Imagine narrow cobbled and beautifully colourful streets, a local (and incredibly cheap- 10 pence avocadoes!) fruit and vegetables market, a great view point and maybe best of all: its three majestic surrounding volcanoes. Antigua truly is one spectacular place.
This small city is a haven for expats, students and tourists. Everything is westernized and therefore so easy to get around, feels safe and home-y. Ebba even found a shop with loads of gluten free goods! A lot of tourists stay in Antigua instead of Guatemala City when arriving or flying out of the country. The capital is Guatemala City, but it has a very bad reputation of high crime rates and history of violent crime against tourists.
Most of our time in Antigua wasn’t really spent to explore the town but as a base for exploring the Acatenango volcano but also for easy transport to and from the coastal town of Monterrico. That said, the city is well worth a visit just on its own! In total we spent about a week in Antigua, much longer than we first planned. Staying longer than first planned seems to be a bit of a theme for us on this trip!
Antigua is a colonial city that has been hit hard over the course of several earthquakes. The city has a huge amount of churches, some new and several old. Some of the old churches are now in ruins, serving as a Market place, art gallery and some are open to be explored by the public. Funnily enough a lot of the churches have small statues on the side of them, and a lot of them have lost their heads in the earthquakes. It certainly gives the buildings a bit of a scary feel!
So, what were our favorites in Antigua?
1. The market
Stalls with just about everything (very similar to the markets we’ve experienced in Asia!). If you need shoes, sunglasses, electronics or clothes- this is the place to go. They also sell food- both cooked and uncooked. On Saturdays and Thursdays there is also a grand fruit and vegetables market with local farmers. This was incredible for us as we mainly cooked our own meal whilst based in Antigua! Speaking a little Spanish helps as many of the Guatemaltecas do not speak English, but to be honest if you know your 1-10’s and can point in a precis manner, you’ll be fine.
Another hidden gem is the street food in Antigua. Many vendors come out around sundown on the grounds near La Merced serving our favorites (tacos if you hadn’t guessed by now ) and lots of other mains, salads, desserts and drinks.
2. The viewpoint – Cerro de la Cruz
A visit to Cerro de la Cruz is a must if you have a few hours to spare in Antigua. Go to the northern part of town, turn right on 1a Calle Oriente and then left onto 1a Avenida Norte, by the sign, begin the short hike up the stairs. The viewpoint overlooks not only the city but you can also spot all three Surrounding Volcanoes. The spot has previously had a reputation of location where tourists frequently were mugged, but don’t worry, these days there are patrolling police here all day.
3. Convento la Recoleccion
At the end of our street we found this hidden gem. Convent la Recoleccion is an old former church and monastery on the outskirts of Antigua. It suffered massively in the 1717, 1751 and 1773 earthquakes and was abandoned after the last. Locals later used the grounds as a stable, soap factory (!) and sport complex. All pretty crazy ideas! Parts of the ruins are cleared while the main building still includes some massive boulders which you’re allowed to climb on. A very spectacular site and its safe to say we’ve never seen anything like it!
And of course, climbing up the majestic Acatenango! If you missed our post about it- read more here!
Until next time, take care guys! ❤️