The things we did in Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua the former capital of Guatemala boasts and impressive array of wonderfully restored colonial buildings and relics in a one of a kind setting. The cobblestoned city filled with pastel buildings and colourfully dressed Mayan people lies below three volcanos – one of which is extremely active and we would be treated to daily shows of billowing smoke rising from its crater. We fit as much as we could into our 3 days there as its such a budget friendly place that has so much to see.

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Day 1

In the morning we took a city tour organised by our hotel owner as their cousin was a tour guide – everyone knows someone here that is a tour guide/taxi driver/anything you need. He took us around the city where we got to learn the history of the churches, buildings and got an insight into local life. It started out interesting but as the tour progressed he guide did not keep us interested, he just didn’t have the spark required to keep our attention, but it was nice to see the city without getting lost.

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We visited old colonial buildings and one of the many Jade shops where we watched the making of Jade jewellery, then almost got talked into buying the expensive pieces. Most city tours cost $25pp and could be good value if you got the right guide but its risky and would be a better idea to skip the city tour and get all city info with the street food tour mentioned next.

That afternoon we decided to take a street food tour as we knew nothing about Guatemalan cuisine and thought it would be great to learn the best spots for good local food so that we could re-visit them. Our tour was led by a friendly young girl from Texas who moved to Antigua a year ago and decided to start doing these tours. We walked the streets for 2 hours hopping from vendor to marketplace. We got some background on historic sights and became familiar with the layout of the city all whilst indulging in delicious Guatemalan food. Our favourites were the traditional Guatemalan stews which were hearty and full of depth of flavour, also the rellenitos – mashed plantain rolled into a ball, fried and stuffed with sweet chocolatey black beans.

This tour was one of our favourites of the trip, the guide was friendly, informative and fun whilst the food was delicious and to be honest there was way too much, but hey cant complain about that! Visit http://www.antiguastreetfood.com/ and book online for $25 or 190Q – amazing value for the quality of such a tour.

Day 2

Today I took a walking photography tour of Antigua with a local professional photographer – Rudy Giron. We met at a coffee shop where he proceeded to show me some of his photos and talk me through techniques for taking better photos of specific things. We walked around to various photogenic sights and I learnt a couple of new tricks, but mostly it was stuff I already knew, I was a little disappointed not to of been able to learn more but I guess this tour is more suited to people who have just started taking photos – or perhaps he assumed that of me and I should of spoken up 🙂 . Rudy was knowledgeable of the city and I learnt lots of new facts about the history of Antigua and Guatemala as a whole.

My favourite photo taken on the tour of men playing the traditional marimba

My favourite photo taken on the tour of men playing the traditional marimba

That evening we went to a roof top bar to enjoy a cocktail whilst watching the sun set over the city. The sky turned a stunning mix of colours as day turned to night and the active Fuego Volcano decided to treat us to a smoke show.

Agua and Fuego Volcanos

Agua and Fuego Volcanos

Day 3

The textures and colours of the buildings make this city a photographers dream so after getting excited about photography on my tour the previous day Ben and I hit the street, churches, ruins and parks and I got some amazing shots of this gorgeous city.

In the afternoon we took a tour to the Pacaya Volcano – one of the most active volcanos in Central America. Its almost continuous activity and easy accessibility makes it a popular location, with hundreds of people visiting daily. After a 1.5 hour drive we exited our van and started the 1.5hour hike to the top, half way up the volcano we stopped at a lookout point. I reached into my backpack to get my camera and to my horror it was not there. It was at this point that I realised I had left it in the van on the seat. I was devastated and certain it was gone for good. We carried onto the top and took photos on Bens iphone.

Once we reached the top we climbed over the old lava fields that once flowed red hot over the slope. We then toasted marshmallows in these holes in the ground where thermal activity is still high enough to toast them, they were delicious and we had 2nds. We then climbed to a lookout point to watch the sunset and as soon as it did it was freezing. We quickly headed back down the volcano in the dark, luckily we bought a small flashlight but it wasn’t the best light, meaning we had to be very careful not to slip on the rocky terrain.

As we got back to the van the camera was gone, the driver admitted he didn’t lock the car and had gotten out to have dinner at one point. We did our best to probe him about it and some kind people on our tour talked to him in Spanish, he let us inspect the van but it wasn’t there and we couldn’t keep accusing this guy as we had no proof. I cried half of the way back as not only did I lose my very good camera that has been with me for 5 years but most of the thousands of photos from our entire trip. Luckily I had backed up some of them the day before – but only a few as internet cafes in Central America is so slow I was never able to download all of my pics but only enough for this blog. So we have not as many great photos to share with you this time, but at least we have some!

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Next stop Lake Atitlan

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