Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer travels: Antigua & Lake Atitlan (part 1)

I am back in the foggy city after nearly three weeks in Central America! Dan and I went to Guatemala and Honduras for the first time...our friends who have visited both places gave rave reviews, so I decided we should go...I planned the trip as a distraction during the hovel horridness. It was a bit nerve-wracking because we left the day after the news broke about the political situation in Honduras, but in the end we made it there and had a safe trip.

We started our trip in Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so the old cobblestone streets and faded pastel buildings are preserved. We stayed at Casa Cristina, near La Merced and the Arch at Santa Catalina. We had breakfast each morning on the rooftop garden, which had a great view of the yellow church and Volcan Agua.

Our room at Casa Cristina
Our room at Casa Cristina

La Merced
La Merced

Arch of Santa Catalina
Arch of Santa Catalina

We visited the ruins of the Cathedral, La Merced, and Las Capuchinas; sampled tasty street food; climbed 333 steps to take in the view from Cerro de la Cruz; and even saw two beagles!

Sculpted figures
Ruins of the old Cathedral

Fuente de Pescados
Fuente de Pescados at La Merced

Arched doorways of cloisters
Cloisters at Las Capuchinas

Cerro de la Cruz
Cerro de la Cruz

Antigua is surrounded by volcanoes...there are over thirty volcanoes in Guatemala! We climbed one of them, Volcan Pacaya, on a day trip from Antigua. After an early rise and a twisty-turny drive, we were greeted by children selling walking sticks and the services of horses at the trailhead. Dan is allergic to horses. The children were persistent, following our group for what seemed like half of the hike up...though finally they returned to the trailhead after one person in the group accepted the services of a horse. I was worried because we didn't bring Benadryl, and the hike was very steep without having to worry about horse-induced anaphylaxis! We saw views of the volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenengo on our way up the trail.

Three volcanoes

Eventually though the trail ended, and the crater of Pacaya was in view! It was quite exciting, until I realized we had to scale piles of lava rock the rest of the way.

Carol, Dan & Volcan Pacaya crater!
Posing with the crater

It was a difficult climb up, but even harder getting down. We were stepping on loose piles of lava rock that would move and slip as we climbed...but we made it to the top and felt the heat of the lava beneath the rocks. And then!

Red hot flowing lava!

The thick slow-moving lava was a sight to behold, and the heat was so intense. Also a bit scary though, as the rock surface we were standing on was very porous and fragile, and the lava was right beneath us...people even roasted marshmallows in the heat vents! I ate a roasted marshmallow on a volcano! It was definitely a memorable hike.

From Antigua, we took another twisty-turny drive through the Western Highlands to Lake Atitlan, a huge crater lake ringed by several volcanoes. We barely made the last ferry across the lake...the boat had left the dock and actually came back to get us...phew! Dusk was falling when we arrived in Santiago Atitlan.

Dusk on Volcan San Pedro
Volcan San Pedro

We went canoeing on the lake; visited the textile museum, cathedral, and Sunday market in the village; swam and lounged by the pool; feasted at a Fourth of July BBQ; rode bikes along the lake; hiked the hanging bridges at Reserva Natural Atitlan...and just relaxed and enjoyed the view from the mirador lookout of the hotel, one of my favorite spots during our stay there.

Dan canoeing on Lake Atitlan
Dan canoeing

Stone cottage at Posada de Santiago
Angel, our stone cottage

Women doing their washing
Women washing in the morning

Another scene from the Sunday market
Sunday market in the village

Roast pig
Fourth of July BBQ pig

Santiago Atitlan mural
Mural at the village entrance

Another hanging bridge
Crossing a hanging bridge

Lake Atitlan
Volcan San Pedro looms over the lake

Late afternoon lake view
View from the mirador

The lake is beautiful, but it was time for our next adventure...onto the Verapaces...stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

OMG! you two had what looked to be a totally awesome trip! The whole hiking and roasting marshmellows at the volcano thing is even more awesome! I am glad the two of you got the chance to get away and relax

jenny said...

sounds fun! no pics of the 2 beagles that you saw? :(

snoopyjoanne said...

beautiful pictures! very well done :) but i have to second the request - where are the photos of the two beagles you saw?!?!?