I fell in love with Antigua right away. What a wonderful start to my time in Guatemala!
Charming is the word best to describe this gorgeous city. Cobblestone streets, pastel buildings, pristine churches alongside ruins from earthquakes of the past. Women and girls dressed in their colourful and flattering traditional clothing. Volcanoes and clouds fringing the quaint settlement. It is easy to see why so many people are attracted to Antigua.
Here are my highlights from few days here.
Arco de Santa Catalina
No visit to Antigua is complete without seeing the famous arch. Originally a part of a convent (est.1649), the arch was built so nuns could go between two parts of the building without having to go outside or be seen by the public. Volcán de Agua looms in the background, creating a striking scene.
Mmmmmm…chocolate! Not what I expected in Guatemala, but a quick visit to the Choco Museo educated me on the growing of cocao and production of xocolatl in Guatemala. The cocoa tree and bean were revered by Mayan society. It was often consumed at religious and wedding ceremonies and was thought to be the food of the gods.
All Mayans, regardless of social status, were able to enjoy cocoa. It was not solid like the chocolate we typically enjoy today, but a liquid drank from an ornate cup.
Caramelised cocoa beans, cocoa tea (with spices), and varieties of milk and dark chocolate were some of the samples I tried. I couldn’t leave without also buying a tequila truffle and Nutella truffle. Both delicioso!
Plaza Central Park
As per almost every Latin American city, the Central Park is a hive of activity and a central meeting place for locals and tourists. Surrounding Antigua’s Parque Central is the Cathedral de San Jose, some museums, cafes, banks and other shops.
Inglesia La Merced
This striking church (est. 1534) has a beautiful facade and elaborate interior. It hosts a food market some nights and seems to always have clusters of people around.
Cerro de la cruz
This short hike up a little hill boats a great view of the city and Volcán Agua. A huge cross sits on top, which is dedicated to Antigua’s patron saint, Saint James. There is a police patrol during the day, preventing muggings that became too common in previous years. Behind the viewpoint, sits a statue of the Apostle Santiago.
San Francisco church and ruins
The original church was established in 1579, but much of it was destroyed in the earthquake in the 1700’s. The ruins (7Q to enter) from the original monastery are really cool to walk through. This would make a great spot for a picnic. There’s a small museum attached too, but this was a bit too creepy for my liking.
Mercado de Antigua
I had a lot of fun at the market! It was a maze of fruit, veg, meat, grocery, clothing, shoes, hardware, toys and everything in between. The Mayans are quite small in stature so it was very impressive to see them – men and women – lugging huge bags and baskets of produce between stalls. Kids were running around and being little cuties. No one spoke English so I was forced to practice my Spanish, which I loved. The people were friendly, patient and helpful.
This cafe was the first place I ate and I was hooked. Boasting all things vegetarian, raw, vegan and organic, Samsara absolutely delivers the goods. I was super stoked to get some kombucha here as I hadn’t had any since home.
Walk the streets
Antigua is a beautiful place just to be. A perfect place to wander around and lose yourself. Every day I stumbled across another building, scene, park, backdrop that I hadn’t seen before. There are cafes, restaurants and bars aplenty.
The Acatenango overnight hike is also popular activity and one I had on my list. Unfortunately I was unwell the day I’d planned to do it, so missed out. A good enough reason to come back with Dante I think!
I could have spent many more days in Antigua. It’s definitely somewhere I’ll be returning to.
My next destination is Lago de Atitlan. Time to get zen at a yoga retreat!