Day Trips from Madrid

A day trip is the best way to do some exploring when you don’t have a lot of time or money.

One of the things I love most about Madrid, is the fact that there are so many awesome cities nearby.

TOLEDO

Are you a history buff? You have to check out Toledo (even if your not that into history). Toledo is the former capital of Spain and filled with history, charm, and a medieval vibe.

You can get to Toledo by bus, bla bla car (the uber of Europe), or train.

  • BusAlsa is the company that will take you there leaving from Plaza Eliptica. A round trip ticket starts 11€at and will take a little under an hour to get there.
  • Train: A round trip ticket on the renfewill start at 20,60€ and takes about 30 minutes to get there. 
  • Bla Bla Car–  A round trip farestarts at 11€. It will take a little over an hour to get to Toledo by car.

*Hmmm, I thought I wrote about my time in Toledo. Guess I need to get on that lol…*

SEGOVIA

Segovia is a beautiful getaway from Madrid. Want a day of the city this is the perfect place to go. It’s not super big but has enough to do and you can end the day by having some bomb food. I especially liked food and atmosphere at Jose Maria (a must do when in Segovia).

You can get to Segovia by bus, train or bla bla car.

  • Bla Bla Car– is an app you download on your phone then you’re ready to go. It’s like Uber where drivers put where they are traveling to and you can join them at a cost. A round trip fareto Segovia starts at 10€. It will take about an hour to get to Segovia by car.
  • Train-AVE high Speed– A round trip ticket to Segovia will start at 34€ but will only take 30 mins to get there. The train leaves from Chamartin Station.
  • Bus-La Sepulvedana is the company that will take you there leaving from Moncloa. A roundtrip ticket starts at 14,21€ and will take about an hour to get there.

Read More: Things to do in Segovia

AVILA

The world heritage city of Avila is a must see. Avila is known for its formidable medieval walls, an intact fortified ring around the old city.

Leaving from Madrid, you can get to Avila by bus or train.

  • Train– A round trip ticket on the renfe will start at 17€and takes a little under two hours to get there. The train leaves from the Chamartin Station.
  • Bus-Jiménez Dorado Autocares is the company that will take you there leaving from Estación sur. A roundtrip ticket starts at 13,41€ and will take about an hour and fifteen minutes to get there.

*Avila is still on my To Visit list*

CUENCA

This beautiful World Heritage Site  is full of charm and historical monuments. Warning, be prepared to walk uphill a lot, like a lot. But other than that it is a must visit.

You can get to Cuenca by bus, bla bla car or train.

  • BusAvanzais the company that will take you there leaving from Mendez Alvaro. A round trip ticket starts 21,57€ at and will take about 2.5 hours to get there.
  • Train: A round trip ticket on the renfewill start at 23,80€ and takes about 3 hours to get there. Whereas a round trip ticket on the  renfe AVE will start at 26,30€ and takes about an hour.
  • Bla Bla Car–  A round trip fare starts at 16€. It will take about 1.5 hours to get to Cuenca by car.

Read More: Things to do in Cuenca

Need Help on How to Get Abroad?

Thinking of moving abroad but have no idea where to start. Hopefully this post will give you a little insight on what you will need to do and what to search for.

Telling your family might be the hardest and longest part of the concept. If your family is anything like mines, they might not understand fully why you want to move and will probably try to talk you out of it. Just have your explanation written down, shoot I would even record it and just press play whenever someone asks “why are you doing this?” That will save a lot of time and headache.

Lets talk about what to do abroad.

  1. Volunteering at a hostel
    1. This can be an easy way to save money and get use to your new surroundings.
    2. A lot of hostels will give you free board in exchange for helping out around the hostel. If you want to be paid most hostels will not offer free boarding.
    3. If this is an option for you and you have a destination in mind I would reach out to a few hostels in areas you would like to stay and ask if they offer an arrangement like this or similar.
  2. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
    1. As a volunteer (or the more common term WWOOFer) you would offer your services on an organic farm in the host country of your choice in exchange for room and board.
    2. This is a new concept for me but would love to try it out. This is especially good for digital nomads just getting off the ground. You would work in the mornings and have your afternoons and evenings free for your personal work.
    3. Want to learn more about this phenomenon and the possible destinations, check out their homepage.
  3. Au Pair
    1. Essentially, au pair is a fancy way of saying nanny. In exchange for free room and board, parents will require you to watch their kids. Activities may include dropping and picking them up from school, playing with them, and light housework. Your contract will depict how many hours you work a week and which days you would have off.
    2. Au pairs are especially popular in Europe and there are a lot of different websites and agencies to help facilitate the process.
  4. Teaching Aboard
    1. Teaching abroad can be a great way to explore the world and save a little money as well. And the good thing about it is you don’t even have to be a certified teacher in your home country to teach. You only need a bachelor’s degree (and honestly some private classes and even some businesses don’t even check for that).
    2. The one thing that is necessary in some countries but very helpful for all is obtaining your TEFL/TOEFL certification.
    3. Teaching opportunities are endless but in my opinion the countries that offer the best deals (in terms of being able to save) are South Korea, Middle Eastern Countries (Dubai, Saudi Arabia etc.), and Japan. Don’t get me wrong the European countries pay decent as well but don’t offer free housing or other perks like the Asian and Middle Eastern countries mentioned.
    4. Depending on the country you choose will depict how much money you can save. It really all depends on the type of lifestyle you want while living abroad.

These are just a few things you can do to earn money and get on your feet while abroad. Leave a comment below to let me know if you have tried or all of the suggestions and of any other ways to get established in a foreign country.

Let’s talk about Cuenca

One of the best things about living in Madrid is the fact that you can explore so many surrounding cities with ease.

Cuenca is no different. Cuenca is a beautiful city about an hour and fifteen minutes by car away from Madrid. Of course this all depends on if there is traffic and how fast or slow you are driving.

Cuenca is definitely worth a day trip to walk around the old city and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Be warned though, it is definitely a lot of walking up hill. Let me repeat, a lot of walking up hill. But it’s worth it.

My favorite thing about Cuenca, were the gorgeous views it had to offer and for making me realize that I could speak Spanish for an entire day. I was beyond shocked to say the least but pleasantly surprised that I was able to communicate, be understood, and understand what is said to me all in Spanish.

Lets talk about what to do there. I have found that all Spanish cities are extremely similar. They have an old part of town that allows you to feel their history and a new part of town that is filled with buildings, shops and bars. Cuenca definitely didn’t disappoint in the history department.

Must see things:

  • The Hanging Houses and bridge

 

  • The rocks at the very top of the hill (I know but trust they are not ordinary rocks. The view is worth the climb)
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The view, the shape of the rocks, just absorb lol

  • The Abstract Museum and the Contemporary Museum
  • The Cathedral

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Palma de Mallorca

Ever wonder where to go or what activities you would like to do on vacation. Do you ever feel like you have to choose between a good beach and mountains/nature? Luckily Spain, among other countries, has cities where you can have both.

Mallorca, Mallorca, Mallorca

Mallorca is the largest island of the Balearic Islands.

One of the first things I noticed was how big the Palma de Mallorca airport was. The airport is the first impression you will have of a city/country. The more developed the airport is (i.e duty free shops, Starbucks, McDonald’s) more than likely the more developed the city/country is. Taking the bus from the airport (you can get a round trip ticket for 8euros or a one way into the city for 5) to my hostel I saw just how developed Palma was. My first impression of the city was that it reminded me of Rio de Janeiro. My second impression was thinking how hilly the island was and how its going to suck walking around lol.

I knew my adventure was starting as soon as I was able to put my bags down at the hostel. After dropping my bags off I set off to see the Bellver Castle and then head to the city center to see the sites there.

Lets talk about the adventure I had getting to the castle. The walk to the castle from the hostel was about 15mins but all uphill. I arrived to the bottom of the park I was suppose to walk through and realized that not only was it uphill it was also a series of stairs. (I think stairs are my frenemy) The great thing about this park was that there were a lot of look out points to stop and rest to view the city and harbor. Despite it being a cloudy day I was able to make out the city and yachts/ships in the harbor. I could just imagine it being a clear sunny day. The views would be amazing! Now the heat not so much lol.

Fun fact: Upon reaching the entrance of the castle from the park you feel a sense of accomplishment from walking all those stairs and think finally I can go in and look around. Well that’s a negative. The ticket office for the castle is not at the entrance. Fortunately, the gate keeper/worker allowed me to walk in without a ticket so I didn’t have to go looking for it. (#winning. Saved me 4 euros that I later had to spend on the ticket back to the airport). There is a medieval feel to the castle. It’s totally worth the walk for the unobstructed views of the city and the history.

Walking to the city center was much easier and also very easy to navigate. Once back on the main road it will take you straight to the city center and apparently to El Arenal (the public beach and broadwalk).

Walking through the streets of Palma was clean and pretty empty since I went during shoulder season. Beautiful streets, quirky shops and people is a recipe for a great experience.

I ended my day walking in the opposite direction on the main road looking for Cala Fornaris. This is one of the many beaches on the island but unfortunately I couldn’t find the public access to get to this beach. This lead me to believe that it was a private beach because along the perimeter of the beach was privately owned houses.

Unfortunately, my original plans for Saturday got derailed. Instead of going with my gut and taking the 3 hour bus ride to the other side of the island to explore the beauty there I decided to rent a bike. Yup definitely one of my stupider ideas. For one, the last time I rode a bike was at least 15 years.

Adventure or misadventure I still haven’t decided yet. But renting a bike is super cheap (as long as your not in the city center). Bikes start at $5/day. The shop must be only deals with amazons and giants because all the bikes in the shop were too tall. First sign I ignored lol since its important that you are able to touch the ground with ease. So get this, I thought I was going to bike 64km one way to the other side of the island. Mind you I didn’t make it 6 km before crashing into another biker. Yup, I crashed and burned not once but twice. Luckily, the second time around I only crashed into the sidewalk (an inanimate object). Got my first black and blue eye on this adventure. I ended up only riding 15km to El Arenal and then headed back home.

Moral of the story is that yes it is important to do things out of your comfort zone but to realize that not always will it be a accident free experience.

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My battle wounds!!! But the views were worth it.

Overall, Mallorca is a beautiful island with a lot of hidden treasures and gems. But unfortunately, you either have to be an experienced cyclist or rent a car to get around the island because public transportation isn’t the best.

Leave a comment below letting me know what you thought of Mallorca.

Oh Segovia

Oh Segovia, Segovia! I kept hearing about this cute little mountain town north of Madrid. How it was so quaint, had some cool things to see, and had great food. Well guys I wasn’t disappointed at all.

I got there around 10am and when I say it was completely empty, there were literally only two small families on the streets and an Asian tour group. Y’all know Spanish folks party hard and sleep late. They literally don’t start their day until 12. The crazy thing to me is they have a siesta from 3-6 sometimes 7pm. But anyways enough about that: back to the cuteness that is Segovia. I was able to explore the town without a large crowd and bonus take pictures without people photo bombing intentionally and unintentionally.

Getting to Segovia was an adventure in itself. I took a blabla car (uber for far trips) and boy was that interesting. My driver was super sweet but super active and talkative (like would not shut up talkative). But it was cool, I got to practice some Spanish and he got to practice some English. He dropped me off on the outskirts of the city partly because he had no idea where he was going and partly because he was getting anxious since he was late for his run. But it worked itself out because where we decided to stop I could see the beginning of the aqueducts. So it worked out.

My time in Segovia began with walking along the Aqueduct and marveling in its wonder. A tingy bit of history, the Aqueduct, its Roman…. History lesson over lol!!!

But on the real it’s a beautiful structure held together by air. Well maybe not literally but there is no grout holding it together.

Walking along the wall are many different paths to explore the town but don’t worry you can’t get lost. Everything circles around so you can easily find where you began or at least somewhere you actually recognize.

The Alcazar isn’t that big but still very impressive. It looks like a quaint castle. Now paying 3 euros to go up the tower not really necessary but you do get great views of the city. The only other place to get unobstructed views is to climb the tower in The Cathedral (I think it was either 1,5 euros or 3 euros to climb). Y’all the warning on the signs for The Cathedral said that the climb and descent takes about 70 minutes. That’s how tall and steep it is. I debated doing it and in the end I opted not to. The climb up the tower in the Alcazar was about 10 minutes if that lol.

View from The Alcazar Tower:

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Let’s talk food. Oh yummy food. So one of the most have foods to try (of course that’s if your not vegetarian/vegan) is Cochinillo. Cochinillo is a suckling roasted piglet. Jose Maria is the restaurant you must go to, to try it for the first time. Honestly, I was skeptical because I like to eat off the beaten path but locals and tourists alike were raving about the cochinillo at Jose Maria. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed at all. It is such a cute restaurant. Side bar: cochinillo cost 24 euros person for a piece of meat, no sides, no lettuce, no nada. So your girl was a little skeptical to try it so when I walked in I noticed they were having apertivos so I decided to order a beer and try one. I had the paella and it was quite delicious so that and the fact the vibes in the restaurant was great I decided to stay and go for the cochinillo. Y’all it’s a whole production and its great to see. I ordered cochinillo and a side of fries (not needed bad idea). The waiter came out with an appetizer and a basket of bread. I am only one person, I couldn’t possibly eat all this food. But everything was delicious and well worth every euro. Honestly, I think that’s the most I have ever spent on a meal for (key word is I spent lol).

Overall, Segovia is a cute little town and you only need about 4-6 hours to explore it. Of course, those who like museums would be on the longer end but honestly you do not need more than 8 hours to explore in its entirety.

Leave a comment below letting me know what your thoughts on Segovia are.

Making the most of a long layover…

Time is a luxury we don’t always have while traveling. Some people believe that you need 1-2 weeks to visit a country. On the flip side, who has an unlimited amount of vacation days from work that they can take such a long trip let alone take a trip multiple times a year.  I truly believe that you only need 2-3 days to get a sense of what a city is all about. Don’t get me wrong, to find all the hidden gems in a city you definitely need to spend more time but hey thats what a return visit is for.

With that being said lets talk long layovers. Layovers are the perfect way to get a glimpse of another country when you have a limited time frame and budget. Fun fact, tickets are usually cheaper when a layover is involved. To me a long layover where you can actually leave the airport and enjoy the city is anywhere from 6 hours and longer. Mind you there are a few airports that you will need a minimum of 8 hours but for the most part 6 hours is a good rule of thumb.

During my first European Adventure with my girl Tori, we decided to book a ticket with a 24hr layover in Istanbul, Turkey. We landed late evening and stayed in the lounge for Turkish Airlines (one of my favorite airlines to travel) and left the airport very early the next morning. We had about 12 hours in the city and boy did we do and see a lot. Really its all in the planning but of course things can go wrong so you must be adaptable. We planned to leave the airport that evening but I couldn’t get my visa on arrival because my passport only had I think 4 more months until expiration. So unfortunately we all know the later you arrive to the airport or anywhere the less people working. The people who could override my date and issue me a visa wasn’t on shift for a few more hours that’s why we had to stay in the lounge. But hey, bright side, we stayed for free. The person manning the desk was super nice and helpful and allowed us to spend a few hours in the lounge for free. So overall, win win situation.

Traveling to China from Houston, I specifically looked for a ticket with a long over in another country. Lucky me, I found a bomb ticket (cheap and with an amazing airline). I found a ticket with Korean Air (my first love before discovering Turkish Airlines so now I have 2) with a 24 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea. After purchasing my ticket I started researching the airline and airport to see what perks might be there. And let me tell you, my research did not go unnoticed.  Korean Air offered complimentary hotel rooms for persons with a layover longer than 12 hours (this was in 2014 so I don’t know if they still do). Yup, you heard me. I got a free bomb, clean, hotel room on the airport shuttle route and close to public transportation to explore the city. Now it took a little work to get it. I had to email customer service; they responded with a number I had to call. When I called they tried to say Korean Air didn’t offer the service any longer. But with luck and being persistent I was able to find an agent willing to give me the complimentary room. Lesson here is never take no for an answer. Make sure you put in the work and don’t leave any table unturned.

* For some reason I can’t find any of the pictures I took in Seoul. Guess I will just have to go back since no pictures is pretty much like I never went. *

Now don’t just start purchasing long layover tickets without doing any research. Make sure the airport you are flying into isn’t far from the city center or the must see attractions. Make sure you have a general idea of where you want to go, if you can leave the airport, and a general idea of cost. If you prefer leisure travel, a long layover still could be possible but instead of fitting as many sites in as possible maybe you would just want to see one or two sites and eat something.

Remember, always do what is best for you. It is your travel experience so make it work for you.

Leave a comment below letting me know what some of your tricks are when booking flights.

2017 in a Nutshell

2017 in a nutshell:

  • Another continent checked bringing the grand total to 6 continents visited
  • Living in Europe
  • Learning Spanish
    • Improved my comprehension but still working on speech
  • Travelled to 18 countries, 43 cities
    • Spain- Alicante, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, & Toledo
    • Morocco- Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Ait Ben Haddou, Fes, & Chefchaouen
    • Switzerland- Zurich & Luzerne
    • Guatemala- Antigua, San Pedro, Lanquin, & Flores,
    • Panama- Bocas del Toro
    • Costa Rica- Quepos, San Jose, & Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
    • Netherlands- Amsterdam
    • Hungary- Buda & Pest
    • Bulgaria- Sofia
    • Greece- Athens
    • Italy- Rome
    • The Vatican City
    • Israel- Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Jericho, & Jordan
    • Palestine- Bethlehem
    • Austria- Vienna
    • Portugal- Lisbon & Sintra
    • Bahamas- Long Island & Bahamas
    • United States- Paterson, Maplewood, Brooklyn, Manhattan

Least favorite country: Morocco

The least favorite country visited was Morocco. According to research and other people who have visited Morocco, how people feel about Morocco is either love or dislike. For me it was dislike for multiple reasons. Let’s start with a top contender- food. The food was horrible. For all the spices they are known for, there was no flavor in the food. For me one of the key reasons to visit a country is to experience the local cuisine. Another major shock was the sanitary conditions. Morocco is surprisingly behind the times in terms of sanitation and I do not mean fancy systems or anything like that. The simplest thing like compost is widely overlooked. Walking in the markets you will see at least 5 people pushing wheel barrels full of human waste and dumping it God knows where. Mind you while in a market I saw a man fall while pushing a barrel (luckily it was empty though). But just imagine the stench and unsanitary conditions Moroccans are face with daily.   The experiences I had took me through a host of emotions from sad to excited but I wouldn’t visit the country again and to me that makes it the least in my book. Check out my post about Morocco to find out more.

Top 2 countries: Hungary & Switzerland

I can not decide if Hungary or Switzerland was the best country of 2017. I had a great time in both countries but they were slightly different because Switzerland was a solo trip and Hungary was with the Golden Girls. Here are my thoughts about Switzerland.

Biggest thing I learned this year: how to effectively communicate with others especially with those whose first language isn’t English.

Biggest hurdle I had to jump through: was feeling sad that I wasn’t spending time with my nieces and nephew.

Biggest accomplishment: can’t pick between starting my blog or moving to Spain. For me they hold the title for different reasons.

  • Spain: kept talking about wanting to learn Spanish and live on a different continent but never really did anything about it. 2017 I changed that by moving to Spain
  • Blog: talked about it but never took the plunge. Decided to give it a try and the process of creating and maintaining I have learned a lot about my communication skills, passions, creativity.

Travical Summer 2017

I made it to 12 countries this summer! I know, it sounds crazy and unbelievable to my ears as well. July and August were busy months for me. In July I solo traveled to Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica. August I took the Golden Girls (My mom and aunt) to The Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Israel, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, The Vatican, and Madrid. This summer brought my total count to 31 countries visited.

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In the native shoe in Amsterdam. 

Man sometimes I wonder how I planned everything. Central America was easy because it was just me and solo traveling is the easiest way to travel. Traveling with the Golden Girls now that was a different story. Don’t get me wrong I had a great experience but it was challenging sometimes. From trying to decide which countries to go visit, how long to stay, where to stay, what to do, what’s the budget for each country, how are we traveling (student budget or nay), modes of transportation; these are questions you have to ask when traveling with a group.

Coordinating with a group can be difficult but I find that the best way to plan is for one person to take the lead. What does taking the lead mean, being responsible for researching everything, from the best routes to hotels to transportation etc. Another way to go about being the lead is to delegate different tasks for each person in the group to do, collect the information found and compile one document. As in any occasion working in a group you must always be prepared for one or two slackers.

Working with the Golden Girls was fairly easy because they pretty much left everything to me. From choosing which countries to visit to where to stay to basically anything you can think of. So for me it worked out great. Well except that one time I spent 3 hours planning tickets and hotels for a set itinerary to only have to do it all over again because one of the Golden Girls remembered that she always wanted to go to the Holy Lands. Mind you we had finalized the list of countries a few days ago but hey I made it happen.

The itinerary was 3 days in Amsterdam, 3 days in Vienna, 3 days in Budapest, 7 days in Jerusalem, 4 days in Athens, 3 days in Sofia, 2 days in Rome, and 5 days in Madrid. Honestly, I still can’t believe that we pulled off that itinerary in 30 days.

~A few pictures from a few cities~

To research prices I used different search engines to get the best deal. The ones I most frequent was Kayak, Google Flights, Expedia, and One Travel, Hotels.com, AirBnB, and Booking. Travel Hack 1: make sure you look the airlines baggage rules when determining what flight is cheapest. For example, if Airline A is $150 for a flight but charges a $40 for 1 checked bag and Airline B is $170 with no charges for 1 checked bag then by going with Airline B will save you $20. Travel Hack 2: make sure you check if the airline requires you to check in or pay for checked baggage online to avoid astronomical fees. For example, if Airline A charges $15 for pre-checked luggage done online vs. $40 to check in luggage at the airport, which is a savings of $25.

Overall, an amazing experience and worth all the airport hours I accumulated. Any questions on how you can book your own travical experience write a comment below.

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The truth about Guatemala. Before starting this adventure I did some research on what to expect in Guatemala as well as some things to do and what do I find, a bunch of posts about how amazing Guatemala is. How people went for a week and ended up spending a month. Hmmmmm, let me honestly break down what Guatemala truly is.

For starters $1 = 7.14 Quetzals (Q)

Food

I was shocked when I first got to Guatemala about how things where so expensive. My first meal in Guatemala was believe it or not chicken wings (4 of them cut in half) and you wouldn’t believe the price, 40Q, which is about $5.75. Mind you these wings didn’t come with fries, shucks it barely came with ketchup. An order of French fries was 20Q.

Now, of course the street food was super cheap but I didn’t like the taste. Guatemala has a heavy corn influence so all their tortillas and all of their street food was of corn base. Mind you, I love love love corn on the cob and lose corn but I can’t get down with corn tortillas. 5 tacquitos was 15Q or if you are good at battering (not beating up the old lady but talking the price down) you can get it down to 10Q. A big piece of tamale with chicken in it was 10Q. If you like corn tortillas then the street food is for you. Therefore, you can eat for cheap with the street foods but if you are like me, your base is 35Q and upwards. In San Pedro I didn’t really find any street food but I did find a local restaurant that charged 35Q for tortillas, ‘soup’, and rice.

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Local dish call Pepin

Now the bread is a different story. The bakeries in Guatemala are delicious and super cheap. My favorite from the bakery was ‘the stones’. Stones are a very dense bread/muffin/loaf made with banana and chocolate chips throughout. One stone was 2-2.50Q. A big slice of ‘pizza’ which is really a big piece of bread with sauce and veggies was 3Q. So you definitely can eat for cheap by getting meals from the bakery but that would be a whole lot of bread. Then again, all the walking and hiking you do in Guatemala you wouldn’t have to worry about putting any weight.

In terms of food, my budget was about 50Q a day. I would have one good meal and then food from the bakery. One downside I found was that most hostels in Guatemala had no kitchens so I wasn’t able to cut down cost by cooking my own meals.

Excursions

 Hiking is the main thing to do in Guatemala. If you are not into nature, walking, or getting bite up then Guatemala might not be for you. But if you are into that then there is an excursion and a difficulty level for everyone.

Antigua

There are two main volcanoes you can climb Pacaya(easy) and Acatenango(hard) for hiking.

Acatenango, I would never be doing that lol because just to get up the volcano is 6+ hours depending on your level. Plus when you get to the top you can climb for another 3 hours to get to the top of Fuego(an active volcano). Acatenango is a 2 day excursion. You spend the night on top of the Acatenango and you best believe it is freezing up there once the sun goes down. You must make sure pack a wool hat, warm clothes, wool socks, and a blanket. Also if you are a light sleeper between the howling monkeys and snoring hikers don’t expect to sleep that night. But according to fellow travelers I met along the way said that the hike was worth it and beautiful. Chile, its just not for me.

Pacaya, now this is the hike I did. Super easy, well as easy as its going to get cause you know your girl was huffing and puffing while climbing. To climb up the volcano takes 45+ mins depending on how slow you walk. On the plus side the whole time climbing you are followed by locals offering ‘taxis’ in case you want to stop climbing. Now I use the word taxi very loosely because it’s really just a horse, yup you read right a horse. Once on the top, if it is a clear day you can see the other volcanoes in the horizon. You also get to roast marshmallows in lava (if there is) or in a steam hole. I paid 80Q for transport and a guide.

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super foggy at about 10am

San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

Here, you have kayaking, zip lining, and hiking. For hiking, you can climb San Pedro Volcano(hard) or Indian Nose Mountain(easy). Of course, I didn’t climb San Pedro but based on my research it is a 4+ hour hike up. Indian Nose was super easy to climb and by far the prettiest. It is a 30+ mins hike up the mountain with views of farms, cornfields, forest, and the city. The views were beautiful and picturesque. You can go for a sunrise tour, which I would recommend. Simply gorgeous. Depending on how many is in your group depicts the price. If it is just 1 person it is 150Q for transport and guide. The more people you have the more the price drops. Luckily for me I met a group of fellow travelers and joined in with them. One of the guys stays with a host family every time he visits Guatemala so the son was our tour guide and driver. Therefore the trip was based on donation.

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more views

You can go zip lining as well in Santa Clara. In the park there are only two lines, one regular the other you have the option of riding superman style. It is 20Q to enter the park and 80Q zip line. In the park there are other activities you can do like free falling. Parque Ecologico Chuiraxamolo is the name of the park. For the money you spend it is worth visiting the park. What you would pay for one excursion in Costa Rica you can do about 3-4 at the park in Guatemala.

Flores

I am not sure if visiting Tikal is an excursion but there isn’t much else to do there. Well actually, I was approached by a local to take a 40min boat ride to the other side of the lake where there is clear water to do some snorkeling. There is also kayaking and other water activities to do at the lake. But anyways back to Tikal, the price to enter the park is 150Q and 250Q for sunset or sunrise. I was able to get transport to Tikal cause of course it was an hour and a half away from Flores for 50Q. There is no need to pay for a guide because it is quite easy to get around the park but if you are bad at directions or reading a map pay for the guide.

Transport

There are two ways to travel around Guatemala, by chicken buses or by shuttles (whether it you spring for private/nice shuttles or regular ones).

Chicken Buses

 For me I didn’t feel secure enough in my Spanish to ride the chicken buses. It is the cheapest way to travel but also the most dangerous. The chicken buses get stopped and robbed often enough. As a solo female traveler I chose to not chance it. Now if I wasn’t traveling alone I would have chanced riding the chicken bus.

Shuttles

When booking shuttles don’t be afraid to shop around and haggle the price down. The cost to go to Volcano Pacaya for me was 80Q but some people in my shuttle only paid 60Q. My shuttle from Antigua to Lanquin to Flores and back to Guatamala City was 650Q. Of course by chicken bus can be much cheaper. For example some fellow travelers I met only paid 25Q each to go from Antigua to Pacaya by chicken bus but then again they were two males (big/fit ones at that).

So it is possible to travel cheaply around Guatemala but safety must come first.

Conclusion

Guatemala is a beautiful country full of adventure and things to do but it is not as cheap as other travelers make it out to be. In my opinion, Nicaragua is by far the cheapest of the countries in Central America (maybe certain parts of Mexico as well). It is definitely a must see country and if you are into nature and hiking then you definitely should check out Guatemala.

Semuc Champey, my favorite experience of the trip

Caves+Swing Rope+Views….

Semuc Champey… Need I say more?

By far my best experience in Guatemala. From the views to the group I was with to my amazing tour guide, I couldn’t ask for a better day and experience. My whole experience in the small town of Lanquin was great.

Let’s start from the beginning, I stayed in a legit treehouse y’all where I had to sleep under a mosquito net. It was a stay of many firsts. Vista Verde is an amazing hostel with great people and vibes.


Back to Semuc, we are on first name basis y’all lol. The morning started with a 30-40 minute drive standing on the back of a pickup truck. Mind you it was about 20 of us crammed onto a small bed. Did I mention how “amazing” the roads are in Guatemala? The one good thing about these drives is that you are surrounded by nature and crazy views.

Once in the park, exploring the caves was the first thing on the agenda. Y’all I didn’t bring my phone in because Carlos (the guide) said that it would be an hour and a half in the dark with only a candle and that we would be walking, swimming, and climbing. Mind you majority of the time in the cave I was swimming because the cave isn’t meant for short people. The whole experience was amazing though, I climbed up a rope against the waterfall, jumped off the highest peak in the cave, and went through a tunnel where I bumped my left big toe.  So now both my big toes are swollen and are still killing me.

Once we got done with the cave, we walked to one end of the lake/park and saw a beautiful waterfall. Carlos wanted us to jump from the top of the waterfall but the currents were so strong he couldn’t make it to the other side of the lake. Now you know your girl only know how to stay above water. I was not getting in that water lol.  Since that was a bust we headed back towards the entrance and stopped for all the folks who wanted to do the rope swing. Now that was a lot of fun and the current wasn’t to bad there even though Carlos jumped in thinking he needed to save me lol.


Next up was the ridiculouus hike (cause of course nothing in Guatemala is simple). Carlos appointed himself to my boyfriend and tried to convince me the whole hike up how I needed to move to Lanquin and live with him and how he had his own house. The climb was definitely worth it for the views. I even got to taste the fruit cacao comes from, it was pretty darn good.

The purple stuff is what you use to make chocolate

The tasty fruit but your not suppose to swallow it


The last stop was the actual lakes. The water is a pretty turquoise blue and clear.


What a epic day and hopefully my pictures made you want to visit someday.