Though I’m usually the one to suggest a trip, it was Daniel who encouraged me to book tickets to Guatemala. Guatemala had never been on my radar of places I wanted to head to, but we decided to go because we had heard from others it was amazing and offered a non-touristy way to experience Central America.
Skipping Guatemala City, we hired someone to pick us up at the airport and to take us to Antigua. Again, this was not my trip and I was not in my element. I had heard only vaguely the things to do there—hiking, volcanoes, ziplining, and Mayan ruins. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the small town of Antigua.
Turns out, for a town so small, there is a lot to do there. After a good night’s rest at the funky hostel we were staying at, we set out to experience Antigua and to see how this small spot an hour and a half from the capital had flourished over the past few years.
Our first stop was the local convent that had been left to fall into disrepair. While that might seem like a waste of time to some, it proved a treasure trove of blooming roses, places to play hide and seek, and wild but pretty gardens. It was nice to have a day to get used to the increase in elevation and to get to know what made this town unique.
After stopping for some tacos along the way (we devoured a lot of tacos) and passing some colorful buses, we ordered fresh fruit smoothies and deliciously dark coffees. Trying some of the local fare that included potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a variety of meat options. (Antigua would be a good spot for vegetarians, too.) I almost always try to taste the local beer wherever I go, so we ordered Gallo in the late afternoon when things started to become humid.
Along with museums of ancient Mayan art, plenty of places to shop, and the great food spots, Antigua was fast becoming one of my favorite small towns south of Mexico. The cathedral was also worth taking a quick peek at for its gorgeous colors and unique take on Christian art. You’ll find all the statues of Jesus and the Mother Mary have dark skin like locals—a sneaky way to include the Mayan gods along with those of the conquistadors’.
After a few nights in, we were dying for a night out. Stopping by one of the expat havens, we had a few shots of the Quetzalteca Rosa de Jamaica (sipping, of course). Strong and sweet and cheap all at the same time, if you wanted, you could be knocked on your ass in about a half hour. We settled for tasting and heading to the hopping night club (literally) down the block—the Lucky Rabbit.
Latin music thumped through the speakers as dancers twirled and chose partners of all levels. I could see how someone could fall in love on a night like this and in a place with so much life. Daniel and I took to the floor for a little bit, but it wasn’t long before we just watched and enjoyed the complicated steps and even more complicated chemistry between the dancers.
I almost regretted that we would be heading up the challenging Acentango volcano in the morning and that we had a few more days to enjoy the city. I could see why expats find themselves in Antigua—and why they have trouble leaving.
Where is your favorite “hidden” city in Central America?