Antigua is a charming city in southern Guatemala known for it’s brightly coloured Colonial buildings, cobblestone streets and indigenous culture. If you have 2 weeks in Guatemala you can easily spend a few days in Antigua wandering the streets, enjoying the cute cafes or climbing volcanoes (Antigua is surrounded by volcanoes). Or you can even head to the nearby Valhalla Macadamia Farm to sample their world-famous pancakes and to help support local sustainability projects!
VALHALLA MACADAMIA NUT FARM
A visit to Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm makes for a unique half-day trip from Antigua. This place is more than just a farm that harvests macadamia nuts. It is a place of hope, sustainability and darn good pancakes!
How is Valhalla different?
Valhalla is a family-run farm that is dedicated to supporting and helping local indigenous communities and promoting sustainable agriculture practices.
Valhalla has been in operation since 1989, run by Lawrence (Lorenzo), a retired fireman from California and his Guatemalan wife Emilia. Lorenzo and Emilia are passionate about sustainable development amongst local indigenous Guatemalan communities. Their story of how they are helping local communities is inspirational.
How Valhalla have helped local communities:
- Since they opened Valhalla 20 years ago they have donated and helped plant almost half a million macadamia trees in indigenous communities throughout Guatemala.
- This has been life changing for the poor rural communities who often have a very simple diet consisting solely of corn and beans. The antioxidants and healthy fats found in macadamia nuts have given them more variety in their diet and helped to improve their nutrition and brain function. Plus there were even times when sadly the corn crop failed, so it was these macadamia trees that kept people alive.
- Valhalla have educated these communities about the importance of self-sustainable agriculture.
- They aim to put an end to the slash-and-burn agriculture that is common in Guatemala by providing local communities with a constant source of nutrient-rich food and income.
- Their work has helped to create jobs for local Guatemalans.
Why are macadamia trees good for sustainable development?
- the macadamia tree can start producing nuts after only 1.5 years of being planted and can produce nuts for over 100 years.
- macadamia trees can produce nuts (and therefore food) all year round due to Guatemala’s warm climate.
- macadamia nuts are nutritious – they are full of healthy monounsaturated fats, omega 3 and essential vitamins and minerals.
- they are also full of calories, which is vital in poor communities.
- macadamia trees help combat climate change as they convert a substantial amount of carbon dioxide into oxygen each day.
- macadamia nuts also have a high demand internationally and so can therefore be an excellent way to generate income for indigenous communities.
Valhalla feels like an absolute haven away from all the tourists. The orchard is covered in around 400 Macadamia trees and the air smells so sweet. There are many flowers and tropical plants and you can see the volcano in the background. So beautiful. And the only sounds you can hear are of the birds – it feels so peaceful.
Tour of Valhalla Macadamia Farm:
You can take a short (roughly 15 minutes) tour of Valhalla Macadamia Farm for FREE with an English speaking guide. They will show you the different stages of tree growth as well as tell you the process involved in harvesting the nuts. They will even show you the equipment used for sorting, peeling and shelling the nuts. All of this equipment was hand made by the owner! You will also learn about the sustainable practices used by the farm and why the finest quality and purest macadamia nuts are produced at Valhalla.
At the end of the tour you get to sample some of the delicious nuts – even some covered in chocolate! You will also be treated to a complimentary mini facial with their natural macadamia skin care products by a local woman. It is so relaxing! Although the mini facial is free I really recommend you to tip the lady afterwards. Read more about the skincare products below.
After the tour make time to enjoy the garden and have a bite to eat at Valhalla Restaurant. The serene and relaxing outdoor restaurant is surrounded by beautiful flowers and plants and has a fabulous organic menu. Try the world-famous macadamia pancakes made from macadamia nut flour and drizzled with macadamia nut butter. The pancakes are topped with a choice of homemade blueberry compote or white or dark chocolate and there is fresh fruit on the side. There’s a lot of protein in there and it is definitely a favourite amongst visitors to Valhalla! Don’t be fooled though, the pancakes are very filling due to the nut flour! Often one order between two people will be sufficient! The pancakes go perfectly with the organic home-roasted coffee!
If pancakes are not your thing, there are many other macadamia infused homemade dishes served here – you can even try the macadamia-smoked BBQ! They also have many other dishes without macadamia nuts – view the menu here.
After lunch make sure to stop off at the toilet afterwards. It is quite possibly the most beautiful and relaxing toilet I’ve ever seen, covered in beautiful plants!
How is macadamia oil good for your skin?
Macadamia oil is quite possibly the best skin moisturiser out there. It has incredibly rich oils that are increasingly being used in health and beauty products. Macadamia oil properties include:
- helps improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- keeps skin looking young
- suitable for all skin types, including oily skin and sensitive skin
- lightweight and non-greasy
- very moisturising – perfect for dry skin
- penetrates the skin more than regular oils
Macadamia Skincare Products
The farm has their own fantastic line of natural macadamia oil face creams and oils named after the owner’s wife, Emilia Aguirre. Their macadamia skincare products are all handmade at the farm and are 100% natural and organic. Valhalla has 2 main skincare products: Macadamia Oil and Macadamia Cream.
I got both the cream and oil and was very happy with both of them. I use the oil for my body and hair and the cream for my face. A very small amount is all that is needed – one tub of cream used morning and night can last you one year! The cream leaves your skin feeling so soft and gives you a really nice glow. Both the oil and cream consist of pure macadamia oil and feel so luxurious on the skin.
Even after I ran out of the products I ordered more online and have continued to do so years later as I could really see an improvement in my skin’s appearance – I realised how much better it was for my skin than using synthetic products. To read more about natural skincare products, read my article about why people choose natural skincare products here!
If you have the time make sure to indulge at Valhalla’s Wellness Spa with a full facial, massage or manicure/pedicure. The massage service is exceptional! Click here to see the services and prices.
You can buy souvenirs from the shop at Valhalla Farm – whether it is the skincare products, some macadamia nut butter or some chocolate flavoured nuts. Everything is 100% natural and produced by Valhalla. All proceeds go to helping local indigenous communities.
How can you help?
Of course if you are in Antigua, come and visit Valhalla Farm! You can pay to plant a macadamia tree to help fight global warming for 33 Queztal (less than 5 USD).
If you can’t make it to Guatemala you can still help by buying their skincare products as they ship worldwide. When you buy the skincare products you are helping by enabling macadamia trees to be planted, helping local communities. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a delivery.
Valhalla Macadamia Farm is open from 7.30am until 4.30pm every day.
How to get to Valhalla Macadamia Farm:
Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm lies only a few kilometres from the centre of Antigua Guatemala. Whilst you can easily get a taxi to Valhalla which will cost around 50 Queztal ($6.50 USD), by far the best and most authentic way to get there is to get on a chicken bus. Yes you heard that right! It’s actually very simple to get there.
Just head to the bus station near Antigua’s municipal market. You’ll see lots of brightly coloured painted buses – they look like old American school buses. Look for one heading to San Miguel Dueñas. Tell the driver you’re heading to Valhalla, or tell them ‘las macadamias’. They will know where you are going. You will most likely be the only foreigners on the bus but don’t worry, the locals are friendly and it is certainly a memorable experience!
The bus ride costs 4 queztal (around $0.50) each and lasts about 20 minutes. The bus drops you right outside the farm on the main road. You’ll see the sign below – follow the signs up the drive to the farm.
After your visit, to head back to Antigua just wait by the Valhalla sign on the main road for a chicken bus and wave for the bus to stop. The fare is again 4 queztal. Click here to see the Google maps location of Valhalla Macadamia Farm.
My thoughts on Valhalla Macadamia Farm, Antigua:
Valhalla is a very welcoming, calm and tranquil place that focuses on sustainable practices. It is also such a fun, informative and inspiring place to visit. Somewhere that is committed to supporting local indigenous communities and sustainable practices is a place I am more than happy to spend my money. And to this day, 5 years later, I still swear by that face cream!
It is no surprise that Antigua is UNESCO listed – it is undeniably beautiful and every corner is postcard perfect. El Arco de Santa Catalina is the symbol of Guatemala and it’s most photographed site. The iconic yellow arch was actually built in 1694 as a covered footbridge for the nuns who had taken vows to avoid contact with the outside world. This arch enabled them to cross the street from their convent to the school without being seen. It is a symbol of resilience for the city of Antigua as it survived the earthquake of 1773 which destroyed most of Antigua, which was at the time the Colonial capital of Central America. Just behind the arch lies the ornate La Merced church (Iglesia de la Merced) – decorated in the baroque style and also painted in yellow.
If you are also interested in helping Latin American communities, check out my article on volunteering in Colombia!
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