Guatemala was absolutely beautiful. Indescribable, incredible. I knew nothing about this country before my visit. I knew only that it was high on my daughter's list of places to visit. She would come to this place full of indigenous culture to refine the 6 years or so years of Spanish speaking courses she'd taken throughout her very, middle-class American education. Specifically, Macie decided on Lake Atitlan. It was here at the lake, in the quaint town of Santa Cruz La Leguna that she found a great hostel to call home for the semester. "La Iguana de Perdida" is the name of this cozy little hostel which employs locals as well as traveling volunteers. The atmosphere is super friendly and guests are hosted by the owners themselves. Macie plans to live here for the duration of her Spring semester since her college, Lewis & Clark, extended the option for remote learning to the Spring 2021 semester. My own priority for this trip was to make sure I was leaving my girl in a safe place. I, of course, delegated this task upon myself. If Macie was to travel alone, I at least needed to make sure I could sleep at night. Let me just say, sleep hasn't been a problem since returning home, my girl couldn't be in better company.

My travels to Guatemala were amazing. The scenery was breath-taking. A picture can tell a story in a way that words cannot, so lets get to it...

Antigua, Guatemala

We flew into Guatemala City's small, easy to navigate airport, where we had a pre-arranged ride through "Viator" waiting for us right outside as we exited customs. I believe we paid $50 USD for the the ride to Antigua for 2 people. This very winding ride took about an hour. We stayed our first 2 nights in Antigua at a hostel called "Maya Papaya". I can't recommend this hostel enough, the staff was friendly and the hostel was extremely clean, had fantastic wifi, and had a very tasty homemade breakfast included in the affordable nightly rate, what else could a person want/need?!

Coffee and chocolate are kind of a big deal in Guatemala, so of course, we had lots of both in Antigua!

Antigua is known as Guatemala's "gem", and you'll find many expats living their best life here for much cheaper than they ever could in the US. The beautiful city of Antigua is one of my favorite places I've ever been!

Lake Life

We drove up into the mountains to the majestic, Lake Atitlan. During this 3 hour drive, we drove through several indigenous communities, this ride was not a boring one and the 3 hours passed quickly. When we arrived at a lookout point for the Lake, we met a woman and her young family. She really wanted me to take a photo of her and her littlest one. She had no email or technology in which I could send her this image, therefore, I assumed she only wanted to know that her life was documented in this way. Many indigenous people never own or even get to see a photo of their own children. I can't imagine.

We arrived in Panajachel de Lago mid-afternoon after breaking down at a gas station about 30 minutes into our trip and switching vans. But whatever, we made it, and for $20 each (for a 3 hour ride), I for one, certainly wasn't complaining. The private shuttle company dropped us off at the boat launch where we chose to take a public boat to Santa Cruz La Leguna for about 25 quetzales per person ($3.20 usd). These rides were a lot cheaper in the past, but the local lake economy has really taken a hard hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so everything here is a little more expensive in 2021 than it was just a year ago. You can also opt for a private boat, but will pay much more for this service. Before we knew it, the boat was full and we were on our way to Santa Cruz La Leguna's, best hostel, "La Iguana de Perdida". Actually the Iguana is well known as the BEST hostel on the ENTIRE lake, it is the place to stay which is why after some research, Macie chose to stay there.

Around the Lake

There are several different cities all around the lake, each one different from the rest and special in their own way.

Santa Cruz is not only unique for being home to the very best hostel on the lake, but it is home to the most successful non-profit benefiting indigenous people on the lake, CECAP, please read about them here! Then there is San Marcos, which is a fun town with a serious hippy vibe located a short boat ride away from Santa Cruz. Macie and I loved San Marcos and the artisans we found there. Macie has a serious appreciation for hand crafted jewelry and I have a serious appreciation for the makers of these amazing pieces, so the two of us were pretty happy in this little place. All the pieces in the pics are from artists in San Marcos. I didn't explore too many of the cities, but these two were my favorites of the cities I did visit.

I really fell hard for the people of Guatemala as a whole. Every interaction I had in Guatemala was kind and I realized quickly that the Guatemalan culture is one of integrity. The people, along with their gorgeous lush mountains make this country so indescribably beautiful.

I still haven't finished my edits from Guatemala, and these are just some of the images from my actual camera. There were times I just carried a GoPro and times I only carried my iphone 12pro. A photographer is always the last to get their own images finished, just like the carpenter is the last to finish projects at home (I'm married to one, trust me, nothing is more true!).

If a relaxing trip is what you're looking for, I recommend giving Guatemala some serious consideration. Antigua and Lake Atitlan are both amazing options and super affordable too. If I haven't convinced you to visit yet, this should do it...Lake Atitlan is close to the equator and elevation is high, making the weather here between 70-80 degrees year round, the lake is always 72 degrees and life on the lake is known as an "eternal spring".

So there ya have it!