Rolan is originally from Guatemala, and he and I go there each winter to visit his family. While they live in the capital, Guatemala City, we always make a point of taking a day trip to Antigua, the former colonial capital of Central America and Guatemala. Antigua suffered from a powerful earthquake in 1773, which led to the movement of Guatemala’s capital to Guatemala City.
Antigua is a breathtakingly charming city, bustling with international tourists, ex-pats, Mayan artisans, and visitors from elsewhere in Guatemala. Its streets are paved with round stones and are lined with prettily painted buildings, palm trees, churches, and parks. It is nestled at the base of Volcán de Agua, allowing you to watch clouds gather and disperse around the volcano’s crater throughout the day.
While one my favorite things to do in Antigua is simply to wander and enjoy the architecture and the people-watching, the ruins, restaurants, and artisan markets Rolan and his family have introduced me to are unforgettable.
Nim Po’t market carries a wide array of exquisite artisan goods, including textiles, carved wooden statues, beaded jewelry, and clay home decor. Unlike most artisan markets, the prices are labelled and non-negotiable, making it perhaps easier for tourists uncomfortable with haggling.
Each time we go to Antigua, we make sure to visit La Fonda de la Calle Real, a restaurant with a sunny, open-air courtyard and traditional Guatemalan food. We often order some guacamole, a variety of soups, horchata (a sweet rice drink), and micheladas (a fantastic Guatemalan drink similar to a bloody Mary, made with beer instead of vodka).
La Merced Church is a true gem. A peek inside this baroque church wrapped in pastel yellow and white reveals a beautiful courtyard complete with blooming flowers, a fountain, and views of the nearby volcanoes.
Very much not to be missed are the ruins of Catedral de San José, which are tucked behind a gleaming white facade overlooking the Parque Central. The columns and arches left behind after the 1773 earthquake gain even greater majesty from the sunlight that floods in where vaulted ceilings used to be.
Luna de Miel offers delicious sweet and savory crêpes, wine to accompany them, and an enchanting atmosphere of low lighting and fairy decor. The rooftop terrace is especially romantic.
Finally, the ruins and gardens of Casa Santo Domingo are fascinating to explore if you have time, and should you choose to extend your stay, I’m told Posada del Ángel is a wonderful place to spend the night.
Antigua is a marvelous place that I’ll never finish exploring, and I can’t wait to share my adventures with you the next time I visit!
If you have any questions, stories, or recommendations to share, let me know in the comments!