The colonial city of Antigua should be on everybody’s bucket list for Guatemala. It’s the perfect place to spend a week or even more if you have the time. It’s beautiful, cheap, has some great restaurants, you can enroll in Spanish classes or dance classes, you can shop your heart out or hike up one of the many volcanoes surrounding the town.
We stayed in the nearby Posada el Viajero, opposite the popular but more expensive Yellow House Hostel. Basic rooms with a shared bathroom but it was insanely cheap and a 5 minute walk to Parque Central. There is a cheap food market just down the road at Parque la Merced, and that joins onto 5th Avenue North, a great place for shopping.
There is a lively, cosmopolitan atmosphere in this town and it’s always easy to find somewhere new (and delicious) to eat for every meal. Most places even have a private courtyard where you can sit in the sunshine and enjoy a cold beer. My absolute favourite place for breakfast was The Bagel Barn, you have to try it!
When you’ve had enough of walking the cobbled streets, admiring the colourful houses, eating good food and trying to spot one of the volcanoes through the cloud, then you should take a stroll to Cerro de la Cruz.
It’s a 15 minute walk from Parque Central through the streets and up into a shaded park. Once you reach the top of the hill you’re rewarded with amazing views. If you’re really lucky you’ll be able to see all of Volcán de Agua that towers over Antigua.
The city itself is surrounded by three active volcanoes; Agua, Acatenango and Fuego. You can hike all three, plus a few more in the area. Head to Old Town Outfitters who offer pricey but fantastic activities such as multi day camping trips and mountain biking.
As the budget was pretty tight we opted out of the big hikes and chose one of the most popular day hikes in the area, Volcán Pacaya. You can only climb this volcano with a guided tour but it starts at Q70 (£6) for the budget tour, well worth it for a full days activity.
The van that picks you up from your hostel drives you to a village almost at the top of the volcano. It’s not so much a hike as more of a gentle stroll through the forest until you emerge on top of a hill looking out over the other volcanoes with the smoking peak of Pacaya behind you.
If you’re there after an eruption you can quite literally poke at the lava with a stick. If you’re not then you can still enjoy roasting marshmallows in the steam vents and buy yourself the perfect souvenir from the Lava Shop. The jewellery they sell is hand made from the volcanic rock after an eruption and helps fund the recovery of the village far below.
It’s such a cheap activity, and so much fun that everyone should do it! The fact that I can now tell people the best way to roast a marshmallow is on a volcano, and that the stone in the ring I wear is made out of that very same volcano is pretty good as far as bragging rights go!
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