Tales of Antigua
Antigua, what a beautiful place! Antigua is a small city in the central highlands of Guatemala. It is about an hours drive from the Guatemala City airport and is a very tourist (particularly backpacker) friendly town in Guatemala because it is quite safe and is the home of many Spanish schools. Surrounded by several large volcanoes, it makes its colonial architecture and cobble stone streets of this quaint city that much more beautiful.
I didn't arrive at my hostel (El Hostal - highly recommend!!!) until after dark on Thursday evening. After eleven plus hours of being cramped on an airplane, I was absolutely exhausted. As such, I didn't get up to too much that evening. I was in a room full of Aussies (surprise!) so hung out with them for a while until I could not longer keep my eyes open (circa 9.30pm - party animal!).
I rose early the next day and decided to keep my first day relatively low key. From speaking to lots of people at the hostel who had been in Antigua for a few days, I soon realised that most of the town can be covered in one day. There are, however, many day trips that you can take to the volcanoes and coffee fields nearby. Clearly it was key to spread out my activities, not that I was in any rush anyway!
It wasn't hard to completely lose track of time wandering through the streets. So many beautiful buildings and old churches to see. The people of Antigua are so lovely also. They were very happy to chat to you and let you practice your Spanish with them. My Spanish is extremely limited right now so the conversations did not go far, but it was nice to give it a bash and at least practice getting my ear in. I cannot wait for the day when it will be competent!
That evening, on the recommendation of my friends Hugh & Ros, who have travelled extensively in Central America and been to Antigua, I was told to go for a meal at Caffe Mediterraneo for the best Italian food they had ever tasted! Apparently they ate there every single night they were in Antigua (why resist a good thing?!). The food was incredible! Definitely confirmed to be some of the best Italian food that I have ever had. I also had the pleasure of being invited to dine with a lovely man called Juan once he saw that I was dining alone. Juan, a middle aged Guatemalan, was from Guatemala City originally, but has a home in Antigua which he visits on the weekends in and effort to escape the hustle and bustle (clearly a member of the upper class and has travelled through the west extensively). He is the father of three daughters who are all around my age or slightly older and spoke impeccable English (clearly, I would not have picked up this much in Spanish!). The fatherly figure in him seriously stepped up a notch when I began to tell him my plans (or maybe lack of plans) for my travels in Central and South America. He was overly concerned for my safety and began giving me tips of the ¨only¨countries and cities that would be safe for my exploration, which according to Juan was very few. There was to be no taking buses anywhere (only fly - not really an option given my budget!), don´t go out at night alone and never tell anyone that you are travelling solo. Bless him, he meant well, but definitely on the severely over-protective side. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed his company that evening (always beats dining alone) and he was my very first encounter with the generosity of the Guatemalan people, something that I would later discover to be one of my favourite parts of this beautiful country.
Following dinner, I returned to the hostel for a few drinks with some of my hostel mates and then went to bed. I had a 5.30am start the next day to climb Volcano Pacaya.
Climbing Volcano Pacaya was an incredible experience! It certainly wasn't the most challenging hike that I have ever done (definitely on the easier side) but I must say that the first few minutes were the toughest. Not because it was particularly challenging physically, but more because of the change in altitude. It took a couple 15 minutes for my body to go from puffing to a normal breathing. I must admit that at first I was really worried because thought that if I was panting this much in ten minutes, how on earth was I going to make a 60 minute hike?! The views were amazing and I was fortunate to snap some pretty incredible pictures!
I cannot tell you how nice it is to be back on the backpackers route in a hostel. While I felt that I definitely needed a much deserved break from the backpackers scene post Europe, I really did miss meeting all the randoms that you meet along the way and the incredible experiences that unfold because of it. By far it is the best part of travelling! Everyone is so open and welcoming, it is so easy to make friends.
Next up, San Pedro La Laguna where I am planning to spend a month at a language school!
Hope this finds you well, wherever it is in the world that you are!
Monasterio La Merced.
Parque Central. The "place" for people watching. This is where all the action in Antigua happened!
So happy to be back to a "foreign" country where I can snap all these random gems!
I love Antigua. Beautiful little town surrounded by some very picturesque mountains/volcanoes.
Church San Francisco. Built in 1542 and is the oldest functioning church in Antigua.
I was having an afternoon stroll nearby to Parque Central when I heard a lot of commotion in the direction of the park. I decided to take a small detour and found this! I am still not exactly sure what was going on here but when I asked someone in the street what was going on they said that it was the university (perhaps school, they look young?!) doing some kind of commemorative dance in preparation for Guatemala's Independence Day, which I believe is on the 15th of September. Amazing costumes! And a very unexpected find...
Random street shots
El Arco which is perhaps one of the most recognised monuments in Antigua. In the background is Agua Volcano (a water volcano!).
More street shots.
The beginning of the hike up Volcan de Pacaya. We were fortunate to have great crisp weather for it. It quickly felt very hot.
Three young Guatemalans followed us on horseback in case we couldn't make it up to the top. "Taxi for the Chicas"...I'm not really sure why the girls were only singled out here?!
The Lava Store at the top! Look at all that steam...even though there was so much of it, it really didn't make it feel any warmer.
Just your average Saturday morning...climbing volcanoes! In the background you can see Fuego and Acatenanga.
Roasting marshmallows on the volcano! A pretty tasty mid hike snack!
The Germans really had the right idea here - they had bread, cheese and even some eggs on the go! Talk about being prepared!
I don't know the name of these ruins but some lovely remains of a church.
Mercado del Carmen. The colours are amazing!
Beautiful Mayan ladies and their goods (having a snack)
Antigua's response to the ute watermelon selling of Athens!!!