Antigua, Guatemala: The Sights and Shopping of this Gorgeous Colonial City
I was in Antigua, Guatemala for 5 days and 5 nights and I can’t wait to go back. In fact, I’ll stop back there for a few hours on my way to Guatemala City for my flight home. It’s so beautiful, so manageable, filled with beautiful shopping, food, coffee, people, VIEWS, people, cultures, art, churches…the faded pastels of the buildings, the vibrant colors of the art and fabrics…I couldn’t get enough.
All you need are some sturdy shoes, the ability to simultaneously look down (at the wildly uneven sidewalks and cobbles stone) and all around (at the gorgeousness of every single building) and you will do just fine.
A tiny bit of history. The Maya have flourished in modern Guatemala and the larger region since about 2000BCE. And “the invaders” – the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1525. After earthquakes, floods and uprisings, Antigua was established as the 3rd capital of most of Central America. It’s set up in an easy grid pattern of numbered streets.
The Spanish REALLY wanted gold and silver to have climbed up and over the active and inactive, incredibly steep volcanoes in this area. That being said with all the negative, what is left now is a GORGEOUS city.
A tiny bit of my history: Getting from Flores to Antigua. There are two “best” options. I had no time or energy for chicken buses. My options were a flight – from Flores to Guatemala City runs about $100-125USD one way and takes an hour. Antigua is a 30 minute taxi ride away – 200-250Q or about $30-35US or a shuttle ride or bus for cheaper. You can also do what I did and take the overnight bus. Linea Dorada runs two overnight buses from Flores to Guatemala City – 830pm and 9pm. Easiest just to ask at the local travel agents or your hotel for information. It cost me $55US for the TOP CLASS first floor. Huge lazyboy type seats – only 9 on the entire level. You can pay about $8US less to ride with 20+ others in much less comfortable seats.
The “chicken bus”
The choice was easy. Sleeping is easy but it is COLD. The trip took us 10 hours.
Since my budget has been blown completely anyway, I am definitely thinking about the flight home later this week.
I arrived in Guatemala City early, shared a taxi to Antigua and checked in early at my hotel and NAPPED.
During the ride from Flores to Antigua, we went from an altitude of about 300 feet to about 5000 feet . The air was crystal clear…warm during the day and cool during the night. Beautiful.
I woke up, got a map at the front desk and hit the streets. This blog is going to mostly pictures (since I took close to 1000 – 95% of them terrible) but I’ll decsribe my MUST DOs…give additional details. Everything else you will definitely pass in your wandering.
If I repeat things…I can’t help it!…the town is just too pretty.
I still can’t believe this country…and particularly this city is just a few jumps away from San Pedro, Belize by plane. Tropic Air has the whole schedule for you.
Central Park – the hub of the town. Surrounding by the main Cathedral (San Jose), government office, the more expensive cafes and museums. A great place to sit in the sun and read a book.
Or make out.
Santa Catalina arch may be the most photographed structure in the city. It’s self explanatory.
I took the tuk-tuk in the picture to the next spot. And I’ve glad I did. For 50Q, I was taken up to Mirador del la Cruz, the driver waited for 10 minutes and took me back down. It’s a hike up there, which wouldn’t be SO bad…but this time of year? It’s DUSTY outside of town…I came down with a fresh coating of the stuff. The $7US was well worth it to me.
See where my budgets going?
Just north of the arches is the N’Im Pot market. They have practically everything you would want to buy in Antigua. Everything is labelled with a price. It’s a good place to get an idea how much things should cost. They also have a beautiful BEAUTIFUL array of older, handmade fabrics…I was drooling.
IF you are planning on going to the bi-weekly market at Chichicastenango (and I suggest you do), the prices there are better – bargaining is part of the game. I would wait until you get there.
I found the market in Antigua…not so great. But I love the handmade items not necessarily the new.
You also WANT to visit the Textile Museum…watching the ladies weave – you feel guilty for buying things that take 20 days to make for $10US…
I thought again and again and again what I could do with the handmade cloth and embroidery of the traditional huipils. Wear them? I’d never do it. A pillow? Draped over just about anything? The back of a dull chair? They are so unbelievably gorgeous and range from 150Q to much highers. So…$22 dollars and up?
There are countless shops and boutiques around town selling everything from coffee to fabrics to pillows to art work. And the art work that I am obsessed with – the pompomes.
Some more pictures…
Too pretty. There are literally countless more ruins, churches, museums and shops…inside each one floor blockish building is a court yard of some sort. Some are gorgeous gardens…
But it’s too many pictures for today! Tomorrow, the food and the coffee of Antigua.
I’d better move it along! I’m now at Lake Atitlan…the deepest lake in Central America…surrounded by small villages. I have work to do!
Please, feel free to stick a PIN in it.