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The Colorful Country of Guatemala

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I’ve only been out of the United States a handful of times – Fiji, Mexico, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland (well, the airport) – but by far, Guatemala was the most colorful country I’ve visited. Every tourist market was filled with gorgeously ornate hand-woven blankets, purses, clothing, and dolls. Exotic animals, like macaw parrots and capuchin monkeys rest lazily on tree branches, within reach of passersby.

For the first part of our week in Guatemala, we stayed at El Faro (meaning “The Lighthouse”), a Christian camp and retreat center on the eastern coast, visiting village kids and exploring waterfalls in the jungle. The Caribbean Sea was warmer than bath water, perfect for swimming at night with friends. A brand new soccer field and ropes course kept visitors busy and active when they were not boating, swimming, or best of all, eating homemade tortillas and fried plantains.

Later on, we traveled nearly seven hours by bus to stay at the Porta Hotel Antigua; a stunning hotel at the base of the volcanic mountain in Antigua. Our two-story master suite had two bathrooms and a balcony overlooking the pool and hillside. When we weren’t watching metallic street performers do the robot outside historic baroque cathedrals, or munching on fresh fruit from street vendors, we took a tour of a coffee and orchid plantation at the edge of town, learning the fermentation process that produces perfect coffee beans for companies like Starbucks.

If you’re looking to taste as you go during an Antiguan tour, we recommend the Choco Museo experience, where you can explore the free chocolate museum or take a chocolate cooking class to create anything from truffles to a full Guatemalan meal.

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Beautiful rainbow macaw parrots at El Faro.

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The dock at El Faro mission.

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Embroidered tunics from a tourist market in Antigua.

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Metal playground equipment at a children’s hospital in town.

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Marina in Livingston, Guatemala. This town is only accessible by boat.

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Capuchin monkey in cage at El Faro.

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Photo courtesy of Natalia Gochicoa

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Photo courtesy of Natalia Gochicoa

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Livingston, Guatemala

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Harmonica-playing street performer.

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Fresh-sliced fruit and spices from a street vendor.

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Livingston, Guatemala

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How people get around at El Faro.

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My friend Natalia!

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Livingston, Guatemala

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Cathedral of Saint James, San José Parish in Antigua.

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Jungle cicada, up close.

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Rambutan fruit, which is closely related to lychee, with a flavor and texture reminiscent of grapes.

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Our balcony view from Porta Hotel Antigua, overlooking the neighboring buildings leading up to the volcano.

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Water feature at Porta Hotel Antigua.

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Street performer in town square of Antigua.

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Hillside neighborhood on the way to Antigua.

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Nativity scenes for sale at tourist markets.

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