WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT ON THIS ADVENTURE
Head to Parque Central to meet your guide and take a journey through the history of Antigua – beginning with local Maya, Spanish conquistadores, and numerous missionaries, through the complete abandonment of the city in the 1700s, and on to the restoration of the city and the inception of the tourist mecca it is today.
Start at the bus depot beyond the market to board a bus for nearby village of San Andrés Itzapa and the office of Bici-tec. The founder Carlos will welcome you to the awesome world of human-powered bici-maquinas. You learn how bici-maquinas are built and the many possible uses for power-generating bicycles, and meet his students from around the world.
Meet up with a guide from the Frijol Feliz cooking school for a visit to the outdoor market. We continue on to the Frijol Feliz kitchen for a cooking class where you will learn how to prepare a traditional Guatemalan dish.
Travel by public bus just outside Antigua to the village of San Miguel Escobar. After a small trek uphill from the bus stop you meet a local farmer who guides you to their farm, teaches you all the stages of farming coffee, and then bring you back to their home to roast and grind coffee by hand. Many farmers in San Miguel decorate their home with Maya artifacts found while farming on the slopes of the Agua volcano.
Drop into performance art classes at The Los Patojos School, and learn how this local changemaker went from an after-school program in the founder’s house to a functioning school with a bakery, a clinic, and a new restaurant to better serve the community.
As a group board make your way down towards the local dock, stopping a block short, just outside the wooden gates of Asociacion Q’omaneel. A local, Mayan woman will guide you through the garden inside, educating you on local, medicinal plants and their uses, as well as demonstrating how to prepare some plants for use.
From the Panajachel docks it is a short shuttle ride to La Reserva Natural Atitlán – a locally-owned nature park with numerous walking trails showcasing local wildlife such as monkeys and coatis, featuring a walk-in butterfly garden complete with displays on all the stages of caterpillar-to-butterfly growth, and a zip-line course with 8 different cables crossing the San Buenaventura Valley, with fantastic views of Lake Atitlán and the volcanoes beyond.
Weave your way through the small paths of San Marcos to the Eastern edge of town, where your trek really begins. Pass through forest and farmland along ancient Kaqchikel Maya pathways by the lakeshore as you hike toward Santa Cruz la Laguna, with stops in the villages of Tzununa and Jaibalito along the way. Hike time: 4 hours.
As a group walk from the guesthouse through San Juan to the LEMA Cooperative building. Rosa, the leader of the cooperative, will tour the shop to show classic works as well as modern designs, and will demonstrate the traditional weaving process. Afterwords cooperative members will lead the way to another LEMA Cooperative building where everyone will take part in the traditional dyeing process – boiling cloth with local plants for fantastic colors.
In Tzununa, follow your guide (via tuk tuk) to the Granja Tz’ikin Permaculture farm, then on to Atitlán Organics. Over the course of the morning you will see chickens, ducks, bees, and over 200 plants being farmed, and you will learn both about permaculture and farming practice that are good for Guatemala and for at home.
We choose to stay in modest guesthouses, owned and operated by Guatemalans. Families can expect rustic yet clean quarters, similar to a hostel standard, but welcoming of children.
In Antigua, travelers will stay at Hostel Antigueño in the east side of the city. It’s doors open out onto the very walkable Alameda Santa Rosa, with the path to the best overlook of the city (Cerro de la Cruz) just a block to the north, and Parque Central a few blocks to the southwest. The guesthouse has a beautiful interior courtyard for gathering, playing games, relaxing in the garden, dining at the outdoor tables, or hopping on the wifi.
In San Juan, families will stay at Hotel Mayachik’. The guesthouse is on the edge of San Juan – just up the slope from the main road, removed enough to feel a world away. Multiple bungalows dot the property with a central restaurant building, plenty of space to play and explore, and natural beauty all around. Though it is on the edge of town, San Juan la Laguna is a small enough village that everything is still a matter of minutes away on foot.
At both guesthouses, each family will have one private room that features a combination of double, single or bunk beds, depending on the number of people. Bathrooms are shared but a ensuite bathroom can be arranged for an additional fee.