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The thing about Guatemala is, I didn’t really love it.

There. I don’t believe in suspense — who needs the anxiety? Guatemala. I first bought a guidebook for this country over six years ago, when I was still studying in Brooklyn, though it took me up until this trip to finally make my way to its borders. Something about Guatemala called to me, and when I finally made my way there, my expectations were as high as Antigua’s altitude.

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

In the end, I spent more time in Guatemala than I’ve spent in any other country in Central America — almost six weeks. I dove in a high altitude lake, roasted marshmallows over a volcano, climbed a Mayan ruin and sunned on a black sand beach. I met up with Brooklyn friends in Guatemala City (the Equilibrio creators!), I bonded with a blogging friend in Antigua (the Nomad’s Nomad author!), and I met a guy that I had a brief but heartwarmingly sweet travel romance with (but more on him later).

I stayed in great hostels, found truly fantastic restaurants — some that I’m still drooling about — and had some true adventures.

Tropicana Hostel Antigua

McDonald's AntiguaYup, this is what McDonald’s in Antigua looks like

Y Tu Piña Tambien, Antigua, Guatemala

Yet I have to admit that I’ve never felt quite so neutral about a country before. At one point, I texted my friend , the only other person I know who has publicly admitted to being underwhelmed by Guatemala, with a simple question. “Am I missing something…?” She got it. People I love love Guatemala. People I met on the road loved Guatemala. Everyone loves Guatemala.

Except, it seemed, for me.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

It did grow on me. When I first arrived in Antigua, I struggled to see the charm. I was freezing, the Zumba was lame (please laugh), the altitude made me feel funny, I was anxious about crime after a travel companion was the victim of one, I didn’t have proper footwear for cobblestones and I couldn’t help but compare the city to Granada, with the tropical Nicaraguan version coming out on top. But it was a convenient base for exploring Guatemala and something about it kept pulling me back.

When I finally left Antigua for the last time I calculated that in total I’d spent two full weeks there, and I was surprised to find I was somewhat wistful to leave.

Antigua, Guatemala

I can attribute most of that creeping fondness for the city to my friend and host and fantastic tour guide , who introduced me to his fantastic group of friends and showed me parts of Antigua I might not have seen or appreciated on my own.

For example, .

HobbitenangoThanks for the photo, Luke!

Hobbitenango, Antigua, Guatemala

Hobbitenango is hotel, restaurant, and bar high above the hills of Antigua. When Luke told me he was a part investor in a hobbit hole, I was 0% surprised, because that is just the way that Luke rolls. What I was surprised by, as a non-Lord of the Rings fan, was how much I enjoyed this little slice of whimsy heaven.

Hobbitenango

Hobbitenango, Antigua, Guatemala

Hobbitenango can technically be reached on foot, though it will be quite the trek (we attempted it and ended up hitching a ride for the final stretch, much to my delight). Or you can hop one of the regularly scheduled shuttles. It’s the perfect place for a lazy Sunday afternoon of cocktails and conversation, and of course, the best views in Antigua.

While live music is a regular part of life up at Hobbitenango, I was lucky enough to catch Mariachi or Muerto, the annual battle of the mariachi bands competition that Luke outlines the birth of in his book.

Mariachi or Muerto

Hobbitenango, Antigua, Guatemala

I guess I feel about Antigua in Guatemala the same way I do about Chiang Mai in Thailand. It’s a great base, there’s fantastic food, it’s a convenient place to stop and work for a while, and I adore the people there. But in the end, it just doesn’t tug at those wistful wisps of my heartstrings that make me truly fall in love (I think, to be fair, that a hot sun and an ocean view might be required for that, these days.)

I may not have fallen head over heels for Antigua, or for Guatemala for that matter, but places and people and moments like these sure did challenge me not to.

Hobbitenango

Antigua Guatemala

Have you ever felt underwhelmed by a place so many others loved?

Practical Info

Where I stayed: Mostly, I crashed with Luke and his roommate Amy, and I am eternally grateful for their hospitality. I did end up also spending a few nights at , which has a pool and friendly staff and a great combination of a lively bar and a strict 10pm close time, meaning you can both make friends and get a good night of sleep. I also spent a night at , which has a great location and very comfortable and good value private rooms.

Where I ate: Where to begin? serves up the best salads I had in Central America, has delicious breads and cheeses and even macarons(!), has great ambiance and breakfast cocktails, has fun and creative homemade ice cream flavors, and the McDonald’s is probably the most scenic outpost of the chain in the world. Seriously.

How I got there: Antigua is the base of tourism in Guatemala and nearly all private shuttles between other destinations (Lake Atitlan, Monterrico, Guatemala City, Semuc Champey, etc.) will pass through here regardless of whether or not they are listed as direct service. Chicken buses are a cheap and colorful local transport alternative, though be aware that you may have to make many transfers depending on your destination.

Bonus tip: Pack warmly! I didn’t realize how chilly so much of Guatemala would be, and I felt like I was perpetually cold when I was in the highlands. Cheap second hand stores called MegaPacas are a good place to stock up on layers if you accidentally packed for the tropics.

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101 Comments...
  • Lissa
    May 24 2015

    I like that huge round door. It seems like Guatemala is so colorful. Great pictures.

    Lissa recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      All of Central America is drenched in colors… one of my favorite things about it!

  • Meihoukai, I totally get that. For a long time I didn’t understand the hype with Cambodia, but it has since grown on me. We can’t all love the same places and good riddance for that. Then Koh Tao would be crowded!
    Miriam of Adventurous Miriam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Wiser words were never spoken 🙂 Let’s leave Koh Tao for the true fanatics…

  • Yes! I understand exactly now you feel, Meihoukai! Dubai, Langkawi and (currently) Helsinki. 🙂 Interesting to know re: Antigua, because it’s on my list too!
    Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Well, hey, so many others are obsessed with it I wouldn’t be surprised if in the end you were too! But maybe I’ll do you a favor by lowering your expectations somewhat 😉

  • Charlie
    May 24 2015

    Omg. So gutted that I missed out on Hobbitenango!
    Charlie recently posted..

  • Leah
    May 24 2015

    With the exception of el Salar de Uyuni, I was totally underwhelmed by Bolivia compared to everyone else. I completely understand the feeling! At least you got to see a lot of great people while you were there and have some cool experiences. 🙂
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Indeed! I far from hate Guatemala… I just felt pretty “meh” about it, which is actually surprising considering how many cool things I did/people I met while I was there.

  • Kristin McNeil
    May 24 2015

    Guatemala calls to me too! Actually all of Central American. How was diving in Lake Atitlan? Was it worth it? I ADORE your capri leggings! Where did you get them? And Hobbitenango looks like a blast!
    Kristin McNeil recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Ha, actually there’s a funny story behind those. I ended up (temporarily) losing most of my clothes by leaving them in a laundry and borrowed those from Luke’s lovely roommate Amy 🙂 Post coming up about diving in the lake soon!

  • Antsy P
    May 24 2015

    Lovely photos! I just started following your blog – I am inspired to travel more. Thanks for sharing those wonderful experiences and tips! cheers!

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      You’re so welcome! Thanks for reading — hope you’ll stick around 🙂

  • Even though you were underwelmed, your photographs of Guatemala make the country look like one of the most facinating and beautiful places on Earth
    Emma | banquets and backpacks recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Wow, thank you Emma! That’s quite the compliment!

  • Sarah
    May 24 2015

    well, you might didn’t like Guatemala that much but your camera sure did! My favourite picture is the one with the blue beetle!
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Thanks Sarah! Snapped that one with my iPhone 🙂

  • Tash
    May 24 2015

    Yes! As a UK native I feel the exact same way about…London! I’ve been several times, and I have never really “got” it I suppose. I feel like everything London has, the rest of England has, minus the crowds, tourists and unfriendly locals, but everyone else seems to love London. Or maybe it’s just my northern pride coming through 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      London totally underwhelmed on my first visit… and it has slowly grown on me since 🙂 I do admittedly need to get out and see more of the rest of England however!

  • Totally understand where you’re coming from. The places I have loved the most are ones in which I can’t even explain why…it’s just a feeling. The way the city, people, atmosphere, scenery captures you. And I’m certain some places are better for different times in your life too.

    As for a place that didn’t live up to the hype for me – I have to say Paris. It was great to check off the bucket list, and there are definitely parts of it that I adored (I’m looking at you, French food) but I just didn’t fall in love with it like everyone told me I would!
    Shelly I Norway to Nowhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      I’ve never gotten the Paris itch! Bizarre for a traveler, right? Maybe it will come someday…

  • Nicola Easterby
    May 24 2015

    Meihoukai, this was so interesting to read as I had really similar feelings towards Guatemala! I spent most my time in Guatemala City helping out with a homeless program which was an experience in itself, but even the tourist days we had in Antigua and up to the black sand beaches didn’t have me enammered. It is definitely a beautiful place, but not somewhere I would rush back to you. Glad you feel the same sentiment!

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      It’s definitely a relief to hear I wasn’t the only one, Nicola! I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t have chatted to Kristin about it while I was there — I was starting to feel like I was crazy! 🙂

  • Rashaad
    May 24 2015

    Actually, I felt underwhelmed by Brussels the first time I visited the city. Maybe because I felt the city lacked charm although the Christmas market (I went in December) is lovely as well as the Grand Place. It is nice seeing street names in two languages. That said, I wasn’t dying to return.

    But the next year (also in December), I returned to Brussels for a Michael Franti and Spearhead concert. I had a blast!!!
    Rashaad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      I think I would have had a better experience in Brussels had I not been waring with customs while I was there. My affair with the local chocolate definitely helped restore some good faith between Brussels and I!

  • MCVK
    May 24 2015

    Remember, Guatemala had a bloody civil war that lasted more than 35 years and ended less than 20 years ago. At least half a million people left during that time; the country is one of the poorest and still trying to get back on its feet. I think that, like a good book that you just can’t get into reading at this point in your life, you may return to Guatemala in a decade or so and find it fabulous.

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      That is true and I was very interested the country’s history and recovery. However, unless I am mistaken (always a distinct possibility, ha) other neighboring countries like El Salvador have experienced similar strife in similar timelines. And yet I enjoyed them much more — so I’m not sure how much that factors in.

  • Stef
    May 24 2015

    I’m gonna go to Guatemala in the beginning of June. Let’s see how I like it. The Hobbitenango seems great and I’m totally going there. Thanks for sharing that tip.
    Stef recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      It was a highlight for me, Stef! Literally and figuratively 😉 Let me know what you think!

  • Martha
    May 24 2015

    I feel the same way about Chiang Mai…and I live there! It isn’t even close to being my favorite city in Thailand, but I appreciate what it has to offer, like lots of yoga studios and job opportunities.
    Martha recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Nice to hear from someone who feels the same about Chiang Mai! Not sure I could live there — I’d miss the ocean — but I do love my annual trips there despite my protests over not loving the city 🙂

  • Katie
    May 24 2015

    I felt that way about New York, it seems I am definitely in the minority there! I didnt hate it, I liked it but I didn’t love it. You can’t fall in love with everywhere you go
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      I can see how New York would be really overwhelming to a traveler. It’s a city I’m grateful to have lived in rather than visited.

      • Katie
        May 27 2015

        I think that now I have got the tourist stuff out of the way, the next visit will be a lot more enjoyable
        Katie recently posted..

  • Justine
    May 24 2015

    The place that immediately comes to my mind is Ubud, Bali. I’d heard everyone I know rave about it for years and I went in with high expectations. I was so underwhelmed the first time I went there. I’ve since gone back a couple times and learned to appreciate certain aspects of the city, but I still don’t completely get it. It always fascinates me how different travelers’ opinions of places can be. We are all very different people and our experiences are so different. You just never know which place is going to tug at those heartstrings. Lately I’ve found that the places I have low expectations for end up being my favorites 🙂
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      It’s almost a blessing not to have those expectations, isn’t it! I think that’s part of what made me love El Salvador so much. I did have sky-high expectations of Nicaragua and it did live up to the hype 🙂

  • Mary B
    May 25 2015

    Funnily enough, I felt about Nicaragua how you felt about Guatemala! Everyone I know who’s been to Nica has raved, but I just didn’t connect with it (the severe case of food poisoning probably didn’t help). I think sometimes it’s timing, sometimes it’s expectations… and sometimes it’s like online dating – everything’s good on paper, but there’s no chemistry. At least you got some gorgeous photos out of it!
    Mary B recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      It is all about country chemistry. And, well, different strokes for different folks. I adored Nicaragua, though I do think that a huge factor in my preference for it was the weather — and my slower travel schedule.

  • Kat
    May 25 2015

    Wow, what beautiful photos. It looks lovely from what I see here, but as you say sometimes you just don’t fall for a place, no matter how much you may want to! I felt the same about Kuala Lumpur, I just did not get that city and looking back I wish I’d spent more time on the Malaysian islands. At least I know now for any re-visits 🙂

    Also – I need to go to Hobbitenango! I feel like I’ve just been transported back to me as a Lord of the Rings loving 14 year old (yes I was a very cool teenager ;))

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      I wasn’t crazy about Kuala Lumpur either. I wonder how I’d feel now if I returned…

  • Melissa
    May 25 2015

    I lived in Guatemala for two years–divided my time between Antigua and Panajachel–and I just couldn’t make myself fall in love. I had two years to ponder what I was missing and came up with many, many theories; the simplest being there are many other countries I like more. I returned to NYC a year ago, and for the most part, I don’t miss living in Guate. I was curious to hear what you’d think about your visit. We’re very much the minority!

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      We are indeed Melissa — but I find it a huge relief to hear I wasn’t completely alone. I really spent a lot of time wondering why I wasn’t getting swept away…

  • Jessica
    May 25 2015

    It’s to easy to become underwhelmed by a place that you’ve been dreaming of and building up in your head for so long, and it’s even harder when so many others tell you how great it is. I had the same exact thing with the Bahamas our first year there. Guatemala was actually the opposite. I am one of those who fell head in heels in love with that country, but possibly because I had the lowest expectations when I got there. But at least you were still able to appreciate it and didn’t hate it! 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      Indeed! The trip was far from a disaster — I had so many highlights and quite a few memories I’ll cherish. However, I wouldn’t rush to return to Guatemala. Actually I didn’t love my first trip to the Bahamas. So glad I returned, ten years later. I fell totally in love!

  • Meihoukai, I totally understand the feeling. I felt that way about Budapest and much of Costa Rica! I was expecting to love both places, and instead, I wound up wondering if something was wrong with me, or if I had missed something everyone else seemed to get! I felt the same way you do — there were people and certain moments that I loved, but overall, it felt strange to be content to move on. Normally I get at least a small pang of regret that I can’t stay longer. But, I suppose we just aren’t going to jive with every place we see!
    Holly of The Brave Little Cheesehead recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 26 2015

      I definitely didn’t have that pang with Guatemala — and I know exactly what you mean by that. I almost always DO have it, so it’s notable when missing 🙂

  • Very nice images of authentic Guatemala. I’s quite surprised on the McDonalds restaurant there. Very artistic. Thanks for sharing Meihoukai!
    Christian from Squeeze Pod recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 28 2015

      Antigua has ALL the fast foods! They are pretty scenically hidden in historic buildings, however…

  • Lori
    May 26 2015

    I know exactly what you mean. I went to Costa Rica because everyone raves about it and left wondering what I missed. I still don’t get what people love about CR. I have loved so many other Central American countries better.

    • Meihoukai
      May 28 2015

      I guess we can’t all love everywhere. Good thing the favorites are at least getting spread around 🙂 Otherwise my two passions Panama and Nicaragua would be a little too crowded!

  • kristin Addis
    May 27 2015

    I’ve definitely felt this way about places other people loved. There’s no one size fits all place and I always say it’s the people who make a place for me. Not that I’m suggesting you didn’t meet awesome people there, but for me, if I’m alone too much or don’t make good connections, a place falls out of my favor.

    • Meihoukai
      May 28 2015

      I was definitely feeling lonely towards the end of my Guatemala trip — in fact, I detoured completely to return to Guatemala City to see my friends there again! For me, weather also has a massive impact and I just couldn’t get over how uncomfortably cold I was for so much of my time in Guatemala. Sticky heat I can take any day — yet a slight chill puts me in a terrible mood.

  • Laura
    May 27 2015

    Interesting observations! I’m debating going to either Nicaragua (Granada area) or Guatemala (Antigua area) for a long weekend this year and it’s hard to decide between the two! Lots of people say you can’t go wrong with either place yet OTOH we can’t really predict which countries we will connect to.
    Laura recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 28 2015

      For me, the biggest differences were that Granada had a climate I vastly preferred, though Antigua had an expat community I more connected to thanks to my personal connections there. Interested to hear what you decide!

  • Laura
    May 27 2015

    Makes me think that sometimes going into a situation without expectations can be a blessing 🙂
    Laura recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 28 2015

      So true. I definitely set them high for Guatemala — it was a lot for one country to live up to.

  • Kacy
    May 28 2015

    Interesting. I appreciate your honesty! I honestly don’t know that much about Guatemala. It’s on my to-go list, but not really near the top. This is good information to have!
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 28 2015

      You’re welcome, Kacy. It’s always hard to say you didn’t love a place (I feel so guilty!) but in this case it’s just gotta be said…

  • Gordon
    May 28 2015

    With all due respect Meihoukai, no one cares whether you love a place or not. Why should that matter to anyone but yourself? Travel destinations are meant to be enjoyed, not evaluated. It seems you had a great time in Antigua though and good for you. PS> I live in Panama now and am not fond of this place for many reasons. That’s why I’m moving to Antigua soon. Constant heat and humidity suck. I’d rather be able to enjoy being outdoors during the day and not rely on A/C all day long. That’s why Granada is not an option for me. It’s a great looking town, but I can’t bear the heat. But I would never take anything away from Granada just because I’m not a fan of heat. A bit of humility goes a long way.

    • Meihoukai
      May 29 2015

      With all due respect Gordon… I think some people do care, and that’s why they read this blog 🙂 If someone is looking for a completely objective overview of a destination, they can reference a guidebook or plenty of other resource sites that aren’t injected with the author’s personality the way this site is injected with mine. I’m the first to say ‘different strokes for different folks’ — Panama is tied with Nicaragua for my favorite country in Central America and I’d choose sticky heat and humidity over a slight chill any day!

      Frankly, I don’t think stating that I didn’t have chemistry with a certain place has anything to do with humility. I didn’t say anything negative about Guatemala or its people in this post — all I said was it just wasn’t the place for me. Believe me, I did find that hard to write. But judging from the other comments here, I think travelers like to hear that it’s okay not to fall wildly in love with a place that so many others have. I know I do!

      • Gordon
        May 29 2015

        Meihoukai, what I am trying to convey is that just because you were not fond of Guatemala has no bearing on whether someone else will connect with the place or not. I connected with Antigua and that’s why I’m moving there. I never connected with any place in Panama and that’s why I’m leaving here. The main difference between us is that I would never write an entire blog about my dissatisfaction with the country and people of Panama and why I didn’t love it here. The country bears no fault because it is what it is and I just did not care for the place. But I know many people including yourself who like Panama and that’s great for you all. Not everyone feels the same magic of a particular place because we are all wired differently. One thing I will never do is dissuade anyone from visiting anywhere because you are cheating people out of potentially a great experience. Your photos are outstanding and make me want to go back to Antigua! So thank you very much 😉 Enjoy your future travels and peace out.

        • Meihoukai
          May 31 2015

          One thing I just want to point out is that I never said anything negative about the people of Guatemala, as you seem to imply here — in fact just the opposite. I also don’t dissuade anyone from visiting. As for the nature of this post, well, this is my travel blog and the whole point is for me to share my personal views as a traveler with anyone who might be interested to read them. And clearly, many are. You are very welcome for the photos — happy travels to Antigua or wherever else the wind might take you!

        • Francesca
          June 2 2015

          I don’t think Meihoukai is trying to dissuade people from travelling to Guatemala, she’s simply stating that she didn’t connect with the place. She’s being honest! There’s even a whole paragraph about the surprised reaction from other travellers who love it. That’s why people read travel blogs and why it’s a growing industry. People want to hear what other people thought of a place if all you want is information then there are plenty of guidebooks available online 🙂
          Francesca recently posted..

  • TammyOnTheMove
    May 29 2015

    You can’t love every country you go to. I always find that I really like places that other people hate, so when I rave about a place that other people tear apart, I am always gob-smacked. 🙂
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 29 2015

      I think you and I have bonded over places that we loved that others hate, Tammy 🙂

  • Ashley
    May 29 2015

    From what I’ve read about Guatemala, I feel like it could easily turn out to be my favourite country in Central America, but you never know what factors will influence your feelings of a place until you arrive I suppose! I also despise cold weather, so I can understand how the chilliness may have put you off a bit! Although, I’ve been living in chilly Edinburgh for almost a month, and I’m still in love with the city, so it must be one exception to the rule!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 29 2015

      I have an exception too — Iceland! I was really concerned how I’d feel but I ended up falling madly in love. The sky was blue and the sun was shining, though, which always makes sweater weather a lot more bearable!

  • Angie Away
    May 29 2015

    Even though you didn’t love Guatemala, you still made me want to go there. You crazy travel sorceress! How do you do that?!
    Angie Away recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 29 2015

      Crazy travel sorceress… Might just add that to my business card.

  • Evelina
    May 29 2015

    Yes, I feel like that in many places!
    Maybe because I’ve been to a lot of capitals and I’m a nature, countryside kind of gal, so cities like London, Berlin, Bangkok and St Petersburg for example isn’t my cup of tea.
    Evelina recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 31 2015

      I tend to love a mix of rural islands and big cities, so I never really know which places will catch my fancy. I guess you don’t until you arrive!

  • Paul D
    May 29 2015

    Great post, and fantastic photos as usual!

    I totally get the chemistry thing – I had a similar experience in Japan. I had been looking forward to going to Tokyo my whole life, and when I finally got there I found it fell a bit short for me. I find the Japanese people to be wonderful, and everything about it on paper says that it should be right up my alley; but I had just come from my first trip to Thailand, a country that has absolutely stolen my heart, and I think that – like following a great act on stage – it had a lot to live up to.

    I am sure my next trip to Tokyo will blow me away, and I would happily go again. As for Guatemala, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, and can’t wait to go to this part of the world and find out for myself. And, of course, to check out Hobbitenango. 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      May 31 2015

      It just goes to show — you never know until you go (and, it’s hard for a place to live up to high expectations 🙂 ) I would go back to Guatemala too, though there are definitely other parts of Central America that I would return to first.

  • Anke
    May 30 2015

    Just stumbled upon your website and I must confess, I love reading your articles! To me, it’s always been important to read the honest opinion of the writer on travel blogs, so I’m happy to read this (although I’m going to Guatemala soon and I’m thrilled to experience Antigua).
    Honestly, I had the same feeling in Rome: everybody loves it, but I just didn’t feel it. Especially the Colosseum was a big disappointment, and for a while I was thinking: is there something wrong with me? Great food, great weather, a lot of historical sites and activities, most people love it, but still Rome left me indifferent. I did lost my heart in eastern Europe and hope I’ll love Central America as much as Budapest, Krakow, Berlin, Vilnius, Bratislava, Prague,…

    • Meihoukai
      May 31 2015

      You can just never tell which places you are going to click with! (Kind of like people…) I would love to find a way to stop feeling guilty about it when I don’t love a place. After all, it would make the ones we DO fall for a lot less special if everywhere was the same…

  • Abi
    May 31 2015

    Some things just don’t gel…I’ve never really understood the hype around Berlin – and yet other people LOOOOOVE the place. Meanwhile, all I ever hear about Wales are jibes from people who have never even visited. So, who knows?! Whatever you felt about the place, the photographs are beautiful.
    Abi recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 31 2015

      Berlin definitely does get a lot of hype! Always nice to hear it balanced out though — despite how I opened this post, I generally attempt (and yeah, usually fail) to keep expectations in check.

  • Naville
    May 31 2015

    I am really sorry to hear about that feeling towards Guatemala 🙁 For me, even though I am from Central America, I can’t get enough of Antigua and I crave all year long just to be there. Although your words are very true, is like something’s is missing and you don’t know what it is. I got that feeling when I went to Los Angeles.

    • Meihoukai
      May 31 2015

      I’m off to explore Los Angeles this summer for the first time and I admit I’ve always thought I wouldn’t like it because of the traffic and how spread out it is. Curious to see what reality holds!

  • Ligeia and Mindy
    June 2 2015

    We were in Antigua for New Year’s Eve one year. We had read how dangerous the streets could be, so watched the fireworks from our hotel window. We don’t regret that one bit!
    Ligeia and Mindy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 2 2015

      That sounds like a pretty lovely New Year’s Eve to me 🙂 I was so cold at night (and improperly packed) I probably would have hidden inside too!

  • Sara
    June 2 2015

    Hi Meihoukai- my girl friends and I want to go to Guatemala for a 30th bday retreat and I thought I’d Google your blog to see if you’ve been there- and low and behold! Even though you didn’t fall in love and want to move there, my friends and I are just looking for a fun locale to relax that’s not too expensive or difficult to get to from NYC/DC. You only briefly mentioned it, but the only thing holding us back from booking is the crime. Did you feel safe? As 4-5 girls were looking at renting a house on the lake rather than staying at a resort and am curious if you would advise against that. I don’t know anyone who’s been and I’m somewhere in the middle of being freaked out by reports of crime vs thinking that you only hear about the bad stuff in the news and there must be lots of good… Thoughts?

    • Meihoukai
      June 3 2015

      Hey Sara! I always hesitate to give safety advice because I feel my personal experiences are so anecdotal. For example, I felt much more on edge about my safety in Guatemala than I did in El Salvador — but do the statistics back that up at all? I don’t know. I do know that within days of arriving in Guatemala I had heard a few horror stories that kept me on my toes throughout my time there. I met a married couple who’d had their hotel room in Panajachel broken into and wiped clean, my expat friends in Antigua always accompanied me at night and cautioned me against walking alone, and a girl I was traveling with had her tourist shuttle hijacked at gunpoint after crossing the border. So again, those are just anecdotes and there are plenty of travelers I met who told me they felt safer in Guatemala than they’d felt anywhere. Do I think you’d probably be fine? Yes. Do I know that I was a little anxious about walking alone at night and keeping my electronics in my possession? Yes. Basically, I’m useless… I’m sorry!

      One thing I can say for sure if that one place I felt totally comfortable was in Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan — also, in my opinion, the most beautiful spot around the lake. I’d feel totally comfortable booking a place there and hanging with friends!

  • Marni
    June 2 2015

    You can’t love EVERYwhere, right? I think it can also be a hindrance when you hear over and over how great something is, because it can end up feeling disappointing when you don’t see the magic that others do. It could also be your heart making it easier on you if you ever do decide to live long-term in a location again – one less country to choose from! 😉

    • Meihoukai
      June 3 2015

      Definitely… sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a place is that it can be overhyped!

  • Serendipity Tess
    June 3 2015

    How safe would you say is Guatemala as a solo female? I’m heading there in July and it will be my first time in Central America….i’m wondering what I’ll think of Guatemala 🙂 I love the fact that you are always honest 🙂
    Serendipity Tess recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 3 2015

      Hey Tess, check out my answer to Sara above… it’s complicated. Maybe I need to write a post about this.

  • Julia Nix
    June 7 2015

    Don’t feel bad about posting a write up about things/places that underwhelm you. This is the platform to share. What is gold to people may not be gold to us. I have had one, it’s Singapore. My friend being from L.A, he’s completely puzzled by Bali, not really his favourite. He prefers Kuala Lumpur. Haha.

    • Meihoukai
      June 8 2015

      Bali definitely ranks a billion notches about Kuala Lumpur for me — different strokes for different folks, indeed!

  • Absolutely felt that way about Cambodia. People rave about the place and I just stare blankly. Couldn’t get out of there soon enough.
    Laura // Roam Far and Wide recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 14 2015

      Oh man, and that’s one of my top five countries in the world 🙂 Different strokes for different folks on different days!

  • Fini
    August 13 2015

    I was working at Hobbitenango when the mariachi o muerto took place! That made me very happy when I just discovered your blog, that you wrote about Hobbitenango. To me one of the most beautiful places in the world, and definitely a huge part of my Guatemala experience (I lived there for 7 months). It’s so funny how in the big world wide web you suddenly stumble across someone that has been at the same place at the same time as you, at a location so far away from “reality” that its almost impossible to find without having friends tell you about it. I myself only learned about it through friends of Beto and Dan, but if you know Luke you had the same thing. Sorry, this is a very long, pretty pointless comment but I just got super exited about this. Plus I love your blog 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Hey Fini! Thanks for the kind words! it is a small world indeed. Hobbitenango is amazing! Beto and Dan are lovely, I really enjoyed meeting them in Antigua. What a great experience you must have had there.

  • Andrea
    September 23 2015

    I’m Guatemalan and after hearing tourists saying they love Guatemala so many times, it saddens me a bit that you didn’t, haha, but I understand you. I’ve travelled a bit and if there’s a country that everyone loves but I didn’t, that would be Italy, especially Firenze – it’s just so… dull. Sure, there are some beautiful places, like Positano (in fact, I fell in love with this one) but I didn’t get the hype.

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Aw, I know! I hate to insult anyone which is why it’s always hard to write anything negative. But I guess every person can’t love every place 🙂 There was plenty I did enjoy in Guatemala!

  • Caitlin
    March 10 2016

    I felt this way about Hoi An in Vietnam. All my friends had ranted and raved about it so our expectations were high and we were pretty disappointed. The town was absolutely stunning but it was ruined by how much the locals harassed you to buy things, eat in their restuarants, take their tours etc. Though the family we stayed with were lovely, we didn’t feel as weclome in Hoi An as we did in the rest of Vietnam.

    • Meihoukai
      March 12 2016

      That’s a shame Caitlin. I haven’t been there yet but do hope to visit someday — this will definitely help manage my expectations for when I do.

  • Miguel
    November 27 2017

    I just got back from Guatemala last week and did a quick search to find out if anyone felt underwhelmed, as I certainly did.

    My travels only brought me to GC (maybe my least favorite city in the world), Antigua (tourist trap/average food/expensive prices), and Lake Atitlan (Drop-dead Gorgeous, but not without it’s issues – particularly the hassle of getting around the lake).

    I hate to say it but it seems very unlikely I would ever go back. The people seemed cold at times, you are almost guaranteed to be hassled by someone trying to sell you something in the streets wherever you go, the lack of easily accessible stores and clean water…and honestly sometimes it just felt unsafe. The scenery is beautiful, there’s no arguing that…but to me I’m not sure it was worth all the negatives of traveling there.

    • Meihoukai
      November 27 2017

      Hey Miguel! Yeah, everywhere is definitely not for everyone 🙂 Funny enough I loved my time in Guatemala City as you might read in my post there, and I really loved the lake. But I didn’t feel the magic in Antigua, at least not compared to other places I’d traveled in Central America. I really felt underwhelmed by Semuc Champey as well and while I enjoyed my time in Monterrico, Livingston and Flores, I was never overwhelmed with joy!