Hi friends and family!

My trip is almost coming to an end. I have had a great time, but I’m not gonna lie: I’m really looking forward to going back home. Like the song on the radio at the airport: “I’m just too far from where you are. I wanna go home”. However, I still have a couple of days on a beach in the Dominican Republic. I’m looking forward to that as well.
The past couple of weeks I’ve traveled through Guatemala. The country of Mayas, (active) volcanoes, lightning every night, good coffee, and friendly faces. But also the country of road blockages, protests, non-working Wi-Fi, power cuts, and stores opening two hours later than the timetable suggests. “Welcome to Guatemala”. It’s many Latin-America-traveller’s favorite. Here are my experiences:

With Livia (Brazil) and Yan (Malaysia/Australia) I arrived in this small town. The next day we did the sunrise tour at Maya complex Tikal. The bus picked us up at… 3 AM! Freakin’ early… We climbed up the 4th Temple (yes, the one with the Star Wars view) and waited for the sunrise. However, it was too cloudy. We ran away from our group and went to the main plaza, that we had entirely for ourselves for quite a long time 😀 We walked around and saw a lot of “pizotes”. Back in Flores we joined Percy (Peru) and Liz (Australia) to a food market with cheap meals and awesome cakes.







Semuc Champey
The ride from Flores to Semuc Champey is rough and long, but very pretty. You see lots of trees, big rocks, and women in traditional clothing.
We did a full day tour organized by our hostel. In terms of timing we were very lucky. The park of Semuc Champey had been closed for a couple of weeks (due to protest) and had just been reopened. Therefore, there were a lot of soldiers near the entrance. But I have to say that you will see guys with big guns everywhere in this country. Anyhoo, our guide took us to the viewpoint for photos before we actually went into the water. We swam, climbed, glided, and jumped from one pool to the next. There was also a small and shallow cave that you need to dive in and out of. After lunch and an encounter with a snake we explored a big cave. With a lit candle you walk, swim, climb, and glide further into the cave. At the end was a small (4m) cliff jump, where the climb was scarier than the jump itself. Outside of the cave a couple of show offs jumped from a waterfall and we went tubing. Our guide formed us into a big human caterpillar and we got a lot of stares when we floated down the river. The bit in the morning was pretty, but the activities in the afternoon were definitely more fun!
By the way, Livia and Yan could you send me your pictures? Thanks 🙂



Cobán is not really a place where tourists normally stop. However, I had read about the national flower of Guatemala (the rare white nun orchid) and wanted to see it. With the company of local Manuel I went to an orchid nursery and found out it was not the right season. The owner of the nursery guided us around and showed us other beautiful orchids. Later, we went to a finca for a coffee tour. However, this was also not possible. They had stopped giving tours four years ago. That’s why you shouldn’t walk around with a twelve year old Lonely Planet. I was determined to not let it get in my way of tasting real Guatemalan coffee and we went to a café that served their coffee. It’s good!




My original plan was to go from Cobán to Nebaj, but I was told that’s not really possible. Therefore, my new plan was to go to Antigua and then Quetzaltenango->Huehuetenango->Nebaj. Antigua is a charming and touristy city with lots of Spanish architecture, gringos learning Spanish, and surrounded by volcanoes. The city has cute cafés and a bunch of places for the “alternative” eater. I had a vegan pizza with “cheese” made from potato and a tasty sandwich with soya “cheese” and vegetables. It’s awesome that they actually have savoury bread, next to all of the disgustingly sweet breads you’ll find everywhere. With Livia and Yan I explored the city and we joined Percy and Liz to the food market.






Quetzaltenango (or “Xela”)
I said goodbye to everyone and took a shuttle to Xelaju. Whereas Antigua is very touristy and some towns are still very traditional, Xela fits somewhere in the middle. I went to a bakery run by Mennonites, strolled over the market, drank Guatemalan coffee, and went to a natural spa. The natural spa is pretty, but very crowded. Some people told me about secret pools down the hill, so I went there to avoid the crowds. No success. Also crowded. Surprisingly, this water was warmer. It was quite hot. The local guy next to me was such a baby. After a loooong time with only his feet in the water he finally started standing in it (water up to his knees). He was huffing and puffing and didn’t quite know what to do. Women really are the stronger sex 😉





The next day a shuttle picked me up to take me to Huehuetenango, but after half an hour returned because of a road blockage (protest). I really wanted to arrive in Nebaj the next day, so I figured out that I should go via Chichicastenango. The collectivo to the bus terminal dropped me off in a busy street with no bus terminal in sight. You had to walk over a market and ask directions a couple of times to find it. So from Xela to Chichi I had my first chicken bus. And a woman really had taken little chicks into the bus.



Chichicastenango (or “Chichi”)
Chichi is known for its market that is being held twice a week. This time I was only passing through on my way to Nebaj.




This is a traditional Mayan village and rather than Spanish the locals speak a Mayan language. Because it is quite remote there are not many tourists. I strolled over the market a dozen times to admire all the women (and a few men) in traditional clothing. The people are really friendly and it was quite special to visit this traditional village.




Chichi again
Back to Chichi for the market. I was walking around looking for another cheap hotel (no hostels here) when a group of kids came to my rescue. One told me to go to hotel A and another told me to go to hotel B. It was like they were actually working on commission. Cute.
The market was really busy! Lots of souvenirs, traditional clothes, tourists, food, and the regular crap you can find on every market. On the church steps people are selling flowers and burning incense. Apparently the church is being used more for Mayan purposes than Catholic purposes. Tourists are also not supposed to walk on the church steps, but they don’t seem to care. At one point I found a pretty, silver pendant with a Maya decoration, so I put my bargaining skills to the test. I’ve heard that you could get souvenirs for half the price they ask (tourists really get discriminated). The vendor asked the ridiculous price of Q180 (approximately €22), but I eventually managed to buy it for Q85 (approximately €10). I probably still paid too much, but I’m happy with it. Back in the hotel I met a bunch of travelers and we played cards.






San Marcos
To get to this place on the lake I needed to take a chicken bus to Los Encuentros, another to Sololá, another bus to Panajachel, and a boat to San Marcos. The first bus was probably the most uncomfortable bus ride I’ve ever had… I had to sit in a narrow spot with my backpack on while the driver was racing through the curves. However, I survived and San Marcos was worth it. It is a town at lake Atitlán (surrounded by volcanoes) that has been taken over by hippies. You’ll find lots of yoga, meditation, gemstones, and vegetarian food. People have come for a short holiday and now have been living there for years. It is quite popular. I actually ran into Dominic again (after San Ignacio and Flores) and two Aussie girls I had met in Mérida. Yup, I’m on the gringo trail.
In the hostel I met Anna (Poland), Nikki (Switzerland), and a just-married couple (USA+Ecuador). We had an awesome time filled with yoga, meditation, reading, and vegan cheesecake (and beer and crisps in the evening). With Anna I went to movie night and on a day trip to Panajachel. She’d heard that there’s a café with the best coffee of the country, so we had to check that out. The coffee at Café Loco was pretty damn good. I also went to a bookstore in “Pana”. The owner told me that I could go back there to exchange the books I’ve read. Apparently I look enough like a hippy to live there ^^. With Nikki I went sunbathing on the dock and eating Indian curries (Guatemalan food is not tasty). We also went to this awesome secondhand clothing store and miraculously found this beautiful, blue dress (again). A couple of days earlier, Anna and I had been telling this girl to buy it (to wear at a wedding in town), because it’s just really pretty. Apparently she had taken it back to the store and it was now mine to buy. Lucky, when things turn out like that.







Antigua again
Hmm.. The three hour bus ride took six hours, because of a festival in Guatemala city. In the hostel we watched the Olympics and played Mario Kart on a Nintendo 64. I met local Billy and we went out for coffee a couple of times. A boy behind the cash register noticed my black fingernails and told me he didn’t like them. Haha. I appreciate the honesty.



It was quite a long journey to get to the Dominican Republic. First to Panama and then stay at Bogotá airport overnight (cold). But now I have time to relax and do absolutely nothing but reading on the beach. A little holiday after my travels 😉
I don’t think I’m gonna be able to take photos here, as carrying a bag is unwise. So there will be no blog post about the Dominican Republic. I hope you’re all having a great holiday and I’ll see you all soon!

Lots of love

3 Responses to “Guatemala

  • Ook je laatste reisverslag is weer heerlijk om te lezen en weer met fantastische foto’s! Geniet er nog even van en inderdaad fijn dat je bijna weer thuis komt! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ??????

  • Lieve Romana, onwijs respect voor jou, wat een avontuur zeg en wat heb ik er ook van genoten om je reis te zien en te horen via je verhalen, geniet nog even ik wens je een goede en veilige reis naar huis over enkele dagen, take care en hoop gauw nig meer verhalen te horen als je weer met beide benen op Nederlandse grond staat, groetjes

  • Nog maar een paar dagen! Dan kunnen wij weer gezellig koffie (of bier, thee of wijn) met jou drinken. Tot snel ?

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