Monday, December 22, 2014

Acul, Nebaj, Quiche, Guatemala - The Switzerland of Guatemala

The Hacienda San Antonio in Acul where we stayed for
three days

The early morning mist burnt off by 9am
We had quite an adventure getting to the Hacienda San Antonio in Acul on Friday 12/19. We rented a car in Antigua and took off at 11:30 am. Scott's GPS said about 3 hours. Well it took 6. I don't think we averaged more than 30 kilometers an hour. At first it was the traffic but then that thinned out and not long after we started climbing mountains with tight S turns and then descending them. Then climbing again - and again. We didn't see a stretch longer than 1 kilometer that was straight. Added to that were the "sleeping policemen" through the villages and the more than occasional pot hole. But the scenery was spectacular the whole way. On one side of the mountain it would be dry and sunny and on the other side green (and sunny).
All the arable land is farmed, even up very high and very steep. We were generally between 5, 000 and 8,000 feet. It was lovely and warm during the day and then got very cold at night (top 74 days and down to around 50 at night). We passed through Chichicastenango where the famous market is held. Although it wasn't their big day the town was packed with people and the streets had stalls and events instead of cars. We had a very hard time making our way through the city but it was so much fun watching the people.
The same thing happened in the next big town Santa Cruz de Quince. We got so confused we asked an ambulance driver (I thought he was a policeman) for directions and he got in his ambulance and escorted us out of town. Guatemalans are so helpful and friendly.
Early morning view from our room down the valley
Looking to our right across the pastures
It was getting late by now and we realized that finding our way to the Hacienda in the dark would really be hard. We didn't stop at all after that and drove straight through, arriving just before dark. Luckily, because the road from Nebaj to Acul was a rutted dirt/rock narrow road. The hotel has a series of photos on their website ( which Scott had on his phone showing the way as there were no signs!
But our welcome was cheery at the Hacienda. We met Maria, the manager, and Ugo, the owner. Ugo is the grandson of the Italian immigrant cheese maker who founded the Hacienda and the Queso Chancol business (
In 1932 Giuseppe Azzari Magini,  an Italian immigrant who had been working in California, left the United States and headed to the beautiful Cuchumatanes mountains in Guatemala.  He settled in the small village of Chancol, located in the community of Villa de Chiantla in the Department of Huehuetenango, then he moved to Acul located in the community of Nebaj in the Department of Santa Cruz del Quiche.
We took a half day trail ride with our guide Pedro
We opened a bottle of wine and settled in. Our dinner was local sausages, beans, rice and tortillas. But it soon got very cold and we bundled up in everything we had. I got really chilled and it took a long time to warm up in bed. But we finally did. Unfortunately we were the only guests and after our second night we were ready for a change. The days were so beautiful and fun but the nights were cold and there wasn't much to do (there was very little light to read and to cold to sit up). So we cut our stay by one night and left on the third day for Quezaltenango.
But our full day in Acul was great. We took a half day trail ride with a ranch hand Pedro and it was lovely. We're not experienced riders but the horses were very tame and we took a long break to walk for awhile. Nevertheless we were pretty sore afterwards! I did a watercolor in the afternoon of the view.
Our 2 breakfasts were a highlight. Maria served pancakes with homemade blueberry sauce and their own crema (like creme fraiche) - with scrambled eggs. Our lunch was steaks, rice and salad (tough steak) and dinner an elaborate chicken soup (a Guatemalan specialty) - chicken pieces, boiled potatoes served on the side of a big bowl of wonderful stock with green herbs and rice. You cut up everything and add to bowl. Yum!
We went mostly on dirt roads up into the mountains behind
the Hacienda

Many people were in the fields working 
The third day we headed off to Quezaltenango at 8:30 am knowing that we had another 6 hours of difficult driving (and wonderful scenery) ahead again. This time we had more leisure to stop and admire it.
More on our trip later!
Every bit of tillable land is used or grazing land for the
many cows and horses

Familiar morning glories bloomed in the

Not being accomplished riders (and with wooden saddles
and not long enough stirrups) we opted to walk part of the time.

We passed one small village with narrow
paths branching off the already narrow dirt

Few people were in the village. Most were working in
the fields or with the animals

Most people do not like having their picture taken so I often
quickly grab a shot.

This young boy with a Santa Claus hat was sound asleep by
the side of the road.

The village graveyard is very well maintained and has a
lovely view.

The entrance to the Hacienda.

Another lovely view of their pastures

And now Heather on her horse

Farm buildings and in the distance their own chapel

We watched the milking and ate the great
cheese and cream they make.

Some of the many cows

Lots of roosters in their own cages (they had tons of
chickens too)

Our breakfast table just after we ate piles of pancakes with
their homemade blueberry sauce and their own crema.

Maria is the manager and took great care of


Christine said...

wow...what incredibly beautiful shots! It looks like you are having ANOTHER once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

holymotherofgod said...

Yes I agree thanks for creating this blog! Great read!