El Chiflon & Lagos de Montebello

From Quetzaltenango we went to the Mexican border (La Mesilla) in an old chickenbus and we were lucky to catch one of the last rides to Comitan where we could sleap and get some money from the bank. We had to go back to Mexico for a few days so we could get a new 90 day visa for Guatemala. In Chiapas we wanted to visit Laguna Miramar and the Montebello lakes because we heard positive stories. We also decided to visit the ´El Chiflon´ waterfalls. The change rate for the Mexican peso and the Euro was changed so Mexico was even cheaper than Guatemala. It was late in the evening when we arrived Comitan, and the one and only hostel we checked out, was really a mess. A taxi took us to a new and clean hotel.  Within 5 minutes I fell asleep, still wearing all my clothes. The next day I awoke at 10 o´clock to have breakfast. Apparently we needed to relax so we stayed a few more nights. P.S. Your nice hotel looks like a mess if 2 backpackers turn up and put all their socks and shoes outside in the garden.

The ´El Chiflon´ park is a series of waterfalls of which the first one is more than 100 metres tall. The water is blue green colored because of the minerals in the water. You can also swim in the park, but I forgot to bring my swim clothes.

The Lagos de Montebello are 59 lakes which are spread around the pine forsts. You need a lot of time to see all the lakes, but there are a number of lakes which you can visit via an organised tour. We took a taxi, but he dropped us at the wrong place, and we did not find nice cabanas to stay for the night. We got a ride for 10 pesos to the village, Tziscao, and the driver offered us a place to stay for the night in his newly built cabana. The next day the man offered us to show us 5 lakes for 250 pesos, or for the amount of 50 pesos he would bring us back to the place where he gave us the ride. We decided to go walking a take a few taxis; during the day we were able to visit some lakes for about 40 pesos. We rent a kayak at the ´cinco lagos´ where some divers were freediving. The ´El Chiflon´ waterfall is really worth visiting, but the Lagos de Montebello I would only recommend visiting when you have a car to use.

Cinco Lagos, Chiapas Pablo at the El Chiflon waterfalls Pablo

Paul de Boer

Quetzaltenango – Santa Maria volcano

From Antigua we drove, together with our friend Dermot, to Quetzaltenango by chickenbus. As usual the schedule of the chickenbusses we needed fitted nicely together from city to city. During the trip we also made a boat tour on Lago Atitlan, to San Pedro, to collect Evas contact lenses which were delivered to our homestay family. In the beginning of the evening, we arrived in Quetzaltenango and I lost Eva and dermot who walked in front of me to find a hostel. Luckily I found them again after one and a half hour because I sent an e-mail with my current location. Quetzaltenango is the second biggest city after Guatemala city, and the city is popular with spanish students who want to immerse themselves in a city without a lot of english speaking locals. We thought that the city (except for the central plaza) looked like a big suburb, and we did not like it that much. 

In Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, we wanted to climb the Santa Maria (3772 metres altitude) from which you have a nice view on the active Santiaguito volcano (2500 metres altitude). The Santiaguito has several eruptions per hour, and you will see an enormous cloud while you hear the sound of a jetfighter. We climbed with full moon, and we booked our tour with Kaqchikel tours. We started at 01:00 at night, and it took us 4 hours to climb up. First I tried to walk slowly so I could keep breathing normally, but this did not work. Later it was just a matter of putting one foot before the other, and this worked much better. Before climbing I thought of climbing all the volcanos around xela, but it was freezing this night… brrr! … I was not a happy camper! I arrived at the top around 05:15 hrs (with my tongue touching the tips of my shoes) and luckily there was a fire burning so we could warm ourselves a little bit. At the top there where a lot of climbers who booked their tour with Quetzaltrekkers. They had started at 23:00 hrs and would sleep and eat at the top of the Santa Maria volcano. When we arrived there where several (half frozen) people lying in their sleeping bags, and I could not say I was really jealous. It was almost a survival test. Half an hour later the sun rose, and it became warmer.

Several times we could hear Santiaguitos rumbling sound, and we could see the lava boiling in the crater. When the sun came up we could see the enormous shadow of the Santa Maria volcano appear at the horizon. A few hours later we went down the mountain, and my knees were really hurting. Dermot, our Irish friend, decided to go to bed as soon as we came back at the hotel, but we decided to go directly to the hotsprings of fuentes Georginas to wash the dust from our bodies, and to warm up our muscles. The ride to Fuentes Georginas is really beautiful, and you see many villages and nice gardens where the villagers grow their food. Fuentas Georginas itself is really beautiful with the vegetation of a cloud forest growing against the steep mountain from which hot water flows down. The next day we had no problems with our legs, but unfortunately our friend could hardly walk anymore. Dermot decided to go to the hotsprings the following day, but it did not really help for his muscles.

Zonsopgang Pablo en Santiaguito op de achtergrond Fuentes Georginas hotsprings

Paul de Boer


After spending 5 days in Monterrico we decided to stay in Antigua to wait for the contact lenses of Eva to arrive in San Pedro. We allready knew San Pedro La Laguna because we spent there 7 weeks to study spanish. Antigua is an old colonial city where you can take nice pictures (if you like old buildings). The city used to be the centre of power of the spanish in Central America. A series of heavy earthquakes destroyed moest of the city, and the spanish decided to move their headquarters to Guatemala city. Today Antigua is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. In the city live a lot of ladino´s, decendants of the spanish who mixed with indiginous people.

In one of the streets there was a nice catholic ceremony with statues of Jezus and Maria being carried through the streets. Semana Santa is celebrated with massive ceremonies in the streets of Antigua, and this year there are an estimated 300.000 tourists to see the ceremonies.

A few times we went out to a place with a live salsa band, this was really cool. A colombian couple was dancing like crazy. We had some nice ´schnitzels´ in ‘Wieners’, a nice restaurant close to the market. After 4 days the contact lenses arrived in San Pedro, and we went to collect them.

La Cruz La Merced church Salsa band in Antigua

Paul de Boer

Monterrico – Vamos a la playa!

We closed our spanish study books, and together with Dermot we left dry and dusty San Pedro La Laguna. We took a shuttlebus to Antigua and we slept there for a night before we went to Monterrico with a chickenbus.

In january we had been three days in Antigua to climb the Pacaya volcano and I wanted to take some more pictures from the nice colonial buildings which I could not visit before.

The next day to Monterrico we saw a completely different landscape; first we saw some active volcanos and later the land was as flat as my own country, The Netherlands. A lot of sugar cane is grown here, and we saw some pools which they use to produce shrimps.

Monterrico was almost a ghost town; only during the weekends it is busy as many people from the big cities visit the beach. For us this did not matter as we only wanted to be lazy, do some swimming and do some surfing. The volcanic sand is very dark and between 11:00 A.M and 15:00 P.M it was simply to hot to go to the beach. If you walk 5 metres into the see the water will be too deep to stand. The waves here are very powerfull and they will throw you back at the beach. Surfing was not an option for Eva. Every morning we had a nice breakfast at the beach with Mary Anne who we met a few months before in Coban. Benjamin and Nick, two travellers we knew from San Pedro, were also there. 

At the local turtle hatchery you can buy young leatherback turtles for 10 quetzales each. You can release the turtles in the ocean, and this way the turtle centre makes some extra money. We thought this was really a cool idea, and like our friend Benjamin said at the beach: “It was … AMAZING!”

After 5 days, and red as lobsters, we left Monterrico to do some travelling …

In Monterrico is de zee heel krachtig en wordt het gauw diep leatherback schildpad Nog een paar meter voordat de jonge schildpadden

Paul de Boer

San Pedro La Laguna

Around San Pedro you can hike in the mountains. The first walk I did was organised by the Cooperativa Spanish Language School, and we climbed the “Nariz del Indio”, or “Indian Nose” which is close to San Juan. It took us one and a half hour to reach the viewpoint on the top, and afterwards I was exhausted. The view was great with three volcanos on a row near lake Atitlan. Far away I could see clouds above the active Pacaya volcano. That morning there had been an erruption, and some tourists had to run for their lives.

I booked a second trip with a tour operator to climb the steep San Pedro volcano. It took me three hours to get to the top which is not bad for a guy who grew up below the sea level. Unfortunately the top of the volcano was covered in dense clouds so you can image I was not very happy. On a sunny day you can see the whole lake of Atitlan. I fell asleep at 19:00 o’clock and I had sore legs for 3 days afterwards.

The last 2 weeks we followed a homestay program with a local Maya family which included three meals a day and a nice room to sleep. The family members lived on the other side of the road, and we lived above their small shop or “tienda”. This homestay program cost us about 40€ per week per person and we can really recommend this if you want to practise your spanish. Apart from our bedroom we also had a television room which we could use to study.

Uitzicht op het meer van Atitlan vanaf de Nariz del Indio Een uil op de San Pedro vulkaan Dermot, onze Ierse vriend en Alejandra, onze moeder

After spending 2 months in San Pedro we thought it was time to start travelling again, and we really looked forwards to a nice sunny beach.

Paul de Boer

San Juan La Laguna

The village San Juan La Laguna is located next to San Pedro on the Atitlan lake, and we visited the celbrations of the Mayan newyear. According to the ancient Mayan calendar newyear starts on 22 february. The old Mayan religion is hardly celebrated in San Pedro as the Mayas where hit hard during the civil war in Guatemala. There was no posibility to execute the Mayan rituals, and many Mayans are now member of an evangelical church. In San Juan the old rituals are still taught at the primary school. A fire is created with wood and candles and the environment is symbolically cleaned with incense. The idea is to burn all negative thoughts of the last year, and to make good wishes for the newyear. The rituals were performed in the Mayan laguage at the school yard, and some guests were invited by the locals. We did not understand the meaning of all the rituals, but it was still interesting to witness.

After we left the ceremonies, we were walking through San Pedro and I was taking some pictures left and right. I heard the music “here comes the bride”, but I didn’t realise anything. Eva was walking in front of me and she waved at me that I should get out of the way. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw a bride with her family walking a few metres behind me! Instead of just getting out of the way, I started to panick and run with huge steps and eyes as wide as saucers; it must have looked very strange.

The last 2 weeks in San Pedro, we stayed with a family so we could practise our spanish. We really enjoyed this, because Alejandra, our “mother”, is a great cook. We had our own television room where we could do our homework together with our Irish friend, Dermot.

The Maya saints, San Pedro, San Simon and Maximon Maya altar used during the newyears celebration on 22 february During the Maya newyear celebrations a circle with offerings will be put on fire.

Paul de Boer