Martha and I spent three weeks in Guatemala with our friends Larry and Poppy Dully. The main purpose of the trip was to take an intensive Spanish immersion class in Antigua, Guatemala, which is well known for its many schools which cater to tourists. So most of our time was spent in the old colonial town of Antigua, taking Spanish lessons each weekday morning. We stayed the entire time at the hotel Mason Panza Verde – a lovely 12 room hotel which also has one of the finest restaurants in Antigua (which has many great restaurants).
The first weekend Larry and I spent two days on mountain bikes, riding from Antigua to Lago de Atitlan – a beautiful, caldera lake about 50 miles away. The many small towns nestled around the lake reminded me of the Cinque Terra in Italy.
The second weekend we spent in Copan, Honduras – about a five hour bus ride from Antigua. Copan is world-renowned for the quality of its Mayan ruins. Unlike Mayan ruins elsewhere, these ruins have elaborate and well-preserved glyphs (aka symbols).
The next week I abstained from language school and had a full week of exploring with my camera. I climbed nearby volcano Pacaya – quite active at present, with much gas being emitted. It was fantastic to look down its "throat" and listen to it breathe! During the week I also took an overnight trip to Chichicastenango to explore its famous market. It happened to also be a high Mayan religious day and was fortunate to observe lots of Mayan rituals.
On the final weekend, Larry and I did an overnight backpacking climb of another volcano, Acatenango. This is probably the steepest hike I have ever done while carrying a backpack! We started at 8000' and went straight up to 13,041'. What is fantastic about Actenango are its views of the surrounding countryside and of nearby Volcan de Fuego, an explosively active volcano easily seen from Antigua. Unfortunately we did not witness any large eruptions, just lots of puffing.