Photo-essay and travel guide of Antigua Guatemala
On my blog I mostly tell stories through my images, but since I have been travelling a lot lately, I thought that I could share some of my knowledge, experience and tips I've learned. I decided to include more practical information in my stories, hopefully you will find it useful. :)
I travelled to Antigua in December, just before Christmas, hoping to see some of the famous processions (most events take place during Holy Week). Before visiting Antigua, I heard many compare it to the Nicaraguan city of Granada - their colonial pearl and the oldest city in Central America. I have to say that Antigua is more touristy, but it also has this "pueblo" feel to it - the city is small with low rise buildings, vibrant and relaxed. It is also very picturesque with cobbled streets, flowers hanging from the roofs, and monumental ruins. It is one of the most popular places for destination weddings in Latin America, and I know why: it's really photogenic. It is important to mention that it is safe, compared to other Guatemalan cities, you can find "Tourist Police" almost everywhere.
An inseparable part of Guatemala is it’s tight relation to Indigenous Mayan culture, which is present on the streets. It is normal to see people walking down the street wearing their traditional colorful clothes or speaking one of many indigenous dialects. You can find locals selling famous Mayan textiles and hand-made jewelry from Jade stone almost everywhere. There are also a few markets worth visiting, whenever you want to buy souvenirs, try juicy fruits, or just feel the local vibe.
Let’s also not forget about the three main volcanoes surrounding the city: Volcano de Agua (one you can see on most of the photos behind the Arc), fearsome Volcano of Fuego (gushing smoke and lava constantly) and the most popular for hikes - Volcano Pacaya.
Pepita - the powder that results from roasting and mashing up the squash seeds of pumpkin. It's featured in many traditional Guatemalan and Mexican recipes. Commonly eaten with oranges or mangos after adding a bit of salt.
If you are planning a trip to Antigua here you can find some useful tips:
$10 shuttle from the Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. Ride takes usually 40min but it could extend to 2h during traffic hours.
Where to Stay:
- Casa del Sol - Great value/price.
- Hotel Museo Casa Santo Domingo - Nice Hotel, park and museums in one place. Pricey.
Both places, Casa del Sol And Hotel Santo Domingo are located next to each other.
Eat and Drink:
- Street food - It's worth it to try the food from street venders. It's price-friendly, fresh, and surprisingly clean (not common in every city). You can find it mainly by the parks and churches. Look in front of Merced Church in the evening.
- El Portón - If you want to eat like a local (on a budget). For Breakfast - hot tortilla, beans, eggs, white cheese and "cafecito". Lunch worth trying - the chiles rellenos (Spicy version tooo spicy for me ;)) Their soups are good as well. You can find many locals eating there. (Located on 6.a Calle Oriente #8)
- The Bagel Barn - Grab nice juicy bagel in the meantime
- Coffee Sky - For rooftop views. (1a Avenida Sur, 15 Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez)
- The Refuge Coffee Bar, Antigua - Really good coffee.
- Angeline - Great dinner, not as cheap.
Things to see and to do:
- Visit Specialty Museums. Antigua has a number of small museums that are worth visiting:
Centro de Formación de la Cooperación Española - They hold many cultural events, exhibitions etc. (I really liked the one about Mayan aesthetics).
Pre-Columbian and Glass Art Museum - One 5 different museums inside of the Casa Santo Domingo.
Chocolate Museum - Did you know that The Mayans are believed to be the first to discover the culinary uses of the cacao bean? The museum offers chocolate-making workshops and cacao plantation tours.
- Get Lost in one of the Mercados. Real taste of Guatemala.There are plenty of them in Antigua
- Hike a Volcano. Pacaya Volcano is the most popular and great for short hikes, while Acatenango Volcano (almost 4000 meters high) is an all-day an overnight trip. In return it provides you with an amazing up close view of the active Volcano de Fuego.
- Enjoy the panoramic view of Antigua from "Cerro la Cruz". It's just outside the city (approximately 30 minutes hike)
- See old churches and convents: San Francisco Church, La Merced Church, Convento Santa Clara and Convento de las Capuchinas
- Take a coffee tour. Learn all about coffee grooves, coffee plantation and how coffee is grown.
- Zip-line on a canopy tour.
Here are some helpful links and resources I came across before my trip:
Best Overall Guatemala Guide – Indie Traveller
36 Hours in Antigua - NYTimes Travel
What to do In Antigua Guatemala – Y Travel Blog