For some time now I’ve been wanting to see what Antigua, Guatemala is all about. Guatemala is located in Central America, and Antigua reigned as its colonial capital for 200 years. Antigua is surrounded by 3 volcanoes and in 1773, the city was largely destroyed by an earthquake. My best friend's family is from Guatemala so for her birthday last February we decided to take a trip. We stayed at an Airbnb that was just inside the city limits of Antigua, but the great thing about this small town is no car is needed to get around as we were able to walk to all of the places we wanted to explore during our stay.
Our Airbnb, Casa de Stela is a quaint, Colonial style home with lush courtyards and a terrace to take in the beautiful view of the city. Our host, Jess, also has a small boutique at the entrance of her house that sells handmade bags as well as clothes from her own fashion line Stela 9 and other unique items. If you are into yoga, she teaches classes daily. Throughout Casa de Stela there are colorful murals painted on the walls. I love this photo in particular of my best friend, Lola, in front of one of the murals. Isn’t she gorgeous?
We started every morning with our complimentary breakfast before heading into town to sight-see. Our favorite thing to order from the menu was the “Chapin breakfast” which consisted of re-fried black beans and eggs accompanied with mashed plantains, tomatoes, onions and crema (the Guatemalan version of sour cream). While the traditional “Chapin breakfast” is made with most of these same ingredients, Jess adds her own flair to the presentation of the dish.
Lola’s uncle works in the City Hall of Antigua and we were lucky enough to have him give us a private tour of the building. He was excited to be able to share with us some of the rich history of Antigua, and also gave us great recommendations of places to see and the best ways to get around. The views from the terrace and rooftop were breathtaking. You can see all three volcanoes, the Parque Central, and Cathedral de Santiago.
Her uncle suggested walking during the day to get the most of the city, but said to to take a “tuk tuk” at night being that we are two young women. A tuk tuk is a three wheeled mini taxi that will take you anywhere within Antigua for no more than Q15 (approximately $2). This is also a great means of transportation if you need to get somewhere in a hurry or have shopping bags you don’t want to carry.
All of the streets in Antigua are very unique; no two look the same, and they each have their own character and charm which make for great backgrounds to take photos. My colorful outfit was a great contrast to the weathered buildings.
Of all the amazing food that I had while on my trip to Guatemala, the most memorable is definitely the sliced mango with salt and lime juice I would buy on the street everyday. It is very common to see locals selling their fresh fruit on the streets of Antigua. The fresh mango served as a nice snack while we walked the streets on a warm day.
As I had mentioned earlier, in 1773 there was a massive earthquake that destroyed much of Antigua. Many of the churches and cathedrals were never rebuilt and now stand as ruins throughout the city. We visited Cathedral de Santiago, Convento Capuchinas and El Convento Santa Clara. There are more ruins that we did not have time to see because of our short stay and their hours of operation. I would suggest if you would like to visit them all, make sure to plan ahead as it may take several hours to explore each ruin.
Antigua is known for its Semana Santa (Holy Week) which is held between March 22-April 23 depending on when Easter falls, so we were surprised to see Alfombras outside of our Airbnb during our stay. Alfombras are the colorful hand-made carpets that consist of multi colored sawdust, pine needles, flowers and other plants. They are created as a token of sacrifice, but are destroyed right after the Holy Week processions. We learned that each church holds a procession leading up to Holy Week and we were lucky enough to witness the Santa Ines church procession.
We couldn’t leave Antigua without stopping by the famous El Mercado. We went on a Sunday and quickly learned that we would not be able to try any traditional delicacies or purchase any food items because those vendors only work on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We were, however, able to bargain with the artisans to get a few handmade hammocks, as well as a backpack, which I am wearing in the photos above. On the Monday morning before we flew home, we went back to the market to visit a family friend, China (pictured with me above).
It is important to note that even though I have photos with the locals in the Market, usually they would charge me because I am a gringa. Thank goodness, Lola’s mom was with us during this trip to the market because she was a local for many years and still has friends who work there.
I would also like to wish Lola a very Happy Birthday!! I am so grateful for our friendship and cant wait to see what country we get to explore next.