My besties Lisa & Andrew are currently on a grand traveling adventure (Instagram: AL’s big adventure). When I found out they would be in Guatemala over Christmas and that they booked a cottage on a lake, I immediately started to make plans to be the ultimate third wheel on their romantic vacation. Because I am a good friend like that! 😛
It turns out that Guatemala is far from the UK! After a 10 hour flight to Houston and a short layover, I had a few more hours to get to Guatemala City. I decided to skip GC entirely, in favour of heading straight to Antigua Guatemala. I was haggard when I landed in Guatemala, but felt like a total celeb, as I had booked a private car pickup from the airport to my hostel, so there was a guy with a sign, and I only needed to drag my bleary body to the car, and was able to nap on the way to the hostel.
The distinctive smell of poorly burned gasoline and diesel engines was my first sensory experience of Guatemala, as we cruised down the sharply curving highway to Antigua. I was jolted awake when we turned down cobble stone streets, indicating we had arrived in Antigua, a historic and quaint city about 40km from the airport.
While I would have been content with a blanket and a non-moving surface, I was delighted to crawl into my private indoor “tent” bed at Somos hostel and fall fast asleep.
The next day was sunny and warm, and I was up early to explore the city. I set out for a brisk hike up Cerro de la Cruz, from which you can see the city lying below and the distant volcanos on the horizon. Most striking is Volcan de Agua, which you can see spitting smoke. I was pretty excited to see my first active volcano! Hilariously, I met a Canadian, sporting a Guelph sweatshirt. She has been living in Guatemala for a few years and we had a lovely chat before I headed back down the hill to wander the pleasingly grid-patterned streets of the city.
Antigua is beautiful for many reasons, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Architecturally, it features Spanish-Baroque architecture, and some beautiful ruins from colonial cathedrals.
In addition to these impressive colonial ruins, the streets are also filled with brightly coloured plaster houses that are really perfect for Instagram! In the city centre, you can’t miss Iglesia de la Merced, a massive yellow Baroque-style church. As this was the weeks leading up to Christmas, there were elaborate Nativity scenes, which seemed to heavily feature horses, richly coloured textiles, and live chickens. I couldn’t spend my first day in Guatemala without sampling the most famous exports: coffee and chocolate. I found an adorable cafe (Kaffee Fernando’s), where I had my first sips of local coffee as well as a plate of frijoles (black beans, eggs, and corn tortillas). This cafe has a sunny garden oasis, filled with lush plants, a waterfall, and a lazy cat Misha, who just might crawl onto your lap as you sit in the sun. Antigua was charming, textured, and delicious. I would love to spend more time in this beautiful place, but there were more places to explore and more adventures to be had! Next stop: Lake Atitlan!