Sightseeing in Antigua de Guatemala

Despite Guatemala's reputation for being one of the most dangerous countries in the world, I felt safe and charmed walking through Antigua's cobblestone streets. Guatemalans climbed off the "chicken buses" in the morning and rushed into town carrying traditional dresses, souvenirs and keepsakes for sale. Businesses opened their doors and gave a smile and nod. Locals went out of their way to help with directions or questions.

If you're still not convinced of Guatemala's safety (or at least Antigua's), imagine your reaction if a tourist based their entire opinion on U.S. travel safety around our most dangerous cities. Despite being told inner-city Detroit was far away from Florida, that tourist tells you they're too afraid to go to Orlando.

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Antigua also has a helpful police unit dedicated to tourists, and their mere presence on the streets helps keep unsavory onlookers at bay. We also practiced our usual practical common sense, sticking to the main streets until we had our bearings and not staying out late.

Simply walking along the cobblestone streets and passing ruins among a backdrop of volcanoes was sightseeing enough. It was stunning. Antigua has suffered several major earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, giving the ruins a mix of old and older.In the year 1717, an estimated 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Antigua and demolished over 3,000 buildings. A few short years later in 1773, the Santa MArta earthquakes destroyed much of what was left. Find your way to Arco de Santa Catalina and enjoy it's mountainous backdrop. Look for a small wine shop on your left and pop in for a glass.

Head to the heart of the city to Central Park where pubs, coffee shops and boutiques lines the park. Live music and festivals are common, as are shoe shine boys looking to pick up spare change. Food and drink around the square is a pricey mix, much like hitting any tourist area. Stray just a few blocks off and find tacos, beer and sandwiches for $5. And by $5 I mean that's what we spent total to buy tacos, beer and a Mexican sandwich.

Make a point to stop by Casa Santo Domingo, a favorite spot making my list for everything worth seeing in Antigua. Primarily known as a 5-star hotel, it onceserved as the grounds of Santo Domingo Monastery partially destroyed in 1773 by the Santa Marta earthquake. Architecture from the baroque period remains while crumbling walls and pieces of ruins weave through the open courtyards.

For a history lesson, there's a Colonial Museum featuring sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century works, archeology museum and pharmacy museum among others are available to the public.The restaurant is especially divine for a romantic setting, though is big enough to house a group. Friendly servers are known to bring by a small flag of your nationality to set on your table and make you feel welcomed.

We took a free shuttle from Central Park to the Coffee Plantation Tour at Finca Filadelfia. Our tour ended up being a private one as our gracious host explained how coffee was grown, dried and roasted for consumption. He showed us the various stages of the beans bright red in it's not yet ripened state. They tasted sweet. Our guide told us he had been born on the plantation, as had many generations before him. The coffee and ceramic keepsakes in the gift shop made perfect holiday gifts for our return home.

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Posted in Home Post Date 03/12/2021


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