We spent five weeks in a condo in West End, Roatan, Honduras, without a car, so we stuck pretty close to our neighborhood. It’s a very authentic little village, though also with lots of tourists. We liked it better than nearby West Bay because there are no big resorts in West End. Just a cool local vibe. Our Airbnb condo (see it here) was about a half a mile walk (with a very steep hill) to the center of the tiny town of West End. We did the walk nearly everyday and sometimes more than once. Over the course of our time we got to know the village pretty well. So here are our favorite things in West End, Roatan, Honduras.
The Main Drag
Just walking along the main drag is entertaining. West End is in a protected bay, so many of the dive, snorkel and fishing operators are based here. The water taxi to West Bay is also based here, and they tie up the boats here at night. This creates a nice nighttime scene with lots of bars and restaurants, although it never seems too noisy. West End was originally a fishing village and remains focused on water activities, although the town is bursting at its seams in its small one and half mile stretch of road that fronts Half Moon Bay.
Half Moon Bay
There are just a couple beaches to swim from in West End, the best one is the public beach at Half Moon Bay. A very narrow beach with easy water access that feels safe. Nice sandy bottom makes it a great place for families or those who just want to float around. Palm trees provide beach shade and the sargassum grass and trash are cleaned up each morning.
Because I suffer from extreme motion sickness, I can only snorkel on a calm day. While the weather is usually calm, Roatan, like the rest of the world, was having some unusual weather during our visit and we experienced a lot of wind. But we managed to pull off a wonderful hour long snorkel right off the beach in West End on one of the best weather days. Very calm and sunny as we did an afternoon snorkel of the Blue Gulch that we booked through Roatan Tour Guide Association. We highly recommend working with Dani from RTA who was very helpful and understanding for my concerns. We had a great snorkel.
Rent a Kayak
We didn’t need a guide, although there are guided kayak tours as well as kayak snorkel tours. We just wanted to leisurely paddle around beautiful Half Moon Bay. So we rented a kayak from Harry’s Hideaway in West End for $18 an hour. It was just perfect to get out and enjoy the water on a calm day and get some good photos looking back at the village of West End.
Even if you have no reason to go back and forth between West End and West Bay we still recommend taking the water taxi just for the fun of it. The $5 one way charge is reasonable and gives you a great view from the water side. The Water Taxi runs all day long every day and is located right in the middle of West End.
As I have said before, I am not a big shopper. Mostly because we have no room in our suitcase, but also because I just don’t love shopping. We did however visit a few shops that were fun, such as Rusty Fish, which is a recycled art store. My favorite shop in West End however is an absolute don’t miss… the beautiful Waves of Art Gallery. Unlike most the other shops it is full of LOCAL artists works and I bought some beautiful handmade baskets from the Lencan Indian Tribe of mainland Honduras.
I also visited the Roatan Chocolate Factory on several occasions to pick up something from the bakery on the main floor. And then on my birthday I took a chocolate making class in their upstairs kitchen and museum. The class was $40 and I was the only person in the class. It was great fun to learn the process from bean to bar.
There are several “mini-marts” offering beverages, snacks, toilet paper and some other essentials but no meat and very little produce. The nearest supermarket is in the larger town of Coxen Hole, about a 15 minute drive. But we used Roa Market for must of our smaller needs and they had the best selection.
There are a couple of fruit markets in the village and we stopped in about every other day for fruit, tomatoes, avocados and occasionally we could find lettuce. Our favorite was Frutas Verduras.
So Many Restaurants
There are so many restaurants in this little tiny town. Really amazing. When we visited West Bay there were not nearly as many restaurants, except for the ones in the resorts. Another reason we loved West End. We cooked most of our meals, but ate out a few lunches, a couple breakfasts and about once a week for dinner. Our last five days we were out of food so we ate out each night, and we never ate anyplace twice…we wanted to try them all. Here is a list of our favorites, with links when possible. Most restaurants use What’sApp for reservations.
Roatan Oasis – hands down the best meal we had. Definitely get a reservation.
Pazzo – our driver Dario recommended we go here. Without his recommendation we would have overlooked it. Authentic Italian pasta and more. Possibly the best beef carpaccio ever. Cash only and bring your own alcohol.
Tijuana Taco Stand – friendly proprietor right on the beach, very authentic Mexican food to eat at the picnic tables or take away.
La Ruta Del Sabor – is a teeny place that front an abandoned hotel but where you will find the most authentic and delicious El Salvadorian pupusas. I’m drooling thinking about it.
We don’t spend a lot of time in bars, but we did stop into a few places, watched football at a few places and enjoyed mostly the local beer called Salva Vida. We visited the Sundowner (nice view and they also serve food), Blue Marlin (also nice view), Tequila Jack’s (beautiful view and some appetizers), Harry’s Hideaway (fun bar and restaurant on the water), Tita’s Pink Seahorse (an awesome hidden beach bar worth searching for) and Booty Bar (great for football and excellent food).
There are no sidewalks. It’s kinda annoying. Unless it’s early in the morning, most cars drive pretty slow, because the heavy traffic requires it. But you are walking in the street with cars, busses, taxis and scooters. This is true in most places in the island. So be prepared and stay aware.
We always felt safe, but that said don’t carry a lot of cash or unnecessary valuables.
Use bug spray. The tiny sand fleas (also known as midges and no-see-ums) are prolific, and not just on the beach. Bites are painful and take 7-10 days to heal. Also don’t forget your sunscreen.
US Dollars are widely accepted but your bills will not be accepted if they are torn, written on, old or damaged. Carry fresh pristine bills…but try to use the local currency if you can.
There aren’t really any addresses, so having a good driver is useful. Currently there is a ton of road construction going on, widening the main road that runs through the island. That work will continue into 2024.
We used Omar’s Tourist Transportation and our driver Dario for several trips we made. We highly recommend them if you want a safe and reliable transfer service. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Taxis are abundant and there is also a funky little bus system. Not actually busses but vans. Flag them down. Cheap too.
If you don’t already, download What’sAp to use during your visit. It is the communication tool all the locals use including for dinner reservations.
Don’t drink the water. Filtered water is easily available and very inexpensive.
Thanks for reading our post Our Favorite Things in West End Roatan. It’s a safe and wonderful option for visiting Honduras. We hope to visit this tiny place again someday.
Diving is king here on this tropical island, in the Caribbean, just off the coast of Honduras. But if you are not a diver, there are still lots of things to do. Whether you are here for a long snowbird stay or just for a brief visit from a cruise ship, take a look at our Twelve Things To Do On Roatan for Non-Divers.
This is my honest opinion on the things we did during our five weeks in Roatan, Honduras.
Take an Island Tour
One of our most favorite things was a full island, full day tour of Roatan. If you only have one day this might not be for you, but those staying longer definitely should do this. We booked with Omar Tourist Transportation and our driver Dario was amazing. We discussed the things we were interested in seeing and he made sure we saw those and much more. He also took us to the most amazing place for lunch, an out-of-the-way, over-the-water spot with delicious food called La Sirena. We would never have known about that without Dario. One of our favorites of our twelve things to do on Roatan for non-divers.
Daniel Johnson’s Sloth Hangout
I really wanted to hold a sloth. I know this is against some people’s beliefs, but for me, it was on my bucket list. So on our full day island tour we stopped at Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout in French Caye. There are other things to do at Daniel Johnson’s but I was only there for the sloths, so we were in and out quickly. There are many tours to Daniel Johnson’s or you can arrive on your own and entrance fee is $12.
West End Snorkel Tour
We booked a snorkel day right in West End where we were staying with Roatan Tour Guide Association. Dani runs Roatan Tour Guide Association and he was great. He took seriously my concerns about my motion sickness (something I have dealt with my entire life) and created a tour just for me. The coral reef that surrounds Roatan is part of the second biggest in the world (the MesoAmerican Reef) and it really was a wonderful thing to see…and all the fish too. Definitely work with Dani.
West Bay Beaches
We took one day to visit West Bay. It’s very different than West End where we were staying. West Bay is home to many resorts along a long sandy white beach. It’s very pretty but also crowded so if you want a beach spot arrive early. Personally I am glad we stayed in West End and not West Bay.
Water Taxi Between West End and West Bay
Whether you are staying in West Bay or West End, you should take the water taxi just for fun. It’s five dollars one way and a great way to get out on the water and see the island. It’s also a great service to get between the two small towns; West End which has more restaurants and shops and West Bay which has more resorts and a bigger beach.
Gumbalimba Adventure Park
Okay I didn’t love this place, but it had a few fun moments. Lots of cruise groups come here but it was pretty quiet the day we visited. You start with a guided tour learning about flora. Next some rather outdated dioramas of the history of the island. Then you get to see animals which I really enjoyed. Giant iguanas, beautiful scarlet macaws (the national bird of Honduras) and white faced monkeys. If you want to hold the monkey or birds the guides will help make this happen. These animals are wild, but know to come to the guides and they will get a treat.
We also spent a little time on the beach here…chairs were not in great condition, nor was the restrooms. We ordered a hamburger and it was awful. Entrance fee of $35 seemed really expensive for this rundown Gumbalimba Adventure Park.
Carambola Botanical Gardens
We took the local “bus” three miles from West End to Carambola Botanical Gardens. Their website is not very well maintained, but the gardens were fun to see, if you like natural sites like this. I do and so we went. You can also hike up to the top of the mountain on a poorly maintained trail for a beautiful view.
Take a Cooking Class
We found a lovely local lady who came to our condo and we cooked Honduran food together. We booked this class through Viator Cook With a Local. First we went to the market to get all our ingredients which was fun. Then we spent two hours prepping, cooking and eating a delicious meal. It was a wonderful day. Definitely request Karla if you do this class. She was wonderful.
Make and Eat Chocolate
There are two chocolate making facilities in the West End and we visited both Mayan and Roatan. Roatan Chocolate Factory was very close to where we were staying and we stopped there several times to get some things from their bakery. Then on my birthday I decided to spend a couple of hours in a chocolate making class. This is something I have never done before and I really enjoyed it – especially since the earlier class that day was big for the cruise crowd but in my class I was the only one. And of course I got to eat what I made. $40 if you book direct, it’s a lot more expensive if you go with a tour group. I really enjoyed this activity, and my guide Jackson was amazing.
Overnight Visit to Utila
We took the ferry to the small island of Utila for two nights, just to see what that was all about. It is very tiny and very focused on diving BUT we had an awesome morning of snorkeling so I am so glad we went. I saw lots of things I’ve never encountered snorkeling before including a gorgeous Eagle Ray, a Reef Shark and a Puffer Fish. There a many, many places to stay…but don’t expect luxury. Our simple and a bit run down hotel Coral View Beach Resort was clean, and the bar and food was excellent. We snorkeled right off their dock.
A bit out of the way but definitely worth it is the Roatan Island Brewing Company. Only open 11am-5pm Wed – Sunday, they serve an excellent selection of their own microbrew (changes regularly), superb food too, all under a beautiful palm canopy. A must visit.
Try Some Local Foods
We always love to eat – and on the island of Roatan we had some wonderful local foods. You definitely need to try Conch while visiting. Available in different preparations, we enjoyed Conch fritters and especially Conch Ceviche.
As you might suspect, being an island, seafood is abundant. The shrimp here was the best I have had anywhere in the world! We also tried Lionfish for the first time. You will find lots of Grouper, Red Snapper, Wahoo (Ono) and sometimes tuna available.
Two local specialties we fell in love with. Baleadas are a Honduran specialty. Like a very big taco, but the tortilla is much thicker and soft. A baleada always has beans and queso. Then you add your protein. Super cheap and super delicious. We tried pollo, pastor, and egg and avocado.
The next local specialty I LOVED was the pupusa. Native to both Honduras and El Salvador, we first had these on our visit to El Salvador a few years ago. The ones we had here in Roatan were fresh made to order. They are like a corn cake filled with lots of yummy goodness. Just amazing.
As I mentioned above, you must eat the locally made chocolate from wild cacao trees while you are here. So good.
Twelve Things To Do On Roatan for Non-Divers
Though not as upscale as Maui or some other tropical destinations, Roatan has many activities to enjoy even if you don’t dive. So hopefully this post Twelve Things to do on Roatan for Non-Divers helps you see why you should visit this hidden gem in the Caribbean.
Next week we will have another post about West End, Roatan.
We spent six days in Granada Nicaragua and found so many surprising things. You could easily see this small town in less time, but we had the time so we took it. Let me tell you some of our favorite discoveries in Granada Nicaragua – Colonial Charm and Much More.
We flew into Managua from Miami, but based on our research did not have any interest in hanging out in Managua. So we moved right along. After a slow process getting through passport control and inspection, we met our driver right outside the terminal. I had booked ahead the driver through Southwinds Tours. He spoke perfect English and transported us safely on the 45 minute drive south to Granada.
We stayed at a small hotel in a perfect location in Granada called El Almirante. Easy walk to everything. This hotel was inexpensive, had fabulous staff, was popular with both locals and foreigners, and offered a great breakfast. We did find it was noisy however and our room was very small. After six nights we were definitely ready to move on to something bigger.
A Little History
Granada (region) was populated long before the Spanish arrived with a thriving indigenous population. In 1524 the city was named after the town of the same name in Spain, by Spanish conquistador Hernandez de Cordoba.
During the colonial era Granada was a sister city to Antiqua Guatemala and the cities have a very similar look architecturally. For many years Granada was in conflict with the city of Leon with the power struggle between families and politicians. This was often violent.
In 1834 Candido Flores attempted a revolt against the government in Leon, but the failed attempt left Granada in shambles. Next American William Walker attempted to take control of the city and declared himself President. An anti-abolitionist, Walker wanted to keep slavery and run the region of Granada. When his attempts failed he burned the city. He was later executed in Honduras.
Granada was spared from most violence during the Sandinista vs Contra period in the 1970’s – 1990’s – luckily. It’s why you can still enjoy this gem Granada Nicaragua Colonial Charm and Much More.
Granada Nicaragua Colonial Charm and Much More
There are many things to do in this pretty little town. We did not do them all, but here are some of our favorites;
Mombacho Volcano Hike – we took a guided tour up to the Mombacho Volcano using Danny’s Tours. We were picked up at our hotel and drove the 45 min up the steep road to the top of the volcano. Then we hiked with a guide along the trails and enjoyed flora and birds and fantastic views back down to Granada and Lake Nicaragua. The view includes being able to see Masaya Volcano about 15 miles in the distance with venting steam. We also stopped at a Las Flores Coffee Plantation on the way.
Lake Nicaragua Boat Tour – we also used Danny’s Tours for this excursion and it was the most fun of all the things we did. Our guide Manuel picked up at our hotel and drove us to the lake where we boarded a small boat. Motoring around the dozens of islands on the lake, learning history, seeing how the locals live as well as the millionaire mansions was incredible. We saw so many amazing birds, as well as monkey, bats and fish. I highly recommend this. You also can choose to do a kayak tour.
Walk along Lake Nicaragua – on our last day with time to spare we took a long walk, seeing some of the less touristy neighborhoods and walking along the lakefront. Though very neglected and in need of some TLC, a park stretches several miles along the lake and we enjoyed the walk.
Carriage Ride – A popular activity, though very touristy, is to take a horse drawn carriage ride through the city. We decided to do this on our final day. The 40 minute ride was $15 with an English speaking guide pointing out sites along the way and answering our questions.
Wow. The dining options in this small town were phenomenal. What a surprise that was. Not just the local food but international cuisines of every kind. These listed here are all amazing.
Nectar – located on the Calle La Calzada, a pedestrian area bursting with dining options, we chose Nectar at random but turns out it is a highly rated spot. We enjoyed Nicaraguan cuisine including our first time having tostone, a fried plantain topped with meat and cheese. Delicious
The Garden Cafe – we read great reviews about The Garden Cafe so we headed there for a late lunch and enjoyed our quinoa bowls so much. They have a wide range of healthy foods based on local ingredients. Absolutely delicious.
Pita Pita – This was such a surprise to find such authentic Mediterranean food in Nicaragua. The baba ganoush, hummus and falafel were excellent.
Boca Baco – We had an exceptional meal at this little tapas place that also serves sushi. What more could you want? We enjoyed half a dozen tapas to share, including fabulous deep fried shrimp and a delicious beef carpaccio. Highly recommend.
Bistro Estrada – another delicious surprise, and in a beautiful garden courtyard. We loved this hidden little gem and the authentic Nicaraguan menu.
Tosto Metro – You must eat here…if you can find it. We went to the Mercado three times trying to find it. On the third try we were determined and we found it. It’s very hidden in the chaos that is the Granada Mercado. Just a few steps to the left from the main entrance, but if you blink you’ll miss it. And we did…but the third time was the charm. Tosto Metro does burgers. Only burgers, but it is exceptional. You choose beef, chicken or pork. It’s served on a bun made from plantains. Accompanied by the absolute best sauce. And sweet little treat at the end. Perfecto.
There are many, many more. You won’t go hungry in Granada Nicaragua – Colonial Charm and Much More
Granada A Pleasant Surprise
I encourage you to visit Granada Nicaragua. It has a lot to offer and you will be pleasantly surprised. Next week I’ll post about San Juan del Sur Nicaragua so be sure to come back!
We spent a week in La Paz Bolivia recently, purposely planing a long visit to give us time to acclimate to this city in the sky. La Paz was our jumping off point for an overland Bolivian tour. And at 11,893 feet (3625 meters) we knew we needed to take our time. And we have the time, so we spent 8 lovely days Living in the Sky – La Paz Bolivia.
The last time we spent time at this kind of altitude was 13 years ago when we arrived in Cusco Peru (elevation 11,152 feet/3399 meters) to do the 5 day Inca Trail Hike. Before leaving home our doctor had given us some prescription meds to help with altitude sickness. In hindsight, the extreme nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness I experienced in Cusco (enough to bring a doctor to our hotel room) I believe was due to those meds.
So this time we decided to not take any medicine. Instead we planned a long acclimation period, drank a ton of water, gatorade, tea and coffee, and did not drink any alcohol. We ate very light meals and allowed ourselves plenty of sleep. After just two days, we felt rested and no adverse symptoms, other than just a light headache and a bit of breathlessness.
We also think spending a week in Mexico City (7349 feet/ 2240 meters) probably helped as a stepping stone to Living in the Sky – La Paz Bolivia.
But still a bit muddled…
I will say however, our brains were a bit muddled the whole time. My husband Arne who serves as our CFO on the grand adventure could never quite get the exchange rate correct in his head. And me, the COO, could not get the dates straight…which resulted in us thinking our tour was beginning a day earlier than it actually was. Or maybe we are just getting old…
Living in the Sky – La Paz Bolivia
La Paz is the highest major city in the world. It was founded by the Spanish in 1548, but long before that time the indigenous Aymara and Quechua people and before them Inca people inhabited the region. Throughout what is now La Paz, El Alto, and surrounding area, archeologists have found sites of the aboriginal tribe Tiwanaku that had existed for at least 1500 years (there is a lot of intense debate of these dates see below).
When the Spanish arrived, they created “a commercial city, lying on the main gold and silver route to the coast. The Spaniards came for the Bolivian gold found in the Choqueapu River that runs through present-day La Paz. The Spaniards took the gold mines away from Aymara people and made them work as slaves. The primarily male Spanish population soon mixed with the indigenous people, creating a largely mestizo, or mixed, population.” Source Wikipedia.
Climate and Geology
The climate here is odd. It is tropical at 16 degrees south, the same as Tahiti French Polynesia. However the altitude in La Paz at 12,000 feet has both a rainy and a dry season but the high temperature throughout the year only varies between about 54F and 58F. It’s quit distinctive, and unlike any climate we have been in before.
The area around La Paz is made up of a sandy, loamy, glacial like soil…very unstable. The city is built on unconsolidated glacial deposits from the past ice age through which Choqueyapa River has cut to form the steep sided canyon. Because of high rainfall, unconsolidated sediment, and steep slopes landslides are a common occurrence in La Paz.
Beautiful, Surprising, Huge, Cultural and Delicious
We planned a week, thinking most of that I would be sick, but since we acclimated easily we had lots of time to enjoy this fascinating city. I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea what a beautiful place it is. So once we realized we had a lot of extra time, we planned an itinerary to see the most that we could. We had warmer weather than we expected too, so everyday we got outside and explored. The area known as La Paz is actually two cities. La Paz sits in the valley and snakes out and up in all directions from the original site on the river. Population of La Paz is 900,000. The city of El Alto sits on the mountain plateau above La Paz and stretches as far as the eye can see. This is the location of the international airport, Manuel Márquez de León International Airport, the highest international airport in the world. El Alto has a population of 1,100,000.
Here are our suggestions for how to enjoy Living in the Sky – La Paz Bolivia.
One of the most surprising things we found on arrival in La Paz was the outstanding gondola transit system. Mi Teleferico is the largest gondola system in the world. This rare, well planned, people-mover is designed not for tourists, but as a way of moving the more than 2 million residents around this mountain region. Wikipedia says – “Mi Teleférico, also known as Teleférico La Paz–El Alto, is an aerial cable car urban transit system serving the La Paz–El Alto metropolitan area in Bolivia. As of October 2019, the system consists of 26 stations along ten lines: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Orange, White, Sky Blue, Purple, Brown, and Silver.”
It is clean, efficient, fun and cheap costing only about 40 cents (USD) per ride. It is not designed to make money, rather to eliminate street traffic, connect areas of the region and provide the people an efficient and inexpensive way to navigate the two cities. About 150,000 people use the system everyday.
We took the time to ride all the lines during our visit, just for fun and for the views. Seeing this wonderful city from above really gives you an appreciation for the ingenuity and population. I highly recommend it when visiting La Paz and El Alto. The views are spectacular.
Guided Walking Tour
Using Get Your Guide we connected with the local tour company of Hanaqpacha Travel to spend three hours with a local guide walking and learning about the city. Our guide Fernando and Jenny, a guide in training, were excellent. Great English, very knowledgeable and fun to be with.
We explored many of the historic areas, learned about local historic figures and past violence and troubles. We learned to navigate the cable car, got insight into the two cities, the markets, and Cholita women.
The Witches Market
One of the most intriguing things we did was explore the Witches Market. This area of shops is where dozens of local women sell curious, obscure and strange items from llama fetuses to dried herbs and talismans that are a part of the Aymara rituals and spirits world. After hundreds of years of the Catholic Church suppressing the Aymara way of life, in recent decades these ancient customs have been allowed to come out of hiding. They never stopped these rituals; they just had to keep them tucked away. Today in La Paz you find a curious mix of ancient mystical beliefs and the Catholic religion.
One disturbing thing we learned though I need to mention. Our guide explained to us that the llama fetuses are used as a good luck talisman, buried under buildings and homes to appease Pachamama – Mother Earth. The larger the building the larger the animal. But deep in this belief is rumored human sacrifices that continue to this day. Our guide says it’s a common rumor that this may or may not happen…but why? He said that the larger the building, the larger the sacrifice must be to Pachamama. And there is rumor that some construction sites actually take homeless or drunks off the street and sacrifice them. Of course we found this horribly disturbing. Our guide was also sufficiently disturbed, but claims this ancient practice and the rumor has persisted throughout his lifetime. I found this article if you want to read more. Not a pleasant thing to think about.
On a lighter note, the Aymara & Quechua people and the Cholita women (I found this amazing article about the Cholita) are fantastic artisans and surrounding the Witches Market (where you can also take home your own good luck talismans) are dozens of shops selling beautiful hand made items. Popular weavings of bright colors are made into bags, headbands, wallets and even shoes. Alpaca sweaters, shawls, hats and scarves are gorgeous and inexpensive. You can see the women knitting on the street or in the stalls. We purchased gifts to take home and were amazed at the quality of work and cheap prices. The market also has handmade leather items, silver jewelry and ceramics.
The Lovely Cholita Women
Throughout the city the Cholita women sell flowers, produce, snacks and traditional foods on the street. You can also find outfitter stores for tourists in need of down jackets, hiking shoes and just about anything else you might need for your time in Bolivia.
We booked a food walking tour with Red Cap Tours. Our guide Amara was great and we were joined by another couple from Singapore. It’s always so fun to taste a city through a local guide. We had a great time. We tasted several Bolivian specialties including Anchipacha which is a popular grilled beef heart and potato kabob, and Cholita a very popular sandwich snack of pork and pickled veg and named after the Cholita women. Next we had Api, a warm creamy drink made from purple corn and popular for breakfast. With the Api we enjoyed a favorite morning street food called Pastel de Queso. Loved both of these.
Next we went into a restaurant to try two different kinds of pork – Chichorone is a popular crispy fried pork dish and Fritanga is a braised pork. Both were delicious. With the pork we had steamed potatoes and “dried” potatoes, a favorite of locals. The potatoes are dried in the sun for weeks then reconstituted.
We ended our tour enjoy Pique Macho, a dish of potatoes, beef and sausage in a rich and spicy broth and the national alcohol called Singani which is usually mixed with citrus and sours much like a pisco sour.
It was a great tour. We rolled home after so much food.
We visited four different museums during the week we were Living in the Sky – La Paz Bolivia. There are several more as well. I’ve listed the four here, in order based on the quality of what we saw;
National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore
National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore – If you only do one thing in La Paz it should be this. One of the best museums we have ever been in, even though it was presented only in Spanish. We still thought it was outstanding. Well funded by the Central Bank of Bolivia, and it shows, the exhibits are beautiful and professionally presented. We particularly enjoyed the textile and clothing section, the ceremonial mask section and the section on indigenous use of bird feathers in costumes and head dresses. A fantastic museum.
Museo Nacional de Arte
Museo Nacional de Arte – through art this beautiful museum tells a wonderful story of the people of the Andes, Bolivia and La Paz. I highly recommend taking the guided tour. Our guide Robert was incredible. For an hour and a half he gave a personal tour of the entire museum, helping us understand through the beautiful collection the culture, history, trials and tribulations of this amazing place.
Museo costumbrista Juan de Vargas
Museo costumbrista Juan de Vargas this museum is a bit of an mis-mash of things, but is worth a visit for the unique gold display of ancient Andean breastplates, jewelry and head pieces. It is also housed in a beautiful Spanish colonial building on multiple levels.
Museo Tambo Quirquincho
Museo Tambo Quirquincho – this museum was pretty disappointing, although it is housed in a lovely old Spanish building that once housed a market. But the art collection was unimpressive. Skip it.
One of the most important archeology sites in South America, Tihuanku sits about a two hour drive from La Paz. We signed up for an all day tour to visit the site with a guide through local company HanaqPacha Travel. It was a long drive in heavy traffic but I am still really glad we did it.
How Old is it Really?
There is much debate about the actual age of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide Teodoro, like many Bolivians, believe the site dates back as much as 10,000 years and was also visited by Aliens. UNESCO however, says the following;
“The city of Tiwanaku, capital of a powerful pre-Hispanic empire that dominated a large area of the southern Andes and beyond, reached its apogee between 500 and 900 AD. Its monumental remains testify to the cultural and political significance of this civilisation, which is distinct from any of the other pre-Hispanic empires of the Americas.”
Thinking has changed over time…
One of the reasons for the debate of the age of the site is the earliest archeologists incorrectly compared it to archaeoastronomy. To explain this better here is Wikipedia’s assessment;
“The dating of the site has been significantly refined over the last century. From 1910 to 1945, Arthur Posnansky maintained that the site was 11,000–17,000 years old based on comparisons to geological eras and archaeoastronomy. Beginning in the 1970s, Carlos Ponce Sanginés proposed the site was first occupied around 1580 BC, the site’s oldest radiocarbon date. This date is still seen in some publications and museums in Bolivia. Since the 1980s, researchers have recognized this date as unreliable, leading to the consensus that the site is no older than 200 or 300 BC. More recently, a statistical assessment of reliable radiocarbon dates estimates that the site was founded around AD 110 (50–170, 68% probability), a date supported by the lack of ceramic styles from earlier periods.“
It is believed that the Inca culture took some inspiration from this earlier Tihuanku culture. The Tihuanku also likely had some contact with the Wari culture during this pre-columbian period in the Andean basin.
The first recorded knowledge of the site was by the Spanish in 1549.
Since we were booked to go on an overland trip that included the first night in a hotel in La Paz, we decided to spend our week in the same hotel to make things easy. The Qantu Hotel ended up being in a perfect location with easy access to everything. Our room was small but clean and comfortable. Breakfast every morning was hearty and the staff very kind.
Throughout the week we explored different dining options around the central part of La Paz. Because of the backpacker set that visits here, there are many hostels, brewpubs, and simple and inexpensive eateries. There is also a wide variety of international cuisines available from Mexican, Italian or Cuban to Indian and Chinese. Of the places we ate we can recommend the following;
Popular Cucina Boliviana was by far the best meal we had, an in fact the best meal we had in a restaurant since my birthday dinner in Roatan last January, or maybe Pujol in Mexico City. No matter this was very creative menu that changes weekly. Our three course meal was delicious. A must do.
Tia Gladys is a tiny little hole in the wall that we walked by a few times before noticing it. Very popular for inexpensive, local Bolivian dishes as well as soup, salad, pizza and more. We tried the popular Bolivian dish Pique Macho here.
Cafe del Mundo is a lovely spot, frequented by the international backpacker crowd. Great service and international menu. Also a popular for afternoon pastry and coffee. I had a delicious soup here called Sopa Abuelo. Delicious.
La Groseria is another lovely spot overlooking the popular Sagarnaga street with a wide variety of coffees, beers, Bolivian favorites and international options. While I tried the local version of Chicken Milanese, Arne tried a quinoa bowl. Quinoa is a staple food here, an ancient grain harvested from Lake Titicaca.
La Boliviana this unlikely brightly colored place looks like an ice cream shop but has a quirky menu and daily special with a twist on local cuisines. We had a three course lunch that included wontons and falafel, meatballs and curry. We enjoyed it all.
Gracias La Paz
I am so grateful we had the time to explore deeply this amazing place…full of mystery, ancient customs, interesting food, and a culturally rich and diverse people. If you can, I highly recommend you visit La Paz. I’m sure you will be as intrigued as I was. Living in the Sky – La Paz Bolivia. Muchos Gracias Mi Amigos.
Please check back next week to read about our ten day overland trip in Bolivia with Intrepid Travel.
Although we have been able to do some amazing travel over the past couple of years, we have not gone out for extended travel like we did in the past. Since we began the Grand Adventure our longest trip was 18 months, and several other trips were nine and ten months. We now feel confident to go long term again with the PanDamit waning and our health great. Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again.
We started this travel life in 2016 when we sold almost all our belongings to begin a long planned and dreamed of retirement life of travel. It was everything we had dreamed of and more. But Whoa! That stupid PanDamit changed everything. If you have followed us for awhile you know our story of getting trapped abroad and giving up our itinerary to come back to the USA and wait.
If anything, the PanDamit has made me more patient and able to relax and let things be what they are. But that said, we are excited to embark once again this time for seven months. So let me tell you our plans – Away we Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again.
Maui, Hawaii USA
Our first stop is back to Maui. Maui is our favorite island, but we think this may likely be our last visit there for a long time. Maui is expensive, and through all of our travels we have learned we can travel much less expensively on islands beyond North America. Specifically Moorea and Cyprus our two favorites. It’s important that we stay within our budget, if we want to sustain long-term travel for the years ahead. And staying on budget in Maui is impossible. But, we made these reservations a year ago, when we still didn’t know what the PanDamit future looked like. So, we are headed back to Kihei and back to enjoy this beautiful paradise. We will be on the island of Maui from October 20- December 19.
Roatan Island, Honduras
The island of Roatan has been on my wishlist for longer than we have been traveling on the Grand Adventure. I first became aware of Roatan about 15 years ago when I watched a travel program about an American couple who had purchased a house there. OMgosh it looked so beautiful. It’s a bit of a saga to get from Maui to Roatan, but that is what we will do. It involves a night in Los Angeles and Miami. We will arrive at our Roatan Airbnb on December 21st. Time on Roatan December 21-January 26th.
Granada and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Like Honduras, Nicaragua has been on my travel list for a long time. This country is under traveled especially by American’s who don’t understand it. Recently Nicaragua made Travel and Leisure’s list of most affordable places to retire on a beautiful beach. Okay, please and thank you. We have a week in Granada at a resort and then just under four weeks at at Airbnb in San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Time in Nicaragua January 26-February 28th.
Mexico City Mexico
Last December we were enchanted by our week in Mexico City and so we decided we needed to return. Another undervalued destination for American’s who tend to only head to the beaches of Mexico. We fell hard for the beauty, history, architecture and food of Mexico City. We want to see more. We will stay at the same hotel we loved last year, The Red Tree House. We plan to explore more and eat everything. Mexico City, Mexico February 28-March 7.
Bolivia is one of a few South American countries we still haven’t visited, and I have long wanted to visit this country, see the salt flats and get to know it better. Because Bolivia is a bit of challenge to navigate, we have decided this is a good country for us to hire a guide. So we have hooked up with Intrepid Travel to spend eleven days seeing Bolivia. But, before we embark on the tour we will spend a week in La Paz. A week might seem like a long time, but we have purposefully decided to do that, to help give me time to work through the altitude sickness I know I will suffer from. It’s happened before. We have the time, so we will take it so I can acclimate comfortably and for multiple days. If you have never experienced altitude sickness, it’s not fun…but it is a good weight loss program. We will be in Bolivia from March 8 – 25th.
There are a handful of Caribbean Islands, mostly in the south, that remain on our wish list including Barbados. So after Bolivia we make our way (via Miami) to Barbados where we have rented a sweet little suite of an Airbnb for 8 days. And then we board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Barbados. Barbados March 26-April 2nd
Southern Caribbean Cruise
Our first cruise in five years, we will head out for a week aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas cruising to Trinidad and Tobago, Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada and Aruba. We have been to two of these islands but the others are all new to us. Cruising, although not something we want to do regularly, is such a great way to see multiple places on one itinerary. The ship returns to Barbados. We are onboard April 2-9th.
April 9th we fly to Atlanta Georgia USA. Through the rest of April we will be be hopping around as we make our way to Boston for a college reunion. Although we have not yet nailed this down, we currently are planning to visit Atlanta, Savannah, Washington DC, New York City and Boston. We will be back to our summer home in Washington State by May 1st. We love Washington State and the west coast in the summer!
Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again
We really like this itinerary because it has the things we love the best; long term stays in inexpensive, sunny places with options for both adventure and relaxing and lots of great food. Who doesn’t like that?
We plan to continue to blog about our travels, although sometimes I need to take a bit of a break. I plan to do that a little when we are in Hawaii and have banked some blog posts ahead of time. But for now, as we near our TENTH ANNIVERSARY of this My Fab Fifties Life blog, I will write and share amazing photos and adventures of this crazy and fabulous post-PanDamit travel life as regularly as I can. As always, I say thank you for your continued support and engagement. We love your comments on each post especially.
Note – I have yet to post all the blogs about our recent adventures in Maine and Acadia National Park and in Palm Springs. It’s coming soon – please stay tuned.
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