Antigua

Posted from Warsaw, Sacatepéquez Department, Guatemala.

The beautiful ruins of Antigua can be found all over the city.

The drive to Antigua from Lake Atitlan was like all travel through Guatemala – unpredictable. About 10 minutes after leaving San Pedro we hit a road block. Construction was occurring, and we were told it could be hours until traffic would be allowed to pass. Luckily, there was a guy capitalising on the inconvenience and selling frozen bananas going vehicle to vehicle. I didn’t have any, but a bunch of guys on the bus were really happy.

Once we were allowed to carry on, an hour later, we drove over the mountainous terrain another hour until we found ourselves on the most amazing highway we’d seen since Mexico. It was a four-lane, smooth as butter, paved road. We sailed to Antigua. Except there was that one bathroom break where the driver stood by the door of the bus, like a guard, until we all finished, and then immediately locked the door from the inside. It seemed a bit paranoid, but perhaps he had reason to be cautious. 

Palacio Municipal is a government building in the centre of the city.

Antigua is a special place. From the moment our shuttle arrived into town I knew it was unique. The city moved several times since its inception in the 1500s, mostly due to destructive earthquakes – which still rock the city. When the city was more recently re-inhabited many people restored the old buildings creating a UNESCO world heritage site, and a tourism mecca. There are ruins throughout the town that still show the original colonial architecture.

The Santa Catalina Arch is actually a passage way that allowed cloistered nuns to cross the street from a school without going out on the road.

Walking around the city is lovely. There’s not a ton to do, unless you like ruins and churches. But there are some impressive volcanoes nearby that one can hike and/or watch the sunrise/set. Volcanoes, are not be taken lightly though. The rocks are rough, the terrain can be steep, and the weather can get cold and unpredictable at altitude. Stories abound among travellers of yahoos and wingnuts who thought climbing in their sandals, and not bringing a jacket would suffice. On most days you can hear the Fuego Volcano thundering and booming as eruptions are constantly occurring. It was difficult to get photos of it though, as it’s often in the clouds. 

Tourists roam the streets of Antigua in droves. There is a McDonalds and a Little Caesars here.

Guatemala has been a lot cooler, temperature-wise, than I expected. The evenings can drop to 10C. It is, after all, winter.

I spent most of my time wandering around the city trying to find secret locations, but I didn’t really find anything. I tried to go into a museum of sorts that is housed inside a hotel, Casa Santa Domingo, but they have started charging an entrance fee. The owner of our hostel was shocked to find this out as he originally told me it was free. The hotel, however, is a five-star location where Prime Ministers and other rather fancy people stay when they’re in town. It’s easy to see there is money here. The shops have begun to change. McDonalds and Little Caesars are here.

Some of the ruins at the hotel.

There was a jade museum that I meandered through and a few parks. I also had a broken Spanish conversation with a lady selling food on the side of the road. I don’t even speak Spanish.

The market is also quite amazing here. I wandered through for a good hour checking out the stalls and exploring. I even bravely ate at a food court which I found somewhere in the middle of it, and could probably never find again. I had fried chicken and some vegetables. The market is about the size of a small city block – filled with tons of tiny stalls where you can buy garbage cans, baby chickens, leather shoes, beef, vegetables, clothing, and almost anything.

Part of the market was outside on the streets, but the vast majority was inside through a maze of corridors.

And you could buy these little guys.

But our stay in Antigua was short. We didn’t have too much time to explore. Luckily we had read that we needed to book our trip to Leon two days in advance (BigFoot Hostels.) We were to get on a shuttle that would take us through El Salvador and Honduras and drop us off in Nicaragua some 16-hours later. It was collecting us at 2 a.m., and we were hoping the nice highway we were on the day before would be our road. 

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