Chichicastenango – one of the oldest Mayan Markets in Central America

CHICHICASTENANGO MARKET and LAKE ATITLAN, GUATEMALA: Visiting Chichicastenango Market is almost a must if you want to experience the unique culture and centuries old history of Guatemalan Mayans. This is a perfect place to talk to the locals, get a glimpse of their lifestyle, or just to enjoy their daily hustling while doing some shopping. 

There are 25 different cultures in Guatemala and 22 of them are from Mayan ethnic group. Unfortunately, (what our guide told us) Mayan language is only taught in private schools here now. 90% of the highlands people in Guatemala are Mayans and visiting Chichicastenango gives you a small window to that rich heritage. 

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A scene of Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala

This was my first excursion in Guatemala. I booked this online couple weeks before reaching the country. It was $75 per adult for a 12-hours of day trip from Guatemala City, organized by Gray Line Guatemala. We were picked up around 6:30am and were returned to our hotels around 7-ish in the evening. Lunch was included with the package. It was a small group of only 6/7 people in a big van. I won’t lie, this was a long trip and we were in the car for more than 3 hours before reaching Chichicastenango Mayan Market. But I have to say Gray Line Guatemala was a very friendly and accomodating tour company and I loved our guide, Juan Pablo. 

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Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala

MY HOTEL: I stayed in “Oh Espana”…a bed and breakfast-style accommodation in Zone 13 in Guatemala City. The capital is divided into different zones; make sure to pick your hotel carefully, as some zones are not safe for the tourists. The owner lady and the cook were very friendly and helpful. Although a traditional breakfast was included, the location was not that great. It was in some kind of a military residential neighborhood…very safe and gated. But there were absolutely no restaurants or stores within walking distance. Thanks to my ramen cup noodles that I brought from home, which I had to eat for few of my dinners. It was only 3 minutes drive from the airport and hotel had free shuttle service…but again, I wouldn’t stay there again next time I go to Guatemala. 

My recommendation, if anyone is going to Guatemala for a vacation, is to stay in Antigua. It’s about an hour away from the airport. But once you are there, it’s heaven. I know for sure, if I ever go back to Guatemala, I’ll stay in Antigua…especially Hotel Porta Antigua looked fantastic to me inside and out. 

TIME of TRAVEL: I visited Guatemala during the long weekend of Thanksgiving, 2019. I had 3 full days to roam around different parts of the country. 2 more extra days here would have given me the flexibility to visit Tikal, the famous Mayan ruins site in Central America. It gets pretty chilly at night and early morning around this time of the year. During the day time, you can go out with a t-shirt and it’s very pleasant. But if you are traveling with kids in November to Guatemala, I would recommend carrying a sweater.

EATING and SHOPPING: Our lunch was included in the package and it was in Chichicastenango Market. It was in a cozy, 2-floored restaurant, called St. Thomas. While I was waiting near the balcony on the 2nd floor and looking out the door to the local vendors on the street, I was served with some black corn tortillas with a bowl of soup. For the main dish I ordered chicken in papiene sauce (a pepper sauce) that came with potatoes and avocado on the side. While I didn’t really enjoy the chicken main dish, the soup and the black tortillas were amazing. The restaurant itself is decorated beautifully with colorful local decors and comes with very friendly waiters. 

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My delicious lunch – black corn tortillas with soup in Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala

FYI, with 10 different species of corn in Guatemala, I guess, trying out different types of corn is a must. 

Chichicastenango Market is a heaven for souvenir hunters, like me. It’s a colorful and attractive outdoor market with variety of items from fresh vegetables, fruit, and local dishes to textiles, wooden masks, potterries, and other decors. Most of the vendors here are Mayan women. Don’t forget or feel frustrated bargaining with each vendor…it’s their culture, so enjoy it without overthinking the process or fear of losing money or getting a better deal somewhere else. I bought 6 small wooden bowls for $20 and 5 table runners (combination of cotton and silk table runners) for $120, which I later found out, I probably could have gotten these a bit cheaper price. 

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Traditional Central American dolls in Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala

Coffee, chocolate, vanilla, jade jewelry, textiles, pottery, hammocks, masks, and wooden trinkets are some of the popular gifts to buy from Guatemala. 

PLACES I’VE VISITED: This tour was about 12 hours of long journey which highlights only 2 places…Chichicastenango Market and Lake Atitlan. I had 2 more extra days in Guatemala for which, I spent a day in the capital and my last day in historic Antigua.

  1. CHICHICASTENANGO MARKET: Chichicastenango Market was about 3 hours drive from Guatemala City. So you have to start the day very early. This is a Mayan market which is more than 500 years old and believed to be one of the oldest outdoor markets in Central America. The city of Chichicastenango itself a beautiful city on a small hill which we passed by upon entering and has about 60K people.
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Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala

After reaching the market, we pushed the crowded small streets of vendors to reach our first spot. It was the big indoor area where fresh produce and other local food items are sold. It’s very colorful and is an energetic place to see locals going on with their daily lives. Mostly Mayan women are the sellers in this market. This is a crowded place with lots of vendors, local buyers, and tourists. Therefore, this is a very common place (as we were told by our guide) for pick-pocketing…keep your belongings very careful here. 

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Indoor market of Chichicastenango in Guatemala, where fresh produces are sold

Next we were taken to St. Thomas Church. This Catholic church is located at one end of Chichicastenango Market and was built around mid to later part of the 16th century by the Spaniards.

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Right outside St. Thomas Church in Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala

While outside of the church was packed with flower vendors on the stairs and countless people nearby, this is a very simple church inside with a calm and peaceful courtyard. Interesting fact and a beautiful scene in this church is that, you can see both Catholics and Mayans are doing their own rituals and using it equally. While the beautiful incense were burning and spreading mystical smell, we saw Catholics were praying closer to the main altar and a Mayan woman walking on her knees to the altar. This was beautiful to watch as they kept their own heritage while being very respectful to the other believers. 

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Inside St. Thomas Church in Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala

One of the most beautiful places in Chichicastenango city is the colorful cemetery where we didn’t go but saw from the hill from a bit far away. The color of the tombstone in that cemetery represents the favorite color of the person who passed away. 

In the market, especially near St. Thomas Church, it’s very easy to get lost. In fact, for a few seconds, I couldn’t find my group and was frantically looking each direction for them. Thanks to our assistant tour guide who saw me and told me where they are. Use some basic cautions when you are there, especially if you have kids or traveling with a large group.

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Some locals of Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala

2. LAKE ATITLAN: The drive from Chichicastenango Market to Lake Atitlan was about an hour and fifteen minutes in the district, called Solola in Guatemala. We stopped at San Francisco Panajachel town to visit Lake Atitlan and spent anywhere from 30-45 minutes by the lake, just walking around the lake, taking some shots, and checking out the Mayan market. 

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Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala

The lake, in a massive volcanic crater, is surrounded by mountains, especially 3 volcanoes around the lake. We were told by the guide that the lake is 23km long and the deepest point of the lake is 350 meters. 

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Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala

Overall, I wasn’t a big fan of Lake Atitlan for the effort and time it took to get there from Chichicastenango Market. Lake Atitlan is a beautiful place with mountains and volcanoes, but the long winding journey was not fun and if I knew, I would have just gone with half a day to Chichicastenango Market.

Things You Have To Get Right When Travelling Around

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Travelling the world is something that everybody should have the pleasure of doing. Obviously, you’re free to do whatever you want in this life (within reason); if you’d like to stay in your hometown for the entirety of it, then that’s fine. Seeing what else the world has to offer can do so much for an individual, however, so it’s a highly recommended thing. 

If you’ve ever been tempted into hopping to the other side of the planet in order to be amongst different cultures and creeds, then you’ll know that it’s not exactly a case of getting on a plane and leaving everything behind. 

Keep Everything As Comfy As Possible 

You’re going to be heading out of your comfort zone when you travel to an unknown area. While it’s good to be out of your comfort zone, you’ll still need to have a few things around that will keep you content. Constant discomfort won’t be good for your mindset, so make sure you make things easier for you. For instance, you’ll probably want to have the right backpack and the correct footwear. These kinds of things might seem pretty basic, but if they’re not handled, then you’ll notice their absence.

Don’t Forget Anything!

It’s very easy to forget certain items whenever you leave the house, right? Well, you’re going to be leaving the house for a significant amount of time if you choose to go travelling! Make sure you have absolutely everything you need. Make a list and go over it a bunch of times. When you’re packing, be sure to triple-check everything.

If the situation is appropriate, then you could always hire a moving company to help you out. Sure, it’s not the most orthodox approach, but some movers do specialize in long-distance travel. You can always Learn More by heading online and checking out some of your local moving companies. 

Bring The Right Company 

This is pretty important. If you’re going places with your friends, you might want to make sure you bring the correct ones. We all have people in our lives that we can only spend so much time with, right?! It sounds harsh, but even our best pals can get a little frustrating if we spend too long with them! Choose someone (or a group) that you’ll be able to be around for an extended period. We talked about keeping things as comfy as possible, and this is just another example!

Get Insured!

You never quite know what can happen to you or your things when you’re away on your travels. You’re getting away to enjoy yourself and to take in new experiences, but that doesn’t mean you and your items are going to be invincible. Valuables might get stolen or lost during transit. You may fall a little ill when away from your natural habitat. Flights around might even get cancelled, and that’s no good for you. 

If any of these instances (or anything else negative) should arise, then you’re going to be in a pretty awful situation. That’s where travel insurance will help you out. You obviously don’t need to take some out, but you can never be too sure. They’ll be able to cover you should anything go awry. 

 

Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas – Getting out of The Strip

RED ROCK CANYON, LAS VEGAS: When you think about Las Vegas, for most of the tourists, you don’t really imagine it being a place where people go hiking or mountain climbing or go mingling with nature as much. Only half an hour ride from the heart of Las Vegas Blvd, Red Rock Canyon is a fantastic getaway from the city chaos and to appreciate the great outdoors. Locals love Las Vegas, not for the boulevard, but for the spectacular hills and valleys that it has to offer. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

This is an open museum to enjoy some natural views, stunning landscapes, rock formations, and learn some facts on how Indian tribes lived here hundreds of years ago in the harsh environment. My kids definitely loved it and learned a lot on some local history, native Americans and their lifestyle, geology, and etc. According to our guide, the park has so many hiking trails that even if you hike everyday of the year in Red Rock Canyon, you still won’t have to repeat your trail. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

I booked this trip online through Viator with Red Rock Canyon Discovery Tour weeks before reaching Las Vegas. For about $75 per person, we had this guided 3 hours of tour. We started around 9am and were dropped off by noon. There are other longer and different versions of Red Rock Canyon tours with different activities and prices. But for me and the kids, 3 hours out of The Strip was perfect and were back to the city right on time for lunch. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Stratosphere Hotel or The Strat this time. Red Rock Canyon Discovery Tour doesn’t have pick up from here. So we met up with the guide in front of Treasure Island on The Strip. 

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during the winter holiday of 2019 when we came to Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon can be slightly colder than the city. Make sure to bring a hoodie or a heavy sweater and wear very comfortable shoes here. If you are coming in summer, bring plenty of water and maybe a hat. Since it’s out in the desert, I can imagine the extreme heat can cause some serious problems if you are not prepared, especially if you are planning to hike. 

EATING and SHOPPING: There isn’t really any place to eat in the conservation area that we’ve seen. Not sure if picnic is allowed here either. Officially camping is prohibited inside the park but climbers still do camp on the high hills when it gets dark. 

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: After the visitors center, we stayed on the Scenic Loop Drive to stop at different areas of the park. The roads are clearly marked with all the signs. Some places we stopped at are below:

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

CALICO HILLS: This was our first and probably my favorite spot. Beautiful red rocks, small hills, canyons, and the sheer rugged beauty of this place is simply breathtaking. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

HIGH POINT OVERLOOK: This was another look out point with vast landscape and small mountains. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

WILLOW SPRINGS: There are few hidden falls and streams in the park which we didn’t get to see. Willow Springs is a point where a tiny stream flows in the woods. We also saw ancient handprints on a stone wall here. Other tribal hieroglyphics can be found few areas in this park. Our guide also gave us some insights how native Americans used different plants for different purposes and how they helped them survive. 

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Can you see some hand prints? Red Rock Canyon, NV

 

Top 3 Tips in Buying High-Quality Luggage

Reunions, conferences, destination weddings, vacations, and business trips have one thing in common. All these events require you to travel. And what do you need when you travel? Luggage!

Since not all luggage is the same, you have to know what you should buy. Do you prefer a vintage style suitcase over standard black colored ones? Or do you like stylish bags with ornaments like tags, covers, and straps? Either way, you have to know how to choose a piece of quality luggage, regardless of style and color preferences.

Know that the right luggage piece can make commuting stress-free and seamless. On the other hand, the wrong one can be a source of problems during your trip.

So, how will you know that a luggage set can last for a long time? Here are some tips to help you sort this question out.

Choose the right bag fit for the occasion

There are countless of luggage and bags available. If you are in a hurry, you can get easily tempted to go for the “good enough” or “okay” one. Sadly, the “okay” bag turns out to be a bad choice for you. Buying and using the wrong bag means that you might end up overstuffing it or carrying a bulky one.

The perfect bag is mainly dependent on the duration of your trip and the items you are taking with you. If you frequently travel for different reasons and durations, it is helpful if you have a variety of suitcases to choose from.

If it is you are still starting to invest in a suitcase, it is practical to consider the type of trip you most frequently take. If you often travel for leisure, you can invest in a luxury vintage style suitcase for added style and character.

If most of your travels are for work and you usually stay in a place for three to five days, go for a medium-sized 23 or 24-inch luggage. If you frequently travel on weekends, an 18 or 20-inch hand-carry suitcase is most ideal for your needs.

Buy from companies that have excellent customer service

Never take customer service for granted. If you buy cheap suitcases from chain stores, you cannot expect much from their customer service.

Verify how long such a company has been in business and how they deal with customer complaints. Also, check if their CS reps are easily accessible. It would be beneficial if you have the company’s number where an actual person answers customer calls.

Never forget to check the guarantee that comes along with your luggage purchase

Since you will be investing in a piece of luggage, it is logical to know if the manufacturer offers a guarantee on how long their product will remain in good condition. The luggage should, at least, withstand the normal wear and tear of travel and storage.

If your luggage gets damaged, you can use the warranty for repair or replacement. And if you need to have the bad replaced, you can also use the same guarantee to get a replacement piece for free.

Conclusion

You have the final say when choosing the right luggage for your travels. And since you have the last word, you must observe due diligence in making sure that you are also protecting your interest as a buyer. Read, research, and ask questions. These will not only help you purchase the right luggage, but it will also make you a more knowledgeable and informed buyer.

Planning a vacation to Anguilla – Here’s the mistakes to be avoided.

The Caribbean’s best-kept secret is the island of Anguilla. The island has an embargo currently on casinos, cruise ships, and high-rise hotels, so if you love fuss-free adventure and low-key beachfront rentals, this paradise puts you right into deep relaxation mode. The live music scene is also fun to experience, and the luxurious resort side to this island offers more amenities and premium exhibitions.

Even though it is one of the smaller islands at 15 miles long and 3 miles, it still boasts 33 different beaches. Wtih gThe powdery smooth sand and crystal blue waters is mesmerizing, and the palm trees swaying plays into every relaxing meditation video you have ever seen. While beautiful, there are some things that can put a damper on your trip.

These tips can make your trip more memorable and show you the best parts of the island while also staying in the best possible accommodations.

Don’t Miss Sandy Island

For a day of snorkeling and relaxation around the edges of Anguilla, going to Sandy Island is a must. You can take a small charter boat out to explore or catch a shuttle to the Sandy Ground Beach pier. Either way, this is one of the best day trips to try when visiting Anguilla. Unlike many of the smaller trips, Sandy Island also has some restaurants and a rental station where you can pickup snorkeling gear.

Pick the Right Season

The best time to go to Anguilla is between May and August. This is when you will likely get the best weather and avoid the terrible hurricane season. Hotel prices and Anguilla luxury house rentals tend to be lower in April and September, which is considered the off season. The most expensive time to visit is when most of the island shuts down, which is from early winter until March.

Saving Money in Anguilla

Since there aren’t any direct flights from the US to Anguilla, you may think you have to charter a flight to the island, but you can actually fly to nearby islands like Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Antigua, or St. Martin-St. Maarten. Then, you can catch a connection flight.

Hotels are a waste of money when you can spend so much less by searching Anguilla luxury house rentals. Many of the hotels here offer all-inclusive pricing, which can lead you to not experience the island and spend more at the resort. Instead, you can avoid gratuities and incidental hotel fees by renting a luxurious home on the island or a villa.

In addition, renting a house allows you to save money on food, too. You can shop at the local markets on the island, experience some of the culture, and then make your own dinner for quiet nights by the beach at home. The live music scene ramps up when the sun goes down, and there are plenty of places to explore and find dancing until the early morning hours.

Don’t Hire a Tour Guide

You may wind up in an Anguilla tour, which can be quite expensive, but if you plan correctly and look at things to do beforehand, you can just experience the best parts of the island. In addition, the taxi drivers make the best guides to understanding where to eat and what to do once you get there. It’s also the best way to get around since there are hardly any street signs on some parts of the island.

Some of the local favorite hot spots include:

  • Rendezvous Bay: Along this beach, you’ll find the best restaurants and fun things to do with the family or as a couple’s night out.
  • Shoal Bay: This is the best spot for snorkeling and dolphin watching.
  • Sandy Island: For a day trip, charter a boat and experience snorkeling along coral-lined beaches.
  • Meads Bay Pond Beach: For sunsets, you should definitely head out to this amazing and picturesque natural area one afternoon on your stay.

Wrapping Up

As you head out around Anguilla, you’ll find a lot of the night life is in The Valley, which is in the capital city. However, it’s also home to some historic sites, such as the Wallblake House. Finally, you should always remember to pack your sunglasses, sunscreen, and a good pair of walking sandals. These are the best accessories in island exploration as you head out around Anguilla.

 

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