Written by: Alyssa McGarry, Hiptipico Founder
This November, my incredible friend Steph came to visit from D.C. Her and I studied together at Georgetown and graduated with an M.A. in Latin American Studies (wow 5 years ago already!) We studied all about the civil war and genocide in Guatemala, machismo amongst Hispanic communities and inequality across Latin America.
Having gained academic experience on these topics and traveling around all around Latin America, Africa and South East Asia I was eager to show Steph the realty in Guatemala. Guatemala ranks amongst the top 10 on the Happy Planet Index and is renowned for being a unique destination for travelers. Not many people have the opportunity to visit Guatemala or know about its attractions. Unlike other Central American countries, the majority of Guatemalan citizens identify as indigenous and Mayan communities still preserve their traditions. Meaning, this vibrant culture is apparent in all aspects of life from food to landmarks to souvenirs - ready for tourists to enjoy.
More so, I have lived in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan for 5 years and have personal connections with the artisans and their communities. Steph was about to see everything from a different perspective and she was the perfect person to truly appreciate it!
First, we headed to San Juan la Laguna a tiny village on Lake Atitlan. There we visited our partner weaving cooperative and hiked up the sacred mountain top "Rostro Maya". The lookout was absolutely breathtaking.
Next, we headed to the village of Chichicastenango in the department of Quiche. This is the largest open-air market in all of Central America.
Then, we headed to Monterrico a paradisal beach town on the Pacific coast. Not only was this a tropical escape, but we also had an ecological mission. Monterrico is home to a nature reserve and turtle sanctuary. From September to February the Tortugario Monterrico runs a program allowing visitors to contribute to releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean. The Tortugario Monterrico has a turtle hatchery along the beach where collected eggs are reburied and allowed to hatch in protection.
From there, we headed to Antigua - the famous city of Guatemala designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Buildings and landmarks are preserved from the 16th century and this colorful city offers a historic insight into colonial times. While the essence of this city is breathtaking on its own, we ended up gaining an even more unique experience. During our visit, the neighboring volcano was erupting, spewing smoke and ash all day and bright bits of lava at night!
Finally, we relaxed a little bit back in Panajachel. We worked at the Hiptipico HQ, enjoyed the majestic November sunsets over Lake Atitlan and sipped freshly roasted coffee at Cafe Loco on the Calle Santander.
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