Antigua is an old colonial city to the South of the capital city of Guatemala City and reached it’s peak in the late 1700’s. It is located at the base of the “Volcan Fuego” volcano and has been destroyed by earthquakes many times and was rebuilt quite often over the years. It is filled with old churches that date back to the 1700’s and is known for having well preserved colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. It is a well kept city and known to be rather friendly.
Where to stay…
Hotel Casa Cristina will be my home in Antigua. It is located in a great location in the centre of town an has an excellent view of the volcano. I rented a single room for 200Q/$25 and they also offer bag storage which is why I’ve chose to stay here. They have clean rooms, hot water and fast internet. I decided that AC wasn’t necessary as we are at a high elevation and it gets cool at night as you get the cool breeze coming off of the nearby mountains. There are many options for places to stay ranging from hostels with shared dorm accommodation for less than 80Q/$10 to very posh colonial buildings that have been converted into boutique hotels which cost as much as you can expect from any major city.
My room at Casa Cristina – www.casa–cristina.com
Definitely one of the better “Suicide Showers” I’ve seen in my years of travelling down South!
Another option was the Hotel Villa Esthela and while it isn’t in the center of town it was only a 25Q/$3 tuk tuk or taxi ride anywhere in town. My room was large and comfortable and I had a really nice queen size bed. They had hot showers and shared bathrooms, but because my room was off to the one side of the hotel noone actually used it. The room was clean and an excellent value for the price. The manager is a really nice European lady and was very accommodating.
Things to see and do in Antigua…
Antigua is one of the best places I’ve ever been to when it comes to just walking around and sightseeing. It’s location at the base of Volcan Fuego provides a backdrop for the whole city. Being someone that loves being in the presence of mountains and volcanos it made for some nice days out and about just walking around the city.
Volcan Fuego. Translation “Fire Volcano”
The colonial architecture throughout the city really took you back in time. The bright coloured cement buildings lined what seemed to be endless streets which were fun to walk around on. There were also many parks, squares and churches every few blocks. This also helped to know where you were at any given time as a lot of the streets and buildings were similar so it would be easy to get lost otherwise.
Colonial buildings in Antigua
La Merced is the most famous church here and you can hear its bells ringing every hour throughout the city center. It was opened in 1767 and the stone effigy of Jesus holding the cross was carved in 1650.
Another one of the many colonial churches I came across walking around Antigua.
Another great thing about Antigua is the local crafts for sale and the markets. The quality of what is available is amazing and the selection of crafts and souvenirs is unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited.
The local market is notorious for pick pockets and also for great deals! I only had great deals to worry about and got alot of great stuff! As I’m travelling as light as possible this trip I mailed it all back to Canada the day I bought it and surprisingly it didnt cost too much. I mailed back 6kg of stuff in a fairly large box for just over 470Q/$60.
A few of the local vendors showcasing their merchandise. All prices are negotiable here and the more you buy the less you pay!
A few local kids selling bracelets.
One of the most common tours to do from Antigua was the Pacaya Volcano. It can be arranged as a day trip and is located about an hour from the city in San Vicente de Pacaya. From here you make the 1.5 hour ascent either on foot or if you want to take the easier and faster option you can also ascend on horseback. If you make the hike on foot make sure you wear a sturdy pair of shoes with soles that aren’t prone to melting. Once at the top you can view the active crater full of lava and roast a marshmallow over the lava! I didn’t have time to do this tour but will make sure I do the next time I’m in the area. These tours cost around $60/460Q and can be done in around 6 hours.
Where to eat…
Near my hotel is a cafe called Fernando’s (www.fernandoskaffee.com) and it has amazing Guatemalan coffee and also sells chocolate and Cocao. In the back part of the cafe is a central patio that is filled with trees and other tropical plants. The food is also really good here and one of the meals I had was an Empanada stuffed with salami, cheese, tomatoes, onion and olives. It reminded me of a calzone inside of a pastry shell. The side salad was also quite good!(50Q/6$)
My favourite place to grab a few drinks at night is a place called Fridas(www.lasfridas.com)which has a cool vibe and some really cool paintings on the wall. They have many food options and are priced similar to alot of the other mid to higher end restaurants in the city.
As usual I have been eating at a lot of places which serve “Comida Tipico” which means traditional food. A lot of the bars and restaurants are really trendy and can be quite expensive. Antigua is more expensive than other places in Guatemala but is still easy to find good food and drink at a reasonable price. So far I haven’t seen a beer cost more than 25Q/$3 in a restaurant and have seen them cheaper than $1 in Guatemala City. Here I went to one of the larger restaurants where only the locals were eating at. Here I had stewed beef with vegetables, tortillas and a beer for 50Q/$6.
This place also sold great drinks and this is an example of what is offered there!
On another visit I had the nachos which were 50Q/6$
As usual I like to buy street food and there is a lot of that anywhere you travel down South. Here I found a guy selling coconuts out of a wheelbarrow! These were 8 Q each or $1.
Some lady was walking around with a basket on her head and I was curious what she had for sale. She sold me some tostadas with guacamole, chicken, lettuce and fresh salsa. I bought 4 of these for 25Q/$3.
I’d recommend Antigua and Guatemala to anyone wanting to visit a friendly country with great history, friendly people and lots of options for things to do. Anyone at any age could have a great time here. It’s also a good location to do day trips, study spanish or just hang out and take in the culture. The Guatemalan people really go out of their way to keep you happy and the service in stores, restaurants, tour companies and hotels has been the best I’ve seen anywhere. The people are also very comfortable speaking English which is important for people who are often intimidated from going to a Latin American country. I felt safe the whole time I was in Antigua and other areas of the country and am happy I decided to come here.
Gone on a whim…