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Gorgeous Guatemala

sunny 75 °F

For reasons I can't remember, Guatemala had never been on my radar. I've been to Costa Rica numerous times and Nicaragua, and was content with that satisfying my curiosity for Central America. But like trying a new dish that you always thought you would hate and end up loving, Guatemala took me by surprise.

My first stop in the picturesque country was to the dream village on Hobbitenango. Perched on a mountain, located just outside of Antigua and reminiscent of the shire in the Lord of the Rings movies, this place is pure magic! A cross between an eco-hotel, restaurant and amusement area for families to enjoy.

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“It’s a dangerous business...going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien

Not one to stay in one place on vacation, I journeyed on to a tiny slice of heaven nestled in an inlet between Panajachel and Santa Cruz called La Fortuna Atitlan. Upon arrive by a launcha boat, you can't help but be overwhelmed by the beauty and tranquility of this hotel.
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At 3:30 a.m. the next morning, I set off by launcha to the town of San Pedro La Laguna to meet my guide and begin our ascent of Indian Nose or La Nariz de Indio before sunrise. Although altitude sickness wouldn't allow me to summit, I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise. Not a bad way to start my birthday!


After my hike, I headed to Panajachel to meet another guide for a personal Mayan fire ceremony and shamanic cleansing. I was emotionally unprepared for the quest we would embark on. The Mayan fire ceremony is the most important of all the rituals and goes back for centuries. Before the Spaniards settled into Guatemala and introduced Catholicism, the Mayans practiced cosmological spirituality. Mountains, rivers and caves were of divine origin and many of the Mayan structures were built based on this. Temples were built to align with the directions and arranged to mark events such as the summer and winter solstice. Caves were believed to be a sacred passage to the underworld. Modern day religious practices are known as costumbre and are held in caves, mountains and archeological sites. Many Mayans travel to these sacred caves to see a Shaman also known as a healer to seek holistic care and protection/healing, insight into life or cleansing of negative energy. Anything that is troubling you, you can ask to be rid of it.

A small hike in the mountains led us to a cave where the fire ceremonies were being performed. We were able to witness the Shaman performing rituals. Between the intense heat of the fire, the praying and the energy that was in the cave, there were a lot of tears and plenty of respect for a cultural practice that many people are unaware of.


Once we were finished witnessing the ceremonies, it was our time to participate. We headed to a local market to purchase our offerings and headed to the gorgeous town of Santa Catarina Palopó to meet our Shaman and begin our ceremony. The ceremony was an experience I will never forget. We each told the Shaman our name, origin, what we wished to achieve (healing, protection, safe travels, etc.). She blessed each of us individually and left us alone with the fire. During this time we prayed for release of all unwanted energies and anything that was affecting us. Once we were done, we joined our Shaman outside around a fire circle (fire allows for rapid transformation or an avenue for release) in the middle of an invocation of the four directions. The Shaman prayed again. We were then led back to the room and the Shaman prayed again, this time with candles. She said our names as she aligned the candles and asked if we wished to hear the response to our prayers. This is where things became really emotional for us. The Shaman spoke to each of us and she read the candles, she told us EXACTLY what was troubling us. Normally, I would be skeptical of something like this, but without ever meeting me, she told me something that only my mother and a few of my closest friends knew. I still get chills to think about it, but now I know that the universe hears me.


Another stop on my tour de Guatemala was to the quaint beachside town of El Paredon. El Paredon is approximately two hours from Antigua and is a really small town which can be missed if you're not paying attention.
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“The best therapy is beach therapy.” — Unknown

I couldn't leave Guatemala without spending time in La Antigua. I've always been a fan of Spanish colonial architecture and color. Antigua is filled with both. This aesthetically pleasing town is also filled with art, culture, food and shopping. I was instantly smitten.

While in Guatemala, one must do a coffee tour! In an effort to Carpe the diem, I opted for the mule ride tour. Jimmy Carter and I had such a great time.

My last night in Antigua, I booked the Pacaya Volcano sunset hike and surprise....it rained!!! A lot of people would get upset but it's nature, so it happens. I still had a great time, and we roasted marshmallows with the heat from the volcano! How cool is that?!

The morning of my departure is usually reserved for crying and packing my bags. But this time, I decided to take a photography walking tour. I wanted to savor every second I had in Guatemala.

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Guate (as people affectionately call her), was a wonderful surprise for me. I met so many wonderful people, had so many unique experiences, made so many memories. I left a piece of my heart there so I will probably go back to get it.

Posted by HappyWanderer 04:52 Archived in Guatemala Tagged guatemala

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Absolutely beautiful. Your way with words brings the pictures to life and piques your interest.

by Proud Mama

What a beautiful trip! Your pictures are always amazing, and your journal of your travels are equal! Although I would never think of going to Guatemala, your post makes it very tempting!

by Pat

Thank you!! Travel has really changed the way I view the world and I can't wait to explore more.

by HappyWanderer

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