I ran out of time and only spent one hour in Antigua, Guatemala…but it was still worthwhile. Give yourself more time, though.
24 Hours In Antigua, Guatemala: Historic Beauty
First, a confession. Remember that phone malfunction I mentioned? It ended up wiping out almost all my pictures from Antigua. The selfie above was saved, as were the coffee pictures, but the others are gone…which is a truly a tragedy because I captured some great shots of the city. Nevertheless, I offer this written summary of my time here. Hopefully, it will still be worthwhile to some of you, if for nothing else than as a testimony to Antigua’s beauty.
While I add this post to my “24 hours” series, I do admit I only spent an hour here…plus an hour in each direction driving from Guatemala City.
The plan was to spend a half day in Antigua, but after my mobile phone began acting up, I just returned to the hotel and decided not to go due to the horrific traffic leaving Guatemala City in the late afternoon.
That left me with a choice: sleep in and try to visit Antigua next time, or at least check it out? I made the decision to check it out and set my alarm for 5AM.
It was tough to drag myself out of bed, especially considering my body clock was still on LA time (4AM) but I pulled myself up and got some work done before leaving around 6:15AM. The Uber ride was about 20USD each way.
Even at that early hour and moving against traffic, traffic was still jammed. Like really bad. Just like any major city, many workers live outside the city and commute in during the day and depart in the afternoon or evening. I was quite thankful I was not traveling the opposite direction or else I really would have been stuck in traffic.
Guatemala, for better or for worse, has all sorts of U.S. fast food chains operating, which I passed on the way out of town. And guns shops…
Traffic really did not let up until we got close to Antigua. After going down a hill with a thick grove of trees on both sides, it felt like we entered another world. Antigua has cobblestone streets and historic architecture. There are no skyscrapers.
I hopped out of the car at in Parque Central, a tree-lined park in the middle of the city also known as Plaza Mayor. Nearby was the Cathedral do San José as well as the municipal building.
I began walking, making my way to Iglesia de La Merced and then to the iconic Santa Catalina Arch.
The city is full of cute little hotels that reminded me of being in Havana, Cuba and perhaps a bit of Cusco, Peru.
All this time I was waiting for coffee shops to open, most of which open at 8:00am.
There’s much I did not get to see. I would have enjoyed climbing to Cerro de la Cruz, which offers sweeping views of Antigua and the Agua volcano. I would have enjoyed trying Pepián, a hearty meat and vegetable stew. Visiting a coffee planation like Filadelfia or De La Gente would have been right up my alley. And of course, trying more coffee shops in town.
After just an hour, I can say with certainty that I intend to return to Antigua and spend a night or two…I think two days and one night may be ideal. But I’m still glad I went..it was a lot of fun, the people are kind, and the city is beautiful.
The drive back to Guatemala City was not as bad as I feared. The driver was very friendly and a pro: rather than stick to Highway 1, he took all sorts of side roads and we made it back to Guatemala City in an hour, despite heavy traffic.
Driving two hours (round-trip) for a one-hour visit was worthwhile for me, but it was truly a shame my stay was not for longer. Guatemala City and Antigua are quite different and if you start your trip in GUA, do make time to visit historic Antigua.
> Read More: Great Coffee In Antigua, Guatemala