Antigua, Guatemala

My backpacking life part 4…...

Antigua, for me was the highlight of our Central America adventure. Situated in the central highlands of Guatemala and known for it's well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture and was once the capital of Guatemala. Antigua is overlooked by three large volcanoes, with one the "Volcan de Fuego"  being Central America's most active volcano.

We spent a total of three nights in Antigua and stayed at the La Casona, de Antigua which is located on the edge of the city in a private gated residential complex. The hotel has a total of 11 rooms that look out upon a central courtyard and fountain. Breakfast was included and made to order by their wonderful in house chef, and we ate each morning upon the terraced roof looking out at Volcan De Fuego. We paid less than $100 a night to stay in this beautiful building that was just a short walk into the bustling city center.

La Casona de Antigua

Enjoying the volcanic views at breakfast

Antigua is awash with color, stunning colonial spanish architecture, geometric pattern and textiles. Visit beautiful monasteries, Cathedrals and enjoy the plentiful arts and crafts and shopping that the city has to offer. 

Shop beautiful textiles in Antigua

She's not dead I promise

Antigua offers an abundance of delicious food and coffee. Make reservations to dine at Casa Santo Domingo an old converted convent which now hosts a museum, hotel and fine dining restaurant. Have lunch at Cafe Condesa, tucked away in the main square and enjoy a fine roasted Guatemalan coffee at Refuge Coffee. For the sweet tooth's out there, enjoy delicious traditional Guatemalan candy and pastry treats at Dona Maria Gordillo.

Another way to pass the time is shopping, and Antigua has plentiful. For fine art head to La Antigua Galeria, and be sure to check out Casa de Artes for traditional Guatemalan folk art, crafts and textiles. 4th street hosts an abundance of upscale shops for jewelry, ceramics and art and if you are shopping for souvenirs, gifts and textiles then head to Calle del Arco.

Chichicastenango market is hosted each Thursday and Sunday and is located about three hours outside of Antigua, nestled in the crest of the mountaintops. It is well worth the pilgrimage to find traditional handicrafts, textiles, pottery and food where vendors from all over Guatemala travel to sell their crafts. The market is a sensory overload of color and smells, bring plenty of cash and be prepared to haggle.

Chichicastenango market

My Back Packing Life Part 1

As much as Mr JetSetter likes to enjoy the finer things in life, now and again you just have to pack up your troubles, even if it means squeezing them into a tiny backpack and seeing the world on a budget.

Back in June I took an AMAZING trip to Central America with my boyfriend, flying overnight to Guatemala city and traveling overland by bus to Flores, Tikal, across the boarder to Belize, by boat to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, back to Belize mainland, bus to San Ignacio in the middle of the Jungle, back across the boarder to Guatemala Flores, flight back to Guatemala city, bus to Antigua, back to Guatemala city before flying to Mexico city for 5 days then home to San Francisco. Sound exhausting? It was funnily enough, but fabulous at the same time.

On arrival to Guatemala city we spent eight hours avoiding torrential downpours by playing card games in the lobby at the Intercontinental Hotel, whilst periodically trying to locate numerous close by tourist attractions that were either shut or seemingly didn't exist whilst waiting for our bus to take us to Flores that evening.

I was a little hesitant to say the least about traveling by bus overnight from Guatemala city to Flores, especially after reading and hearing some horror stories. But for the 1% of you that maybe robbed of your kidney, there's the 99% of you that won't be, so like my Swedish friends ABBA once said "Take a Chance."

It also didn't help once I arrived at the downtown Guatemala City bus station, that the coach we would be traveling on overnight, paid no resemblance to the Luxury one my boyfriend had pointed out to me on the website back in San Francisco. In fact this one, to my horror did not have a bathroom on board, they don't call me tiny bladder for nothing.

Traveling overnight by coach wouldn't be my first choice of transportation, but there's those few times in life you just have to suck it up and impress your boyfriend and go with it. Even if it means holding it in for nine hours.

Flores, Guatemala

Thankfully Flores was truly worth it, and after a well deserved shower we spent the early hours of the morning exploring the tiny, walkable island in the middle of a lake and enjoying breakfast. Unfortunately it was a little flooded in parts, and I came across a dead snake, tarantula and bat, but despite that beautiful!

After breakfast we booked a private minivan through our hotel, who drove us an hour away to Tikal one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites, where we spent the afternoon exploring Mayan ruins and hiking through the jungle. One should note that if you are fit and able to climb the ninety degree steps up to some of the temples, to not let your boyfriend venture inside and clap to see if there are bats sleeping inside, chances are there is, and nowhere to run.

Tikal, Guatemala

Mayan temples, Tikal

View across the jungle canopay 

Strange things in the Jungle

Back in Flores we had an amazing sunset dinner at Terrazo, and I would highly recommend it. Terrazo is a lounge bar/ restaurant directly on the lake overlooking the water specializing in italian fresh pasta dishes. We ordered the grilled baby Octopus with avocado salad which was delicious, but I advise not eating the salad (avoid anything washed whilst traveling) the shrimp pasta and a well deserved pitcher of Mojito to help ease the woes of the last 48 hours travelling.

Sunset in Flores

We decided for desert to head down to the local street market where my boyfriend had been eyeing up some chocolate cake which we decided to share whilst sitting on the docks. Make sure before agreeing to share desert in a relatively new relationship that they know what a corner is and that they don't rob you of the last remaining frosted piece and then continue to debate about it for the remainder of the night. After all, it was bought off a street vendor who had just used her bare hand as a serving utensil.

The next morning 5.30am came and by boyfriend didn't want to leave Flores without having experienced swimming in the murky lake that lay outside our hotel. Having researched and read that it was safe, I hesitatingly agreed to join him, like any good boyfriend. I lasted less than 60 seconds before panic set in after I visualized all that could be swimming beneath me such as alligators and called it a day. I fulfilled my duty and went back to the hotel to shower and wait for a minivan to pick up up to take us across the border to Belize.

Part 2 coming soon……..