Adventuring to Guatemala, Antigua and The Mayan Highlands

Apr 27, 2014 at 0:01
Apr 27, 2014
by Raven Eye Photography  
 
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In the fall of 2013 my mountain bike and I took off for South America for five weeks of non stop biking. This photo essay covers three weeks in Guatemala. Although not widely known as a biking destination, the combination of intriguing Guatemalan culture and the high elevation single track farm trails of the Mayan Highlands resulted in a truly unique mountain biking experience. Guatemala can be a tricky place to travel around on your own, especially while lugging your bike. Luckily Old Town Outfitters (www.adventureguatemala.com) based in the old capital city of Antigua offer spectacular day trips, while Sacred Rides (www.sacredrides.com) based out of Canada offer some unforgettable week to ten day long trips bike trips through the country.


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Most of the biking starts and finishes in the UNESCO heritage town of Antigua, and there is a sweet shop - Old Town Outfitters ready to get you on the trails and fix whatever the local airlines broke on your bike during the flight over.


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The culture in Guatemala is incredibly diverse and colourful. There seemed to be countless traditional Mayan cultures and languages making up each region. Every town I arrived in brought with it a new and unique cultural experience.


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The farm land high on the ancient volcanic slopes above Antigua, offered easy access singletrack to warm up the legs - just keep your eyes open for the multi use traffic.


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The landscape and trails will not disappoint...


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It's not uncommon to meet several armed locals along the way who can help with directions.



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Up in the Mayan Highlands the terrain transforms from lush volcanic slopes into a high elevation labyrinth of prehistoric rock formations.


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The local kids and farmers in the Mayan Highlands are always excited to see bikers!


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The mellow and winding 1000m vertical descent from the highland plateau to the lower farming village of Todos Santos was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip.


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Todos Santos offers a Mayan culture largely unchanged for generations.


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A long climb back out of Todos Santos to regain the highlands brings you back to an ancient surreal landscape and the fast singletrack that flows through it.


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At this point I was almost expecting a triceratops to amiably wander across the trail ahead of me... sadly there were only sheep.


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Our local guide ripping it up.


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Trail side accommodations in the highlands - With an elevation over 3000m and nights dropping below freezing the Unicorn Ranch offers warm meals and a greats night rest. They did not however have any unicorns which was disappointing...


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And I thought lugging around all my camera gear was heavy...


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Sharing the trails with the local farmers...


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You run into the odd traffic jam...


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Dropping back down from the highlands the hectic Guatemalan culture presents itself in full colour again...

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Semuc Champey Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world, a remote jungle site where the river forms spectacular green pools and waterfalls.


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Can you hold your bike up with one hand?



Story and Photo's by Todd Weselake - Raven Eye Photography
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41 Comments

  • + 19
 Looks like a fantastic trip. Now all I need is money to do the same!

(More articles like this is not a bad thing Pinkbike.)
  • + 13
 I also miss more articles about travelling and adventure. The truth is that I can't take any more jumps.
  • + 5
 Definitely more articles like that but the pace at which they appear is way too insane: too many crazy places desperately calling to be ridden and too little cash in my wallet to get this done!

I'm still planning to go to Madeira and crazy riding pictures from the Antarctica pop out...and now this aaaaaaaaaah.
  • + 2
 Well, Madeira is the most near destination of the 3 you mention. And the ride is amazing! Have you cheek out this tour company, www.bikulture.com?
  • + 1
 @ rihuma. Yep I did, and it looks really nice they propose very interesting packages (bike+accomodation+car lift+ airport pickups) for a very good price.
  • + 7
 I love my country, It's a real paradise for MTB. Next week Enduro Race on the foothills of "Agua" Volcano! vimeo.com/81720802
  • + 2
 See you there!
  • + 1
 im going to be there too
  • + 3
 I lived down in Antigua as a mountain bike guide one season ago. For those seeking an adventure, grab your balls and go do it. You don't need any money, and that will be made clear to you when you are living in a county where kids have absolutely nothing, yet are abundantly more happy than you. Guatemala is beautiful, and riding along active volcanos are coffee fields is a great life experience.
  • + 2
 I completely agree- have lived in Guatemala and have never known a happier people. Truthfully- most of the people in the country areas are immanently more happy than anyone else I have ever met. Still have friends down there from years ago. Never thought to ride my mtn bike but at the time it was skateboards for me and they had an excellent little skate park in Zona 11 in teh Capital next to a pizza hut...late 80's.
  • + 2
 Great article and nice pictures! Guatemala is a great place to ride, if you are going to be down here for awhile, all of the local bike shops sponsor MTB rides, or can connect you with a group. If you are an endurance racer, be sure to look into the annual "Reto del Quetzal", a 4-day race, mostly single track: www.elretodelquetzal.com.
  • + 2
 I visited Guatemala 10 years ago with my best friend and remember looking at the landscape around Antigua and thinking this would be an awesome place to ride. The locals are friendly, the rooms cheap and clean, the foot is amazing, and the beer is always cheap. Not to mention that the history and culture in some of the old cities like Antigua are great to be immersed in. Great article PB keep them coming, those pictures are great.
  • + 1
 Great article and photos, Todd! We're always happy to have your amazing lens along for the ride.

If any of you are interested in this trip, check out sacredrid.es/1irqWTP.

We also have a less strenuous version called the Ruta de Maya, for those of you that aren't into 5,000-vertical-foot climbs: sacredrid.es/1irrdGk
  • + 1
 Nice job Todd! So many beautiful images captured perfectly. I have been to Guatemala, but I had no idea such amazing trails lay in the highlands above the cities. Not to mention some rad looking singletrack, and pretty wild scenery. Unicorns really would have topped it off though.. Hope to have you record one of our BC trips this year!
  • + 2
 nice to see another awesome article about the riding down in Central America! I might be biased though, being as my family is all from Guatemala. I need to get down there and take my bike with me!
  • + 2
 This was an excellent post, well documented and incredible photos. I have been to many places here in Guatemala but I still have a lot to visit (Todos Santos being one). Thank you for this and everybody is invited to come!
  • + 1
 Damn it! I was really hoping to be able to get back in time to have a featured article on the country... Some of the most shreddable terrain I have ever seen has been on hikes there.

Did you ever get to do Siete Altares or anything on the east coast of the country? That river would make for some sweet slick rock if the locals would allow it during dry season.

I have so much I want to do once I get to return. There is actually a co-op in Antigua that makes machines out of recycled bicycles for families and farmers as well, really interesting to see what they are making of it.

Beautiful feature!
  • + 1
 Really want to go back now.... Loved riding around all the little trails on the El Hato side of Antigua. On my little frankenbike BMX contraption for lack of a better bike (I had 6 months there, but was broke as f*ck from start to finish). Only managed to go on one trip with the guys from Old Town. Worth every penny though. And absolutely brilliant to have a proper bike under me for once. As for Guatemala: go check that place out, it's mindblowing!
  • + 1
 looks awesome, were the "armed locales" friendly? I am thinking of checking out guatamala next winter and would love to ride there as it looks awesome, wouldn't want to have to "trade" my bike away though while doing so.. awesome photos and an epic journey. Salute
  • + 2
 "It's not uncommon to meet several armed locals along the way who can help with directions."... Just like in the USA, without the helping with directions part. Smile
  • + 3
 Awesome pictures and article. Looks like you guys had a blast. To me this is what mountain biking is, going on an adventure.
  • + 1
 You can return anytime! Mountain Biking in Guatemala is a privilege and an adventure! Long live to the MTB! ...and, yes, I can hold my bike with one hand!!! NICE PICS!!!
  • + 1
 Now that I've learned that there are no unicorns, I don't think I'll bother going on this trip. Joking aside, I'm seriously considering something like this.
  • + 2
 You can return anytime! Mountain Biking in Guatemala is a privilege and an adventure! Long live to the MTB!
  • + 1
 This makes me so sad that I wasn't into biking when I travelled Central America for 4 months Frown

I love Guatemala, what a fantastic country.
  • + 1
 Hands down the coolest place I've ever been!! Everything is amazing there, especially the people!
  • + 2
 Stunning write up and photos, fantastic. Thank you for sharing...
  • + 2
 Sacred Rides pulling out the best mountain bike trips on earth!
  • + 1
 I'd like to see a sentence is two on bike choice. Super jealous of these trips though.
  • + 1
 I'm glad to said I was born in Guatemala but haven't got the chance to ride there ... Maybe next year....
  • + 2
 Fabulous! This is real holiday!
  • + 1
 so many adventures, and i have so little tim€
  • + 1
 Is Sacred Rides affiliated with Old town Outfitters ?
  • + 1
 Gorgeous pics! Hope you can make it to Veracruz, México, one day!
  • + 1
 niiiice!!! but the pics??? how did you get those colors??
  • + 1
 Such wallpapers! Many wow!
  • + 1
 That country's so picturesque!
  • + 1
 Nice one Todd! Looks awesome!
  • + 1
 Wow, awesome photographs Todd!!
  • + 1
 Or a Triceratops!

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