We did not drive the RV here! But Laurel and I did both travel here to a wedding in January. So I’m including it on the website. We were invited by family friends to their wedding in Antigua Guatemala and since we thought that this was a great idea we ended up spending 11 days down there. We are SO glad we did! Guatemala isn’t one of those places you think of when you think ‘Destination Wedding’. It’s actually not one of those places you think of when you think ‘Safe Place to Visit’. But we know and trust the Bride and Groom so we jumped at the opportunity.
We flew into Guatemala City on Wednesday morning. We took the ‘Red Eye’ out of Los Angeles which left at 12am and arrived at 6am. This sounded like a great plan on paper, we would get an extra full day! The down side is that they hotel wasn’t ready when we got there since it was only 10am, so we left our bags at the front desk and walked around the city like sleep deprived Zombies. In our sleep deprived state we were unable to fend off the street vendors and ended up buying more fabrics and necklaces than we would have with a full nights sleep. But we were assured that that these were top quality wares and that we were special and getting a good deal. Getting in before everyone else did give us a chance to explore the city by ourselves before any of the other wedding guests arrived. We also stayed a WEEK after the wedding, so it felt like we lived there and some friends were coming into town for a wedding.
Antigua is a very old city in Guatemala. It feels similar to Cusco, Peru in that there are ruins on just about every block. But since the tourism industry isn’t as developed here the ruins are in a little bit of disrepair. But it’s still beautiful, you find a new way to experience it every time you walk around. Most of the streets are cobblestone and there are a reasonable amount of cars on the streets, more of the weekends and on the major street on the east side of town. Tuk-Tuks have made their way to central america, but since you can walk across the heart of the city in about 20 minutes there’s really no reason to use them. Maybe at night, but we walked a few times and felt safe.
Every hotel I’ve been to in south/central america has been magical. Maybe I should be more subjective and complain about something. But this place had everything we needed and more. Beautiful open courtyard for breakfast in the morning. The rooms were small but elegant, the bed was comfortable and it had hot water. It also had a rooftop terrace that had an amazing 360 view of the city and surrounding mountains. Beautiful plants and art around the hotel. The hotel staff were really accomidating and friendly at all times, even when we were stumbling in at all hours of the night. The hotel was also completely filled with wedding guests, so it was nice to know the neighbors! We ended up having a few wine fueled brunches in the common areas of the hotel.
One of the wedding guests found this place on yelp. He was very interested in getting the local flavors. It was so good and so cheap. I actually led another group back here the next day for more tacos. They were so delicious and spicy.
- The people… I thought having a destination wedding in Guatemala might have been a way to thin out the guest list a little. But out of 133 people invited 130 made the trip. I want to repeat that, these two people got 130 people to travel halfway around the world to come to their wedding. We met so many wonderful people on this trip, that is one of the most important things I will remember about the wedding.
- The venue… When you see some of these ruins in the daytime it kind of looks like a mess. They’re mostly empty, filled with dust, and semi-crumbling. But with some candles, flower petals, and a string quartet… it’s like that moment in Raiders where the setting sun strikes Indiana Jones’s staff and the beam of light shows the location of the ark. It’s incredible. AND they had sparklers lit while they exited into a horse drawn carriage. AND we rode a ‘chicken bus’ around the city to the reception
- The Reception… When planning a wedding in country where the dollar is currently 7 to 1 I’m guessing that a few more options are on the table. Some of those options are DJ with LED stage and light show, Confetti Cannons, Stilt Walkers, seemingly unlimited party favors, and The Tequila Bandito, the bar is of course open… all night long. There was nonstop dancing, only broken up to distribute different party hats, tequila shots, take pictures with stilt walkers, break a pinata, do the Hava Neguila chair dance, sing the Totnham Hotspurs fight song. It was a crazy blur of Awesome Amazingness. I tried to take videos and pictures, but failed since it was only lit by small lights and candles.
As a byproduct of having “The Best Wedding Ever” you also need to have “The Best Brunch Ever” which we barely made it to. But we did make it, there’s something so satisfying about the basic breakfast that you get in every central american hotel. Bread, Beans, Eggs, planains, salsa work miracles on a hangover. What clearly also helps is coffee and mimosas. What also helps is having people who will drink beers at 10am that they accidentally ordered because the waiter got confused by our Gringo Spanish. ‘Tres Mimosas’ sounds kind of like ‘Tres Mozas’ (a dark lager beer)
Lotti and John arranged some activities for us before and after the wedding. One of them as a guided hike up a volcano just outside the city. Rumor had it that the drive was only 30 minutes and the hike wasn’t stressful. Well there’s nothing like an hour ride in the back of a van to really test you’re hangover tolorance. It would have been sort of enjoyable to see the Guatemalan countryside, if I wasn’t trying to keep it together back there. We eventually made it to the start of the hike, where the local kids were selling walking sticks to the clearly out of shape tourists. The hike was pretty strenuous because of he elevation and the loose lava rocks that we were hiking over. But our group was determined to not fall behind. Well some of us were… some of us were trying not to pass out and some of us gave up and rode a horse to the top. But every time we stopped there was another amazing overlook or story about lava pouring down on our guide’s village. Once we got to the top it was a surreal sight, there was almost no vegitation, just loose black lava rocks. There were some exposed lava tubes and little caves that were still warm. The view of the surrounding valley was magical, it was just another piece of the Guatemalan landscape.
I’m clearly not going to do this place justice in words. John and Lotte invited anyone who wanted to come to follow them 2 hours north to Lake Atitlan, a freshwater lake formed by the eruption of a volcano millions of years ago. It is still surrounded by three smaller (extinct) volcanoes and the water is 1500ft deep in some places. The lake is like glass in the morning, but by lake afternoon they don’t even take boats out on it because it is so choppy. There are several little cities around the lake, some only connected my a steep mountain trail and others only accessable by boat. Our hotel was in the tiny town of Santa Cruz, La Casa Rosa, it was a small privately run hotel with about 10 rooms. We stayed in a private bungalow. Once you get over the stress of traveling to the lake, the time just slows down. I’ve never been to a place that was more relaxed. If you don’t want to do anything, you don’t have to. There were still about 20 or so guests from the wedding around the hotels in town. One day we chartered a boat to take us around to some of the other cities on the lake and to take us over to a diving spot. By this point we had become good friends with all the people at the wedding, even though we had just met them a couple days before. Having an amazing experience like this will do that for you. I’ll never forget the sunsets behind the volcanoes, I tried to take a bunch of pictures, but it just doesn’t do it justice. This is one of the special places in the world, go here! don’t be afraid to go to the smaller cities, they are so magical.
Back to Antigua
I don’t know if it was because it was because it was a Sunday, but we seemed to have this hotel all to ourselves. That made it extra special. For me it was one of those hotel rooms that you walk in to and you think you can’t possibly be in the right room. The 20 foot ceilings, the leather couches, the king sized bed, the private patio, the custom tiled tub. It was too much. Since it was only for one night we didn’t mind spending more money on the hotel and it was totally worth it… and by spending more I mean $140 a night, about the cost of a Marriot back home.
- Gallo Dark
- Brahva Extra
What we learned from this trip
is that you can trust world travelers when they say that a place is special. John and Lotte have lived and traveled all over the world, when they say a place is special, believe it. Guatemala is a great place to travel right now, you should take precautions, but we felt safe the whole time. You can do it inexpensizely or like we did… sometimes expensive, sometimes a great deal. Just book whatever you’re comfortable with and you’ll have a great time.
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