Originally established as one of the “model villages” under the authoritarian hand of Efraín Ríos Montt, Acul is starting to come into its own. It features friendly folk and a spectacular Swiss-like mountain setting enhanced by the presence of quaint dairy farms. There are fairly frequent buses and pickups heading out this way from Nebaj, though it seems most gringos prefer to walk out this way through the lovely countryside.
If you’d like to stay in town, there’s Posada Doña Magdalena (tel. 5782-0891), with beds in the dorm for $4 p/p or in the private double room for $7 p/p. All of the simple rooms share a bathroom. The hostel is run by a friendly Nebajense woman who lived in Las Vegas and speaks English, Spanish, and Ixil. Meals here are served family-style. There are textiles for sale as well as a Mayan sauna, or temascal, out back.
Among the local dairy farms is Finca San Antonio (tel. 5305-6240 or 2439-3352), started in 1938 by Italian immigrant José Azzari, who died in 1999. The finca is a pleasant working farm run by Azzari’s sons and grandsons and producing some delicious cheeses made using centuries-old methods brought over from the old country.
They’re happy to show you around and you’re welcome to stay in the charming wooden cabanas featuring tile floors, simple but pleasing decorative touches, and shared ($11 p/p) or private hot-water bathroom ($13 p/p). One of the rooms upstairs has a deck with gorgeous views of the surrounding farmland. Activities include nature hikes in the surrounding countryside and there were plans to buy mountain bikes, maybe by the time of your visit.
Just next door along the road into town is Hacienda Mil Amores (tel. 5704-4817), also owned by members of the Azzari family. The four lovely, spacious tile-roofed cottages are a step above its neighbor’s and are built of stone or wood. Each of the rooms is different and has elaborate tree-trunk or terra-cotta floors and private bathroom, some with chimney. Room rates are $47 d. The property has several connections with well-known tour operators and has no trouble filling its rooms, so book well in advance if you wish to stay here. This is also a working farm where you can buy cheeses.
Kids will love the opportunity to see farm animals and even milk cows if they’re so inclined. Other activities include hikes to neighboring villages and horseback riding. Meals are served family-style in the main farmhouse, which is beautifully decorated with orchids grown on-site and has wonderful views of the surrounding pasturelands from a pleasant wooden deck.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com