Goodbye Mexico (mi amor), hola Guatemala (again). I could tell instantly that I was back in Guatemala – the place just feels different – in a good way! We were on our way to check out the mother of all lakes, Lake Atitlan, but before that, a homestay!
I love meeting locals and hanging out with them – you get a completely different view of the world. We crossed the border and got into the town, a lot more vibrant and bigger than I was expecting. My host was young Derrick, 23 years old, married with the most gorgeous, cuddly baby – or gordita (haha) as he called her.
He lived with his younger brother (21 and also married) and his amazing mother. She was so cool – so strong and independent and with it, it was a pleasure spending time with her. She definitely took me through my paces regarding Spanish! They were absolutely wonderful, hospitality rate = 100%. I helped make the meals (sorry no pics of the soup), including tortillas!!
Guess which are the mum’s and which are mine.. haha. We dressed up like a local ladies and had a whale of a time. We also spent time checking out the town – small, vibrant and very local. Almost all the women were wearing traditional clothes. It was a lot of fun. Next stop? Panajachel or Pana as affectionately referred to by the locals.
Where am I staying?
Panajachel is a beautiful but very sleepy town in my opinion. Once you’ve checked it out, if you’re not there for a specific reason, there isn’t a need to stay (or so I think). We were there for 2 nights, staying in the Utz Jay (‘Welcome’ in the local Maya dialect).
Beautiful grounds (as usual), quirky hotel, room furnished with local textiles, lots of natural light, another hotel that I liked.
- Grubbiness factor = low. A bit tired but clean.
- Shower = 7/10. Hot water but dodgy showerhead which meant I had to dance in the shower to ensure the water got to where it had to.
- Bed = 7/10. Comfy enough, but with Lilliputian pillows – slightly challenging.
What did I eat?
Ignore what I ate for now – Let me tell you what I drank!!!! The best coffee in the world. I kid you not. This coffee was sublime verging on orgasmic. The Best Coffee I Have Ever Had. Where? Cafe Loco.
Those amongst you with eagle eyes will notice the Korean text. Yes. This cafe is run by Korean brothers living in Pana. And God bless them for doing so. Cute little cafe, with all coffee related paraphernalia (who knew there was so much).
Look at the size of the dream catcher!!!!! I had a flat white with soya (the last of their non dairy milk). BLOOMING HECK. I was speechless. It was like drinking liquid velvet that tasted of all my favourite things put together. And it wasn’t just me – everyone loved their coffees (with the staff smiling smugly – and rightly so). They were great with their coffee art – reminded me of the guys at Riso in Tromso.
Next coffee – iced hazel Americano and I also tried a hot version – both super amazing. They also have creative names for their coffees, everything from Dark Knight (mocha with orange) to hulk (mint and coffee). These guys have mastered the art of making a good cup of coffee – every step of the process. If you are ever here, DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE. OR ELSE. YES. This is a threat. GO GO GO. Make it the first thing you do.
Breakfasts – included at the hotel, the usual continental, fruit, toast and coffee – but it can’t compare to Cafe Loco!
Lunches? We came across a ‘Vietnamese-Mayan fusion’ food joint. Sounded good. I had a veggie coconut milk curry – full of sugar! It was ok – the Mayan veggies were good – but it did feel like I was eating dessert. Had to pimp it with my usual suspects – lime and salsa picante to make it enjoyable.
Lunch the next day was much better – on the island of San Juan, we found this cute little cafe – Cafe Atitlan – servicing local, simple, home cooked food. Fresh pineapple juice and a veggie plate with salad, veggies, frijoles, rice and avo. Delicious!
Dinners? I went to Circus Bar on one night – it was absolutely brilliant. The decor, layout, menu, staff – everything was on point, including the food. There was hummus on the menu! I had to order it. Delicious and full of flavour. One of the girls ordered a salad – it was really good.
I ordered pasta with tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Sounds bizarre but I mixed the rest of the hummus in the pasta and that just took it to the next level. Might start doing that at home! There was also live music – so much fun and entertaining.
Dinner on the next night was at Chintas. Asian food. The decor was beautiful, it was a nice space to chill and eat in.
I forgot to take a pic of my food. I ordered a satay plate – rice, salad, tofu skewers and peanut sauce. Super tasty, and there were loads of items on the menu that I would have liked to try. Snacks? On the way to Pana we stopped for a fuel break and came across this tray of wares.
Coconut, orange, pumpkin, brittle – all coated/soaked/immersed in sugar. I went for the coconut – middle right – super sweet, to the point my teeth started to hurt – and that is coming from someone who can handle her sugar!!
What did I do?
Carrying on from Las Cristobal, I continued to relax. This included walking up and down the town. There was stall after stall and shop after shop selling the same stuff – it became quite exhausting after a while even just looking! The one thing that I realised was how expensive Guatemala is in comparison to Mexico! What I really enjoyed doing was going down to the shore and watching the sunset over the lake – very beautiful.
One night there was a guy tossing fire balls (don’t know what that is actually called), another night there was a band (a really good band) playing – most enjoyable. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the live music on this trip. The other taxing activity (NOT) was taking a boat across Lake Atitlan to San Juan. There are lots of islands, and lots of tours where you can visit them all, I choose just one. Q25 for a one way ticket, 30 minute ride and you’re there. A bumpy ride (it was a windy morning), but nothing too strenous, unless you’re this American girl who became hysterical and put on her life jacket when the boat started bouncing.
Stunning views on the lake, and the island was quite pretty too – once you got past the shops and galleries (selling the same paintings). They were pretty but a bit too busy for my taste. We just walked around at tourist pace, taking it all in, not a care in the world.
I did like this pic of a couple in a boat – but not enough to buy it. So where am I now? I’m chilling in Antigua, planning the next steps of the holiday. Stay tuned!