Antigua is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, causing tourists to flock to this place, hence it is the most visited city in Guatemala. Even with this designation it is a charming city laid out in a very confusing grid system. Being a World Heritage site allows the city to receive funds from the United Nations in order to keep the buildings up to date without losing their old world charm. Stringent UNESCO rules keep high rise apartments from being built. It also prohibits overhanging or protruding street signs.You literally have to walk down a random street and just stumble upon a store you are interested in.
Antigua is like many Latin American cities and has walls that hide many of the private residences and establishments. All the beautiful gardens are hidden behind them. You have to walk into a restaurant or hotel to see how amazing it is. We had the opportunity
to visit some friends of Billy and Akaisha’s and see a traditional Spanish colonial home
hidden behind a high stucco wall. Once you walk through the door/gate, a veritable Garden of Eden opens before your eyes. So, as you walk the streets of Antigua, don’t be shy about walking into a hotel or a restaurant to see for yourself the beauty that lies within.
Most people from Panajachel will travel to Antigua to transfer onward in their travels. The bus station is an orchestrated symphony of ‘chicken buses’ moving to the music of their handlers who shout out the next destination. Like in most countries a market is located next to the bus station for those buying goods to bring to relatives or food for their long journey ahead.
that winds its way through the streets. Men are dressed in long purple robes, representing the color for Lent, and women are dressed in black to symbolize mourning
the crucifixion of Jesus.
Some men in the procession dressed_ as ancient Roman soldiers while purple robed boys carried swinging kettles of incense. The floats, which are extremely heavy and ornate, depict the stages of the cross and are carried by dozens of men stopping often to sway to the music of the band that follows them. (See our videos of the process on (https://www.facebook.com/freetirement/) As Holy Week nears, the processions will increase in frequency as will the numbers of onlookers. Thousands of people will participate in the activities that lead up to the sacred holy day of Easter.
A variety of food is abundant in Antigua. You can enjoy fancy high-priced Argentine steaks or greasy, authentic, local chalupas off the street. If you’re feeling homesick for some stateside cuisine, Pappy’s BBQ is run by a guy from Austin,
Texas whose place will fill your needs. If you want local textiles, just wait a minute and
a street vendor will magically appear in front of you with arms filled for your choosing. Need your shoes shined? Don’t worry, a plethora of “shoeshine boys” stalk the plaza, keenly looking at everyone’s shoes with trained eyes to determine who their next customer will be.
Antigua is a very interesting small city to visit. Since we are not familiar with the Latin American culture everything is still new for us. Getting used to this culture is an
adjustment, but one we vigorously embrace. The main reason we travel is to explore
cultures outside of our own. In saying that, sometimes we have to adapt and that is the best part of learning. Life in Antigua is different than Panajachel, but that is not a bad thing. It’s just different. It wouldn’t be any fun if every place were the exact same, would it?
After three days of exploring, food, and fun, it was time to head back home to Panajachel. Billy and Akaisha decided to stay for a few more days so we took a shuttle bus back. This is not a private shuttle so the price is a little cheaper. Most tourist agencies will quote you a higher price, but make sure you pay no more than Q80 ($10.50). We love countries where bargaining is expected.
So, if you are coming to Guatemala, don’t forget to see the ancient capital of Antigua. It will be well worth your time.
Click on a picture below for captions and a larger image.