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Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

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San Francisco...
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Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

My husband and I just got back from a brief trip (6 nights) to Guatemala. Considering all the problems we had, we had a great time and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. I will post the trip report as a reply.

San Francisco...
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1. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Latin Destinations

Our trip was arranged through Latin Destinations. They arranged the flights, transportation in Guatemala and hotels. I arranged everything else. The company they used for transportation was ViaVenture. They were excellent and prompt every step of the way. I paid extra for English-speaking drivers and we felt it was well worth it because we had a great time talking to all four of our drivers and learned a lot about Guatemala through them.

Weather

The weather while we were there was quite rainy. There were only two clear days. The other days it rained -and not just for a few hours, but pretty steady all day long. If you decide to go during rainy season be aware this may happen. We were under the impression (from guidebooks and other sources) that the rain would probably not last all day but this did not prove to be true.

Antigua

We stayed at Casa Encantada, which we loved (reviewed separately). We got to the hotel at around 4:30 and decided to have a snack at Café Condesa and then dinner at Frida’s after walking around for a while. Since it was so early, there weren’t many people there but the food was very good and we enjoyed our meal. We were too early for the live music (I think it started at 7:00) but we were pretty tired anyway. After dinner, we checked out some shops and then went for drinks at an Italian restaurant (I’m not absolutely sure because the name wasn’t obvious, but I think it may have been La Antigua Vineria). We liked this place so much that we went back for dinner the last night (and I still didn’t see the name!).

The second day, I had set up a cooking class and market tour with Luis at El Frijol Feliz. We were the only two students that day. We both enjoyed it very much and liked Luis so much that we went back the next night to have a drink with him. I think the class and market tour cost $60 each. A glass of wine or beer was included with lunch. After the class we had a massage (don’t remember the name of the place but it was $40/per hour each). We had walked by earlier that morning and made reservations for later in the day. There are a lot of these places around so getting a massage is easy, especially in low season.

We had dinner that night at La Pena de Sol Latino. Truthfully, I thought the food was okay - not great. There were only two other couples there (I think it was around 7:30) so there wasn’t much atmosphere. The band was fun and had a lot of energy but I was a little disappointed in this place after all the hype. It was pouring rain so we just had dinner and a bottle of wine at La Pena instead of going to a different place for drinks like we usually would do.

The third day was free as I hadn’t planned anything in advance. The morning was clear, so we went to various museums and had lunch at Café Bourbon (very nice). We also had another massage. This time it was a different (and even better) place and we were only charged $20/each per hour, so it definitely pays to shop around. We thought about going on an Elizabeth Bell tour but it had started raining hard again and going on a walking tour in the rain for three hours did not appeal. We went for dinner to La Antigua Vineria and then stumbled around in the driving rain and pitch black (there seemed to be a power failure or something because it was quite dark) trying to find Café No Se for drinks afterward. Unfortunately, it was closed so we decided to just go back to the hotel. On the way to the hotel, we saw Café Flor (where the cooking class was held) so popped in for a drink with Luis.

The next day we were scheduled to depart at 1:00 for Lake Atitlan. Unfortunately, I begin to realize I was ill. We had been walking around doing a little shopping, had a bite to eat at Café Condesa, and all of a sudden I was fatigued, plus I had just had a bout of stomach issues (this was before Café Condesa). I could barely drag myself back to the hotel. We ended up packing and watching TV in our room until the driver came. I’m not sure what this illness was - we didn’t drink the water and even brushed our teeth with bottled water. We also ate mostly the same things and my husband never got sick. I am thinking it was the flu but I’m not sure.

Lake Atitlan

The drive to Lake Atitlan took about 2-1/2 hours and I was out of it the entire way so I left it to my husband, who felt fine, to chat with the driver. I was so weak I could barely get out of the car at the rest stop. Once we got to the hotel, it was pouring rain (again!), which was okay because I just wanted to collapse into bed. I slept for several hours and finally gathered enough strength to have dinner at the hotel (Hotel Atitlan, reviewed separately).

We had arranged for a private tour the next day with Pedro of Tours Atitlan. We were supposed to go on a combination bird watching and village tour, but when my husband saw how zonked out I was, not to mention rain was forecast for the next day, he called Pedro and changed it to a half-day village tour. Good thing because no way would I have been able to get up in time for the 6:00 a.m. pickup that was originally scheduled for bird watching. Pedro was very accommodating and we just went to one village, San Juan, and did a few things. That took a lot out of me so I was ready to go back to the hotel after a few hours. The rest of our time at Lake Atitlan was spent at our hotel. Fortunately, we loved the hotel.

Guatemala City

I was feeling somewhat better for the drive to Guatemala City where we spent one night at the Hotel Vista Real before catching our flight home so I enjoyed chatting with the ViaVenture driver. Once we got to the hotel, we had lunch and my husband worked out in the gym. The driver had taken us to the main square and there wasn’t anything else we wanted to do in Guatemala City so we just hung out at the hotel and left the next day.

The Guatemala City Airport is pretty nice but the lines were very long and I was still not well. I felt okay but after standing in three long lines, I actually fainted. My husband and two other guys caught me so I didn’t hit my head. I was given a wheelchair and a representative from American Airlines came over to interview me to assess whether I was okay to get on the plane. Fortunately, they determined that I was. It was a grueling day, though, because our flight from Dallas was delayed about two hours.

Last Thoughts

We really loved Guatemala and thought it was an amazingly beautiful country and the people among the friendliest we have ever encountered. We had a lot more challenges on this trip than we usually do (weather and illness) so the trip wasn’t as fun as it could have been but in a way it was good that it rained or I would have felt really bad about being ill. There wasn’t really a lot we could do that we didn’t do since the weather was so terrible.

I was worried about money and didn’t want to use my ATM or credit cards so we carried a lot of cash with us ($700 each divided evenly in Guatemalan and US currency) most of which we left in the various hotel safes when we were out and about. That turned out to be enough for everything we did (the hotels and transportation were prepaid). We ended up just charging lunch at the last hotel. So in my opinion, Guatemala is a bargain destination.

Thanks to all for your contributions to the forum. I found a lot of helpful information that assisted me with our trip planning.

Port Richey, Florida
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2. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Thanks for sharing. Glad you folks had a good trip except for all the rain.

The Dalles, Oregon
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3. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Thanks for this nice write-up! So glad that you can reflect on the positives given the things that weren't what you'd hoped, especially not feeling well. I visit Guatemala every summer and can't remember a single day when it rained all day; usually the mornings are sunny and gorgeous and then sometimes starting in the afternoon or evening the rain pounds down. Sorry if I am 1 who led you astray on that! Hope you're feeling better!

San Francisco...
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4. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Hopefulist, you didn't lead me astray-in fact you've been very helpful. I understand that no one controls the weather and as it worked out, it wasn't a problem since I was sick anyway! I am feeling much better, thank you. Still not sure what I had.

The Dalles, Oregon
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5. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Likely a reaction to something you ate, something the flora and fauna in your digestive track had trouble with. Glad you're feeling better!

Madison, Wisconsin
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6. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

All my Guatemalan friends on Facebook have been complaining about the unusually rainy and cold weather they are having. Looks like Hurricane Barbara is responsible for all the rain you had during your stay: …wikipedia.org/wiki/…29

San Francisco...
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7. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Just my luck!

Panajachel...
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8. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

Thanks for the trip report Shario. I wil check out your reviews, too. In 2010 a couple of hurricanes lead to another "robust" wet season in Guatemala, and I had 4 days socked in under clouds and constant rainfall at Lake Atitlan. The lovely Guatemalan people, as you mention, made that bearable and even enjoyable, but I was so relieved when the sun finally came out and I could see and enjoy the land.

The Dalles, Oregon
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9. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

I was in Chiapas that summer, Laure, and the streets ran like rivers the 1st 3 or 4 days of a 2 week language immersion visit - memorable!

10. Re: Trip Report-Antigua and Lake Atitlan

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