If you’ve been following my Instagram from the past couple of weeks, you would have noticed that I’ve been traveling around Guatemala quite a bit. My sister has been here visiting us here this month, and although we are still in school and working, she’s been joining us at work as a volunteer and we’ve been taking advantage of the opportunity to show her around a little bit on the weekends! I feel like I’m studying abroad again <<<THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE>>>!
We’re currently at the beach Monterrico enjoying our final weekend with Erica, but I’m going to share with you our first trip out and about in this wonderful country. I hope to share these journeys to encourage you to visit Guatemala!
When most people travel to Guatemala for mission work purposes, their typical place to stay is in Antigua. I’ve had several friends from the U.S. that have come for medical missions, documentaries, mission trips, etc., and all of them stayed in the beautiful city of Antigua.
Antigua is filled with a lot of history, culture, life and color. I absolutely LOVE going to Antigua, so when I knew my sister was coming to visit, Antigua was, of course, on the list of places to take her. After her first week of volunteering at our school with us, we finished our school day at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon (para los guatemaltecos era durante BONO 14) and headed to Antigua.
Here’s how to spend a quick weekend in the city of Antigua. (Or here’s how we spent it and how you can too 🙂 )
We arrived at our hotel around 6 p.m. to find out that we were at the wrong hotel. It was the same company, but we had booked our room at their other location. They told us that we could decide to stay at the hotel we arrived at or at the one we booked. We took a tour and fell in love with the view of the volcano on the rooftop, so we stayed. The hotel was called Hotel Palacio Chico 1940. The one we booked was called Hotel Palacio Chico 1850; you can see how we got it confused.
After relaxing for a little bit in the room, we changed, got ready and went onto the cobblestone streets. The cobblestone streets were laid out by the indigenous slaves back when Spain came and established Antigua. When traveling to Antigua, you must wear comfortable shoes because you’ll spend the majority of your time walking.
Here are some examples of some brands I’ve used:
We walked to the famous Santa Catalina Arch. Edwin told us that it used to be a convent, and that they used the arch so the nuns can walk from building to building without going out and being seen. This is one of the landmarks people like to take pictures with, especially with Volcan de Agua that sits behind it.
Straight ahead (away from central park) is the side of La Merced Church. At night there are food stands that sell typical Guatemala street food—dobladas, enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, tamalitos, mole, rellenitos, etc. We walked the stands and chose our favorite foods and sat on a bench. We went back for more because, why not?
After, we explored a little bit of the central park area and enjoyed the night and the view of the Cathedral that sits at the head of the park. We rested, listened to live marimba, and then headed back to the hotel for showers and sleep.
We had had a long week, and we needed to rest up for the fun weekend that was ahead of us.
We woke up and headed straight to the rooftop of our hotel for breakfast. They served us eggs, toast, fruit and, of course, coffee. It was such a nice morning with the sun shining, a fresh cup of coffee in hand, and a nice view of God’s creation.
After enjoying our breakfast, we got ready and went up to Cerro de la Cruz. I had been wanting to go up there for many years now, and finally we made the effort to go. It is a cross on the hill—which is exactly the translation of “Cerro de la Cruz”. It has a nice view of Antigua and the volcano. I’m always in awe when there is a nice view of a city.
You can either hike up to the cross, or you can take a car. We drove a car up there to save us some time. It was so beautiful and refreshing. We went in the early morning after breakfast and there were too many people. The big crowds came after us around 11 am.
When we made it back down to the city, we took a tuk-tuk to Casa Santo Domingo. It is a Church and Monastery that’s in ruins. It was founded by the Dominicans and was destroyed in 1773 by the earthquake that put most of the city in ruins. There are a handful of churches and buildings that are in ruins today. It’s interesting the history each building or church holds.
Today, Santo Domingo is one of Antigua’s nicest hotels and it’s a museum. We took Erica to explore what treasures they had—the ruins, artwork of Guatemala and from different places around the world, pieces of Guatemalan culture and much, much more. Just be careful when you stop under a tree to take a picture, you might get pooped on by a bird.
We then took a walk to the other side to see the San Francisco Church. This church was the first Sanctuary built in the city in the 16th century. I enjoy going to this church because they have street vendors selling typical Guatemalan items and (most importantly) candy! After checking out the church and speaking with one of the Franciscan Friars, we grabbed some candy from the stand and sat and tried every one we bought.
Antigua is a beautiful city to just walk in and explore. On our way to find somewhere to eat, we showed Erica the pilas that are open to public. A pila (pee-la) is a cultural item in Guatemala. It is very useful in villages around Guatemala to clean clothes and dishes. It’s cultural because if you don’t have a pila in your house, even if it’s a very modern house, then you aren’t truly Guatemalan. In all the places I’ve lived in here, there’s been a pila.
There is a nice garden where the pilas are located and across the way is one of my favorite churches—Hermano Pedro. It is currently a hospital, but previously it was a hospital for special needs children and adults. I have special memories there with my husband and the history of Hermano Pedro is very interesting for me.
We strolled the streets looking for food and ended up at MonoLoco, which have the best nachos ever! No joke. And the sizes are no joke either.
After enjoying our dinner, we headed to the market to do some shopping. When visiting Antigua, the market is a must see. There are isles and isles of Guatemalan art crafts, and the cool thing is that you can bargain for better prices.
By the time we finished it was already dark outside. That’s one thing you have to prepare for when traveling to Guatemala—the sun sets around 6:30 p.m., and for us fellow Texans, especially this time of year, that’s early!! We headed back to our hotel to rest for a bit because our night was just beginning.
We took Erica to our favorite club in Guatemala—Las Vibras de la Casbah. It’s located almost directly under the Santa Catalina Arch, so it’s a very easy find and it’s really fun. Most of the times I go I see mostly American, European, foreign travelers, but this time it was mostly locals.
We went and had a great time 🙂 Everything closes at 1 a.m., so we stayed ‘til the end and that was the perfect amount for this old married couple! haha
Another morning on the rooftop, but this time with a typical Guatemalan breakfast which includes eggs, beans, platanos fritos, cheese and coffee.
We took a stroll inside la Merced and walked a bit around the center to do more shopping and our last steps on the cobblestoned streets. Edwin showed us the biggest and oldest university in Guatemala, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, before heading to our next destination: Hobbitenango.
Hobbitenango is a place in the mountains. If you didn’t notice by the name, it is a reference to the Hobbit movies. And the “tenango” part is a reference to Guatemala because many of the towns, cities or departments have that ending. For example, Quetzaltenango, Chimaltenango, and Mazatenango to name a few.
I definitely recommend this place if you have the time to check it out. It’s located just 20 minutes from the center of Antigua, and you have to take a car to get up into the mountain. Once you get to the location, if you have a car you must park it in the parking lot and either take a hike up (which is about 30-45 minutes) or take a shuttle in their 4×4 trucks.
The first time I went we went on a hike and it was incredible because of the many views you see along the way. But this time, because of time and it was already getting late, we took the 4×4 shuttles.
Whether you take the shuttle or hike, once you get to the top, the views are remarkable. You see the volcanos in the distance, mountains, and a lot of greenery. One thing I you must be prepared for at Hobbitenango is that it gets very cold up in the mountain. So be prepared with your jackets!
We had dinner and we all got the same thing, hot chocolate and a hamburger. Weird combination, I know, but so delicious!
There are little houses that look exactly like the hobbit house and many places to explore and enjoy the views. It’s definitely worth it.
Before the sun set, we decided to head back home because we are still on work time and had to make it home to get ready for the next school day. It was a great weekend and so much fun showing Erica around the country I’ve fallen in love with <3