike up Indian Nose, which provides amazing views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes at sunrise. The hike starts at 3:15 a.m, is pitch black and even though it is short (30-45 min), it isn’t a piece of cake. When we got to the top it was super cloudy and for a minute I was bummed that I gave up my precious sleep to not be able to see anything. All of a sudden, the sun started to rise, the colors of the sky quickly changed, the clouds left and we got the most magnificent view! Everyone gasped, and just being there at that moment was the most amazing experience. Pictures don’t do it justice! When I came back, we wanted to visit some of the other villages near by. We only ended up having time for one, which was Panajachel. There they have a really nice Nature Reserve with a butterfly house, play ground and monkeys! Admission is 70Q ($9). They also have zip lining and hiking. We had a picnic there and then went to check out the markets. After 12:00 p.m. the waves on the lake are much stronger and the boat rides are less pleasant. We went back to San Pedro, even though I really wanted to check out the village San Marcos that is known for its hippies and yoga. Next time!

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Day 7: Tuesday- Back to Antigua

We had a couple of hours until our shuttle was going back to Antigua. We decided to take a tuk-tuk to the neighboring city of San Juan. Our driver took us to a women’s artistry compound, where they show you how they make thread and dye it, and how they weave the fabrics. The tour is free and in the end there is a shop to buy all sorts of things that these women make. It is fascinating to see the whole process from start to finish. After this. our tuk-tuk driver took us to an artisan market with lots of art galleries and a shops! We got to see how they make chocolate from cacao, super cool! Lastly, our driver took us to a honey tour where we got to see how honey is harvested from bees. After this, we headed back to San Pedro to take our shuttle back to Antigua. Our flight to Houston was leaving in the morning, so once we got back to Antigua we went back to the center for one last time. Our Uber driver took us to a gigantic artistry market that felt like the Walmart of artistry markets! It was nice to have this last experience before heading home.

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I usually have an exact itinerary for when we travel, but this time we just went with the flow and asked locals what to do and where to go. Because of this, we did do things we probably wouldn’t have done otherwise, which was great! We also missed out on some things I wish we had done like the macadamia farm, coffee tour and village tours. There are also a few volcano hikes which we almost did but decided would be too difficult for the kids. If you are traveling with older kids, you can hike up Volcano Pacaya and roast marshmellows at fumaroles. Chabad organizes these tours! We will definitely be back so I am glad we left some things for us to do next time :) My kids really enjoyed Guatemala, it was one of our best vacations! We really can’t wait to go back!

Until next time,

The Golani’s

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