My daughter and I travel a lot. I was basically a nomadic yogin when I got pregnant and I’ve been determined to keep some of that spirit alive and well while raising a decent human. My friends at home often ask how I do it with a baby. The solution has been to keep it out of the big box (which is really pricey, especially when you start racking up the numbers in your family) and keep it simple by looking for local and eco-friendly spaces that are interesting and interactive for families.
On our last trip, we flew into Guatemala from Cancun, Mexico for just over a week (8 days). We managed to stay in three breathtaking spaces and experience local flavor in the capital city, an ancient catholic town and a majestic lake. If you’re curious about travelling to Guatemala with kids, here’s a look at our eco-friendly itinerary.
Guatemala with kids: The perfect eco-friendly itinerary
Day 1-2: Guatemala City
Guatemala City is by far the most tricked out as far as capital cities in Central America go. There is a thriving art scene and the city even hosted the region’s first gay pride parade this year. It’s a bit like LA in the 90s: you are always in your car, there are incredible areas like Zone 10, 1 and 4 but there are also others that you wouldn’t want to make a wrong turn in.
Casa Vida Vida is an art collective space in trendy Zone 4 that includes a delicious vegan restaurant, Shasta, on the main floor plus an art gallery, Imaginatorio. Just past the gallery, there is a three story open-concept home that houses several artists and architects for short and long-term stays.
On the roof of this creative space is the Jewel Box: an eco-loft that incorporates the natural world and redefines city living as something much more gentle and visceral. A two story loft space with outdoor kitchen and shower nestled in a rooftop garden, the Jewel Box is available on AirBnb (claim your travel credit here) and has to be the absolute best way to experience the city. It instantly creates a community around you of people in the know.
Zone 4 is a walking district in the city and has plenty of cute cafés, shops and grocery stores. There is also a tonne of street art around and the city hosts regular photography exhibits on the streets. A quick cab ride will take you to Oakland Mall or Playland Park if you are looking to kill some time with your kids or pick up any extras.
Once we had our bearings, filled our tummies with pizza and took a look around Zone 4’s beautiful outdoor murals and architecture, it was time to pack it in and head to Antigua, the seat of Catholicism in Latin America.
Day 3-5: Antigua
Located an hour drive from the city, Antigua is the historical colonial centre of Guatemala. With only 30,000 people, the entire town has enjoyed a UNESCO designation since 1979 and, as such, remains frozen in time. The cobblestone streets, the parks, churches and ruins are all relics of a time past but still standing today. It’s by far the most beautiful colonial town I have ever seen.
There is plenty to do in town for children. Beyond checking out several parks and hiking up to the lookout point, Cerro de la Cruz (above the cross), there is also a weekly farmer’s market on an organic farm nearby. Just a 10-minute walk from the centre of Antigua you’ll find Caoba Farms, which has a bustling cafe, plenty of artisans selling organic products and live music every Saturday. Also, Finca El Pilar is a natural set of spring water pools on a farm just out of town and is accessible by tuk tuk for a day in the sun.
Antigua is also known for it’s backpacker and weekend warrior night life which starts early and can be a little annoying for kiddies trying to get to bed by 9, which is why staying at Earth Lodge is a game changer for those travelling with children. Earth Lodge is an eco-hostel and restaurant only a 15-minute drive from Central Park. You can book a shuttle pick up with Earth Lodge directly. The road winds up the side of the mountain into the sleepy village of El Hato where you walk down a long path, past casitas spread out along the mountain top and, finally, into the restaurant and epi-centre of Earth Lodge.
Each night, they turn off the Wi-Fi at 7pm for a shared-seating dinner for guests. Wi-fi remains off until 7am the next morning. Sharing dinner with guests and volunteers both allows for conversation and also a rounding up of a group to get the temazcal (Mayan fire-powered sauna) fired up after dinner for a sauna before bed.
The view at Earth Lodge is the best in town, and the vibes are well worth the drive. As soon as you step onto the property, the buzz of the tourist town below fades away and the fun feeling of camping with family begins. There is a kids play area, a large grass soccer pitch and yoga palapa (daily yoga classes are free for visitors). There is plenty of space for both kids and adults to play the day away.
We spent three days at Earth Lodge, heading into town after breakfast each day to bum around and see the sights, but always happy to come ‘home’ for dinner at the end of the day. We could have stayed a week – this place has a way of sucking you in, letting all your thoughts of the bustle of home fade into the background. But it was on to Lake Atitlan for our final adventure.
Day 6-8: Lake Atitlan
Flanked by three volcanoes, Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America. There is no other way to describe it except to say, ‘majestic’. The two-hour drive from Antigua to the largest town on the lake, Panajachel (Pana), is a myriad of twists and turns, ups and downs that finally opens up onto a breathtaking view of the lake below.
A handful of towns make up the tourist destinations at the lake, each accessible by boat from Pana. San Pedro is dubbed the party town and its neighbour, San Marcos is the hippie version. We arrived by boat to San Marcos and decided to walk to the Yoga Forest from there. Sitting just out of town (much like Earth Lodge in Antigua), The Yoga Forest is known for it’s breathtaking views and laid-back vibe.
Part community, part hotel, The Yoga Forest has got to be one of the most beautiful yoga shalas I have ever had the pleasure of practising in. It’s almost as if they carved the shala right into the side of the mountain, overlooking the most beautiful lake in the world. There are two yoga classes a day, morning and afternoon, that are free to guests and 50 GTQ ($7 USD) to outsiders. Morning meditation and three vegetarian meals per day are also included in your stay. I even booked a babysitter for my daughter so I could take the morning Vinyasa Flow class in total peace.
The vibe at the Yoga Forest is ultimately a laid-back one. It’s an eco-hotel in the truest sense of the term, with compost toilets and sustainable building materials. They try to maintain permaculture practices as much as possible and open up to visitors for weekly ecstatic dance and kirtan (devotional singing) events. There are a lot of stairs so it’s better for older children and babies who are not walking.
We stayed at The Yoga Forest for a few days, leaving after breakfast for jaunts to other towns around the lake, visiting San Pedro by boat for lunch and vintage shopping, and heading over to the Mahadevi Ashram for weekly kirtan where several people, including Hayley, the owner at The Yoga Forest, were in attendance with their babies and small children.
The trek back to the airport from San Marcos can take up to four hours with traffic so take heed – it’s a long way back from paradise on your last day.
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Have you had an eco-friendly experience in Guatemala? Tell us in the comments!