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I love Guatemala.  It was my favorite country in Central America and I think about going back on a regular basis.  I love the cities.  I love the nature.  I love the coffee.  I love the people.  All of it, really.  If you want more specifics, read on.

1 . Volcanos Everywhere

I love volcanos.  I went through a phase where I watched anything that had to do with volcanos on Netflix, and if there was more, I would watch it all.  I’d probably even watch it all again.  There are some you can climb, like Pacaya, San Pedro, and Acetenango, and others that you can’t, like Agua and Fuego.  On a clear night from Antigua, you can see lava burting from Fuego, which is super cool, but I still want to see it up close.  You can also roast marshmallows on Pacaya.  That’s the easiest to climb, while Acetenango is usually done as an overnight trip.

2 . Antigua

Antigua is a super pretty Colonial city not too far from Guatemala City.  The buildings are old and colorful.  The markets are just as colorful.  It’s surrounded by volcanos.  The coffee shops are wonderful.  Parque Central is a great place to hang out, and a few blocks away is another awesome park to spend an afternoon reading in.  It’s the perfect base for exploring the area, like Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan, Xela, ChiChi, Monterico.  There’s so much to do in the area, it would be easy to spend a lot of time there.

3 . Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey is a not so hidden oasis anymore, but it does take some dedication to get to from pretty much anywhere.  It’s about 12 hours from Antigua and 8 or so from Flores.  That’s usually where people go from.  It’s certainly worth the trip, though.  A series of limestone pools, perfect for swimming, nature’s own waterpark.  You can go as part of a tour, usually including a bat cave tour if that’s your thing.  I didn’t do that because, as much as I love caves, I don’t like the dark or water or jumping off of things and I knew that this included all three.  Specifically jumping into dark water.  No thank you.  You can also go on your own.  It’s easier if you stay right by Semuc Champey, but if you’re in Lanquin, i=you can probably hitch a ride up.

4 . Everything Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is a little(ish) volcano surrounded (surprised?) lake just outside of Antigua.  There are quite a few little towns around the lake shores, all with their own things to offer.  I based myself in San Pedro for nine days making trips to San Juan, San Marcos, and Panajachel.  San Pedro has a pretty solid nightlife, local market, coffee shops, and is a great place to learn Spanish.  San Juan has a wine and cheese place, at least is was rumored to when I was there.  San Marcos is more of a relaxed yoga-doing hippie hangout.  I wish I spent more time there.  Panajachel has a great market for everything you could want.  And it’s all just a short, cheap, water taxi away.

5 . Markets

I felt like there were markets everywhere.  Antigua has a huge market, like you could easily get lost in it and spend hours wandering around just looking at stuff.  They have clothes, food, and local craft things.  One of the streets I wandered down had a bunch of locals selling stuff laid out on blankets.  Panajachel has an awesome market that’s worth a trip if your on Lake Atitlan.  And Chichicastenango, or more affectionately known as Chichi, has the mother of all markets.  I didn’t make it there, but almost wish I did.  Everyone said it was just another market, but it’s so huge and crazy.  Maybe next time.

6 . Coffee

Ok, so neither of those coffees are in Guatemala, both are from Taiwan, but Guatemala is known for coffee and I loooooove.  I have Guatemalan coffee right now.  There are all kinds of coffee plantations near Antigua you can visit, and allover in San Pedro, you see people drying their white coffee beans out in their yards.  It’s delicious.  There’s a lot of really good coffee in Antigua, so try all the places for me.

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Have you been to Guatemala?  What did you think of it?  Do you want to go?  What did you like about it?