Hostal Villa Toscana

16 Calle 8-20 zona 13, Aurora I, Guatemala City, 01013, Guatemala
Hostal Villa Toscana
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1

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posada belen

by easterntrekker

Has anyone stayed here. It is located in Zona 1 but has good reviews in travel guides...they offer airport pickup. Thanks

RE: posada belen

by Chenbaaxal

It looks quite nice. Zone 1 is okay in daytime and at night if you know exactly where you are going. If you are thinking of nightlife, Zone 10 is the place to go. I think if you got one of the rooms at Xamanek Student Inn you would pay a bit less and be a short walk from museums, restaurants and bars. See http://www.mayaworld.net/xamanek/index.htm

RE: RE: posada belen

by easterntrekker

Thanks for the reply ....Zona 1 is convenient for us from the airport . We just have an overnight coming back from Tikal....we'll have the afternoon only to look around the city.

RE: RE: posada belen

by JJDelmonte

Hi there: Chenbaxaal is right. Xamanek is a better located place because is much closer to the airport and zona viva which is an area full of restaurants night life,and safe to walk around after dark.But as I understand is a place for backpackers. Their rates are pretty cheap. But there is even a better place with private baths/tv/internet. Hotel Dos Lunas which is also close to the airport for $12 a night (502)2334-5264 or 5573-0263. They offer free shuttle to and from the airport. Check it out. I've seen lots of good reviews. Good luck and happy new year.

RE: RE: posada belen

by easterntrekker

Thanks so much for your tips. I will Check out the hotel you mentioned ,

RE: RE: posada belen

by Chenbaaxal

Zone 1 is way downtown. Zones 9 and 10 are close to the airport. Dos Lunas is in a residential neighborhood with nothing near it, although you could walk back to the airport for what passes for a restaurant meal there.

Travel Tips for Guatemala City

Italiano

by acemj about Tre Fratelli

This is a popular chain in Guatemala City. The food is mostly northern Italian with a good selection of Italian and California wines. On a nice day, the outdoor seating will be popular. We stopped here and had some good coffee and a light salad, but the menu was packed with really good sounding pasta dishes that I would have loved to try had I had the appetite.

The Relief Map

by la_beba

The Relief Map in Minerva Park is a good place to see the extension of Guatemala and get an overview of Guatemalan geography (quite literally). It's bigger than a soccer field. You climb up in observation platforms to see the map overall.

Check out my travelogue with better nicer views of the map.

Guatemala City

by easterntrekker

"Our quick trip through"

We didn't really spend much time here , just an overnight on our way back to Costa Rica . From what I could see it has a new area ( we could see the Sherton from our plane window ). It also has a crowded , poor and intimidating old city . We stayed in Zona 1 ( the old area).
We felt safe in our hotel and other guests told us they roamed around the market all day , with no problems.

Wee-Cheng in Guatemala

by weecheng

"Cold and Hot Welcome to Guatemala: Detained Again."

Sent: 10 February 2001 02:02

Cold and Hot Welcome to Guatemala: Detained Again. Antigua: A Pleasant Surprise

Dear All,

I arrived in Guatemala on Thursday around noon. Guatemala Immigration gave me a warm welcome by detaining me for 1 1/2 hour on suspicion that I was an illegal using Guatemala as a conduit to attempt to enter the US. I shopuld consider myself lucky considering what the ancient Mayas (their descendents account for 60% of Guatemala´s population today) did to their enemies - chopping off their heads if they are nice, otherwise they cut your throat but not letting you die too quickly, and then drag you up their pyramids as a sacrifice to their gods, and their kings engage in pseudo-sado-machoistic sacrifices such as cutting a hole in their tongues and pulling a string across as a personal honor to gods.

Well, to them, irrespective of what passport I hold, I am just another "el Chino". Since Day 1 of this trip, everywhere I have been called "Chino", although most of the time in a most affectionate manner - even by my hosts, so unlike the degradatory tone I tend to get in Eastern Europe when they shout across "Kitai" (Chinese in Russian). My ethnic origins, plus the unexpired American visa in my passport (I went to the USA a few years ago, and that was before the US Government abolished visa requirement for Singaporeans) made me a highly suspicious figure. After all, all the exotic visa stamps from Kazakhstan to Cuba and Panama probably makes me a look like either a human smuggler or a money launderor (I prefer the latter...). I was escorted by two stern looking officers to a room where a few nice chaps from Colombia, Syria and Paraguay were waiting for their turn to be dealt with. They hardly bothered to response to my questions and concentrated (yeah, in a very, very relaxed manner - and driving me mad...) on putting my US visa page under various scanning devices as well as making lots of phone calls. They finally released me after 1 1/2 hours with the greeting "Welcome to Guatemala!" - they finally bothered to speak to me in English after so long...

I took a taxi to Antigua, with the distinguished company of a Pentecostal Rhode Islander who tried to convince me of the glory of the Almighty, while I enlightened him on the teachings of Buddha and Confucius, as well as true global free trade and how nice investment bankers are.

After the experience at the Airport, the fresh atmosphere of Antigua came as a surprise. The first city founded by the Spanish in Guatemala, Antigua has been destroyed several times by earthquakes and volcano eruptions, the last in 1976. An UN World Heritage site, the city, surrounded by amazing volcanoes, is characterised by colourful Spanish houses (inhabited by locals so hardup with the place that they wouldn´t abandoned it after every Big One) and monumental churches, many of which are in a romantic state of half-ruined. What makes Antigua the hub of Central American tourism is the liveliness of its unique mixture of Mayan Indian and Latino heritage - where else can you find locals wearing colourful ethnic costumes? In addition, the atmosphere was made livier by the presence of a large number of backpackers as well as thousands of foreigners here to learn Spanish in the more than 70 language schools. For less than US$100 per week, you have one-to-one instruction, accommodation, 3 meals a day plus the company of lots of youngsters hungry for adventure, excitement, fun and all forms of hedonism! No trashy resort package holiday makers who are not interested in local culture. Accommodation is cheap (mine at $8 plus attached bathroom, $3 without, plus a bit of excitement watching the weird religious service my hotel owner conducts every evening - a weird mixture of Christianity and ancient Mayan past - some unusual cultish ceremony?) and the weather is cool, plus sunny too. Lots of things to see and to do. I´m trying to decide whether to do the lakes, volcanoes or Mayan ruins, probably all. My only complaint is the apparent lack of real Guatemalan cuisine. Too many Mexican and Italian restaurants, plus Hamburgesa (even Burger King!), Chinese and Japanese. In any case, I have fallen in love with the place...

Today, I spent the day making various travel arrangements, plus spending a few hours in the capital, Guatemala City, by hiring a pickup truck for a few hours, for the price of an one-way taxi journey to the city. Guate city is a disappointment - a typical huge third world metropolis with atrocious traffic jam, lots of slums and rubbish dump, although the Mayan Museum was interesting. Glad I did not stay there as I had originally intended to.

Tomorrow, I will take an early bus to Lake Atitlan in the Highlands - that´s a mysterious lake in the mountains, with colourful Mayan villages and even more volcanoes. Sunday i will visit Chichi market, another amazing place in the region.

OK I will write more. Wish me luck!

regards,

WeeCheng

"2 Hours Standing On A Chicken Bus After A Sacrific"

Sent: 13 February 2001 00:44

2 Hours Standing On A Chicken Bus After A Sacrificial Blood Bath

Dear All,

I am now in Guatemala's 2nd largest city, Quetzaltenango (gosh, what-a-mouthful), also known as Xela (pronounced as Shella). With only 100,000 people, it's really a small town compared to the millions of Guatemala City. I arrived here a few hours ago after a 2+ hour bus side - on what's known as the Chicken Bus - only $1 for the 100km – squeezed with god-knows-how-many-people - possible 8 people in a row when there's supposed to be 4 by other standards plus animals and chickens and anything imaginable. The top was laden with cargo plus my backpack, and the conductor sometimes sits on top too with others too poor to sit below. The journey from a godforsaken road junction went through the mountains, winding at every corner, and I felt as though I was going to throw out, especially when I was standing half the trip and when I finally sat, was squeezed sideways rather than sitting properily.

Upon arrival, I suddenly found myself with a Californian Chinese girl (ABC) - bus too crowded previously to notice her. She has travelled overland from California, down Mexico and Belize, and now here to learn Spanish (Xela, like Antigua, is full of Spanish language shcool). She's on the shoestring and wanted to go to a particular hotel which cost $3 per night. God knows why I followed her, and actually agreed to stay in this Highland town hotel without cold water. Well, WeeCheng the backpacker has now turned into WeeCheng the overpampered banker... I should have paid $8 more and get hot water and own bath room. Guess what, I went to the bathroom to take a shower and actually forgot my key! The hotel receptionist was only found after 20 min of me freezing in the cold in shorts... What a start to a new town!

OK - a bit of backtracking. On Saturday morning, after a late night watching Che Guevara's Bolivian Diary at a cinema, I took a tourist shuttle bus (comfortable air con bus, with ample space and so on - more than $10 for the journey as long as the Chicken Bus one) to Panajachel (nicknamed Gringo-tenango for the number of Americans there) on Lake Atitlan. The lake, surrounded by volcanoes, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Little villages grace its shores, where the locals wear their own costume – each village has its own distinctive style and you can notice the difference, and things are a lot cheaper than Antigua too. A really idyllic place with lots of hippies and backpackers chilling out. It is hard to imagine that the Civil War was keenly fought around here for 36 years, ending only in 1996, pitting the Mayan Indians and Marxist groups against various Military juntas and their CIA-supported death squads. I took a boat ride to visit the villages. In this highland lake, the sun was glaring and yet it was windy. Net result: I got a terrible sun burn. The most interesting village was Santiago Atitlan, where a local brought me to the abode of Senor Maximon – a Mayan diety that the Catholic Church hates - he's a mannequin like wooden-figure dressed in a strange costume smoking a cigar. Locals believe that he's the mixture of ancient Mayan gods and the Spanish conqueror of Guatemala, Don Pedro de Alvarado visit him, gave him gifts of cash, liquor, and cigars, and he, though his shamans standing next to him, promises, wealth and health. Strange music was being played and a coffin containing the life-size statue of Jesus Christ lies a few meters away. "His Father," the shaman explained...

On Sunday morning, I took another tourist shuttle to another mountain town, Chichicastenango (also known as Chichi), where masses of tourists come every Thursday and Sunday to see the huge local market - hundreds of stalls with colourfully-dressed villagers selling touristy stuff as well as all kinds of day to day stuff. Exotic and yet touristy as well. After a quick visit to the market and increasing the Guate GDP by buying some crazy masks and embroidiary, I found my
way through a short country patch to look for Pascual Abaj, another Mayan diety. this one is more unique than Maximon, for it predates, the Spanish era. A simple black stone idol stood there, with a shaman and a helper, plus three "patients". He walked around the patients, blessing them with a live pigeon, dispense incense onto the idol, poured wine over it, and suddenly tore the live pigeon apart...with blood dripping. A female French tourist actually screamed when she saw the quartering of the poor bird. The shaman placed the pigeon's head on the idol, then rubbed the remainder against each of the patient, and finally placed that on a pile of fire... grilled pigeon ? He continued to deal with the patients, one of whom was a young man dressed in "normal" shirt and pants and when the shaman spent a bit of time "treating" him, an arrogant French tourist shouted at the group, wanting the young man to move aside so that he could snap a pix of the more colourfully dressed shaman and the other two patients. The police standing nearby scolded the tourist. He, a mere tourist, dared to disrupt what{s to the local, a serious religious ceremony, simply because he wants to have exotic pix taken. Atrocious. Personally, I
would recommend an ancient local practise for this crazy tourist - cutting a hole through his ***, and pulling a string through it.

OK. Tomorrow I shall visit a remote Mayan village with a colourful church that's full of both Christian and Mayan iconology, plus yet another Mayan idol nearby. Then I shall proceed to Antigua.

Adios!

WeeCheng

"More Mayan Idols and Trouble Again from Border Bur"

Sent: 15 February 2001 22:44
More Mayan Idols and Trouble Again from Border Bureaucrats

Dear All,

Now writing from Antigua, Guatemala. Back here on Tuesday from the Western Highlands. Tomorrow, I will fly north to Flores to visit the Mayan archaeological site of Tikal, also known as the Manhattan of the Mayan world, where the ancients built tall ten storey tall structures. On Saturday, I shall leave Guatemala for London, completing this two week trip.

I had a great time in Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, Guatemala´s 2nd largest city, which like Antigua, is surrounded by volcanoes andf destroyed repeatedly by earthquakes and eruptions. Unlike Antigua, this is a 'real' city, where the Mayans have integrated into the local economy as equals, rather than exotics parading around in native costumes for tourists. This was also an important place in history, where Dom Pedro de Avarado, the Spanish conquistador, killed Tecun Uman, Mayan prince, in a combat that is still remembered by Mayans today in numerous songs, poems, plays, festivals, etc, as an event of great sadness - the Mayan equivalent of the Kosovo Polje (for the Serbs) and Boyne (Irish). The place where it took place is known as the River of Blood. I stood there amist traffic pollution and dust, wondering if the time for redemption has arrived.

I joined two Germans and two English on a half day trip to the town of Zunil, where the local market and yet another Mayan icon, San Simon/Maximon, holds court. We listened to a women speaking loudly to the idol about her woes while another try to feed the idol with liquor. A thick black candle burns, signifying a curse a worshipper has placed on an enemy and seeking for San Simon´s assistance for execution.

After the idol, we went to the Fuentes Georginas, a mountain hot springs. The experience would have been great if not for the English lady, an elderly 60+, who seems to have strong leftist views on everything, and sees anyone who disagree with her as an enemy. I offended her sensitivities by mentioning about the food shortage and poverty in Cuba (I aslo mentioned positives such as 100% literacy and health system), while she argues that people are consuming too much these days and too many Cubans have fallen victim to American propaganda (and trying to leave Cuba). When I casually mentioned about the Guatemalan civil war, she argued that it was a deliberate massacre of peasants by the Military and that calling it a civil war is an insult on the Mayans. And she went on to damn Thatcher, America ad the bloody capitalist world, especially big corporations and banks. Of course, I did not endear her by confirming that I work for one of these bloodsuckers. When I asked what she does, she says that she runs a small ethical business and does not earn as much as I do. Needles in her words but I´m comfortable with the fact...

After leaving these people, I hired the same van and proceeded to explore the little churches and villages of this region, most of them with long names such as San Andres Xecul, San Cristbol Totonicapan, San Miguel Totonicapan...

The next day, I travelled to Antigua, whose old name was La Ciudad de Santiago de Los Caballeros de Guatemala, or the (in another version, Most Loyal) City of St James of the Knights of Guatemala. I made further travel arrangements and visiting the endless old churches. Watched The Buena Vista Social Club and dream about Havana.

On Wednesday, I joined a group at 4am on a tedious day trip to Copan, a Mayan ruins in Honduras. Well, Singaporeans need a visa to visit Honduras and I didn't have one. The travel agent told me it's not a problem and even the fact that I hold a single entry Guatemalan visa isn't a problem. $30 more would do the trip. As a result, we got stuck on the visa while the bureaucracy wanted $50 for the convenience. Well, not the first time, and certainly not going to be the last. Money changed hands and we proceeded.

Copan - if Tikal was the Manhattan of the Mayan world, then Copan was its Florence - smaller in size but a giant in arts. We visited the tombs and temples, and admire the sculptures and the many stone skulls that adorn its terraces. I wondered about the number of sacrifices carried out here. If anywhere is haunted, here´s one prime location. After building numerous monuments and sacrificing enemy chiefs captured in raids, 18 Rabbit, Copan´s greatest king with what sound to moderners like us a most unwarlike and even comical name, was himself captured by a subject city and sacrificed to the Gods in that city´s grand plaza.

I rushed back to Antigua on San Valentino´s night, and watched Fresas y Chocolate, an award-winning film about friendship and sexuality in Cuba, at CineMaya (what in this country isn't named after the Mayans - a strange thing after a 36 year civil war in which more than 100,000 Mayans were killed by the Latino-dominated Military). The show began and ended at a great Cuban ice cream shop, where I tried to buy ice cream only to walk away when the police insisted that I should pay 20 times more because I was a foreigner.

Tonight I shall watch Guantanamera. Si, Cubano again. And attend the opening ceremony of Antigua´s Cultural Festival of Peace, in the central park. With this, adios!

regards,

Wee Cheng

"Ancient Skyscrapers in the Jungle; Reflections"

Sent: 18 February 2001 20:09

Ancient Skyscrapers in the Jungle; Reflections

Back to cold London after a long flight from Guatemala passing through Miami and Madrid, the present and past capitals of Latin America (get the hint?).

My last day in Guatemala was spent on a day trip to Tikal, an ancient Mayan city in Peten, the northernmost departement (province) of Guatemala. To Peten's half a million inhabitants, most of whom have moved to this region only in the past few decades, this is a new frontierland, a kind of "Wild North", where bandits are reported to be operating in the jungles and drug lords pass through on their way to the northern markets of Estados Unidos. Here the farmers become proud owners of the virgin land, away from the cold crowded highlands of the south. To the Mayans, however, this was where their ancestors once built one of the greatest of all Mayan cities, Tikal,
although the ancient city state collapsed suddenly around 800 A.D. after a thousand years of glory. Here the ancients built temples more than 230 ft hight, the highest structures built before the Europeans arrived.

I climbed up the highest of these skyscrapers, Temple IV, looking at the wide expense of tropical jungle stretching across to the far horizons, the silence broken by the cries of the macaw, monkeys, and who knows what animals - including possibly larger cats including pumas and jaguars. I imagine the silent mourning of the spirits of long dead Mayan lords, saddened by 500 years of suffering of their descendants, initially under the iron arm of the Spanish Conquistadors, and then later under the descendants of the invaders, i.e., Ladinos, who declared independence from Spain but nevertheless treating the Mayans as slaves in their own homeland. Peace has returned to Guatemala since 1997, and Mayans are regaining their pride and confidence. Ancient predictions say 2012 will be the year of redemption. That year will be the beginning of the 13th Katun. Katun is a period of 20 years, the Mayan calendar's standard "short cycle", and 13 is an auspicious number for the Mayans; hence the significance of the 13th Katun, or end of a 260 year cycle - eqivalent in importance to our millennium). They say a Mayan will be elected president of Guatemala, thus returning rule to the majority Mayans. We shall see if this comes true.

The journey has ended but have sown seeds of the next, perhaps this time coupled with certain greater changes. All three countries are in the midst of transformation.

Guatemala, a classic Banana Republic where the US had traditionally meddled in its politics, is emerging from 36 years of civil conflict, and an ancient people experiencing a revival in their culture and traditions.

In Cuba, a populist revolutionary regime overthrew the Banana Republic four decades ago but has in the process, like most revolutions, devoured its own children. The downfall of the USSR has led to the opening of the nation to international tourism, thus dividing the country into those who earns dollars and those whu don't, and in effect, marching gradually towards capitalism. Whatever it is, Cuba remains the only Latin America country with full education and an excellent, working health service. What will happen when Castro goes ? Will its achievements survive ? Or will it re-embrace the United States and re-enter Banana-Repubic status ?

The glass towers and skyscrapers of Panama shroud a sad reality - that this is a country with a high unemployment rate and poor people. I hardly feel safe in the country. Will the Canal be run as it was during the American days ? Perhaps this isn't important, as Uncle Sam always steps in when things don't work out well. After all, this country owes its independence and landscape - whether physical or demographic - to the Canal.

At the start of the 21st century, all the talk of national sovereignty remains illusory, for America would not hesitate to restore Pax Americana in its backyard. The Banana Republics remain effectively the same. The bombing of Iraq, so far from these shores, merely reinforces this belief.

regards,

Wee Cheng

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 Hostal Villa Toscana

We've found that other people looking for this hotel also know it by these names:

Hostal Villa Toscana Hotel Guatemala City

Address: 16 Calle 8-20 zona 13, Aurora I, Guatemala City, 01013, Guatemala