Antigua oozes of Spain, the former 16th century Spanish capital has, despite numerous earthquakes, kept its beautiful baroque architecture and vivid colours. The luxurious patio gardens, the dwarfing surrounding of volcanoes and the creative vibe made me want to stay a little longer!
Antigua is only a throw stone away from the current capital city (about 45min by car), but the vibe couldn’t be more different. The streets are buzzing with cafés, shops, school kids and tourists alike. On the weekends, it’s Guatemala City residents’ go-to location for a good diner and cocktail. My friends recommended the Sky Bar, nice recommendation guys!
As a tourist, Antigua is also a convenient base to explore the surroundings, and in particular go volcano hiking. I heard amazing feedback from the Volcan de Agua trek and was very tempted but due to the rather high elevation, it makes it a one day trek. So I chose to go for Pacaya, requiring only a shorter morning hike, one of the 28 volcanos in Guatemala and one of the 4 active ones where we could roast marshmallow on warm lava… It’s a bit of a tourist gimmick but I still found that quite cool – and yumm.
A Q100 fee (~£10) is charged to access the protected area and we were provided with a guide and divided in small group. It’s an easy walk to the lava field. Depending on the volcano’s activity, guides don’t always take it to the top, which was my case on that day.
And if I fancy a bit of pop corn?
I don’t often do that but after the volcano hike, I was just way too tired to go out so decided to watch a film and asked around for a good local película. I was recommended La Jaula de Oro, by Diego Quemada-Díez (The Golden Dream). Emotionally tough but a beautiful film where I followed with anguish the destiny of 3 young kids betting everything they (don’t) have on the American dream.
Another film I later watched was Gasolina by Julio Hernández (who got the Premio at the Mejor Película Latinoamericana – Festival de Cine de San Sebastián en España)
Where to stay?
If I’d known….I would have saved the pennies on my hotel in Pacaya and down south (lots of really cool backpackers there) and splashed a bit more on a boutique place in Antigua. The Convento de Antigua, the Hotel Antigua and the Milflores, El San Rafal hotel, el Palacio de Dona Leonor …it took me so much effort to find a quirky hotel in Guatemala City – all that to end up in a business chain… Indeed it actually seems like the whole country list of boutique hotels are located in Antigua. Most of those places are open and have restaurants in their patio; more than once I stopped for a coffee with a book, breathing the almost palpable history and colonial flavours…
And the rest of the time, I spent it wandering around the charming little streets, made many friends, mostly old Guatemalan men telling me the tales of the city, of the shop their moms was once owning there, the year the terremoto (earthquake) changed the landscape forever, and a lot of complaining about the number of tourists in Antigua…And that old ladies to whom I started chatting too because I noticed her perfect mani (!!) and she told me about her daughter being a manicure expert, and trying new design on her – such an odd conversation!!
sorry this was a long overdue post…I also have gorgeous photos of the Atitlan Lake, will probably come next! Too much travel, too little time to sort the photos!!