Antigua, Guatemala – Part 3 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Antigua is packed with tourist rubbish often made in Asia. If you want to see or buy quality crafts and antiques then stop off at the Casa de Artes, which has an excellent collection of ceremonial masks, textiles and majolica ceramics. Then round off an arty morning at La Antigua Galería de Arte, which has a good collection of contemporary Latin American art.
When it’s time to stop for lunch you can find great pizza and ice cold beers at Argentine run Angie Angie. If this does not appeal then you can keep it cheap and local by heading to the market which is five blocks west of the plaza. Here you can get different soups and chicken and chips, just aim for the busiest stalls with the most locals.
Now try something different and local, take a chocolate making class at the Choco Museo. This is offered three times a day at 11am, 1:30pm and 4pm; at $25 its great fun and very informative. After stopping for a glass of wine at Almacen Troccoli, which is a beautifully converted ironmonger. If you want to eat Guatemalan cuisine then La Cuevita de los Urquizú does a good self-service buffet of tamales, stews, salads, guacamole, tortillas and sausages.
Antigua is very walkable so don’t over plan your visit just allow time to wander its streets and plazas where you can see the local churches, assorted ruins and the coffee plantations in the suburbs.
There is accommodation here to suit all budgets at the top end El Convento is a sophisticated 26 suite boutique hotel close to all the main attractions. It has beautiful stonework, peaceful courtyards, good restaurant, library and rooftop bar with doubles from $300 including tax. In the mid-range and a twenty-minute walk outside town in the Calvario area is Villa Colonial which is part of a small Guatemalan chain and is popular with weekenders. It’s not in fact colonial, but the architecture cleverly apes the Spanish baroque church next door. Doubles here are from $120 and include breakfast and tax. On a budget then El Hostal is a popular backpacker hotel in a colonial-era house not far from the main plaza. Rooms are clean and there’s a leafy courtyard where travellers mix. Dormitory beds start at $12 with doubles from $25.
Antigua warrants at least three days but you’ll need five if you plan to scale one of the volcanoes. Then, it’s easy to move on. Two hours’ by bus to the west is Lago de Atitlán, ideal for hiking, cycling and kayaking; it also provides an opportunity to see something of indigenous Guatemala, whether in the company of the Quiché, Kaqchikel or Tz’utujil-speaking communities. Chichicastenango, also in the Highlands, is the place to shop for handicrafts or taste the food of the Quiché Maya. Tikal is one of the largest lowland Maya sites, hidden in the Petén rainforest and is an 11-12 hour bus ride away or a one hour flight from La Aurora. Southern Belize, El Salvador and the Mayan site at Copán in Honduras are all half a day’s bus ride from Antigua.
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