From Miami we flew to Guatemala City, the jumping off point for our five months in Latin America. Guate has a pretty bad reputation so we decided to skip exploring this sprawling capital city and head straight for nearby Antigua; apparently a near-universal decision for arriving tourists.
Antigua was one of the original colonial capitals of Guatemala, but it was semi-abandoned after a bad earthquake in the 1700’s and the capital shifted to it’s present day location. These days it’s the hub of Guatemala’s tourism. An easy one hour taxi ride straight from the airport (about $20 us) dropped us off at Antigua’s central park, a pretty plaza filled with trees, flowers, strolling Guatemaltecos and teenagers making out on park benches. Not to mention more than a few tourists fending off shoeshine boys and textile vendors.
We walked around a while trying to find a cheap hotel, but ended up settling for an overpriced but decent place near the market for about $20 us a night. Next it was time to explore a bit and check out the city. Antigua feels small. Most of the streets are cobblestone (it was here that I saw the world’s most determined and vibration resistant roller-blader; tip of the hat to your sir) and the place oozes so much colonial charm you have to wash it off your shirt afterwards.
It’s a place filled with “Artist’s light,” wafting woodsmoke, a perfect climate, friendly colorfully dressed locals and beautiful old architecture, with a soundtrack of roosters and churchbells. A little Disney. Still lots of fun, although a bit expensive and filled with classy restaurants and bars that we couldn’t afford; the town is definitely gentrified in the tourist zone. We only stayed a couple nights and are looking forward to going back to explore more.