Did you know there are hobbits in Guatemala? Well, hobbit holes at least. Rather like Hobbiton in New Zealand, Lord of the Rings fans can now visit Middle Earth in Guatemala. Set high in the hills above Antigua, Hobbitenango is an eco-friendly hotel and restaurant with spectacular views of the volcanoes across the valley. I love hunting out unique accommodations where I travel, from glamping in Bolivia to hammocks in Tikal, so I was thrilled when I got the chance to visit Hobbitenango! If you are looking for unique things to do in Antigua, don’t miss a visit to this Hobbit paradise.
I didn’t meet any hobbits while I was there, but did meet Beto, one of the owners and creator of Hobbitenango. Hobbitenango opened two years ago, with one solitary hobbit hole. The brainchild of Beto, who fell in love with The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings films, he finally found a business partner in Daniel, when everyone else said it was too remote, too difficult to access, and too difficult to build on the side of the mountain.
They weren’t wrong about the access, the last stretch of dirt road from the car park is only accessible with a 4×4, and the bricks that Beto& his team laid by hand are almost impassable in places – although the 4×4 Hobbitenango shuttle ferries guests to and from the car park throughout the day. Getting all the materials to build up here wasn’t an easy task, and building on the side of a mountain brought a whole new set of challenges. It takes over a year to prep and build a hobbit house here,Beto told me. The ground is dug from the mountainside & flattened at the beginning of rainy season, so when the rain comes and landslides inevitably destroy what was built, they reinforce it, strengthening the base and supports until it holds fast against the mountain. Then the next year it is solid enough to build on.
I was invited to spend the night at Hobbitenango (meaning town of the Hobbits in the local language). I stayed in the Casita del Nido – the little nest house, one of only two bedrooms, or hobbit holes,currently at the site. The hobbit holes are built into the mountainside, with grass part covering the rooves. Large windows open onto what I supposed was a magnificent view, but invisible beneath the clouds for the moment. The fireplace would provide much needed warmth on cold nights, and there was a sofa (or possibly kids bed) in the corner, and bean bags around a glass-topped table made from an old log was set beneath the windows. Fresh flowers were on the two nightstands and table. The bed was made from wooden trunks, and blankets & brightly coloured cushions added a homely hobbit feel.
It was rustic but pretty, and supremely romantic – or would have been if I were with a partner I’m sure! The bathroom was large, a little chilly though, and the wooden sideboard wasn’t particularly clean. In the shower hung some herbs to keep it smelling fresh, and I wondered how the water heater worked. That would have to wait till the morning though!
The menu was sitting on the table, a huge wooden book, and when I was looking at what to have for dinner I felt I was opening a page of an ancient fairy tale, which was a nice touch. Outside, a well-tended garden and some chairs completed my hobbit home for the night. Before I went to the restaurant, there was a knock at the door. I half expected Frodo himself, but it was one of the staff who had come to light the fire in my room. I watched as he hacked pieces of kindling off the logs with a machete, and deftly lit the fire. No bottles of kerosene here, although he did use matches instead of a piece of flint. Well, you can’t expect miracles! When he had finished, the logs crackled and I couldn’t wait to eat & return to my cosy bed!
I wandered down to the restaurant, and was thrilled to see that the clouds had lifted to reveal those spectacular views of the volcanoes. I explored a little in the fading light, then went for dinner.
The food was excellent, I ordered the Troll burger which I had read good reviews about, and I wasn’t disappointed. The chips (fries for you Americans) were like chippy chips, but sprinkled with a tasty herb – perhaps sage? And the burger was tasty & oozing with cheese and bacon. I also tried one of their house cocktails – the Wizard’s Apple – which was rather sweet but perfect for me. And to top it off I ordered a hot chocolate to take back to my room and drink by the fire. It was only 8pm but I couldn’t wait to snuggle down in that bed, so sat in bed reading my book & drinking hot chocolate. It was heavenly.
There is no wifi here of course, Hobbitenango is off the grid, and all electricity comes from the solar panels or the windmill on the roof of the restaurant. Water is filtered from the rain, and Beto has just dug channels which will create a pond for fish. The motto of Hobbitenango is “disconnect to reconnect”, and without faffing around on the internet I had time to savour my hot chocolate and listen to the crackling of the fire.
I slept well, and woke up to this view. It was still early, in rainy season the sky is often clear for sunrise, then the clouds roll in. I got up and explored more of the area, walking along the path to what will be more social areas, around the axe throwing and archery enclosure. Beto even has plans for a grand fete, and contests to see which hobbit is brave enough to hike to Fuego Volcano and cast a ring into its fiery depths.
You can order breakfast in bed, but I decided to sit out on the terrace, made from the bow of an old boat, and enjoy the view. Further up the hill, Beto is building more hobbit houses for day visitors; understandably people are curious to peek inside the hobbit holes, so without disturbing overnight guests, others can get a flavour of Middle Earth without spending the night.
What I loved about Hobbitenango
The houses are so cute! Plenty of opportunities for photos both inside and out, and I felt adequately hobbit-like as I stooped through the round yellow door.
The fire in my room. This was a lovely surprise, and kept me cosy well into the night.
The view. Waking up to that, one of the best views I’ve ever had, next to camping on the Inca trail, these volcanoes are hard to beat.
The food was delicious, and well presented, and the staff were all friendly and kind, making sure I was well looked after from beginning to end.
Beto’s passion for his project. After speaking to him for 5 minutes it was obvious this was a labour of love, and he was so excited about his upcoming plans. I liked Beto instantly, when I went to find him he was flying his new drone around – this was the first time in a long while we’ve had an evening like this, he explained. The clouds parted, and what was dismal grey when I’d arrived became beautiful dusky blue.
What I didn’t like
The room could have been cleaner, and the cupboards were also used as storage as I found when I rooted around (as I always do in a new room), which wasn’t a big deal but it would have been nicer to empty & clean.
There was no outside lock on the door. There was a bolt to lock myself in at night, but when I left, there was no way to lock the door. I’m sure it is very safe, but even so I would feel better with a lock and a big old key.
Getting there without your own car is a pain. A private taxi transfer there & back will set you back 200-250 Q (approx. $25to $30), which is more than 2 nights in a hostel bed. On busier days, for 6 people or more the hotel arranges bus transport from town which is only 30 Q per person each way, but there wasn’t one running the day I wanted to go.
Overall, I adored my stay at Hobbitenango. It isn’t for those seeking pure luxury, but the view over the volcanoes will make you forget all your troubles. Remember too, that having a hobbit hole built into the mountainside means you are surrounding by nature, so spiders, beetles and even an occasional scorpion may wander into your room. Don’t fret about not having wifi, just bring a book, settle down by the fire and relax.
To make a reservation, visit Hobbitenango’s website, which has details of the menu, accommodation availability, and camping spots if you have your own tent.
I was a guest of Hobbitenango, and enjoyed a complimentary dinner and night in the hobbit hole. As always, this did not influence my review and all views are my own.
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