Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

This might be the post I’ve been most excited to write from my entire six weeks in Guatemala — it’s also, fittingly, the last, which is usually what the best is saved for. Why am I so animated over this one? Well, Guatemala City doesn’t have much of a reputation among travelers. Most, in fact, don’t spent a single night here unless forced to by a flight. Like most Central America capitals (Panama City being the one exception), Guatemala City is considered entirely skippable.

I don’t blame anyone for thinking so — I know I would have happily breezed by were it not for three of my close friends from Brooklyn spending several months on an in the city’s lively Zone Cuatro.

Guatemala City Zone Four

Guatemala City Zone Four

Guatemala City Zone Four

After our weekend away in Monterrico earlier in my trip, I’d returned with Steffi, Sam and Mary to Guatemala City for one night before moving onward back to Antigua. We arrived in the evening and I left in the morning, but one night in their funky communal living compound had me itching to go back and explore more. And so later, after a week spent in the fairly rural outposts of Livingston, Rio Dulce, and Lanquin, I was ready for some big city action — not to mention some big hugs from old friends.

I wasn’t expecting much more than quality time with my nearest and dearest out of Guatemala City. After all, it’s a sprawling concrete metropolis that doesn’t even come close to making it onto the Gringo Trail. As , always generous to the underdog, quips, “depending on who you talk to, Guatemala City is either big, dirty, dangerous and utterly forgettable or big, dirty, dangerous and fascinating.” I was about to be surprised by the fascinating side.

Guatemala City Street Art

Guatemala City Street Art

Guatemala City Street Art

Zona Cuatro, or Zone Four, was my home base. The city is broken into various zones, each with a distinct personality. Zona Cuatro is kind of the Brooklyn of Guatemala City — filled with street art, chic cafes, trendy design studios, bohemian restaurants, and communal workspaces for young entrepreneurs.

It was the perfect place for a wander. While Sam admitted that there’d been a recent daytime mugging only blocks away, this sector of the city felt no more or less dangerous than anywhere else I’d been in Guatemala, and I felt comfortable carrying my (admittedly old and practically defunct) dSLR around in my bag.

Guatemala City Graffiti

Guatemala City Graffiti

Cafe Despierto Guatemala City

Guatemala City Zone Four

I admit that I was totally spoiled by healthy meals cooked by my fabulous friends for the vast majority of the time I was in Guatemala City. The living and working space they were based in was shared by artists, architects, and NGO workers from Guatemala and beyond, and I loved getting to know them over mealtime. Seriously, after months of eating in restaurant nothing feels quite as luxurious as eating a homemade dinner in the kitchen in your sweatpants while drinking wine out of a plastic cup. Travel does funny things to one’s perspective on life.

But that said, we did get to try out some great restaurants in Guatemala City. Fresh squeezed orange juice and cold coconuts were frequent splurges on the street, and , , and were three Zona Cuatro favorites.

Street Food Guatemala City

Caminito Guatemala City

Caminito Guatemala City

Caminito Guatemala City

Zona Cuatro is also home to Centro Cívico, home to the country’s Supreme Court and other official buildings. I loved walking through this district as it reminded me so strongly of my hometown of Albany, New York, and their distinctive shared architectural style. In fact, I posted a photo on of this area and a friend from home commented that at first glance they thought I’d come home early.

Palacio de Justicia Guatemala City

Palacio de Justicia Guatemala City

Palacio de Justicia Guatemala City

It was also the perfect setting for an impromptu photoshoot. But where isn’t, with these two?

Palacio de Justicia Guatemala City

Palacio de Justicia Guatemala City

Palacio de Justicia Guatemala City

Palacio de Justicia Guatemala City

One afternoon we headed to Zone Ten, where we ran some errands, marveled at a Guatemalan mega-mall, and checked out the Guat City location of , the salad and juice bar I’d become so enamored with in Antigua. Zone Ten is the ritziest and most modern sector of Guatemala City and there are American-style chains around every corner, so this organic and original outpost was quite a treat. We all joked that my buying lunch constituted my turn in the kitchen but ha ha we weren’t kidding these guys have literally tried my cooking.

It’s really better that I just leave those sorts of things to the professionals.

Pitaya Guatemala City

Pitaya Guatemala City

Pitaya Guatemala City

Zone Ten Guatemala City

The final zone — of interest to travelers, anyway — that we had left to conquer was Zone One, the historic center of the city. Here we browsed through markets for fresh produce, dipped into a , snacked on street food and checked out an art exhibit in the Parque Central. Before I move on, a note on Megapacas — these are Guatemala’s crazy cheap version of the Salvation Army, and I scooped up some beautiful new things for just a few bucks a piece. ? Two dollars. ? Three! They are all over the country and are also a great place to nab a few warmer pieces if you’re caught off guard by Antigua‘s chillier temperatures, for example. Saying I’m not much of a shopper is kind of an understatement, but even I couldn’t resist the allure of the Guatemala City Megapaca.

Once we were loaded up on old clothes, it was time to get some culture on…

Zone One Guatemala City

Parque Central Guatemala City

Nothing makes a bunch of art school survivors as giddy as a big public art installation, so we were thrilled to explore the exhibit housed in the Parque Central. The installation was a beautiful blend of modern and historic, and I loved seeing work from Guatemala City’s most celebrated artists displayed inside of it.

Parque Central Guatemala City

Parque Central Guatemala City

Parque Central Guatemala City

Yes, we had some amazing adventures during the day. But we also had some pretty great ones by night. No, we didn’t check out the city’s bars or nightclubs, or explore its lounges or theaters. The majority of our time, in fact, was spent giggling inside what I affectionately referred to as “the compound” where my friends lived and worked. But on my last two nights in Guatemala City, we played at .

For the most part, we got around Guatemala City by foot or by the efficient mass transit system the Transmetro. But these evenings we biked through the hectic and chaotic traffic of the city, which was a great warm up for the workouts that were to come. My first night at Yantra Studios, we took a . Capoeria is a Brazilian martial art that I’ve been hoping to try for ages. While I don’t know if it was really my thing, I loved the music and enjoyed the playful workout.

Yantra Guatemala City

Aerial Silks Guatemala City

The second class we attended, however, might become a new obsession at some point. How did it take me so long to try ? It might not look like much work, but holy wow — I don’t think my arms have every been as sore as they were the day after this class. My friend Mary has been silking for almost a year and watching her clamor up that fabric was unbelievable. Steffi and I were first timers and could only manage about half the class before our arms gave out in protest.

It was so much fun! And at 50 quetzales (less than $7USD), it was a bargain to try.

Yantra Guatemala City

Silks Class Guatemala City

Yantra Guatemala City

Silks Class Guatemala City

Aerial Silks Guatemala City

From cute cafes to capoeira classes, from modern art to megapacas, Guatemala City might have been my favorite stop in all of Guatemala — and I don’t think I’ve ever heard another travelers utter that same opinion. Of course, much of that had to do with my unique circumstance of having friends who were able to host me and show me around town. Between the festival they threw in El Salvador and our adventures here in Guatemala, this might have been the most time I’ve spent with these cuties since college!

But that doesn’t mean that others couldn’t enjoy some of the same wonder I did at Guatemala City. Travelers, I encourage you to tack on a day or two in the capital before that plane takes off — you might be surprised by the gems you uncover under all the grit and grime.

Have you ever fallen for a city others dismissed as foul?

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
102 Comments...
  • Sarah
    August 11 2015

    I LOVE the colours and SO want to try this aerial silking-thing!
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      I need to find it again sometime soon! I’d have Madonna arms in no time!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    August 11 2015

    OK, a) I need to go back and give GC a second try, clearly, and b) I REALLY WANT TO SILK NOW.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      I bet you they have it in Nashville 🙂

  • Kacy
    August 11 2015

    This is interesting to hear! I’ve recently become kind of disheartened with cities and think of myself as more of a beach/country type of traveler, but I’m always willing to give them a shot. Most people around here, and maybe in general, are kind of ho hum about Sao Paulo, but I actually love it. It’s one of the few HUGE cities in the world I could actually envision living in.
    Silking sounds like so much fun! I will have to look for places to try it!
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      Nice to hear some love for another very under-appreciated city! I haven’t been to Brazil yet but I’m sure when I do I’ll be popping through Sao Paulo…

  • becky hutner
    August 11 2015

    What great insight into a place I’ve never considered. Hosts make all the difference though. These days I’m much more prone to travel to destinations where I know someone, however tenuously! There’s nothing like a cozy home and a built-in guide.

    Trying to think of cities I liked that don’t get much love. I was fascinated by Detroit but there’s so much cool stuff happening there these days, I think the secret is out!
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      I’m with ya. I feel like a huge percentage of the places I go, I go to because I’m visiting someone. It’s great! I love being shown a city by someone who loves living there.

  • Michelle
    August 11 2015

    I’ve been a silent reader here for a while (your posts are hugely enjoyable reads, btw – thanks!) but as someone who has visited Albany 4 times in the last 4 years, I just had to say that the Centro Civico does indeed look strikingly like the Empire State Plaza area! Who would’ve thought?! I also just read your summer tour of Albany post and am now sad that I didn’t come across it earlier as I won’t be going there again in the near future 🙁
    Michelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      That is indeed a bummer! What brought you to Albany, Michelle?

      • Michelle
        August 11 2015

        I was there for the New York bar exam and subsequent admission – first my boyfriend did it and then I did it myself. All the non-US citizens usually have to do it in either Albany or Buffalo but we both got Albany =D we didn’t stay long though cos I had no idea there was so much to do there! (Not a good testament to my research skills, I know)
        Michelle recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          August 12 2015

          Let me know if you ever go back — I’ll shoot you a list of restaurant recommendations!

  • Marni
    August 11 2015

    Aerial silking looks like so much fun! Guatemala City seems incredibly interesting, and I love how even in just these pictures you can really see the diversity of architecture there. Also, I’m a sucker for bright, colorful places, so that makes it even better!

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      You’d go gaga for Central America, then 🙂

  • Emma
    August 11 2015

    Sounds like a city worth getting to know. That aerial silking sounds really fun too, though I’d probably be awful at it!
    Emma recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      Oh, I definitely was! But you know what they say about practice…

  • Charlie
    August 11 2015

    I’m one of those travellers that didn’t stop by Guatemala City – because I didn’t have to and because I hadn’t heard anything good about it! It’s an awesome surprise to hear that actually the city looks/sounds pretty cool. It really goes to show that having friends there can make a real difference – and so can a little bit of exploring! 🙂
    Charlie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      Indeed! I actually didn’t meet a single other traveler who had been there — I’m hoping someone will chime in, as I’d be curious to hear their experience!

  • I love the post and the enthusiasm that you invoke. And with cool friends and a lovely place to hang out, you’re in heaven. 🙂
    [email protected] The British Berliner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      Thanks Victoria! I think it’s easy to get excited about a place it feels like no one is talking about… feels like you’ve discovered it! (Though clearly not accurate, still feels fun 😉 )

  • Erin
    August 11 2015

    This post makes me want to go to Guatemala! I love thrift shopping but it rarely gets THAT cheap in the stores here so that one you mentioned sounds great! Also we got a new yoga/dance studio right near my house that does aerial silks! Ive been wanting to try for so long….its more like $20-$25 per class tho.. 😛 lol

    • Meihoukai
      August 11 2015

      Yup, love trying out all these fun new hobbies in places with prices like this 🙂

  • Katie
    August 11 2015

    Man, how I relate to the luxury of a home cooked meal with friends and sweatpants. So true! Love this post. Once again, saving for my eventual return to South America…and definitely remembering silking. Would definitely spend $7 to try that out! Have you gotten back into it anywhere else since?
    Katie recently posted..

  • Rachel
    August 11 2015

    Haha I love this post because I totally just stayed in the Brooklyn of San Juan, Puerto Rico. One local even told us that it was really cool that we were in the hipster neighborhood rather than the resort neighborhood or Old San Juan. Lots of street art, mustaches, and trendy food spots.
    Rachel recently posted..

  • Leah
    August 12 2015

    I think I’m echoing the comments above me but having great hosts can make such a difference! That aerial silking thing DOES look pretty badass and I’m sure it is a super tough workout. Would love to try. Do they have that on Koh Tao yet? 😉
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 12 2015

      They did once upon a time, actually! They had a teacher over from Koh Samui teaching it at the trapeze school, but it was very short lived. Would love it if they got it going again.

  • Katie
    August 12 2015

    I never would have thought that dirty and dangerous Guatemala City had such a funky side! I think if I knew someone there it would be cool to explore but as a tourist – I’m not so sure
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 12 2015

      There is a hostel in Zone 10 that looks pretty nice — I think if someone went and stayed there with a list of places to visit like this, they could see a really cool side of the city!

  • Janis
    August 12 2015

    Great pics. Love your take on a destination not favored by others…reminding us to keep our minds open and experience life for ourselves. The ropes looked like a blast and a great workout…doubt I could even lift myself.

    • Meihoukai
      August 12 2015

      It is not easy! And yes, it was refreshing to remember that all destinations have something redeeming about them.

  • Laurene
    August 12 2015

    Ginga! :))

    Just added GC to my wanderlist! :))

    • Meihoukai
      August 12 2015

      Must be getting pretty long these days 😉

  • Britt
    August 12 2015

    Wow! What a surprising post. Don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone give even a little bit, let alone this much praise to Guatemala City.

    Zone 4 does look like a lot like the Fitzroy/Brunswick areas of Melbourne, but with the added Guatemala touch! I wonder if you would have had the same experience if you were travelling alone!
    Britt recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 12 2015

      I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea where to go or what to see, so I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t have, ha. That said, I think if someone reading this post wanted to use it as a guide to check out a cool side of the city, they absolutely could go have a cool experience that way! There is indeed a hostel in Zone Ten…

  • Looks great, actually! And now I REALLY want to do the ariel workout!!

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Me too! Hoping I can find another one soon!

  • Mary
    August 13 2015

    Wow! This city is full of color and looks like there are a lot of photo opportunities. The art on the buildings seem to express themselves to the world around them. I was in this city for a very brief 2 hours, so I did not get a chance to explore. Looks like you had a lot of fun! Keep on traveling and stay safe!
    Mary recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Thanks Mary! I feel very grateful for the time I had to explore this city so many don’t get the opportunity to see.

  • claudia
    August 13 2015

    I live in Guatemala city and your article showed me places I didn’t even know exist, nice!

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      That’s nice to hear, Claudia! Hope you have a good time checking some of them out 🙂

  • As always, GORGEOUS photos! I didn’t know much about Guatemala City one way or the other, but your photos do a great job showcasing the “fascinating” side of the city.
    Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Thank you Beth! I love being able to show something a little different than others might expect.

  • Nina
    August 13 2015

    As a Guatemalan Native, im so glad you loved the Capital. Personally, my favourite place has to be the Central Market and Sexta Avenida. I don’t go to Zona Cuatro much, but thats just because I really haven’t had the need to. But now, I will make sure to stop by and check the area out sometime.
    Thanks!

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Hey Nina! Thanks for reading and saying hi. Zona Cuatro is amazing, hope you enjoy it when you check it out!

  • Meihoukaiis Villatoro
    August 13 2015

    I am actually from Guatemala City born and raised there, but moved to the US when I was a teenager. I went back and spent a year and a half living in Guatemala City last year and it was great. There is a huge music and artistic underground scene going on which is really hard to find out about because for some reason they keep it that way.

    I highly recommend you guys visit USAC´s Jamrock (reggae bar and the only one I think) also Zone 1´s La Maga Both of these two bars are frequented by a lot of independent artists from the City. Zone 10 is pretty cool too I forgot the name of the place but they have good music everyday. Just stay away from ghetto places though!

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Ah, a reggae bar — now you’re speaking my language! I’ll definitely check that out if I find myself back in Guatemala City.

  • Oscar O
    August 14 2015

    Greetings from Guatemala City! It’s good to read something good about it (even some of us hate it sometimes, not only travelers) but sure there is a lot to do. Well, you are always welcome if you want to come back! I bet you can find a lot of things to do 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Thanks Oscar! I can understand, I’m from a city most people don’t see as very glamorous (Albany, New York). I’m always proud when I hear something nice about it.

  • Hannah
    August 14 2015

    Wow! Thank you for this great post! One of the best travel blog posts I’ve read in fact! A perfect balance between not too wordy and actually sharing relevant information and unique insight- surprisingly rare in this game I find!!! I will no longer pass straight through Guatemala City 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Thanks for the kind words Hannah! I appreciate that 🙂

  • Rafael Paredes
    August 14 2015

    People don’t understand why I spent 2 weeks in Guatemala City. I just loved it. I went to a Pink Floyd tribute at Lux Theatre, got to talk with urbanists about the downtown new look, got to meet neighbors from Zona 1 while organizing the “Entamalarte” festival, and I went to Caja Lúdica ONG which works with young people teching them circus arts, “La Erre” and Proyectos Ultravioleta art galleries were also amazing and the street art, nightlife was fun too. I mean, 2 weeks was not enough, I’m going back soon.

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Sounds like you had an awesome trip. Enjoy your return!

  • Mary B
    August 14 2015

    Knowing someone can make such a huge difference! I’m currently in Tbilisi and have been lucky enough to meet up with several friends-of-friends who’ve taken me under their wing and given me insight into Georgia. It makes me feel so much more at home!

    I didn’t give GC a try when I lived in Central America, but you’ve made a strong case for it. Aerial class for $7?!?! My arms would be so buff!

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Right?! I can’t even find discounted barre classes for that rate up in Albany.

  • Cecilia
    August 14 2015

    Wow, thank you for sharing the other side of my beautiful country. I am taking my husband and sons for the first time next yer and a couple of our friends too. My folder is almost done with lots to do and see. We will be in the city at least two days, so this helps a lot. Gracias Amiga..

    • Meihoukai
      August 15 2015

      You are so welcome, Celilia! De nada!

  • Maria
    August 14 2015

    All in all very informative, but I must say having lived in Zone 12 most of my life, I’m a bit appalled by “The city is broken into eleven of these zones, each with a distinct personality”. There are many more zones… and, it’s usually really hard to tell where one zone ends and the other starts, most of the time… (unless you’re comparing extremes). Anyway, thanks for writing something positive about Guate. A little fact-checking wouldn’t hurt though 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      August 15 2015

      Hey Maria, happy to share my excitement over a very cool city! As for the number of zones, I’ve actually found conflicting info on this — my guidebook mentioned 12 (I was mistaken typing 11 and have corrected it), another commenter said 25, another internet source says 24. So perhaps you can forgive my confusion. I spend hours upon hours on each and every post and research and edit tirelessly, but this is a one-woman show and I am the writer, photographer, editor, accountant, business manager, and beyond for this site so you’ll have to forgive me if an error slips through every once in a while. Thanks for setting me straight! (Although I do maintain my opinion that the zones I visited were distinctly different!)

  • Diego Reckholder
    August 14 2015

    Hey, that was a pretty nice review from my city. You know places I didn’t even know exist. Thanks for such great review!!!

    But, Guatemala has 25 zones, not eleven 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      August 15 2015

      You are so welcome Diego! Hope you enjoy checking some of those places out 🙂

  • Diego
    August 15 2015

    Dear Meihoukai,

    I am a Guatemalan diplomat living in New York, and I have to say I enjoyed your article a lot. I lived in Guatemala City most of my life and I go back 4-8 times a year, and it is a great place if you know where to go. If you ever feel like visiting new places in the city I would be very glad in giving a couple of tips. Cheers,

    • Meihoukai
      August 15 2015

      Thank you so much Diego! If Visit Guatemala ever wants to share this post, I’d be thrilled 🙂 I appreciate the offer of insider tips, and I’ll certainly take you up on it should I ever return.

  • Nice shots of Guatemala City!!! I visited it twice in 2013 although I spent most of my time between the bus station and the chicken bus station haha 😀
    Raphael Meihoukaiander Zoren recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 17 2015

      Maybe next time you can make your stopover a little longer 🙂

  • Richard Heap
    August 16 2015

    That’s a lovely article, and nice to see the pics of Cuatro Grados Norte up there. Cracking artwork. I lived in the city (Z1) for 4 years as a graphic designer. It’s full of hidden gems.

    • Meihoukai
      August 17 2015

      Indeed it seems so. I would have happily spent more time there! Thanks for reading, Richard.

  • Ramsey
    August 16 2015

    Hi, great post, it sure doesn’t suck!

    I lived in Guatemala for 3 years and a half, got married there to a Guatemalan, and now have a child together. We’re now in Canada, unfortunately lol, and we miss Guatemala a lot.

    We’re both not fans of Zona 1, 2, 3, parts of 4, 5, 6, 7, 18, 21, and some others as they’re more dangerous than others and quite rundown. The true beauty lies in Zone 16, 15, 14, 10, parts of 9, and 13. (ok yeah I can tell people will get confused now LOL). The best part is when you go even higher to “Carretera a El Salvador” KM 13 and over, you get precious city views and great restaurants. The area is much safer also.

    About restaurants, that city and its surrounding areas have some of the best ever. I find that I can’t enjoy restaurants in Canada anymore after living in Guatemala. The service, the people, the smiles, the humbleness, are important things that I can’t find here in Canada.

    We used to get out of the city at least twice a month as the country is sooooooooo beautiful and there’s always something to do or a place to visit. Yet when we stay out too long we end up missing that city, weird huh?

    I don’t find the city dirty (unless when visiting the unfortunate slums), it’s actually pretty clean in most areas. They clean the streets daily so not sure why some think it’s dirty.

    By the way, every Sunday around Zone 14 and 9, the government blocks the streets so that cars can’t pass there and allow pedestrians to run, walk, and enjoy a peaceful time there. Thousands and thousands are there weekly, such an awesome time!

    • Meihoukai
      August 17 2015

      I actually heard about the pedestrian streets from one of the friends I was staying with! I meant to go running but we had other plans over the weekend. It sounded awesome though — I wish more cities would do so!

  • Karen
    August 16 2015

    such a vibrant city bursting with color. I love CA and try to travel around there any chance I get. I totally understand the value of a home cooked meal after eating out all the time while on the road 😉 keep up the inspirational travel adventures!

    • Meihoukai
      August 17 2015

      Thank you Karen! I too adore Central America, and have been so lucky to see so much of it! I’m sure I’ll be back over and over again for more adventures…

  • Crista Buonafina
    August 16 2015

    Thank you! This article is an amazing article! I read it and it is fascinating the way you describe GC. To tell you the truth I have had the opportunity to live in Europe I have my Italian passport but was born and raised in Guatemala City. Life here is so privileged for those of us who live and really grasp the amazing atmosphere. Yes, we are facing difficult moments, but many countries in the world are too. The great thing about us Guatemalans is that our attitude, optimism and creativity is becoming stronger everyday.
    Salud!! Crista 😉

    • Meihoukai
      August 17 2015

      What a lovely sentiment Crista. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! You have a lovely home.

  • Love this Meihoukai! I visited Guatemala City in 2001 as part of my first ever international trip. Before going there everyone had told me “avoid Guatemala city, it’s the most dangerous city in the world.” I also loved the city and went to see some live music where I met a whole lot of locals my age. One of the guys I met that night couldn’t believe that I had visited New York City every year growing up. He said to me “I would never go to New York, it’s the most dangerous city in the world” 🙂
    Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 17 2015

      Ha! I love that story. I also love hearing from another traveler who had a great time in Guatemala City! I actually had a similar experience in San Jose, Costa Rica, where I did a student exchange in high school. No one I meet now understands why I spent two weeks there, but I had such an amazing time. I feel lucky to have seen another side of these under appreciated cities.

  • TammyOnTheMove
    August 17 2015

    I am so glad I finally read something positive about GC. I have been eyeing this city out for a while now (that’s why I was so curious about your post!), as there are good job opportunities in the international development sector within GC, however all I ever read about it was negative. Thank you for showing a good side of this city. Since we seem to have a similar taste in destinations, I am sure I’d like this place too. 😉
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2015

      I think you would Tammy! There’s a lot to discover in Guatemala City and I like that in a place. Plus there is easy access to so many great weekend getaways. I’d be excited to see your take on it.

  • Leigh
    August 21 2015

    I’m glad your Guatemala experience ended on a high note! This seems like a prime example of how much better a place can be when you are visiting someone, vs just being a tourist!

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2015

      Seriously! I was so lucky to have so many fantastic people to meet up with all over Central America. It did indeed make all the difference!

  • Elisa
    August 23 2015

    What a beautiful, colorful and vibrant place!! Wonderful insight on this place!

    • Meihoukai
      August 26 2015

      Thanks Elisa! Glad you enjoyed this post!

  • Alyssa
    September 6 2015

    Two friends and I were traveling in Guatemala in January and only got to spend a few hours in GC while we were waiting for a bus. We also hadn’t heard anything great about it but had some time to go to Zone 1 and absolutely loved it. My friend, who’s traveled pretty much everywhere, said it was one of her favorite places because it was only locals around. I’m glad to hear there’s much more to the city to explore!

    • Meihoukai
      September 10 2015

      Indeed! Next time I’d say throw a few days between those two bus trips 🙂

  • Danir
    September 8 2015

    Next time you’re in Brooklyn, check out the Muse for silks and circus classes!

    • Meihoukai
      September 10 2015

      I’ve heard of it! Would love to check Muse out 🙂

  • Laura @ Grassroots Nomad
    December 20 2015

    Yay!! I leave next week to spend 7 months in Guatemala – one in Xela and 6 in Guatemala City and this is the first time I have heard anyone say anything positive about the city! I am really struggling to find somewhere to live while I’m volunteering there – do you happen to have any tips for where I could look and where I could find other expats? Thanks so much for making me excited about my trip and less worried about being homeless and friendless! 🙂
    Laura @ Grassroots Nomad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Hey Laura! Yay, I’m glad I could give you something to look forward to 🙂 Unfortunately I don’t have any housing tips — but I’d try looking for an expat group on Facebook (so many cities have them) and ask around there. Best of luck!

  • Marco
    April 3 2016

    Come to visit us again?

  • Romain
    May 5 2016

    Hey Meihoukai, it’s so reassuring to read this kind of article!!
    I’m going to Guatemala City for approximately a month and a half this summer (internship), and don’t know anyone there!
    This “funky communal living compound” you’re talking about looks great, do you know if it’s possible to have a bed there for this summer?

    It would be of great help if you had a or something to share 😉

    Very nice website, articles and pictures !

    Best,

    • Meihoukai
      May 7 2016

      Hey Romain! My friends no longer live there as they are back in the US but I recommend checking out the Jewel Box Project and seeing if you can find any leads from there. Good luck!

  • Romain
    May 10 2016

    Thanks for you answer, it really helped !!

    I booked a room there !!

  • Mariana
    June 18 2016

    And thats exactly what I tell my friends in the us and México( im mexican but I live in Guatemala) everyone thinks that guate is the worst but you would be surprised 🙂 btw 90% of my closet consists of megapaca finds! So cheap!! Sometimes clothes have the tags on 🙂 there is Also a store zapato loco where you can buy new designer shoes and bags for about 10 dólares haha 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      June 18 2016

      Awesome tip Mariana! I’ll definitely be checking out Zapato Loco should I ever return 🙂

  • Stefanie
    August 14 2016

    Please email me with information of where aerial silking is in Guatemala City. (Email address, website, etc?)

    Thank you!

    • Meihoukai
      August 15 2016

      Hey Stefanie! Yantra’s Facebook is linked to in the post and that’s as much information as I have. Good luck tracking them down!

  • Mariel
    November 28 2016

    Hi Meihoukai!
    I am leaving to Guatemala this week to form part of a volunteer group. I am thrilled and I am so glad I ran into your post via Pinterest! I want to know where I can find that cafe/restaurant with the tropical fruit facade – it’s fascinating! I truly love your post and enjoyed your pictures! Thank you for sharing!

    • Meihoukai
      December 5 2016

      Hey Mariel! Sorry, I think I missed the deadline for this! But if you go back, you can find Pitaya’s location on their website (I linked to it in the post.) Enjoy!

  • Jacquelyn Lumley
    April 4 2017

    Hey! I am heading to Guatemala City this weekend. Where in Zone 4 did you stay?
    Jacquelyn Lumley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 6 2017

      Hey there! I stayed with my friends who were hosting me, so unfortunately don’t have any hostel or hotel to recommend. Best of luck and enjoy your trip!

  • Shelby
    April 14 2017

    I am heading to Guatemala for eight-weeks this summer! After reading through some disheartening information about the red zones in Guatemala, this was a pleasant post to find! Thank you for sharing the joys of an often misrepresented city.

    • Meihoukai
      April 18 2017

      You’re so welcome Shelby! It was a privilege to share a bit of positivity around an under-appreciated city 🙂