The view of Volcan Agua from our home on the hills.
We just got back from a magical two weeks in Guatemala, sourcing vintage textiles and making connections with women's weaving co-ops.
My first trip to Guatemala was decades ago as a broke backpacker with the wonderful man that became my husband. We only ventured as far as Tikal after spending most of our trip in Belize. While that was an incredible experience, I knew that all the beautiful photos I'd seen of turquoise lakes, misty volcanoes, and gorgeous textiles were a bit further afield.
It took this long, strange, Covid-restricted time to be able to squeeze a new country into our normally hyper-full travel schedule. Without being able to go to India and Indonesia for the last year, we had an unusual opening in summer, and were able to get back to Guatemala a mere 23 years after our first trip as youngins.
We were incredibly fortunate to be connected to a few people that live and work in Guatemala and helped us reach out to weavers and vendors of the beautiful old pieces we craved. To you, Willow L'Amour of Lamour Artisans
, I am eternally grateful! Willow has a great online shop in Australia that specializes in Guatemalan textiles. I read her wonderful blog post on shopping in Antigua and Lake Atitlan and reached out to her on Instagram with a couple questions. She totally blew me away with her unbelievably kind and generous advice and guidance. I truly would never have found so much, or learned anything close to what we did in Guatemala without her! Please check out her blog and gorgeous shop by clicking HERE.
I was also lucky to meet the lovely Molly Berry of Luna Zorro
. Molly has a beautiful business creating bespoke textiles for fine hotels and boutiques around the world. Her Instagram is one of my favorite things to follow, and was definitely a huge factor in all my dreams of spending time in Guatemala. We will be working with her directly for some custom bedding coming to TDL this winter. Please see the inspiring Luna Zorro Insta HERE
The famous Santa Catalina arch that allowed nuns in the late 15th century to cross over the street from one convent building to the other without being seen.
We started out our Guatemala travel adventure in Antigua. We fell in love with this gorgeous, centuries old city filled with colonial architecture and cobbled streets all tucked into a verdant volcanic valley. The weather in June was perfect for us desert dwellers. It was cool and crisp in the morning and evening, with rain showers on and off, and plenty of lovely little restaurants to stop for refreshments in the midday heat. We walked about for days straight, peeking into the beautiful ruins of cathedrals, monasteries and convents.
Iglesia de La Merced
Above and below - the beautiful ruins of Santa Clara Convent were a favorite!
A lovely courtyard we peeked into
Catedral de Santiago
We spent many wonderful hours poking about in the well organized Nim Po't Centro de Textiles Traditionales learning about the different weaving and embroidery styles typical of the various villages around Guatemala. We then found our way to the Artisan Markets and started to amass our collection of textile treasures in earnest.
One of the highlights of our days in Antigua was the beautiful Airbnb perched above the city where we stayed. While this was a work trip for me and my mom Linda, it was also a summer break trip for my three kids. We needed a big enough place for all of us to relax, and a place for my husband to work from remotely. While we were a good 10 minute drive to town, the view of the volcanoes and city below made any commute so worth it!
For those of us design obsessed, a great house makes all the difference in enjoying a trip like this. Here is a LINK to the house
- we definitely recommend it.
We then took the three hour drive to complete our trip from Antigua to Lake Atitlan. We shared the road with the ubiquitous Guatemalan chicken buses, which brought back memories of our trip back in the 90's - lovely to see them from comfort of a hired car! Ah backpacking memories!
We were delighted to be staying right on the lake in a funky, rustic home with a huge garden and a badminton court for the kids.
We explored Panajachel on foot, and quickly got the hang of hiring tuktuks to get us back to our house after a long day of walking. One of the highlights of the trip came not long after we arrived, the Sunday market in Chichicastanego. We took a day trip to the town, about a 90 minute drive from Pana. Here, twice a week, vendors from all the surrounding mountain villages come to sell everything from vegetables, to electronics, to kitchen gadgets - yes I even bought a handy little jalapeno corer! But what we were really after were the booths of vintage huilpils and other textiles that are bought and sold at this famous trading spot.
Flowers for sale at the Chichi Market
The lovely lady at the right tried to sell me the huilpil she was holding, then sold it to the woman at left who then immediately turned to me and tried to sell it to me for twice as much. I love market moments like this!
PIles and piles of handwoven and embroidered treasures
Me sifting through piles of huipils
We bought stacks of vintage huipils that our friends in San Pablo will be cutting and sewing into pillows for TDL. We had so much fun laying them all out at the house and figuring out the best ways to create pillow magic with them.
We quickly realized that the best villages to visit and enjoy are the smaller, cuter ones across that lake from Pana. We took Lanchas, local water taxis, to San Marcos, San Juan, and San Pedro.
Linda, my mom, shopping in San Juan
San Juan del Laguna is lined with shops run by women's weaving co-ops. We bought many beautiful handwoven blankets for layering on beds, and yardage for pillows from these enterprising ladies. While Linda and I took off in a tuktuk to meet the women we hired to custom weave the backing for all of our huilpil pillows, our kids got to learn all about the art and crafts of Lake Atitlan. I hired a guide to show them around and I absolutely loved hearing their stories about beekeeping, coffee production, and the various painting techniques from the lakeside villages.
Of course my favorite thing they learned about was the weaving. Over the years Linda and I have visited many weaving workshops in various countries, but this was the kids first time seeing the whole process from picking seeds out of cotton, to spinning the threads, dying with natural plants, setting the warp on the loom, and finally to weaving on backstrap looms.
A display of natural dyes and the plants that make them
Showing how plants are processed to create natural dyes
The best way to get around - tuktuks!
At the women's co-op that is weaving the fabric for the backing on all our pillows
These ladies were the sweetest - so excited to be working with them!
We did manage to work in some epic kid experiences on the trip. Swimming in the crystal clear lake near San Marcos was a favorite. We all jumped off the rocks on a couple of beautiful mornings. When we come back I think we will stay in this area as the lake is its most glorious in this area.
We also had a truly amazing day at the zipline park outside of Panajachel. Our family has had some great zipline experiences over the years - here in Arizona, but also in Bali, India, and Costa Rica. This course on Lake Atitlan blew all those away! It did require a killer hike up what seemed like the entire clifface off the lake - but it was well worth it!
This is the view from the second course - those buildings waay down below are about 18 stories high - we felt like we hiked right into the clouds.
My son paragliding for the first time!
Speaking of clouds - my oldest son, who is almost 16, and I spent our last morning in Guatemala trying something new and exciting - paragliding. Apparently Lake Atitlan is the perfect place to practice this amazing sport - with tall volcanic cliffs surrounding the large lake, steady soft breezes, and mild year round climate. We drove about 30 minutes to the top of the mountains and each got to glide in tandem with very accomplished professionals all the way down to Panajachel far below. It was utter magic. The views - the silent soaring - the way the wind off the lake gently pushes you right up to the clouds - the thrilling corkscrew twists - oooo! I can't wait to do it again someday - both my son and I just loved it!
The view from my seat high above Lake Atitlan
The house dog at our Airbnb with some of our textiles hoard - we miss you Daisy!
We loved getting to know Guatemala and are excited for the projects we kickstarted while there. We hand carried back six duffel bags of blankets, table runners, and vintage embroidered belts that are now in stock at TDL. We are trying to get more of them on the website - see what's newly up by the link here! In the next couple of months we should be receiving a beautiful batch of pillows made from the vintage huilpils we found, and the line of blankets we are working on directly with the women's co-ops will be coming later this year.
Staying on Lake Atitlan was quite magical - the boat trips, our funky Airbnb, the wonderful house dogs that kept us company, and the adventures we had made for a memorable week. We are hoping for many more trips to come!