Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Antigua, Guatemala

As my residence for 2 ½ weeks, Antigua has become my Guatemalan second home. As such, it is hard to give typical tourist attractions as the churches all seem alike after some time. However, even after time it is still easy to appreciate the beautiful setting amidst three volcanoes and the impressive colonial architecture around every corner. If traveling through, I would recommend staying a couple of days and just walking the streets and exploring the church ruinas that interest you the most. Be sure to go to Cerro de la Cruz (during daytime hours), the Central Mercado, and browse the Parque Central while you’re here!

Dusty bus station with Volcan de Agua in the background

The symbolic Antiguan landmark which I cannot identify

View from Cerro de la Cruz

Best place to go for internet: Bagel Barn, by the Parque Central, which has fast and free wireless and affordable drink prices – try the smoothies!

Best evening activity: Catch a movie at Café 2000, or Bagel Barn, at 8:00 or 7:15 respectively. The former is highly recommended for its atmosphere (and cheap 2x30Q mojitos)

Best place to find affordable (clean) street food: Antigua is admittedly lacking in this department. Try the area between the Parada de Autobuses and Mercado Central for cheap pollo fritos (Q7), fruit snacks (Q5), or the area around Inglesia de la Merced for tamalitos, or mini-tamales in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon (Q4-6). When in doubt, choose steamed or deep-fried food.

Best way to get mugged: Walk around the outskirts of town after 10pm, carry items in front pockets, go to Cerro de la Cruz after 4pm when the police escort leaves, or go to Guatemala City at night.

Best free thing to do when churches begin to bore you: Check out a Spain-sponsored museum between 4a Calle Poniente and 6a Ave Sur; it has interesting free exhibits and occasional movies.

Best place to learn Spanish: Empathetically not Antigua. However, it is by far the most comfortable place to do so, though do not expect to learn much in this decisively non-immersive setting.

Best investment if you're here in the dry season: A blanket, preferably of Mayan origin. Although 50F may sound warm, remember the houses do not have heat!

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