An Extraordinary Guide to Caribbean Coast of Guatemala: Livingston (Part I)

Waterfront pier over at Casa Rosada. Livingston, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega
Chilling in a tiny pool of the most refreshing water while hiking up to the waterfalls of Siete Altares, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Chilling in a tiny pool of the most refreshing water while hiking up to the waterfalls of Siete Altares, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Guatemala’s coastal borders with the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea could not be more different.  La Costa, refers to the fertile lands between chains of volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean. It is coarse, black volcanic sand continuously pounded by the raging Pacific. By contrast, Guatemala’s narrow coastline on the Caribbean side is a tropical jungle opening where the Rio Dulce, or ‘sweet river’ follows its path to the sea. (Part II click here)

Where the river meets the salty ocean stands the Garifuna town of Livingston. This is a corner of Guatemala so unlike the rest of the country, it is hard believe you are not some island far, far away. The remote location and lack of connecting roads have helped to preserve this completely separate culture. Descendants from the Black Caribs of St. Vincent (Nigerian slaves mixed with Carib locals and consider themselves a separate race) the Garifuna people brought their own language, music, delicious seafood based gastronomy and some still practice an Afro-Carib religion know as dugu.

Livingston is still a small community, though a few roads have been paved and virtually any car you see will operate as a taxi (20Q to anywhere). The main strip from the public dock is packed with Western style restaurants and a few hostels. Shops there are clearly targeting tourism with all kinds seaside souvenirs such as giant conch shells, carved coconuts and sea stars as well as traditional Garifuna ailment cures and natural oils. The waterfront on the river side is lined with small hotels, perfectly positioned to invite in the fresh breeze on balmy, humid days. (See accommodations below)

The beaches around town are generally not nice. Most people will take the popular full day tour to Playa Blanca or White Beach. Living up to its name, this white sand, sparkly blue sea water is a bit of an anomaly for Guatemala. There is a 20Q charge to use the beach, money goes to cleaning up large amounts of sea trash that washes unto the entire coastline. Better yet, make your way to Siete Altares (Seven Altars). A cool, freshwater river waterfalls into pools beneath the soaring jungle. Hike up the pools through a series of makeshift paths to bathe, relax and jump off the rocks. 20Q entrance fee.

The Tour

A lancha departs at 9am taking the group to Siete Altares first for a brief swim before dropping everyone off at Playa Blanca for the day. A sandwich is provided for lunch and the lancha returns at 3:30pm. Entrance fees not included.

Travel Tip:

Unless you’ve never seen a white sand beach before, skip the tour (and the crowds) and make your way to Siete Altares by land. It’s a long but straight forward walk from Livingston that affords you looks into how people really live and work. Distinct architecture, alternating concrete palaces and thatched huts, abandoned homes reclaimed by the jungle, makeshift shops, a colouful cemetery and plenty of characters along the way. Follow the paved road past the Mayan village where it’s hard not to marvel at how different and separate these two groups of people are.

When the road ends, cross the hanging bridge and keep walking along the black sand coastline another half an hour until you see the pier.

Depart early so you can avoid the midday heat and drink lots of water 🙂

Return trip: Walk back to the bridge where there is often someone willing to drive you back into town for a fee. We paid 20Q for 3 people.

Safety

Everyone we spoke with assured us that this is a very small and tranquil community. We never felt unsafe walking about.

On our coastal stroll outside of ‪Livingston‬, Guatemala‬ we came upon a massive and beautiful ‪SeaTurtle‬ only to discover that someone, or something had completely severed it's head right off. Even though it's likely it was not a human, it's still completely heartbreaking frown emoticon I was told by a ‪Garifuna‬ man that people here still eat them as well as putting great value on the shells for instruments and decorations. April posed with the turtle just for the purpose of gaining scale. The turtle was gone on our return trip through. -- Karina Noriega

On our coastal stroll outside of ‪Livingston‬, Guatemala‬ we came upon a massive and beautiful ‪SeaTurtle‬ only to discover that someone, or something had completely severed it’s head right off. Even though it’s likely it was not a human, it’s still completely heartbreaking frown emoticon I was told by a ‪Garifuna‬ man that people here still eat them as well as putting great value on the shells for instruments and decorations. April posed with the turtle just for the purpose of gaining scale. The turtle was gone on our return trip through. — Karina Noriega


Accommodations 

  • There is only one luxury option in Livingston.

    Poolside at Villa Caribe. Livingston, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

    Poolside at Villa Caribe. Livingston, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Villa Caribe is tucked perfectly into the edge of the peninsula. It can easily pass as an all-inclusive with its waterfront location, on-site restaurant, elevated suites for the best views and the golden ticket, a huge palm tree rimmed swimming pool.

Prices start at US$115per night based on double occupancy and includes 2 breakfasts and 2 dinners. villacaribe@villasdeguatemala.com +(502)2223-5005  ext.116

  • Backpacker Budget

Most backpackers head straight to Casa de la Iguana. Unfortunately it is not by the water so it can get scorching hot but they have a large range of options. Share a private room for 3 at 120Q, a dorm bed for 50Q or spend the night under the stars for 20Q They pride themselves on being a party hostel, in fact, some of the on duty staff were simply “too f*cked up to help”. Happy hour is 6-8pm… or all the time. +(502)7947-0976

  • My choice

Casa Rosada. Simple and rustic bungalows with a fan, mosquito nets and separate bathroom and shower areas. Clean and well maintained with an excellent little restaurant that serves 3 course meals and attracts guests from all over Livingston. Very quiet and relaxed. Selling point: long pier over the water complete with a rancho and hammocks to laze the day away.

160Q per bungalow (we paid 180Q for 3 of us to share) +(502)7947-0303 www.hotelcasarosada.com

Enjoying our stay at Casa Rosada. Bungalow, pier, rancho and hammocks delight. Casa Rosada. Livingston, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Enjoying our stay at Casa Rosada. Bungalow, pier, rancho and hammocks delight. Casa Rosada. Livingston, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Travel Tip:

High Season in Livingston is June, July and August. Prepare for fully booked accommodations and rising prices.

We went in April and it was absolutely perfect. Hot sunny days with a cool ocean breeze, few tourists and NO mosquitos!

Personal Recommendations for Food

April and I made multiple visits to Vilma's empanada emporium :) Livingston, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

April and I made multiple visits to Vilma’s empanada emporium 🙂 Livingston, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

– Across from Hotel Delfin, on calle (street) Marcos Sanchez Diaz is a little tienda (store) without a name. The matriarch of a friendly local family cooks up delicious and filling chicken or fish empanadas for just 2Q each (less than 25centUS). It can literally fill up two grown ups for less than $1. 

Just ask for empanadas de Vilma and send our regards 🙂

Restaurante Margoth

The most authentic TAPADO in town as vouched for by locals. Tapado is a Garifuna dish made with coconut milk, plantain and includes fish, crab, shrimp, octopus and lobster; all still whole and in their shells/skins/tails 90Q One of the most delicious meals I’ve ever tried. Totally worth the splurge.

Tapado is the most authentic Garifuna dish and an important part of the culture. And it's absolutely delicious!! Livingston, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Tapado is the most authentic Garifuna dish and an important part of the culture. And it’s absolutely delicious!! Livingston, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

– Breakfast at Casa Rosada

30-35Q Pick from traditional eggs and beans or fresh fruit and big pancakes. Real coffee for 10Q (not the unfortunate instant crap they serve at most places throughout Guatemala).


Getting here:

There are only two options.

  1. Puerto Barrios

Whether you are coming from within Guatemala by road, or boating into the country from Honduras or Belize, all trails meet in Puerto Barrios. Head straight to the dock (where 12th street meets the water). Lanchas leave every half hour to an hour. 35Q for the 45 minute ride into Livingston. (Larger and much slower ferries also depart here twice a day).

2.   Rio Dulce

Entering the Rio Dulce jungle canyon. Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Entering the Rio Dulce jungle canyon. Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Lanchas from Rio Dulce leave twice daily, 9:30am and 2pm. 125Q one way for a 2 and half hour journey through the extraordinary jungle canyon (A lot more on this trip in Part II, coming next week.)

Travel Tip:

Take the morning boat. Waters get a lot choppier in the afternoon making the beautiful journey a little hard to enjoy.

From Guatemala City:

Litegua offers Central Americas most modern and efficient transit system. The buses are large, clean and safe. First class busses include free water, AC, and your own personal TV/gaming system. Fares range from 80-125Q depending on class and route to/from Guatemala City (6-7 hours)

The Puerto Barrios station is just a short walk/taxi ride from the dock.

www.litegua.com +(502)2326-9595


Our Trip

April and I invited April’s dad along on his very first backpacking trip!

We spent 4 days in Rio Dulce and Livingston plus another 4 exploring the ruins of Iximche and the colonial city of Antigua. Watch our adventure coming up on our next post.

Part II of the extraordinary guide to the Caribbean: Rio Dulce and Lago de Izabal

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

Check out the Cost Breakdown for Travel Through Guatemala

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A Child’s Perspective on Semana Santa: Collaborative Project in Antigua, Guatemala

Some of the kids were visibly nervous at the beginning. Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega
Karina, April and Alex document the childrens' stories during a collaborative project in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo by Kerstin Sabene

Karina, April and Alex document the childrens’ stories during a collaborative project in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo by Kerstin Sabene

The idea behind embarking on this journey around the world had always been that the world is full opportunity. To find it though, we must be completely open to it. I don’t mean searching through a job site. I mean doing what you are passionate about. For April and I, it is travelling, writing, filming, learning and experiencing local culture. Since our arrival in Antigua, Guatemala we have found so much support for our work featuring local places, people and events. We’ve already had our articles shared on huge social media platforms, been on television and networked with amazing people who respect and admire our choice to put our faith in the universe. Most recently, April and I were invited to partake in a collaborative project creating a traditional alfombra with local school children from Escuela Luis Mena. The project, a yearly tradition sponsored by George’s Travel Club, is intended to educate and encourage participation of children. It also gave us an opportunity to learn a new perspective on the activity, normally a labour of devotion, gratitude and penitence. (More on the cultural understanding of alfombras here.) We teamed up with talented videographer Alex Jones for a new channel called Antigua Cultural. The mini-documentary will feature a complete birth to death time-lapse video of this temporary work of art by the children, through the moment where the single anda Santa Ines procession carries Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary over the alfombra offering. We also had the opportunity to interview the children and their teacher, Alejandro, about the meaning of their project and get first-hand insight into how their young minds attribute significance to this beautiful tradition.

Sponsor George Sansoucy with Teacher Alejandro and his students. Antigua, Guatemala -- April Beresford

Sponsor George Sansoucy with Teacher Alejandro and his students. Antigua, Guatemala — April Beresford

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Santigron – Maroon Villages of Suriname

Drums of Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega
Drums of Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Drums of Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

I never intended on writing about this place.

The big story, the token article for Suriname was supposed to be the much anticipated Carifesta XI taking place for 10 days in Paramaribo during August 2013. I would have never known of the existence of the Maroon people and their villages if not for picking up travel tips and advice from every traveler we meet – which has been a rare occasion since arriving in Guyana. In fact, I came to the Maroon village of Santigron, hardly a drive from the capital city of Paramaribo, without much knowledge of what or whom I was coming to see.* Mr. Gilles and the most helpful Ms. Bianca at Access Suriname Travel made every neccesary arrangement to bring us to the village despite our unscheduled, last-minute request. This would only be the beginning of many delightful surprises and exceeded expectations.

Learning to find water in the Amazon - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Learning to find water in the Amazon – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

*(Surprise guests are not welcome in the villages without a local guide.) Before we even arrived in the village we began to understand what this ‘tour’ was all about. A man, who fell in love with this community, and has spent years of his own sweat, tears, money and provided a voice for people here. He opened up a channel so that tourism could come here – profits going to the people and proliferate the traditions of a dying culture. The children are once again learning the dances of their elders so they may perform them for visitors with an invigorating energy. Mr. Gilles has founded the ‘eco park’ within the village but every single person associated with it is a local Maroon. The park itself is a tiny and exemplary resort where tourists can come spend a single day (or a multi-day tour where you sleep in the eco park) learning and interacting within the village and jungle — and it all benefits the community!  Several beautiful cabins adorn well groomed grounds around a kitchen/dining room area. A ‘relax lounge’ holds eight hammocks at the creek side, directly under the looming jungle that surrounds this village. Inside the cabins continues to impress, as so far it has been the nicest accommodation I’ve had in Suriname. Simple but spacious, comfortable and clean.

Dining area of the eco-hotel - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Dining area of the eco-hotel – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

I can’t speak highly enough of the staff here, the ladies running the kitchen (always with a smile), Stanley, the park host, and especially our guide Kenneth whose unparalleled knowledge of the life, culture, languages, history, environment and even the local gossip made our visit spectacularly interesting and welcoming. There are 6 different groups of Maroons here in Santigron village each with its own chief, its own language and other cultural differences. There is also the influence from multiple religions, but mainly a belief in spirits and afterlife which is taken very seriously. Oracles and medicine men in the village help interpret the needs of these spirits (human or animal) and what they demand in order to achieve peace with the living. Every family here, polygamous units traced matrilinealy, has one or more pray houses which they dedicate to appeasing the spirits. Other traditional aspects of life for these grandsons of escaped slaves are still evident and set very much in superstitions believed here. Amongst the traditional thatch roof homes also stand more modern concrete homes, some even with a television, built by individuals returning to the village life after years or even decades of working in their former colonialists nation of Holland.

Beautiful handmade anklet instruments added vigour and joy to their dance - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Beautiful handmade anklet instruments added vigour and joy to their dance – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

The national language in Suriname is still Dutch. Children as young as six are already well versed in 4 different languages as they begin with the language of their tribe. They are then taught the common language that ties together the village community. By primary school they are conducting classes in Dutch.  Many more are also learning English independently or begin lesson in secondary school when they are sent away from the village for education.

Before they got comfortable with me the little boy in green would scream in terror if the foreigners got to close - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Before they got comfortable with me the little boy in green would scream in terror if the foreigners got to close – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

Once they decided I was ok - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Once they decided I was ok – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

After another excellent home-cooked traditional meal in the park you make your way to the Santigron disco to drink and party along side the locals. The party goes late but remember you still have to wake up in the morning for the jungle trek.  Truthfully, the trek is more about getting to know how the Maroons connect with their environment and other tribes around them such as the Amerindians; the natives of this land before the Europeans came to America. The Amerindians are actually know to have helped African slaves escape plantations and taught them to survive in secret in the jungle – the way of the first Maroon people.

Headed into the wild amazon and a plethora of wild encounters to come - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Headed into the wild amazon and a plethora of wild encounters to come – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

Our initial walk through the village began within Kenneth pointing how every tree and flower around us has use in the village life or has medicinal qualities. It is truly impressive. These are people who until recent years all lived off the land independently. A man’s worth was and still is measured by his ability to provide for his family by fishing and hunting for their meals. Others pick fruit or make medicinal remedies to take to the markets outside the village. The females are still sent to the “women’s house” where they are separated and prohibited from entering the village during menstruation because the blood is considered unclean. The men are forbidden to cry even during the long designated mourning periods lest they risk being called homosexuals – clearly something that is still unacceptable within the community. There are simply too many interesting, rare and wonderful facts that I learned in a single day here.

Clay pots cook over a fire. Made by the Amerindians of the Amazon, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Clay pots cook over a fire. Made by the Amerindians of the Amazon, Suriname — Karina Noriega

This is to be experienced with the people – once they warm up to you that is. There are strict rules that you must respect as a guest here. Photography is only allowed with expressed consent outside of the designated park. Children may still scream and cry if you approach them and many children and adults may be only half dressed or bathing from a bucket beside their homes. The people are joyful and calm though and the children are impossibly cute and very talented dancers. Perhaps the highlight of the entire journey was the traditional music and dance presented by Santigrons youngest inhabitants. More than 40 people gathered to celebrate and move in a presentation just for the two of us, their special guests. Following that, we were taken into the jungle by boat to explore more wildlife (we saw a very large Anaconda!) and another small Maroon village known for its handmade canoes. Every piece of the day is filled with enlightening new information and entertainment that can also be yours if you find yourself in Suriname. Plus if you choose to spend a second day in village, the adventure continues in the evening.

The tour wrapped up with a goodbye lunch that truly felt like I was saying goodbye to people that touched my heart. It is the people here, the love and feeling of welcome that was first initiated with sensitivity and community empowerment by Mr. Gilles, is what sticks out to me. I feel special myself to get the opportunity to learn and listen and play with the people of Santigron.

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Summary of Our Journey Across The USA – (World Nomads Scholarship Entry)

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah, USA - Karina Noriega

The contest deadline has come and gone. Our submission is now being reviewed by the travel journalism experts at World Nomads. We are going up against hundreds (if not thousands) aspiring filmmakers from around the whole globe.

The pressure has now shifted to the judges and mentors who can select only a single submission for one of the best prizes out there: A chance to attend, film and share Mexico’s cultural mega-festival, Dia de los Muertos. More than a chance to travel, this is the learning opportunity of a lifetime. April and I are beyond eager to receive mentoring and feedback by seasoned travel journalists. Plus, I have not so secretly always wanted to experience this event.

So let’s make the decision a little easier for the World Nomads panel. Please show us your support by clicking like, leaving your comments and sharing the video (preferably through the blog -> https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/09/22/world-nomads-film-scholarship-entry <- Use This Link)

Don’t forget to read up on why we believe we should win and what it means to us. (On the YouTube comments sections)

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

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Georgia on my Mind – A Film

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Another extraordinary film by April Beresford.

This time, we find ourselves in the Southern state of Georgia exploring two very different kinds of destinations: Driftwood Beach on the coastal park of Jekyll Island and the deep south swamp of Okefenokee. We highly recommend that you check out the detailed article about experience in the swamp, to view spectacular photos and gather important insight regarding this amazing environment which is not included in the film.
Article Link: https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/06/24/okefenokee-national-wildlife-refuge/

Music by: Ray Charles

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

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My Extraordinary Guide To Guyana

Kaeiteur Falls, Guyana -- Karina Noriega

My Extraordinary Guide To Guyana

       When research began on the Guyana portion of my South America journey I immediately found information hard to come by. Often there is a complete lack of info, contacts, and the links only led to dead ends. With this in mind, I decided to create my own mini guidebook for travellers’ looking to come to this little tropical haven. 

(Click on any picture to enlarge and scroll through.)

All information presented was gathered during my August 2013 visit to the country. 

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Extraordinary Places to Visit and Things to do in Colorado

There is no shortage of places to visit and things to do in Colorado. Dramatic wilderness and diverse terrain backed by the iconic Rocky Mountains are a staple of the Colorado image. Colorado’s namesake continues its blazing display of color beyond the towering snow capped peaks and mirrored lakes to lesser known destinations. Whether it’s adrenaline packed adventure or relaxing picturesque retreats that tickles your fancy, a Southern Colorado vacation rental will reveal unexpected wonders.

Iconic Colorado - Extraordinary Places to Visit and Things to do in Colorado

Iconic Colorado – Extraordinary Places to Visit and Things to do in Colorado

A Trail of Highlights and Things to do in Southern Colorado

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Culture Shock And The Taiwanese Palate

Welcome to Culture Shock; The new series that named itself. Join us as we learn, grow and share all about new found social/cultural behaviours and expectations through our world exploration. These are our thoughts, observations and lessons on respecting and behaving in a foreign culture that may just leave you laughing and crying at the same time.


 

Foods Of The World

In preparation for my journey abroad Karina wowed me with tales of dining on barbeque cockroaches in Cambodia, snacking on grasshoppers in Indonesia (which she reports, are pretty tasty), and even drinking snake blood in Vietnam. The most exotic meat I had ever tried in Canada was a single experience I had eating caribou and I never really adjusted to the gamy taste. My first experience with Taiwanese food didn’t happen until I actually set foot in Taiwan and while I had intended to jump in head first and immediately push beyond my comfort zone, some of the foods created too much shock value for me to just dive right in. Continue reading

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks; Backpacking Guatemala

The first and only time I went sky diving, my Dad was my partner in crime. He planted the seed of interest when I was a little girl telling me stories of how he had always wanted to try the sport. My imagination would whirl wondering how amazing it would be to tumble through the sky feeling completely weightless. I envisioned this type of adventure to be the perfect daddy-daughter activity, for a couple of dare-devils like us. Continue reading

Culture Shock! And The Sorry Complex – Hong Kong

Welcome to the new series that basically named itself! We’ve just landed in a new continent that is about to challenge us in completely new ways. Some will undoubtedly be intriguing and funny little things we’ll have to adjust to. Others will surely be frustrating or beyond comprehension. Finally, there will be cringe-worthy moments certain to have us questioning why we ever left the comforts of home in the first place.

Each article in the series is intended to be an opportunity to learn, grow and share. It is our collection of observations and information from the different cultures we visit from our subjective anthropological perspective. We never intend to shame or shed negativity on anyone else’s way of life. Wherever we can, we will do our best to understand and explain how to respect and behave in a given place. Though sometimes, we may only be able to share on what NOT to do, as we figure out life as a local through our embarrassing mistakes and faux paus moments.

Pandamonium! Arriving in Hong Kong -- Karina's Extraordinary Life

Pandamonium! Arriving in Hong Kong — Karina’s Extraordinary Life


Culture Shock! And The Sorry Complex

To kick off the series I definitely want to poke fun at one of the most famous stereotypes we deal with as Canadians. Most have heard the jokes, especially if you watch ‘How I Met Your Mother’, about how apologetic Canadian culture is. That’s saying it nicely I guess. Most jokes state that you could punch a Canadian in the face and spill their beer and said Canadian would apologize for running into your hand and offer to buy you a drink! I’d be willing to bet that has never happened, but to a certain degree, absolutely, we apologize for everything. It’s more of a reflex than a heartfelt “I’m sorry”, and most of us may not even think about it, but that absence of acknowledging that you may have possibly, in some minor way bothered, obstructed, touched or dismissed another person has become a very loud silence since we arrived in Hong Kong. Not once have I been apologized to for anything here! Not even when the airline lost my bags!

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Travel Rollercoaster – A Journey From Guatemala To Hong Kong

The good news is we made it to Hong Kong in one piece. It was not nearly a perfect journey and the effects of the 3 days of travel plus a 12 time zone difference are still weighing heavy.

#OneWayTicket Starting with #HongKong #Taiwan #Macau #China overland to #Mongolia and so many more. Have you been there? Live in any of these country? We'd love to hear your tips :) don't forget to follow along with our journey www.KarinasExtraordinaryLife.com. #Travel #Asia #GirlsvsGlobe #Wanderlust #Travelgram #traveltuesday

#OneWayTicket Starting with #HongKong #Taiwan #Macau #China overland to #Mongolia and so many more. Have you been there? Live in any of these countries? We’d love to hear your tips 🙂 don’t forget to follow along with our journey http://www.KarinasExtraordinaryLife.com. #Travel #Asia #GirlsvsGlobe #Wanderlust #Travelgram #traveltuesday

 Guatemala

We woke at 5am on the 26th after only 3 hours sleep. Continue reading

Adios Guatemala, Hello Asia

The magnificent Lago De Atitlan --Atitlan, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

The magnificent Lago De Atitlan –Atitlan, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Thanks Guatemala, We Will Miss You But It’s Time For Us To Move On!

The most difficult part about leaving this beautiful country behind is that we are knowingly walking away from so many other extraordinary places we still have yet to discover. Guatemala has been our home for the past 6 months and while we did explore magnificent locations like that of Lake Atitlan, Antigua, Semuc Champey, Livingston and Rio Dulce, there just never seems to be enough time to see everything. I wanted so much to learn more about Guatemalan culture and through our experiences during Semana Santa, I definitely feel a deeper connection to and a greater understanding of the Guatemalan people. I can say with pride that after attending language classes I was able to further develop my Spanish speaking skills. I know without a doubt that I will end up back in Guatemala once again so I can discover even more of the country’s attractions while continuing to practice effectively rolling my R’s. Plus, there are so many different types of Guatemalan street food I still have yet to try! Continue reading

An Extraordinary Guide to Caribbean Coast of Guatemala: Rio Dulce and Lago de Izabal (Part II)

View from the bridge over the Rio Dulce, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Guatemala’s coastal borders with the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea could not be more different.  La Costa, refers to the fertile lands between chains of volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean. It is coarse, black volcanic sand continuously pounded by the raging Pacific. By contrast, Guatemala’s narrow coastline on the Caribbean side is a tropical jungle opening where the Rio Dulce, or ‘sweet river’ follows its path to the sea.

Check out Part I for the seaside, Garifuna town of Livingston and the nearby attractions. 


View from the bridge over the Rio Dulce, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

View from the bridge over the Rio Dulce, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Travel Tip:

Take a daytime walk over the bridge for the best views from high above the ‘sweet river’.


Rio Dulce is a sweet water haven surrounded by massive jungles that connects the enormous fresh water Lake Izabal with the open sea on the Caribbean coast. In contrast to the crowded, gateway town of Fronteras, the waters edge is spotted by small and isolated Mayan towns, a few eco-lodges and the weekend homes of Guatemala’s wealthy elite. Beautiful mansions complete with thatch roof ranchos covering enormous luxury boats shine a spotlight on the massively uneven distributions of wealth in this country. Continue reading