Category Archives: Guatemala

PB Travels… Back to Antigua

First leg of travelling over. I’m back in Antigua, booked myself into a lovely little hotel for a couple of days to essentially relax and enjoy the last few attractions in Guatemala.

Where am I staying?

San Rafael, my hotel is located just under the arch – superb location, 5 minutes walk to the main square.  It is a small boutique hotel, I think a max of 9 rooms and it used to be a private residence before.The public areas are stunning – I have been lounging about making use of them.

The room is BEAUTIFUL, sitting area, comfortable bed, massive bathroom – BLISS.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = erm. Nada. Nothing. Cleanliness as  expected with this calibre of hotels. Pristine and lovely smelling room and sheets.
  • Bed = 10/10. So so comfy. And the room is dark and night – perfect sleep.
  • Shower = 10/10. Rain shower, hand held, lovely toiletries.

I love this hotel – and if I didn’t have to think about budgeting, I would stay in hotels like this all the time.. luxurious, small and with character. But I’m happy with travelling normally most of the time and then taking it up a notch for a few days – I’ve always done this and have stayed in some brilliant hotels – keeps me happy 🙂

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts are included in the hotel, everything from continental, to pancakes to traditional with a twist. My go to has been a version of ‘Antigua’s best breakfast’ that comes with eggs, frijoles, platanos and cheese.

Replace eggs and cheese with mushrooms and hash browns, and yes. This could be Antigua’s best breakfast.  I have thoroughly enjoyed eating it. Nice presentation – check out the frijoles! (And they have an amazing home made salsa – es muy picante!). There is fresh orange juice and fruit to start. And their coffee is excellent!

What I like about this place is breakfast is a la carte – made to order (order what you want and as much – just finish it) so there is no wastage of food.  Other things I’ve been eating are falafel wraps from Roots Juice Bar – extremely tasty and fresh (extra guac of course) and a liver cleanser (beetroot, apple, celery, lime). They have a whole range of juices – all tasty sounding.

Rainbow Cafe is another go to for veggie/vegan options (thank you Happy Cow). I had the falafel plate – wanted to compare them to Roots. Roots wins. These ones were a bit dry, but the tahini sauce and pico de gallo made up for it. And they had hummus which was very good.  I also had a Jamaica iced tea – it was really good, nice and sour but a tad too sweet for me.

I went to the market one day and came across a truly local place. For Q25, I got a plate of rice, veggies and frijoles and a horchata. Simple and tasty, and what really elevated the meal was their home made pickle. STUNNING.

Please don’t hesitate to eat in a place like this – local, high turnaround, simple yet clean – it was a really good meal. I really enjoyed it.  Dinners were back at Frida’s – Nachos con Verduras sin queso y crema. YUMMO. Those salsas are some of the best I’ve had!

I also went to La Fonda de la Calle Real – a popular place that serves authentic Guatemalan food. I wanted to try Pepian, a stew with a sauce made from pumpkin seeds and tomatoes and coriander – and they had a veggie version here!

What came was chayote (or chuchu/shushu) in a rich sauce. It was really dark and full of flavour –  but I found it quite heavy, only had 1/2 of it with the rice.  The little tamale was stuffed with frijoles, but was super dry. Didn’t eat it.  I also had a Jamaica juice – nice and tart and not too sweet (finally!!!!).  Other than that, I’ve been overdosing on fresh juices…

Eating perfectly ripe avocados on their own,


And I also had a cheeky Chinese takeaway. I can’t do MSG – and I appreciate that they were honest enough to say they use it, and that they wouldn’t for me. They didn’t… the noodles were simple yet tasty and light.  I react instantly to it and I know the tell tale signs – so thank you Chinese takeaway place (yep, forgot the name, but it is on the 5th Avenida)


What did I do?

Antigua is such a beautiful town I have enjoyed walking around, exploring the markets I didn’t get to see the first time round, meandering around the streets day and night (it is so safe), having random conversations with locals and tourists and generally just taking it all in.

I finally decided to do some shopping and bought a few money purses. Antigua is also the jade capital of Guatemala, so I had to get myself a souvenir. If you want really pretty jewellery at a really good price, please go visit Jose – tienda cuarenta in the Artisan market.

At first glance I thought, erm…nothing here – but he has got some amazing stuff and is very knowledgable. I got a Lila jade ring, and a jaguar jade ring (seeing that in the Mayan Calendar, my zodiac animal is a baby jaguar – and I like that colour of green), and another rose quartz pendant (you can never have to many!). All at very reasonable prices!! And he even resized a ring for me.. Muchos Gracias Jose!

I also went back to Cerro de la Cruz -the views this time were just as good as last. I can see why so many people enjoy Antigua. It has a bit of everything and I’m glad I stayed here for a bit longer. Next stop – Costa Rica. But first – a stop to Honduras.

PB Travels… Panajachel

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.

Ratings?

  • 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!

PB Travels… Maya Ruins

Last day in Rio Dulce and it was nice and warm. After breakfast (Primal Pantry bar and a sachet of peanut butter), we took a water taxi back to shore, and jumped into a bus for a 3 hour ride to the next stop, Flores. We were only here for one night before moving to out next stop – Belize!

Where am I staying?

Maya Internacional was apparently a five star hotel until half of it was flooded in 2011. Our guide warned us that there may be a strong smell of sewage (!!!) in the hotel. Thankfully this wasn’t the case, bu there was an underlying whiff of sewage in the bathroom. Not nice!

This hotel had a distinctly American feel to it. The dining area and views were beautiful, and so was the sunrise that we managed to catch the next day. The room was basic but clean.  I was glad we were only staying here for one night.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = low. Once again, the room was tired but clean.
  • Bed = 8/10. Slept really well after the activity we had earlier in the day.
  • Shower = 5/10. Good power, good drainage and it has free toiletries – the first on the trip! Low marks because of subtle stench.

What am I eating?

Our guide recommended that we visit the Maya ruins at Yaxha, so order to get there on time, we stopped for lunch at El Muele – a touristy hotel and restaurant. Stunning views!  I went for the veggie fajitas that came with frijoles and guacamole. It was just alright, had a feeling of mass production about it.

Not very tasty but edible. The guac was yummy – but when isn’t it?  Meh.  By the time we got back from the ruins it was pretty late – so we decided to eat in the hotel. I went for spaghetti with an avocado sauce – yep. I’m going to eat avocados wherever and however I can!

Tasty enough, made even more edible with the addition of my new addiction – that Habanero Sauce!   We had to leave early the next day to get to the ruins in Tikal. We decided to get ‘breakfast on the go’ – I went for a veggie sandwich, that came with a mixed fruit smoothie, a banana and a sesame cookie. (Forgot to take a pic!). I had the smoothie (like a fruit slushie – yummie:), and the banana to give me the energy to walk around Tikal. I started on my sandwich and remembered that we would be going to the same place for lunch again, so decided to save it for then.

Suitably starving post Tikal, I thought I would play it safe and order a salad back at El Muelle. I’ve been eating veggies, but they have been either cooked or steamed or fried. I just wanted a crunchy salad – and that is exactly  what I got.  Definitely hit the spot. A mixture of lettuce, radish, carrot, cucumber, tomato, avocado – it was so tasty. Good choice PB, good choice. This restaurant being on the lake meant the fish was good – one girl ordered it and said it was super tasty.

What did I do?

So after we got to Flores and had lunch, we embarked on a 2 hour ride to Yaxha. Yaxha means blue green water. They are the third largest ruins in Guatemala with a rich and varied history, from the pre classic period. (Don’t mess with me – I was clearly listening to the guide!!).

This turned out to be not only cultural but an amazing wildlife walk. We had a very entertaining, passionate guide – Luis, who gave us a lot of history about the ruins – and turned out to be a passionate bird watcher.

Check out all the restrictions – no guns, no onsite excavation site!  We also saw birds (including beautiful wild turkeys), howler monkeys (yes, those white things are it’s cojones!)and a BOA CONSTRICTOR. Now, I’ve only ever seen them on TV or in a zoo. This one was out in the wild – and moving!


We climbed up a pyramid (steep stairs – not for the faint hearted or those with dodgy knees) – impressive canopy, but the main pyramid (216) is the one that everyone climbs up for the views. Thank God for small mercies – there was a wooden staircase. Once we got to the top, Luis made everyone (including all the other tourists) zip it and we saw the sunset in silence. Magical. So so worth it – please don’t miss out on checking out these ruin – especially at sunset!

Tikal was just as impressive. Once again, we got a local guide – who had a lot of knowledge about the place, rituals, carvings, layout – but was just a bit dull.

Views were stunning – still thinking which one I loved more – Yaxha or Tikal. Can’t decide. What I loved (and was surprised about) was that neither place was busy – there must have been about 30 people at Yaxha and maybe double at Tikal. It meant you could really get a feel of the place. Start contrast to when I went to Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat!

It was a bit frustrating that with both places, over half of the pyramids are still covered up. Both guides said excavation is expensive, but another reason is the money needed for maintenance – all structures are made primarily out of limestone which means it more susceptible to environmental factors.  Tikal is still a magical place,and the main pyramid is awe inspiring.  

So I’m done with Guatemala for now – but I will be back in about 2 weeks. Tomorrow – Belize – and hopefully the hot weather I’ve been craving!