An Afternoon in Valhalla

After spending a couple of days in Antigua, Guatemala, I was beginning to long for a real fruit adventure. The kind of fruit adventure where you travel into the countryside to visit a farm or go trekking into the forest to find fruits growing in their natural environment.

I asked the front desk of my hostel if there were any fruit farms near Antigua, and they recommended Valhalla Experimental Station, a macadamia nut farm. I was told that Valhalla macadamia nut farm is a small, organic, sustainable operation that gives tours of the farm and lets you sample the nuts.

The lady at the hostel’s front desk said Valhalla was at most a 20 minute bus ride from Antigua. All we needed to do was take a chicken bus bound for San Miguel Dueñas and tell the driver “Las Macadamias.”

A macadamia nut farm is not exactly what I had in mind for a fruit adventure, but nuts are technically a fruit, and my interest was piqued at the possibility of venturing onto a chicken bus.

Guatemala’s chicken buses are decomissioned school buses, deemed unsafe by North American standards. Safety being less of a concern in Guatemala, the buses have been souped up and painted in bold colors to serve as the country’s public transit. I definitely wanted to experience a chicken bus before leaving Guatemala, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We got to the bus station across from the market and I asked one of the bus drivers how to get to San Miguel Dueñas. He pointed at a blue and yellow bus named Dorita:

We boarded Dorita and I said to the driver “las macadamias por favor.” The driver nodded his head, and soon we were off.

The chicken bus bumped out of Antigua and onto a country road, while I sat nervously hoping that the driver would remember to stop at Valhalla. Sure enough, about 15 minutes into the ride, I heard the driver yell “las macadamias, las macadamias!” We hopped off the bus and headed towards the farm entrance, walking along a dusty pathway lined with macadamia trees and lush tropical vegetation.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly staff member who offered to take us on a tour of the farm. First she showed us around the macadamia trees, and we saw the nuts in every stage of growth from flower, to fully ripe fruit ready to fall off of the tree:

Macadamia Flowers
Macadamia Fruit

Next, the tour took us to the farm machinery and we were given an explanation of the harvesting process. Once the macadamia nuts are picked, they must be husked, dried in the shell and sorted. Then they are cracked, sorted again, washed and then dried in the sun for several days:

Husking Machine
Sorting Machine
Macadamia nuts drying in the sun

The tour concluded with a sampling of the macadamia nut products, including hand cream, roasted macadamia nuts, and chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

I also indulged in the facial, which involved a lovely face massage using macadamia nut oil. Although complimentary, it is customary to tip the beautician:

Feeling relaxed and sporting a healthy glow from the facial, we proceeded to wander the grounds. We came across the most beautiful bathroom I have ever seen:

As we were scoping it out, we ran into Lorenzo, the owner of the Valhalla macadamia nut farm.  Lorenzo, a nutty American expat, talked our ear off, telling us about life in Guatemala and cracking all sorts of corny jokes.

As silly as some of the jokes were, one thing Lorenzo said has stuck with me: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” What a nugget of wisdom to be given in the middle of a Guatemalan macadamia nut farm. Lorenzo has definitely given me something to think about.

Finally, Lorenzo encouraged us to try the world famous pancakes, and so we proceeded to the Valhalla restaurant. The restaurant was open air, and situated in a beautiful garden. It was absolutely stunning:

As we waited for our pancakes, we enjoyed watching hummingbirds flit from flower to flower, and were treated to sounds of a volcano rumbling in the background.

The pancakes arrived, and they alone were worth the trip out to Valhalla:

Made with macadamia nut flour, and topped with macadamia nut butter, blueberries, crushed macadamias and honey, the pancakes were like nothing I’ve ever had before, and you will just have to go to Guatemala to try them.

With our bellies full and our heads bursting with new macadamia nut knowledge and Lorenzo’s wisdom, we waited by the side of the road for a chicken bus to take us back to Antigua. As one came around the bend, we waved it down, and like magic it stopped to pick us up. Much easier than having to locate a bus stop!

A trip to Valhalla is a wonderful ½ day trip to do from Antigua, Guatemala, and is a worthy fruit adventure. I highly recommend it.

How to get to and from Valhalla Experimental Station by chicken bus:

  • Head to the Antigua bus station, which is located just south of the Mercado de Artesanias (Artisans Market)
  • Take a bus going to San Miguel Dueñas
  • Tell the driver “las macadamias” and he will drop you off right at the entrance of the farm
  • To return to Antigua, simply go back to the farm’s entrance and stand by the edge of the road. When you see a chicken bus heading your way, wave your hand and the bus will pick you up.
  • The bus ride will cost 4 Quetzales each way