Antigua, the stunning ex-capital city in the central highlands of Guatemala, welcomed us into the country with open arms. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, set amongst the mountains of Central America delivered much more than we’d ever expected on our first visit to this part of the world.
With an unassuming beauty, thanks to the city’s architectural Spanish Baroque influence, worn cobbled roads, ruined colonial churches and friendly, welcoming Antiguans, Antigua stole our hearts almost instantly.
Many people choose to use Antigua as a base from which to learn Spanish. Possibly for this reason, the locals are incredibly patient with foreigners, but it is important to note that Spanish really is the main language throughout all of Guatemala so the more you can up-skill yourself on the basics, the better (I learnt some key phrases and words on Duolingo; it’s now my go-to app when I need an introduction to a new language).
During our time in Antigua, we stayed at the Yellow House and we’d highly recommend basing yourselves there. Antigua isn’t massive so it was an easy (and flat) walk into town and we had plenty of restaurants and sights close by. It was a steal at USD15/night for the both of us in a private room (with shared facilities) and included a delicious and generous breakfast each morning. The hostel was clean and tidy, the guests were respectful and the hammocks hit just the spot!
We spent our time in Antigua wandering around, taking in the sights and practicing the little new-found Spanish we’d picked up… oh and chocolate, we ate our fill of chocolate!
Guatemala is of course well known for it’s cocoa beans and the Choco Museo will not only give you a conclusive run-down of this plant’s history in the area, but will also have you making chocolate tea, a variety of hot chocolates, and of course, chocolate from scratch (including roasting and grinding cocoa beans). We elected to do the ‘beans to bar’ tour which took about two hours; it was great fun and an excellent way to meet people (we kept bumping into some of our tour-companions weeks later over in Belize!)
Looking back now we wished we’d done some hiking in Antigua – we’ll just have to save it for another trip!
Having been warned off Guatemala whilst flying into LA, there was a slight degree of trepidation arriving into the country… after-all most New Zealanders would struggle to point Guatemala out on a map, let alone know people that have visited. Choice to head to Central America for us was certainly a bit of an unknown but as soon as we pulled into Antigua, late in the evening after over 24 hours of travel, we knew we were onto a winner!
If you too are planning a trip to this beautiful Central American country, we suggest you check out this fantastic Guatemala travel guide. If you’re not currently planning a trip there – what are you waiting for?!
PS: Check out the gorgeous town square where we spent many hours people-watching and soaking this city in. I dare anyone not to fall in love with Antigua!
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