After our nerve-wracking experience of driving at night through Guatemala, we were grateful to have arrived safely in the beautiful historic city of Antigua, Guatemala.
Antigua Guatemala (commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua) is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala.
It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Less than an hour away from the concrete sprawl of Guatemala City, Antigua feels like a portal to another century. The nearly 500-year-old city is cradled by three volcanoes and filled with colonial-era mansions, churches and convents, many with orange and yellow facades. In the evening, residents gather in the jacaranda-lined plazas to listen to musicians tapping mallets on marimbas, or wander between lively night spots.
Visitors can browse the craft markets or sip an espresso at a working coffee farm, while those with a more adventurous streak can hike up one of the looming volcanoes, or strap on a helmet, lock in a carabiner and hurtle through the rain forest on a zip wire.”
– The New York Times
We didn’t really know what to expect when arriving in Antigua, but we were definitely surprised at how modern it seemed. Having just spent the past week in rural areas of Belize and Guatemala, the bagel cafes and coffee shops of Antigua were a bit of a reverse culture shock!
We spent the next few days indulging in some familiar treats like iced lattes and smoothies, and I even went to a ‘ladies night’ with Jana and Marianna where we were treated to free drinks and a fresh coat of nail polish – a rare luxury for backpackers on a budget!
Our hostel, ‘Tropicana’, was quite trendy and had a built in restaurant, bar and amazing rooftop. We stayed in the cheapest dorm possible however, which was basically four stacks of four beds from floor to ceiling, each with a privacy curtain and designated locker. It’s not the nicest thing, sharing a room with so many strangers, but you become accustomed to tuning out farts, grunts and weird smells. Yay!
We met an American guy named Chris at a local bar. He told us how he had recently moved to Antigua indefinitely, and enthusiastically offered to show the five of us around the next day!
He took us to a local lookout that provided incredible views of the city and surrounding volcanoes, as well as showing us the local farmers markets, and the best little hole-in-the-wall local food spot. What a gem! Don’t you just love the kindness of strangers?
If you’re ever in Guatemala, we would highly recommend visiting Antigua. It’s a beautiful city with so much history, culture and amazing scenery!