Antigua de Guatemala has endured centuries as a historical landmark in political, economic, religious and cultural preservations. Surviving several natural disasters including floods, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, authorities eventually ordered the relocation of the capitol from Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala (modern day Antigua) to Guatemala City.
This small city carries an intimate sensibility that’s reminiscent of enamorarse, falling in love. Meant to be savored in long walks on cobblestone and casual sittings in courtyards, Antigua stands as an aged edifice marked by love and loss.
Renowned Spanish Colonial structures are an integral part of the city’s charm offering UNESCO World Heritage sites, monasteries and monuments. You will find an abundance of textile shops, plazas, fountains, coffee shops, restaurants and accommodations as you peruse the city’s grid.
Hikers seek refuge in Antigua for the 3-day hike to El Fuego, the volcano at the edge of the city. Had I not been on the move as much I would have made it a priority to hike the volcano. I met another traveler from San Francisco who went with a guided group, hiked for 2 days and camped adjacent to an erupting volcano. Her photos, (permission granted) were spectacular!
Where to stay in Antigua:
1. El Convento Boutique Hotel
I booked this stay here for the bathtub and the gorgeous warmth of the interior and exterior property. For years I have stayed in hostels and Airbnb’s thus my stay at el Convento felt like a gift. Serenity and luxury are accessible with rooms under $200. I upgraded to the Junior Suite during the holidays at around $230 per night.
2. Meson Panza Verde
Refined, antiquated hotel with an outdoor pool, piano bar, restaurant, yoga studio, art gallery and rooftop terrace. Stroll in to this magical place to view the art, enjoy a bite to eat, a coffee or a relaxing sit on the rooftop terrace. The hotel is luxury at a very affordable rate and I had initially booked my stay here before booking at El Convento. The rooms are fabulous but the difference was about $40 per night, and I chose the savings for two words: Guatemalan textiles. #shopping
3. Good Hotel Antigua
Modern, light and airy, this sophisticated hotel is located just two blocks from the Convent Santa Clara ruins. Affordable and minimal, Good Hotel is a great option for solo travelers.
Where to eat and drink in Antigua:
1. Once Once
If you’re not already vegan, vegetarian or gluten free, you will want to be! Healthful and fresh food options are abundant in Antigua. Just around the corner from El Convento, Once Once is set in a quiet courtyard offering Asian, Mexican and Italian fusion vegan cuisine. Order several small plates and save room for the Coconut Cream Brule.
2. La Bruja
Located in a beautiful outdoor space with shops, cafes and a Viking bar, La Bruja was a delight to find after wandering in through a cacao shop. I ordered the portobello taco plate and sat perfectly content in the shaded floral courtyard.
3. Caoba Farms, Restaurant
Organic farm to table restaurant located just outside the cobble stone city grid of Antigua. The ingredients are freshly harvested on site and a mandarin just might fall on your plate from the tree above. This co-op offers an extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menu as well as artisanal honeys, cosmetics, herbs, spices and local hand made goods. For an additional 30Q ($3.80) visit the mariposa garden to see the transitioning stages from cocoon to first flight of the monarch and zebra butterfly.
Amazing menu with SO many options, come here for breakfast or lunch, smoothies and fruit bowls. Curries, stir-fry’s and taco plates make up the flavors on the menu and everything tasted fresh and savory.
5. 7A Norte Pizzeria
The upstairs terrace sits modestly against the ruins of yet another parish. The pizza and salads here are tasty and the drinks are made with fresh juices and herbs. I had a watermelon salad with the artichoke and garlic pizza.
6. Antigua Brewing
Craft beers and volcano views, enough said. Come here for the rooftop patio and cerveza artisanal. If you’re lucky, you can sip beer while watching the volcano erupt.
7. Ulew Cocktail Bar
Speakeasy Cocteleria situated inside the door of a red phone booth. Come and enjoy unique cocktails in a cozy setting.
Things to do in Antigua:
1. Santa Clara Convento Ruins
Maintained grounds and monastery ruins, El Convento Santa Clara survived two earthquakes before it was left in ruins in 1984. For 40Q ($5) you can enjoy the quiet grounds and take lovely photographs of the stone arches. A coming of age Quinceanera princess was having a photoshoot taken on the grounds and I asked her if I could take her picture.
2. Church of Candelaria Ruins
Just a few blocks from my hotel was the original face of the Candelaria parish. The Spanish baroque structure has been integrated into modern living, now adjacent to a basketball court. The plague on the building marks its insurrection in 1548 and due to catastrophic damage, the Church was eventually abandoned. According to the New York Times, the earthquake in Guatemala that took place on Sept 3, 1874 was the most devastating recorded in the world that year.
3. Santa Catalina Arch
The most distinguished landmark in Antigua, this 17th century arch was originally connected to the Santa Catalina convent, allowing the nuns to pass from one building to another without going on the street. There are several high end textile stores on this street with beautiful adornments of cloth and housewares, but I recommend walking to Nim Po’t for the best shopping.
Central America evokes an ancient whisper, carried by the smoke of a ceremonial fire, the purification of a temazcal and the bitter sustenance of the sacred cacao.
My twelve days in Guatemala filled me with a familiar wanderlust met with an unexpended shedding of direction.
Traveling is my favorite medicine. Traveling invites us into the spaces of separation, transitioning and experiencing. Traveling exposes our individual fibers; we are both the thread and the divine weavers on the loom of a shared human experience.
I feel both an undoing and an intricate braiding of self discovery as I enter into this post trip protected place la selva subterranea, an initiation into the renewal of the wild feminine spirit.
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