If you’ve read this blog before then you’ll probably know that I went travelling though Central America with G Adventures on their Central American Journey tour this spring. It was my first ever group tour and was something that I did because I didn’t feel confident travelling through the region solo. You can read about my experience here: Should You Do A Group Tour? G Adventures Central American Journey Tour Review .
Most G Adventures tours offer a one night homestay as part of the trip and ours was in a place called San Juan La Laguna, a small village located on the edge of Lake Atitilan in Guatemala. I was really pleasantly surprised by our homestay experience on this tour as I had been very sceptical about what it would be like: My only other ‘homestay’ experience in Sapa, Vietnam that I’d done when travelling independently had been more of a hostel than the night staying with a family that I’d expected.
In case you’re interested in doing this specific tour or just interested in a homestay experience in Guatemala I thought I’d share some photos and information about what it was like.
How it works
There were around 20 of us in my tour group so we were split up into pairs and each allocated a separate family who we would stay with. We were all given a set time and location (that being the pub of course) to meet up later that evening as there was no wifi or phone signal at our families homes and we were forced to do a digital detox.
I think most of us were a little nervous about the homestay, especially those like me that didn’t speak Spanish. Don’t get me wrong I was beyond excited to see the inside of one of those beautiful colourful Guatemalan homes and stay with a local family but I was worried it was going to be awkward and I didn’t want to feel like I was intruding.
Meeting our host family
Me and my friend were paired with a really lovely man and wife with their three young children. The homes in San Juan are really traditional and quite basic but so homely inside. Our host mum made a living selling fabrics that she made and the house backed on to her shop packed full of all kinds of colourful cloths and blankets.
As much as I tried, I spoke very little Spanish and couldn’t master much more than a ‘muchas gracias’ and our family spoke even less english than that. Luckily my friend knew quite a lot although explaining that she was Gluten intolerant was a bit of a struggle.
Inside the house
I absolutely loved the interior of the family’s house: it was one of the most colourful places I’d ever seen. The walls were painted bright green and beautiful paintings and traditional fabrics were hung everywhere. Our family subsided their income hosting travellers so we were set up in a lovely room, comfy used to accommodate their guests. Downstairs was were most the family slept and upstairs was the little kitchen.
What we ate
Traditional food in Guatemala can get a little repetitive however the food that we had at our homestay was actually some of the best authentic food that I ate in the country. Pictured at the top is a traditional Chapin breakfast consisting of black beans, eggs, plantain cheese and hot corn tortillas. Below was our vegetarian dinner of steamed vegetables and eggs mixed with spinach served with more beans and tortillas. There are only a couple of other restaurants to eat in the village however San Pedro, two kilometres down the road has loads of ‘gringo’ restaurants (including a fantastic italian which made a welcome change from beans)
San Juan La Laguna
San Juan is a tiny but absolutely gorgeous little village perched right on the edge of Lake Atitlan. It’s a bit of a trek to get to and I think there’s only one hostel there however it offers a much more authentic view of Guatemalan life than San Pedro down the road which is a popular base for travellers because of its language schools. To get to the village we had to take a small, really bumpy speedboat from Panajachel on one side of the lake right over to the other side (and we all got absolutely drenched in the process). After stopping for food in San Pedro we all then had to cram into the back of an open truck that took us on the extremely hilly 20 minute drive to San Juan.
There’s not a whole lot going on in San Juan but it is very pretty and sleepy. It receives a small amount of tourism there because of its cooperatives which are small community projects run by the locals who demonstrate their trade and sell their products. I’ve written more about these below.
Visiting the cooperatives was a really fascinating experience. We went to three: a textiles one, an art one and a herbal and plant therapy one. In all three we got to meet the people in charge of running these projects and learn about their craft. I particularly enjoyed the textiles one where we watched how they made the traditional Guatemalan blankets from how they make cotton into thread to watching them extract dyes from natural ingredients before weaving it all together on the loom.
I really enjoyed my time in San Juan and our homestay experience in this G Adventures tour. It’s not a place that I realistically would have been able to visit if I was travelling independently so it was nice to have an experience that felt a little bit special. I’m so nosey and whenever I’m abroad I want to get a taste of life like a local and see inside people’s houses so a homestay is a great way to do just that.
If you have anymore questions about the G Adventures tour, doing a homestay in Guatemala or about the region in general then feel free to ask me any questions via the contact page.