As any true fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy knows, Matamata, New Zealand is the real home of the fictional Hobbiton. But for those of us who can’t or don’t want to commit to a long trip to see one of the places that served as the set for Jackson’s films, there’s always Hobbitenango. Just 25 minutes away from the colonial cityscape of La Antigua Guatemala – at a height of about 7,800 feet – sits a home that could easily double for Bilbo Baggins’ abode. It takes more than just a hobbit hole to recreate The Shire J.R.R. Tolkien introduced in his books, but the five mountains that surround Hobbitenango certainly help. There’s even an active volcano that will give you Mount Doom flashbacks.
But Hobbitenango is more than just reminiscent of LOTR. It’s an eco-hotel and restaurant that prides itself on its green existence. On its Facebook page, the site says that it “aims to live sustainably by using alternative techniques of construction, growing organic vegetables, fruits and live stock, harvesting rain water and using solar/wind energy. All of these techniques allow us to operate in a full off-the-grid manner.” There’s also a zero-trash policy, which is why Hobbitenango’s restaurant, has bottles lining the walls, despite having no structural function. By doing this, fewer bottles end up in a landfill or the ocean.
Hobbitenango is the brainchild of Guatemalans Daniel Terzuola – who grew up in New Mexico and opened a comic book store in Antigua – and Roberto Arzu. In the early aughts, Arzu – a former sailor – wanted to start a social entrepreneurial project. After a little bit of research into eco-friendly structures, he came across hobbit-hole sites in Wales. So he bought a piece of land with his father, but it’s Terzuola’s comic book store that brought them together. The two decided to go into business after meeting, according to Mother Nature Network. People may have thought Arzu’s plans were crazy, but Terzuola got it. And when he first visited the site for Hobbitenango, he couldn’t believe it. “The first time I went up there I will always remember… I remember thinking ‘Where are the unicorns?’ Because it’s too magical up here,” Terzuola said.
Currently, the two have built a restaurant, bar, one hobbit hole, and they have their own Frodo (a cat). But they plan to eventually have 10 hobbit homes and a farmers market. Plus, some Legolas cosplay is probably not out of the question since they’re currently working on an archery range.
Hobbitenango employs 23 local Guatemalans, which is important to the owners who want to support their own community. “We want the money and the empowerment to stay in the village,” Terzuola said. And by doing this, they’ve built as strong a squad as Frodo. “We are a fellowship of the ring,” Arzu said. “We are indigenous, we are ladino, we are foreigners, we are lower middle educated, uneducated and a strong family really fighting together for this project because it benefits everybody.”
Check out a few images of the Guatemalan hobbit paradise below: