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Guatemala

Volcanoes, Lakes and Community

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Discover Guatemala

Majestic and glorious.

Yes we are heading back to 'Glorious Guatemala' - to summit the volcano, explore Antigua, and meet the local communities living around Lake Aticlan. Tried and tested by Midlifers pre-covid we are ready to get back out there.

In a nutshell - this 9 night journey will start in the colonial city Antigua where we will explore the meandering streets stumbling across architectural relics, groovy cafes, great markets and lots of jade traders...before we summit the Acatenango volcano (non-active) - a gritty challenge but if we take it slowly we will get to the top. It takes and day up and a day down.

After a celebratory night back in Antigua we will head off to the breathtaking crater lake of Atitlan - here we will combine a spot of relaxing with meeting the local communities - learning to cook and weave before haggling in the markets.

Just so you know, Guatemala is uber cool - think 'shabby chic Cuba' on steroids...hip cafés, great music and ancient culture.

Who's coming?


This MidLifer has an expedition feel to it, as we are going to be on the move trekking, exploring and contributing.


Trip Itinerary

This is what we've lined up...

Overview

Guatemala

Welcome to Guatemala

Just so you know this is one of the 'current happening destinations' of central America. Some of you may have been there "back in the day" and I can assure you not much has changed.

You are still going to find local dress, fabulous markets, chicken buses, the puffing volcano of Fuego, coffee plantations, and stunning Mayan ruins. The old pace of life still dominates ... just what we need.

Accommodation

This trip will include a mixture of stylish hostels and pop-up tents up the mountain.

Food

Breakfast included but lunch and supper will be extra - out and about...

Day 1-2

Antigua Arrive, explore city and Lake Atitlan

Settle in and explore

We will be picked up from the airport and taken to our hostel in the centre of old town Antigua. Here we will meet Meli and her team who will be in charge of steering us around the country. This is an hours drive from Guatemala City.

Antigua is the former capital and boasts an impressive selection of colonial relics in a magnificent setting - imagine streetscapes of pastel façades beneath three towering volcanoes. Many old ecclesiastical and civic structures are beautifully renovated, while others retain their tumbledown charm.

The next day we will be up bright and early to explore the oh so chic city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, BTW) and if brave, walk up to the Mirador viewing point, before exploring the enormous Lago Atitlan.

If time - back in Antigua, we can visit the chocolate museum - if for nothing else to stock up on provisions for the trek ...

Accommodation

Here we are going to stay in a very cool hostel in the center of old town, like: https://adrahostel.com

Food

Breakfast included in cost. Lunch and dinner is extra, out and about.

Day 3 + 4

Volcano Summit Acatenango Volcano

Up we go...

Up early and heading out to reach the Mayan village of Soledad which is the start of the Acatenango trail.

....Brace yourself for an overnight hike to summit the Acatenango Volcano, which towers above the landscape at nearly 4,000 metres.

The ascent winds its way up through four distinct ecosystems, starting with a tapestry of fertile agricultural fields where local farmers harvest corn, flowers and snow peas, into an old tropical cloud forest that harbours a diversity of flora and fauna, emerging into sparse, high, alpine forest that reveals views of six additional volcanoes, making it a great spot for lunch.

Aside from providing panoramic views of the entire region, Acatenango will give us a birds-eye-view of the nearby (and the very active) Fuego volcano which has been blowing off steam since colonial times.

The following morning we will complete the summit which should take about an hour. At the top we will find 360° views of Fuego, the Antigua Valley and the distant Guatemalan highlands that stretch all the way to the border of Mexico.

After many a still and peaceful moment at the top, we will trek back on a 3 hour descent and head back to Antigua for the night to celebrate.

Awesome but please note this trek does require a certain degree of fitness and is optional. If you don't want to do this there is an easier volcano to trek up. We can discuss closer to the time.

Accommodation

Overnight camping volcano side and then back to the hostel in Antigua.

Day 5

Iximche Ruins Mayan Ruins

Heading North

Leaving the city behind you will now travel north to Lake Atitclan via the famous Mayan ruins of Iximche, in Tecpán, Chimaltenango, where the Mayans founded their last capital.

The name Iximché is composed of two parts, Ixim, which means corn, and Chée, tree, “Corn Tree”. The architectural vestiges are the remains of palaces, squares and Mayan ball games that in their time were decorated in a colorful way and were galas of the kingdom.

Much of the structures were destroyed during the conquest and the rock buildings dismantled to use their stones in Spanish constructions of Tecpán.

Accommodation

You will stay at the https://laiguanaperdida.com hostel which is run by a friend of ours. Situated on the edge of the lake of the lake - a little slice of heaven.

Day 6

Lake Atitclan Community Day

Santa Cruz
After a quick dip in the lake you will head out into the lake side town of Santa Cruz to meet the local communities. Best way to meet and absorb the local culture is by joining their cooking classes and weaving with a local family. They make amazing textiles in Guatemala.

Accommodation

You will stay at the https://laiguanaperdida.com hostel which is run by a friend of ours. Situated on the edge of the lake of the lake - a little slice of heaven.

Day 7

Lake Atitclan Exploration

Lake Exploration

This day will be spent exploring the lake by speedboat - visiting the local villages of San Marco, San Juan and San Pedro.s Amazing shopping opportunities available along the way - textiles -chocolate - bags - hats - jewlery -Temezcal - kambo and hippy markets.

Accommodation

You will stay at the https://laiguanaperdida.com hostel which is run by a friend of ours. Situated on the edge of the lake of the lake - a little slice of heaven.

Day 8

Lake Atitclan Hiking and Yoga

Hiking and Yoga

While you are here it is relaly key that you hike high so you can get a great birds eye view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes. After this you will have time for a post of yoga, swimming and paddleboarding.

Accommodation

You will stay at the https://laiguanaperdida.com hostel which is run by a friend of ours. Situated on the edge of the lake of the lake - a little slice of heaven.

Day 9

Departure Day Transfer back to airport

Airport Transfer
Early morning departure by private taxi/minivan to Guatemala International airport (3 hours).

Trip Details & Costs

We can only take 10, so it will be on a first come, first served basis...

Any questions email me at: milly@theleap.co.uk

Exciting!

May 2021

2021: 10 May

Costs

Shared room - £2150
Antigua + Volcano trek + Monterrico Beach
2021: £2150

Single room - £2350
Antigua + Volcano trek + Monterrico Beach
2021: £2350

Please note there is limited availability for a single room, so be flexible.

Community development

We will contribute to a bite-sized, effective school development project.

Physical challenge

Summit the Acatenango Volcano at 4000 metres.

Culture

From the colonial city of Antigua, to the stunning villages of Lake Aticlan.

Off grid destination

Definitely a destination for the intrepid explorer.

Time in, Time out

The itinerary will follow its plan but we promise there will be time for you to chill and do your own thing.

MidLifer Favourites

  • Kayak through the Mangrove Forest.
  • Surf the big rollers on Monterrico's beach.
  • Turtle, whale and dolphin watching.
  • Quad bike along the beach.

Central America has recently come back in favour with the discerning traveller as they look for pastures less travelled. Pastures where there is adventure, history, culture and NGOs responsibly contributing to community and conservation issues. Guatemala delivers on all fronts and we have our team in place to pull it all together.

The Guatemala Team

Our MidLife co-ordinators in Guatemala will be Tim Poullain-Patterson, Gabriel Gonzalez, (who delivered our programs in Venezuela for many years, including leading adventure expeditions into the Gran Sabana and Orinoco Delta) together with Grace Hilling, a graduate in Environmental Sciences, who came from upstate New York to Monterrico two years ago.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our current Leapers are doing around the world to get a flavour of Leap life...

Misaotra and veloma Madagascar Ellie Harland

Day trips in Cusco and the final project begins Aela Morris

Farming and Teaching in the Karina Community Aela Morris

Namibia week 1: Camera traps, hiking and tree babies Millie Edwards

Settling into Madagascar Life Ellie Harland

Ex Head-Hunters and Mulu National Park Ellie Walton

Watch our videos

Guatemala

Showing you around Antigua

Guatemala

Best of Guatemala MidLife

"It was freedom, stillness, exhilaration"

‘There were a thousand reasons why I absolutely couldn’t or shouldn’t take my ‘Leap' to Namibia. The most pressing and logistical reasons were my two boys at day school (one only 8) and my husband being half way across the world for work at the same time. However I just couldn’t let it go. There would always be reasons why not. I HAD to make it work. I had wanted to go to Namibia for years and was just really desperate for adventure. Needless to say it was worth every second of the UN-like logistics to get myself out of the door. It was a strike out of my comfort zone (in many layers not perhaps immediately obvious), it was switching off into proper wilderness (no phone reception or WIFI here, just miles and miles of echoing desert), it was back to brilliant basics in our sleeping bags and tents, it was physical work and walking and climbing and rafting, and it was with a group of people, some I knew, most I didn’t with whom we laughed and laughed, nattered and confided, supported and explored with.

It was freedom, stillness, exhilaration. What can I say? DO IT, DO IT, DO IT! Strike out, press your reset button, be BOLD. For all us it was life-affirming, for some a game changer.’

- Sacha Kent

"Their passion and committment was infectious."

Being at Oana really was one of the happiest and best experiences of my life and I am going back in 2020.

The hands on conservation work included removing old fencing to enable wildlife migration, building a wildlife hide, putting out hay mangers and setting camera traps for wildlife monitoring - all of which was great fun. On our last day we visited the local village where we had a soup kitchen and had 90 children come along. The children were unforgettable, singing and dancing with huge smiles on their faces.

- Elaine Mackensie Yates

"Meaningful adventure has been a wonderful experience"

Going on The Leap MidLife was a great decision for me: spending time with a very entertaining and engaging group of people in the amazing and ancient landscape of Namibia on a meaningful adventure has been a wonderful experience.

Oana is a very special conservation reserve, and the passion, vision and determination of the camp managers has inspired a long term make-a-difference approach in us all. Although I have left Namibia and am now back in England, the memories of a fantastic and happy community thrown together for a purpose under the African skies will stay with me for ever.

- Carrie Watson

"Extraordinary and inspiring"

On arrival the trepidation and pre-match nerves soon disappeared and I realised it was the best decision I had ever made. The photos are amazing, but to be there is even better. Having never had a gap year, been camping, been away without family, been to Africa or known anyone on the trip beforehand I was taking a big Leap into the unknown…..and I LOVED every minute. It was a wonderful and unique experience.

I now miss waking up in camp every morning, chatting and laughing with a very special group of now lifelong friends, being inspired by the amazing Dre and Red, looking at the beautiful stars, trekking to the top of mountains to admire the never ending breathtaking views.

The white water rafting and camping on the side of the Orange River towards the end of the 9 days enhanced what had already become the most phenomenal trip. I feel everyone should now make that Midlife Leap and then truly understand why it is so extraordinary and inspiring….

- Alice Fisher

"Soul and mind rebooted and the most amazing group of new friends"

I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with the sleeping arrangements and roughing it, especially as I’m a contact user and need clean hands and a mirror to get them in, but it wasn’t a problem and all the things I worried about before I left were forgotten once I was there.

I had to pinch myself that we actually swam with manta rays and whale sharks and saw the most perfect beaches and yet balanced this with making other peoples lives better on ‘work days’, when we painted a school and health clinic and made bricks for a school build project.

- Emma O'Grady

"The most rewarding and valuable trip of my life"

My trip to Namibia will be the platform for the rest of my life. It was vitally important for me to be challenged, tested and taken far away from home. The environment in Namibia is so far removed from the privileged life I lead in England and the enormous personal strain from family illnesses and teenage demands. Namibia was so utterly dramatic in its beauty and so humbling in its simplicity. To be ‘unplugged’ from my life was incredible. It made me ‘regroup’ amongst nature that is so pure - I felt honoured to be there.

Living in tents and being part of a group was fantastic fun. Getting to know myself in that environment was valuable and liberating. So many fears were dispelled by the whole experience.

Thank you for organising a fantastic trip with love and laughter! Thank you for letting me rest when I needed to and encouraging me to ‘push on’ when it mattered. Thank you for the most fabulous memories and happy times.

- Sara Koe

"Reflect and Reset"

Although I had been promised true wilderness, it wasn’t until we finally arrived in camp that I properly understood that this was exactly what we were getting. Completely off grid, in beautiful surroundings, we were made incredibly welcome by Red and Dre, who then proceeded to put us to work!

What was so extraordinary about the trip was that not only did we feel that what we were doing, along with all the other volunteers, really would make a difference in helping to transform and rewild the landscape in this remote corner of Namibia, but also that by being there as individuals, with no other halves or children to worry about or manage, it was a chance to reflect and to reset. I came home a changed person and cannot recommend the experience highly enough. If you can, just do it!

- Lucy Walsh-Waring

"How we laughed .. I felt reinvigorated"

It was all I had hoped for and with much more. I felt I had a glimpse of a gap year which was exactly what I had wanted. I loved staying in the hostel at Monteverde, testing my nerve on the zip wires and finding I could do it. A great mix of fun and learning.

Throughout we were looked after with kindness and thought. Gently pushing us out of our comfort zones from where I feel we all flew away from our cosy safe nests! In all this I think the Midlife Leap is very clever. We were able to experience a country, get under the skin of it and see it properly, feel comfortable without it seeming we were on a ‘holiday’. Which we weren’t . Volunteering and meeting locals and having Chris guiding us through it all made the ordinary extraordinary . Milly you are brilliant and cajoled and encouraged us keeping up any flagging spirit.

- Nicola Hussey

"An extraordinary and memorable trip"

If you are feeling motivated to make a difference and looking for an off grid adventure, have a look at The Leap’s website.

If you enjoy a challenge and want to feel intrepid, you can join a group of like minded individuals for an extraordinary and memorable trip, organised for you by experts. I cannot recommend The Leap more highly.

- Penny Mountbatten

"Incredible camaraderie and kindness"

During our time we slept in dorms, washed out of a bucket, painted a school, planted shrubs and trees for nesting turtles, swam with whale sharks and manta ray. What struck me through all of our incredible experiences was the camaraderie and kindness of everyone. No-one thought of themselves first. Mosquito spray was given to your pal before you used it yourself. And we're tough old birds! No whingeing at all which was quite something for a bunch of mums who have got used to a comfortable way of live back at home.

The Leap's people on the ground are vital to the smooth-running of anything so off-grid and they found the dream team who were largely locals and knew exactly how the islands ticked and what would work. I think it's brilliant to 'take the leap', venturing outside your comfort zone and realising that at 40/50/60 you've still got what it takes.

- Emma Cripwell

"Quality time with girlfriends, old and new. "

Having not been backpacking at the traditional backpacking age this MidLife Leapers' trip was an opportunity too good to pass up. It was a chance to leave the husband and kids behind, to experience a little bit of what kids do while travelling and to spend quality time with girlfriends, old and new.

I was initially attracted by the opportunity to help conserve the turtles and, despite being there in the turtle ‘low season’, we were exceptionally lucky to be involved in locating and moving a nest of recently laid eggs and to watch newly hatched turtles being released into the ocean. A totally unforgettable experience. At Cirenas we met some inspiring young Ticos and I would love to go back in a year or two to see where their vision and hard work has got them.

Thank you Milly, and Chris on the ground, for organising such a fabulous trip for us. We loved it all - the zip wire, the cloud forest, the baby sloths and the anteater, the turtles, the absolutely delicious food wherever we went, and the scary light aircraft to get us home. An amazing trip.

- LIza Curtis

"The trip exceeded my expectations."

When I signed up I was a little apprehensive as I only knew one person and wasn’t sure how the dynamics of the group would work. As it turned out the group could not have gelled better. The trip exceeded my expectations. I felt we had the chance to give something to the local communities as well as have some fun.

I would highly recommend doing a MidLife Leap – super-duper organised, with attention to detail which meant we were all able to relax and enjoy every minute as we had nothing to think or worry about. It was the most fantastic amazing opportunity that I feel blessed to have experienced.

- Nicci Caswell

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