In my first tryst with Latin America, I’ve found myself joyfully lost amidst the cobblestoned streets and quaint colonial houses of Antigua in Guatemala. I feel like I’m still in a dream, as I gaze out at the surrounding volcanoes while lying on a hammock from the rooftop of my bohemian apartment. I’ve had conversations entirely in broken spanish, indulged in hand-rolled corn tortillas stuffed with frijoles (black beans), sipped some of the world’s finest coffee, marvelled at the colourful traditional dresses worn by many Mayan women, and well, quite simply fallen in love.
Behold, a glimpse of one of the most charming cities I’ve been to:
1. ANTIGUA, ONCE THE CAPITAL OF GUATEMALA
during the colonial rule. After it was rocked by multiple earthquakes, the Spanish rulers decided to move the capital to the current day Guatemala City, which is now a sprawling metropolis – full of cars, people and economic contrasts, much like Indian metros.
2. THE HERITAGE OF ANTIGUA REMAINED
when the Spanish left; development came to a standstill, leaving its cobbled interiors and colorful one-storey buildings that have stood the test of time. In 1979, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and found a place on the world map.
3. LIFE IN THE BY LANES OF ANTIGUA
in the backdrop of three volcanoes that surround it, is laidback. And despite it being Guatemala’s most visited town, I hardly saw other travellers during my time there.
4. CHICKEN BUSES ARE THE MOST POPULAR PUBLIC TRANSPORT
so called because of the way people are packed in like ‘chickens’! On my own rides though, I didn’t think they were half as packed as buses get in India. For 1-5 Quetzales (8-40 rupees), these buses take you everywhere.
5. MY AIRBNB APARTMENT IN A LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD
6. PERFECT MORNINGS IN ANTIGUA
saw me swinging on my hammock with a view of the neighborhood, with Spanish music pouring in from the neighbors’ homes.
7. EATING AT NONDESCRIPT LOCAL HIDEOUTS ( BETTER PICTURE?)
that seemed frequented by locals is what I enjoyed most, even though there are plenty of quaint expat-run cafes. In the former, I was always welcomed shyly but warmly, and fed hearty, fresh, cheap and delicious meals.
8. GUATEMALA IS THE HOME OF CACAO
which was first cultivated by the Mayans, but not made into chocolate until the colonial rules introduced dairy. Ironically, all the finest cacao had been exported out of the country until recently. I could sample delicious handmade chocolates in little chocolate shops across Antigua.
(Photo by Jose Moreno; I don’t have the patience to photograph chocolates!)
9. MAYAN WOMEN OFTEN WEAR TRADITIONAL CLOTHES
; there are 22 indigenous Mayan communities in Guatemala. The ones that live closer to or in Antigua were often subjugated by the colonial rulers and could either follow their own traditions or join society at the lowest rung. Deciding to do the former, they have managed to retain much of their culture, language and clothes – flowery blouses, long skirts, colorful beaded hair or headgear – to this day.
10. DISCOVERING ANTIGUAN NEIGHBORHOODS ON A BICYCLE
Luckily for me, I could borrow a bike from my Airbnb home and pedal around the neighborhoods of Antigua far from the bustle of El Centro where all the action is. Most colonial houses have courtyards and hammocks.
11. WHERE MODERN MEETS TRADITIONAL
Chains like Subway, McDonalds and Burger King are located in traditional buildings with just a sign on the side!
12. THE PERFECT PACE OF LIFE
makes Antigua a perfect place to stay a few days, getting accustomed to speaking Spanish and eating tortillas in Guatemala!
Has Guatemala made it to your bucket list yet?
Next stop: The pristine village of San Jose in Peten, where I’m staying with a Mayan Itza family and studying Spanish.
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Very very impressed and happy for you. Well deserved. 🙂
Thanks Bharti, loved my time in Guatemala!
You always inspire me @shivya 🙂 (y) wonderful!
I’m glad, Ruchi! Hope you’re packing your bags then 🙂
Glad to see you are having a great time in Guatemala, Shivya 🙂
The images and the story here are really inviting…
Enjoy your time 🙂
the images are very help full to me
all the best
Great place! Keep going places; I have visited Peru & Bolivia; Ecuador slated for 2015. Argentina, Costa Rica and Guatemala (just added to my bucket list) to follow…..Cheers Satish
Glad Guatemala is on your list now! I hope to make it to Ecuador / Peru later this year. Any tips?
Yes Shivya, In Peru, must see places – Cusco (you will love this historic city), do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (3 days – if you are into trekking / hiking), travel by “The Andean Explorer” train from Cusco to Puno (you would see the Andes Altiplano at it’s very best, take a 4 hour boat ride on Lake Titicaca which is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,800 mtrs), meet the Quechua & Aymara people by staying on one of their islands around the lake area (they are very hospitable folks!), white city of Arequipa, try the rocoto chilli peppers of the Andes and much much more!
You could contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for precise and detailed information. Been there twice! Thanks Satish
Just a wow post Shivya, with full of depiction & after read all the post & seen tempting pictures I decided to visit this place as a solo traveler. Thanks for the unique pictures 🙂
You’ll love it 🙂
hi shiya how are you?
Oh yes! It is definitely on my bucket list now 😀 amazing photos!!
Happy to hear that, it’s quite a country!
I can only imagine 😀
Great photos – I love all of the colours. Also, your apartment looks amazing!
Me too; I’m going to miss the colors the most when I leave this part of the world. And yes, got a great deal on Airbnb with my apartment.
Oh it looks so cute and quaint. I hear it’s also one of the best places to learn Spanish in an immersive environment and has lots of schools for it. I’d love to go!
It really was! And yes, it has plenty of Spanish schools and you can practice with locals everywhere you go. I chose to study and live with a Mayan family up north in Peten though. More about that soon.
Your blog is so tempting. After visiting small quaint, cute places in Mexico, my next trips will be to Latin america countries and Guatemala tops in that.
I like this feeling of getting lost in a city. And I have been a few times in such picturesque cobblestoned streets in Spain and Mexico. So, I can understand your feelings perfectly.
I am sure you will find Mayan civilization ruins and pyramids in Guaetamala as well.
Beautiful pictures. Enjoy everything Latino.
Thanks Suyash; I loved rubbing shoulders with the Mayan culture in Guatemala. Can’t wait to explore more colonial towns!