Friday, June 18, 2010

La Antigua or Bust

Last summer Matt and I and four of our friends flew to Guatemala for a week's worth of adventures in and around La Antigua, the old capital of the country, so I was excited to see that J.Crew held their last photo shoot there (I know, I'm a little behind as the catalog came out in late May... oops).  J.Crew's model and I are both set against Lake Atitlán.  Please don't compare us as I look as though I've been in a van for three hours (I have) and she looks like she's been lounging on a rowboat wearing a caftan all afternoon.      
The photo above features one of J.Crew's models leaning against a wall that Matt loved (he has a slight obsession with walls)... here's me in front of the same wall - 
Each one of the images in the catalog transported me back to last summer.  It was fun to see models decked out in J.Crew apparel and accessories strolling the same cobblestone streets that we walked last summer.  If the shoot has inspired any of you to board the next available plane to Central America I highly recommend it!  Some things to do - 
1. Hike Pacaya.  I booked a guided hike with Old Town Outfitters for a very reasonable rate.  The photo below features a swarm of children that flocked to our van offering to sell us walking sticks, which came in very handy when we were hiking through jagged rocks, slipping down unstable ash, and precariously hopping over lava flows.  Unfortunately, due to the torrential downpours that pelted us throughout our hike I don't have any photos of the actual climb.  Our friend Matt recorded a video of me poking at the lava with my walking stick but he has yet to post it or else I would include it here.  Even if it's raining on your hike I wouldn't opt out!  Walking directly over lava is an incredible experience that you'll never forget.  You may even be able to take home a chunk of the volcano as I did!  
2. Visit Chichicastenango, Guatemala's most colorful outdoor market.  There we saw tons of gorgeous textiles, detailed woodcarvings, ceremonial masks, gigantic machetes, raw meat and sausauge swarming with flies, and assorted farm animals.    
3. Tour a coffee plantation.  We toured a plantation that supplies Starbucks with its Antigua beans.  Not only did we enjoy a tour of at least an hour in length, but while we were waiting for it to begin my friend Allyssa and I rode donkeys, and then afterwards we were all treated to a delicious lunch on the patio.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
Stop making fun of our helmets, they were mandatory.
4. Reserve a ride on the Cables X-Tremos (also knows as the ziptrek or a zipline) in the San Buenaventura valley on the shores of Lake Atitlán.  We went through Atitlán Nature Reserve and arranged for a shuttle to pick us up at our hotel (Soleil La Antigua).  The van ride was looooong and torturous but worth it.  Upon arrival we all signed waivers (they said something along the lines of if our cables were to come undone and we plummeted to the earth or water below we wouldn't hold the Reserve responsible) and then began the process of being harnessed and donning helmets (for the second time this vacation).  We rode a total of eight ziplines that ranged from 295 feet to 1050 feet across canyons, over valleys, by waterfalls, and through a coffee grove.     
After our trek through the sky we walked through the Natural Reserve and there were monkeys!  They were separated from us by metal fences and also smaller wooden beam fences, but you could feed them bananas and mangoes by tossing the fruit over the top.  I even climbed over the wooden fence to hand feed this menacing looking creature a hunk of banana.  Our fingertips touched!  I shuddered when it happened but it was very cool.  In fact, I can feel his leathery little fingers and scratchy little nails right now just thinking about it.   
In conclusion, I highly recommend La Antigua and the surrounding areas to any adventurous travelers out there.  There was so much to do and see and eat that we didn't even get to everything on my list of must-visit locations in and around the city.  Now if only some traveling plans would come together for this summer!  Any early August recommendations?   

all photos by blueflash unless otherwise noted


  1. isn't it awesome to be able to travel the world!!! I have been several places and hope to go to more before I die:) Looks like you had a wonderful time.

  2. Very nice indeed! And what's nicer? I got to see the pics already with my two darlings by my side, soon to be three darlings!


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