While at the farmers market, we purchased plastic balls to give to the poor children who didn’t have any at Christmas time.
We pulled over by the side of the road and dozens of children came running out of the bush to receive toys. It was an unforgettable and completely never to be seen again kind of moment. Look at the faces of pure joy and exhilaration from these poor impoverished children excited for a toy.
As soon as we descended into the valley on Lake Atitlan, we were transformed by the air and sky. It was so clear, it clensed the mind. The temperature was crisp – it felt like 68 degrees all the time. All the food was cooked from scratch. Everything was organic, prepared from sustainable zero-tolerance pesticide farms. The owner of Hotel Atitlan had curated gardens over the past 50 years with flower varieties that date back to the mid 1800s. It would make fans of the Gardens of Versailles smile.
The gardens were truly stunning. Each day, I picked a different garden to practice sunrise yoga.
What would a trip be without family portraits?!!! The gardens of Hotel Atitlan provided magnificent backgrounds.
We spent 10 days in this gorgeous country and found its people could not have been any kinder.
We had the wonderful experience of being guests of an indigenous family so that we could connect with the locals over a home cooked meal that truly bound our humanity together. No phones, no internet – just a wonderful meal with complete strangers who opened their home to American strangers. That one of a kind feeling was hard to put into words.
They prepared hearty soups, fruits, sweet deserts. We brought them balloons and even a few firecrackers to celebrate Christmas with them. We learned about their trade, family history and fell in love with their 99 year old great, great grandmother.
When we arrived in Antigua, we learned about the city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The smell of firewood wafted from the distance. Volcanos peppered the landscape. Our hotel was a rare bird sanctuary open to fly and sing throughout the grounds. We felt a deep connection to nature and by this point in the trip we all felt a deep sense of peace. We were laughing all week with the kids.
Hiking and horseback riding up Volcano Picaya was thrilling and made for some spectacular photographs. The leader of our caravan, Avram, led us to the top. Pacaya is an active complex volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish invasion of Guatemala. Pacaya rises to an elevation of 2,552 metres (8,373 ft).
After being dormant for over 70 years, it began erupting vigorously in 1961 and has been erupting frequently since then.
Much of its activity is Strombolian, but occasional Plinian eruptions also occur, sometimes showering the area of the nearby Departments with ash.
Pacaya is a popular tourist attraction. Pacaya lies 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Guatemala City and close to Antigua. The volcano sits inside the Escuintla Department. So far, the last activity reported has been the eruption that peaked on March 2, 2014 causing ash to rain down in Guatemala City, Antigua and Escuintla.
As many of you have read on my blog, our journeys are not typical. We are not the kind that checks into a resort, never to leave the property. We explore the heart and try to get to the soul of a country to share with our children how the rest of the world truly lives. My blog is more than a showcase for my professional business, it’s a recording of my life and times and as a photographer and writer. I also hope you consider some of these locations for your next journey. Thanks for reading along!
TOUR PROVIDED BY:
ESTEBAN – MASTER TOUR GUIDE
Columbus Guatemala Travel
+502 5376 5147
Guatemala City: Restaurant Kacao
Lake Atitlan: Hotel Atitlán – Lake Atitlán, EN
Visit the Villages around Lake Atitlán by Boat – Lake Atitlán, EN
Ixim’che archaeological site – Ixim’che, EN
Explore Antigua and its Local Villages
Christmas dinner with local Authentic Maya Family
Hotel Casa Santo Domingo – Antigua, Guatemala
Pacaya Volcano – Pacaya Volcano, EN.
Thermal Pools at Santa Teresitas Hot Spring Spa