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Antigua Guatemala
Antigua as viewed from Cerro de la Cruz, 2009
Nickname(s): Antigua or La Antigua
Antigua Guatemala is located in Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala
Location in Guatemala
Coordinates: 14°34′N 90°44′W / 14.567°N 90.733°W / 14.567; -90.733
Country Flag of Guatemala.svg Guatemala
Department Sacatepéquez
Government
 - Mayor
Population (2002)
 - Total 34,685 as of last census (2,007)

La Antigua Guatemala (commonly referred to as just Antigua or La Antigua) is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Mudéjar-influenced[1] Baroque architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Antigua Guatemala serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It also serves as the departmental capital of Sacatepéquez Department.

Contents

Population

Homestead in ruins of a colonial Spanish building; Volcánes de Fuego (left) and Acatenango visible in distance

The city had a peak population of some 60,000 in the 1770s; the bulk of the population moved away in the late 18th century. Despite significant population growth in the late 20th century, the city had only reached half that number by the 1990s. According to the 2007 census, the city has some 34,685 inhabitants.

History

La Antigua Guatemala means the "Old Guatemala" and was the third capital of Guatemala. The first capital of Guatemala was founded on the site of a Kakchikel-Maya city, now called Iximche, on July 25, 1524 — the day of Saint James — and therefore named Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemalan (City of Saint James of the Knights of Guatemala). Naturally, St. James became the patron saint of the city.

A colonial church façade

After several Cakchiquel uprisings, the capital was moved to a more suitable site in the Valley of Alotenango (Rio Guacalate) on November 22, 1527, and kept its original name. When this city, on the site of present-day San Miguel Escobar[2], was destroyed on September 11, 1541 by a devastating lahar from the Volcán de Agua,[3] the colonial authorities decided to move once more, this time to the Panchoy Valley. So, on March 10, 1543 the Spanish conquistadors founded present-day Antigua, and again, it was named Santiago de los Caballeros. For more than 200 years it served as the seat of the military governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala, a large region that included almost all of present-day Central America and the southernmost State of Mexico: Chiapas. In 1566 King Felipe II of Spain gave it the title of "Muy Noble y Muy Leal" ("Very Noble and Very Loyal").

On September 29, 1717, an estimated 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Antigua Guatemala, and destroyed over 3,000 buildings. Much of the city's architecture was ruined. The damage the earthquake did to the city made authorities consider moving the capital to another city.

In 1773, the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of the town, which led to the third change in location for the city. The Spanish Crown ordered (1776) the removal of the capital to a safer location, the Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala, now stands. This new city did not retain its old name and was christened Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (New Guatemala of the Ascension) and its patron saint is Our Lady of Ascension. The badly damaged city of Santiago de los Caballeros was ordered abandoned, although not everyone left, and was thereafter referred to as la Antigua Guatemala (the Old Guatemala).

Antigua today

Antigua Guatemala*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Antiguachurch.jpg
State Party  Guatemala
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv
Reference 65
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Central Park (Parque Central) is the heart of the city. The reconstructed fountain there is a popular gathering spot. Off to the side of the Central Park, the Arco de Santa Catalina is among the many notable architectural landmarks of La Antigua.

Antigua Cathedral, 1979

La Antigua is noted for its very elaborate religious celebrations during Lent (Cuaresma), leading up to Holy Week (Semana Santa) and Easter (Pascua). Each Sunday in Lent, one of the local parishes sponsor a Procession through the streets of Antigua. Elaborate and beautiful artistic carpets predomenantly made of dyed sawdust, flowers and even fruits and vegetables adorn the processions' path.

Due to its popularity amongst tourist and its very well developed tourism infrastructure, Antigua Guatemala is often used as a central location in which many choose to set up base and from here, visit other tourist areas in Guatemala and Central America. Cruise ships that dock on Guatemalan ports offer trips to Antigua from both the pacific and Atlantic.

Antigua also holds a sizeable retirement community from the US as well as Europe as its colonial charm has appealed to many who have crossed paths with this enchanting and romantic town.

Language schools

Antigua is known as a destination for people who want to learn Spanish through immersion. There are many Spanish language schools in Antigua and it is one of the most popular and best recognized centers for Spanish language study by students from Europe and North America. In fact, language institutes are one of the primary industries of Antigua, along with tourism. Centro Linguistico Maya, Christian Spanish Academy, Escuela Tecun Uman, Spanish Academy Sevilla and Don Pedro de Alvarado Spanish School are among a number of respected Spanish language institutes in Antigua. There are other trusted schools in the city, as well. The city's tourism office can give helpful advice on choosing a reputable school, as can current students. One can often find pupils in Antigua's Central Park, in the afternoon.

Education in Antigua

The University of San Carlos in Antigua was founded by the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent XI issued dated 18 June 1687.

Cuisine

A number of restaurants can be found in Antigua. Many small eateries can be found at the Antigua marketplace located next to the central bus stop. U.S. style fast food restaurants including "Burger King", "McDonald's", as well as Guatemalan favorite "Pollo Campero" are in the city. Thai: "Café Flor"; Italian: "La Antigua Vinería", "Tre Fratelli"; Pizza: "Asjemenou"; Mexican: "Café No Sé", "Frida's"; Spanish: "Tapas y Tintos"; American Style Sports Bar: "Mono Loco" and numerous quaint restaurants offering local food and ambiance. You can also find steak houses such as "Del Tingo al Tango" and if you are looking for fine dining, you can patronize places like "Meson Panza Verde", "Posada de Don Rodrigo" or the restaurant at "Hotel Casa Santo Domingo".

Tourism

Antigua is a growing tourist destination in Guatemala as it is close to Guatemala City but is much calmer and safer, with more tourist oriented activities. It is possible to take buses from Antigua to many parts of Guatemala, though the transportation is more central in Guatemala City.

Important ruins and other tourist attractions

Volcanoes

Arch connecting two parts of old Convent, Volcán de Agua in background

Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua.

The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcán de Agua or "Volcano of Water", some 3766 meters (12,356 ft) high. When the Spanish arrived, the inhabitants of the zone, Kakchikel Mayas, called it Hunapú (and they still do). However, it became known as Volcán de Agua after a mudslide from the volcano buried the second site of the capital, which prompted the Spanish authorities to move the capital to present-day Antigua. The original site of the 2nd capital is now the village San Miguel Escobar.

To the west of the city are a pair of peaks, Acatenango, last erupted in 1972, some 3976 meters (13045 ft) high, and the Volcán de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire", some 3763 meters (12346 ft) high. "Fuego" is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Smoke issues from its top daily, but larger eruptions are rare.

Gallery

Notes

  1. ^ Buriedmirror.com, citing S.D. Markman, Colonial Architecture of Antigua Guatemala
  2. ^ Lutz, Christopher H. (1997) Santiago de Guatemala, 1541-1773: City, Caste, and the Colonial Experience University of Oklahoma Press
  3. ^ "Agua". Global Volcanism Program, Smithsonian Institution. http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1402-10=. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 

External links

Coordinates: 14°34′N 90°44′W / 14.567°N 90.733°W / 14.567; -90.733


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : Central America : Guatemala : Antigua Guatemala
Agua Volcano and the Arch of Santa Catalina
Agua Volcano and the Arch of Santa Catalina

La Antigua Guatemala was the colonial Spanish capital of Central America. It is a World Heritage site, and is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Guatemala.

The effects on Antigua of the earthquake of the late 18th century
The effects on Antigua of the earthquake of the late 18th century

Commonly referred to as just Antigua (or La Antigua), the city's streets are mostly laid out in a rectangular grid aligned with the compass, with the Parque Central as an origin point. North-south roads are avenidas or avenues, numbered from 1st to 9th from east to west. The avenidas are further divided into sur (south) and norte (north). East-west roads are calles or streets, numbered from 1st to 7th from south to north. The calles are further divided into oriente (east) and poniente (west). The street intersection at the north-east corner of the Palace of the Captains-General, i.e. at the south-east corner of Parque Central, is the origin of this division. Avenidas are sur south of 5a Calle, and norte north of it. Calles are oriente east of 4a avenida, and poniente west of it.

Some roads have names that don't follow the avenida/calle numbering scheme, and some roads away from the center don't follow the grid. Most corners do not have signs showing the name of either the street you are on or the one you just came up to. All are cobblestoned and sidewalks are generally not very good.

Addresses are numbered sequentially outwards from the origin point. Even-numbered addresses are on one side of the street and odd numbers are on the other. Street addresses are written with the street or avenue number first, followed by the letter "a" (because 1a signifies "primera", 2a is short for "segunda", 3a for "tercera", etc); then "av." (for avenida) or "Cle" (for calle), then "ote" (oriente, east), "pte" (poniente, west), "sur" (south), or "nte" (norte, north); then the street address number. For instance:

  • "5a av. nte #5" is address #5 on 5th Avenue North. The small number shows it is just a little north of the north-south divider, 5a calle.
  • "3a calle ote #28" is address #28 on 3rd Street East. The relatively large number shows it is some ways east of the east-west divider, 4a Avenida.

It's helpful to memorise that the north and south sides of Parque Central are 5a and 4a calles, and the west and east sides are 5a and 4a avenidas. Parque Central is the reference point for east, west, north and south in street addresses. "5a av. nte #5" is north of Parque Central. "5a ave. sur #5" is south of Parque Central. Essentially, if you understand which way is north of Parque Central, you can find anything in the city.

The Inguat Tourist Office is on the south-east side of the Parque Central. Open until 5PM Monday to Friday. Open Saturdays. Closed Sundays.

Get in

Located just 30 miles (45 km) west of Guatemala City, you can get here in 45-60 minutes from La Aurora Airport.

You can catch a crowded chicken bus (recycled US school bus) from Guatemala City for US$1 or Q8. One should be aware that since beginning of 2009 with 37 bus drivers murdered during gang related murders since the start of 2009. About 140 bus drivers were murdered in the past year. This was due to a gang related extortion ring, whose leader was recently arrested. Drivers who refused to pay $10000 protection fees were murdered. With this in light, many still consider the chicken buses and local city bus in Antigua safer than taking the taxis or Tuk-tuks (small three wheelers with cloth side doors). Tuk-tuks have been blamed for taking tourist to an obscure area for robbery - so knowing a local tuk tuk driver might be safer than procuring one on the street. When safety is of utmost concern, it is best to call a cab company or prearrange your rides through a shuttle company.

There are regular shuttle vans directly from the airport to Antigua. These cost around $5 to $10 US each and leave regularly all day until 8PM. You don't need to prearrange, but demand can be high depending on the number of flights arriving at the same time, so prepurchasing a ticket from a local travel agent is best. A taxi from the airport to Antigua is around $30, and can be split among 2 or 3 riders to make it comparable with privately arranged shuttles. There are numerous travel agencies in the central park of Antigua to purchase rides back to the airport. The usual cost is from $5 to $8. To take the chicken bus from the airport to antigua, one can walk to a bus stop just outside of the parking lot. However, it is unclear at times if buses are allowed that close. If the government prevent buses from stopping there, one need to be ready to walk about 1/4 mile to another bus stop just outside of the airport. However, a tourist pulling luggage might make easy target for a local robber. The second problem with taking buses is that they are often very filled, and it is your responsibility to secure and lift your luggage to the top of the bus (unless you can negotiate the bus attendant to help you). The cost to take the local bus to the chicken bus station is about 12 cents (1 Q), then one has to procure a chicken bus (leaving at every 5 minutes or so) to Antigua. So the total cost of taking the bus is less than 2 dollars, but you might be required to walk a short distance to the nearest corner outside of the airport proper.

A chicken bus in Antigua
A chicken bus in Antigua

There is a direct shuttle bus from Copán, Honduras which departs twice a day at 5:30AM and midday.

A charter tourist van costs about USD $30-$40. The driver will meet you at the airport with your name on a sign. For first-time visitors, the convenience and security of arranging a van like this might be worth the cost.

Transportation by bus is cheap compared to taxis or shuttles, but would be less convenient and take a longer time. For Antigua, you would need to take a cab to the second class bus station that does this route and get on a chicken bus.

There is no commercial air or train service for this town.

Get around

Antigua is very compact and easy to walk around. Most tourist destinations are in an 8-by-8 block area less than 1 km across. You can walk across it in 15 minutes. Be careful: the sidewalks are narrow and not always in good repair, you may have to walk in the street with traffic whizzing by you, and at night it's worth being cautious and aware of your surroundings. The standard tourist map are linear in their drawings. They are only accurate near the town centers, as their periphery are indistinct and inaccurate. Get a real map with accurate topography if you are seeking locations farther from the town center, as dead ends and curved streets are not portrayed accurately.

If you don't know the city streets too well, and it's past about 11PM, it is best to get a taxi back to your accommodations from Parque Central, especially if you're alone, or going more than a few blocks away from the well lighted Central Park area.

To reach Guatemala City, one simply ask for the main route of the chicken bus. They stop at every corner, honk the horn as early as 5:30PM, and yell out loud "GUATE, GUATE". It is not uncommon to see one bus every 4 to 5 minutes leaving from the same corner. Do not expect the bus driver to stop and secure your luggage on the top of the bus without a fee, and they might drive off even while you are still on the roof.

Tuk-tuks and taxis can take you to destinations within the city center for Q10 or less -- negotiate the fare with the driver in advance. If you don't, they will routinely charge 50% to 100% more than customary. Tuk-tuks usually do not go to guatemala, so one will need a shuttle or taxi instead. Flag down a cruising tuk-tuk, or pick up a taxi from the queue at Parque Central; or along a main route to the city's periphery.

The ruins of the cathedral in Antigua
The ruins of the cathedral in Antigua

The whole city is full of historic buildings, monuments, fountains and ruins. This city was founded by the Spanish in the XVII Century, and it follows the traditional design of a Main Plaza surrounded by Government and Catholic Church buildings. It's worthwhile to visit La Catedral, el Palacio de los Gobernadores, Convento de Capuchinas, Convento de Santa Clara, el Arco de Santa Catarina, Iglesia La Merced and the Handcrafts Market.

Entrance fees for the Ruinas are steep, except for the Ruinas y Museo de San Francisco which is a bargain at 5 Quetzals; the Ruinas de Santa Clara, Ruinas de San Jeronimo, Ruinas La Recollecion and the Museo Capuchino charge 30 Quetzals for foreigners (locals 2 Quetzals). The Museo Hotel Casa Santo Domingo charges 40 Quetzals, although here you may see just the ruinas for free.

Antigua's famous arch
Antigua's famous arch

The Parque Central is a park in the center of town. The park is a city block in size, with concentric circular walkways threading among trees and a fountain in the center. The trees are decorated with lights, and there are plenty of benches for sitting and people-watching. The Inguat tourist agency, the city hall and police office, the cathedral, and several banks and tourist businesses line the four sides of the park. Many Antiguans hang out in the park, and it has a pleasant, bustling, friendly feel during the day (at night, slightly less so... use your judgment).

The Catedral de Santiago
The Catedral de Santiago

A large cross is prominent on a hill to the north of the city (Cerro de la Cruz). It is a pleasant, moderately strenuous 30-minute walk to the cross from the Parque Central. On a clear day there is a fine vista over most of Antigua and the Volcán de Agua rising high to the south. Note: there are persistent reports of robberies on this trail. The Tourist Police lead a free walk up to the park at 10AM and 3PM daily. Check-in with the Tourist Police office which is on the north side of City Hall at the north east corner of Parque Central (Central Park).

The Experimental Station Valhalla is a nursery of macadamia trees with an interesting environmental and economic agenda. Valhalla has donated over 250,000 macadamia trees to indigenous communities in Guatemala. Macadamia nuts are a cash crop, with the potential to provide a better livelihood for Guatemalan peasants than does coffee. The farmer can use the trimmed branches of the trees for firewood. Additionally, macadamia trees take carbon dioxide out of the air and form it into wood, nuts and shells. The shells can be used for street paving. And Valhalla have found a way to provide the trees as genetically diverse complete plants, instead of as grafts. This allows natural selection to adapt the trees to changing environmental conditions. The station turns macadamia nuts into snacks, chocolates, a fine skin cream, a pure oil, and a flour which can be made into pancakes. Pancake breakfasts are served all day, every day until 3:30PM. The breakfast includes 3 pancakes made of macadamia flour, served with macadamia butter, homemade blueberry marmalade and a drink of your choice. No reservation required.

Experimental station Valhalla is a few km out of Antigua in the direction of San Miguel Dueñas. Chicken busses run every 30 minutes on this route, and the fare is around Q3.50 one way. The station offers tours in Spanish, English, and sometimes other languages as well. At the end of a tour they offer samples of their various macadamia products. tel +502-7888-6308, fax +502-7831-5799, web [1], email [2]. Open M-Sa 8AM-4:30PM.

Do

Cultural walking tours of Antigua are offered six days a week. They are the work of Elizabeth Bell, who came to Guatemala in 1969 from the U.S. and stayed. She has literally written the book on Antigua, twice (Antigua Guatemala: the city and it's heritage and Lent and Holy Week in Antigua). This tour is an interesting "peek behind the door" of Antigua -- telling you about the people and forces driving Antigua today and in its past, as you go to a few of the main destinations of Antigua. Since Elizabeth Bell is one of those people driving Antigua, her perspective is hard to beat. An essential complement to a more conventional tour of the of the top monuments and their histories. USD $18 per person (USD$15 for project volunteers), includes entrance fees. Some proceeds donated to cultural foundations in Antigua. Available in English and Spanish. Depart from the fountain in the Parque Central.

  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 9:30AM-12:30PM, with Elizabeth Bell.
  • Mondays and Thursdays, 2PM-5PM, with Roberto Spillari.
  • Reservations requested from Antigua Tours [3], 3a calle ote #28, tel +502-7832-5821 and +502-7832-2046.

El Mercado or the Market is located about 3 blocks directly west of the northwest corner of the town center. Walking through it is a cultural experience. The market is opened every day, but is largest on Saturday, Monday, and Thursday. It is big, like a maze, and you will likely lose your way. It is dark in the covered areas, and brighter on the outside sections. The cheapest food, commodities, fresh meat, and gifts are found here. Occasionally, livestock such as chicken and small mammals are sold also. It is a gathering place for all Antiguans, and where most families buy their groceries.

For those who like hiking, two trips near Antigua are highly recommended: Hiking up the active volcano Volcán Pacaya and/or the dormant Volcán Acatenango.

Molten Lava in the Pacaya Volcano
Molten Lava in the Pacaya Volcano
  • Going up the active Volcán Pacaya is quite easy and you will find dozens of travel agents who will be very happy to sell you tickets for a Pacaya-trip that normally costs between USD $7-9, depending on your bartering skills. This includes a bus-shuttle to and from Pacaya. Pacaya is an active volcano, and you get to go right to the craters edge. And yes, people do fall in occasionally! The hike is not too hard except for the last 100 meters or so that go over very loose rocks. Generally though, even unfit people of all ages can do this hike. It takes approx. 1.5 hours up and 45 minutes down the mountain. Note that there are a couple of kiosks at the bottom of this hike that offer cold beer.
    • Guatemala Ventures [4] has guided tours to Pacaya.
    • Antigua Tours offers guided tour from Antigua for US$75 fixed price for up to 5 people. Daily 6AM-1PM or 1PM-8:30PM.
    • Guatemala Turistica Pacaya tour information [5] (Spanish) with reassurances about security
The view of Antigua from El Cerro de la Cruz
The view of Antigua from El Cerro de la Cruz
  • Going up Volcán Acatenango is an entirely different cup of tea: This hike takes you from Antigua (1,500 meters) all the way to 3.976 meters (13,044 ft) in one day. You need to be fit, carry gear, take precautions against altitude sickness. Most people who do this trip spend the night on the mountain, though some go up and down within a day. Currently there are two outfits in Antigua who offer trips up Acatenango. If you have the gear, though, you can safely do the trip by yourself since there is only one way up.
  • The dormant volcano Volcán Agua stretches up invitingly to the south of Antigua. Some tourists recommend climbing as part of a tour with a police escort, in order to avoid problems; there have been reports of unaccompanied tourists being robbed. Definitely take the security situation seriously; ask at the Inguat office for advice, and go with a tour that has security you trust.

GuatemalaVentures [6] is on 1era Av Sur (below Café Sky) in Antigua and offers a wide range of outdoor activities such as guided volcano hikes, mountain biking, kayaking, and bird-watching tours. They're happy to custom-tailor your excursion, and the guides speak English, German, and Spanish.

Mundo Guatemala, [7]. Antigua-based tour operator for Guatemala and Central America, with tailor-made travel for individuals and groups which is distinct, personal, and out-of-the-ordinary. Options include: short excursions (1-3 days) to 8-day and longer trips with focus on Mayan culture and traditions, relaxation, archeology, nature and/or soft adventure. Can also arrange Spanish lessons and homestay (see below). Also offers trips to Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica or Cuba.  edit

Viaventure[8] offerers high-end day- and multi-day trips from their base in Antigua Guatemala. Best to contact them with advance notice as they are not really set up for "walk-ins." They can arrange helicopter excursions, VIP guides, 4x4s, etc. Their services tend to be more expensive than other local agencies but they offer different products than what you will find at the many travel agencies around town.

  • Don Quijote Cruisers, 6ta. Calle Oriente (across from el tanque de la union), [9]. Rent a cruiser bike and pedal around Antigua's many scenic ruins and cafes. Rates range from two hours, $10, to full day reantals, $40.  edit

Learn

Spanish school Antigua is the most popular - though not the cheapest - place to learn Spanish in Guatemala. Prices and hours vary, and can change depending on the season. Also note that home-stay opportunities are available as a cheaper and more culturally enriching living situation than a hotel; the average home-stay with a Guatemalan family costs US$70 for 7 nights in your own room with shared bath and 2 to 3 meals daily except on Sunday. It is well worth it to pay a little extra for your own bathroom or shower, and search for a family who takes in only one or a few students (and local Guatemalan boarders) for a more immersive experience. Just remember, an immersive experience does not mean you speak English at the dinner table with other students. Families often visit each other on Sundays, and not available to provide meals. If you are the only student in the home, you are often invited for family get togethers, and it is quite a cultural experience. Informal conversational class can be had with the many shoe shiners in the central park, if you chose not to have your shoe shined and pay them a few bucks instead. Their education and vocabulary can be very limited, as Spanish is often their second language, and Mayan is their first.

  • 123teachme.com [10] has listings and reviews of schools teaching Spanish and other languages, in Antigua and in other locations. They edit information to keep the schools from skewing their ratings. You can compare the tuition cost, quality of instruction, and overall value. Go here for 123teachme.com's list of Spanish language schools in Antigua: [11].
  • Mundo Guatemala, [12]. can arrange customized Spanish language training, volunteering, and homestay accommodation. Well-trained and experienced teachers mix traditional conversation style with modern language training; adopting a real-life context that reflects multiple perspectives of daily life, culture and social environment of Guatemala. Housing is selected based on student’s individual profile – special diets (vegetarians/vegans), allergies, medical conditions.  edit
  • Escuela Tecun Uman Run by Mario Castellanos, one of the most experienced teachers in the City, the school has a good reputation with foreigners. [13]
  • Escuela Jimenez This school offers one-on-one instruction, customized to the student based upon an initial interview to determine the student's current knowledge of Spanish. Located near the main market street, the school is a family-operated business headed by Miguel Morales-Jiménez. [14]
  • Proyecto Lingüistico Francisco Marroquín This is the oldest Spanish school in Antigua, founded in 1969, which has expanded to include courses in a number of Mayan languages, including Kaqchikel, K'iche and Mam. Their "complete immersion program" includes the option of accommodations with a Guatemalan family. [15]
  • Spanish Academy Sevilla, 1st Avenida Sur # 17C, (502)7832-5101 (fax: (502)7832-5101), [16]. Offers private Spanish lessons. Also offers choice of Student houses or Family stays accommodation, each with 3 meals/day 6 days/week, and private bathroom on request. Daily activities such as cultural exploration are frequently arranged by the school.  edit
  • Guate Linda Center Among the languages offered for teaching are: Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, and a Mayan language named Kakchickel. Accommodation on school grounds is readily available. Education is done on a single teacher per student basis(one on one), with an average study time of 20 to 35 hours a week. [17]
  • Academia de Español Ya!, (5 blocks from the Parque Central), (), [18]. University-educated teachers. All materials included. One-to-one or group lessons. Garden area for studying. Will help you find afternoon activities and host family accommodations. US$90 for 4 hours/day, 5 days/week.  edit
    • AdE - Spanish Travelling, 4A Calle Poniente No. 17 (2 Blocks the parque Central), 502- 78328005 (), [19]. focuses on learning Spanish while visiting the most popular tourist destinations of Guatemala, like Lake Atitlán, Quetzaltenango, Río Dulce and Livingston. Classes may take place on a coffee farm, in a museum, park, lake shore, or in the classroom in Antigua.  edit
  • Escuela de Espanol Cooperacion (7 Av Norte, 15B). A highly recommended school run as a cooperative, ensuring teachers get paid fairly. The school has a nice garden area for studying. US$90/week for 20 hours of one-on-one lessons. Homestays with Guatemalan families are available. Email <escuela_coop@yahoo.com> for more information.

Cooking schools

  • Antigua Cooking School for the best Guatemalteca cuisine. [20] - Subanik, Tamales Colorados Chiles Rellanos, Tamalitos, Pepian, Enchaladas, Chuchitos and more. In the heart of Antigua, beneath the arch, 5a Avenida Norte, #25B. 59448568 or 59903366.

Work

You can easily get a job as a waiter, waitress, bartender, or host in any of the many bars, restaurants and hotels in Antigua. Usually they pay from 8USD to 20USD a day plus tips. It's important to speak Spanish in most of these places, but you can slide by without it in some touristy spots, where most of the customers are foreigners. Also you can join in and volunteer at local non-profits. There are many local projects in education, health, and development that accept short and long term volunteers. Example would be Common Hope, and other local churches and charities. These organizations should be contacted ahead of time for availabilities and credentialing of their volunteer - which is of utmost importance for the safety of their clients.

Wooden figures for sale
Wooden figures for sale

When you change money at the bank, you will need your passport. Banks are opened 7 days a week, and open late into the night at 7 or 8PM Most of the time, a passport is not needed for changing dollars into quetzales. However, you are likely required to have a passport if you want to redeem traveler's checks. ATM's are also available, but read the charges well before completing the transaction. The current exchange rate (June 1, 09) is about 8 Q per dollar.

  • Hand-carved wooden masks and figures are popular in Guatemala, and easily found in many of the shops and stalls in La Antigua Guatemala. These make unique and wonderful gifts to bring home to friends and family, or just something unusual to remember your trip by.
  • Pirated DVD's and CD's are abundant at the market and street vendors. New releases in theaters are often on the market as DVD's days after. However, they are often skewed from being filmed inside a theater, and only in Spanish without English dubbing or voice. It is hit and miss with DVD qualities, so buy at your own risk. You might get it confiscated by US custom. It is probably better to buy DVD's in the US complete with voice and subcaption than trust a street vendor. However, these places are good for building up your collection of spanish music and culture.
  • The mercado The "mercado" is located about 3 blocks directly west of the northwest corner of the town center. The market is opened every day, but is largest on Saturday, Monday, and Thursday. It is big, like a maze, and you will likely lose your way and never encounter your friends again. It is dark in the covered areas, and brighter on the outside sections. The cheapest food, commodities, fresh meat, and gifts are found here.
  • Cheap clothing, shoes, and leather goods Found at the mercado. New pants can be acquired for as little as 1 dollar or less. Check for quality and comfort before you purchase shoes. Small hard to find sizes are easily encountered due to the small size of the population.
  • Inexpensive tropical fruits also found in the "mercado". Vine ripen fruits, papayas, plums, mangoes, cherries, strawberries, melons and other delicious unusual tropical fruits are available in abundance with seasons varying. The red curly haired "lychas" have a pleasant sweet taste like the lychees found in cans in the US. Fruits are safe food to eat if washed. One might stay away from strawberries, unless you can assure of a good soak in bleach to wash away any "fertilizer" or contaminated irrigation water.
  • Indigenous hand woven cloth and hand made stone and jade jewelry are found sold by the local indigenous women in their brightly colored clothing. The stories are all the same, "my mom made it by hand", whick is likely true. You usually can bargain down by 25% or more, especially if you walked away.
A street vendor serves up hot food outside La Merced
A street vendor serves up hot food outside La Merced

Antigua has cafes and restaurants for all tastes and budgets. The town is the most touristy place in Guatemala so you will find anything you are looking for; there are even a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Dominos Pizza, and Subway! So, no, you will not starve while in Antigua. Be careful with where you eat. Facilities lacking in bathroom or bathroom cleanliness suggest a higher probability of food poisoning. Avoid cold salad, fresh vegetables, and undercooked meat.

  • La Peña de Sol Latino is a bar and restaurant featuring live music by Guatemalan and Central American bands (featuring Paco). The music, the "feel", and the food make this a really special place. Make sure to try their brownies; they are absolutely amazing. Their grouper macadamia dish is also highly recommended, and their other desserts are fantastic. They use only purified water and disinfect all produce, so go ahead and enjoy one of their creative salads. La Peña is open for lunch and dinner and located at 5 Calle Poniente (just along from El Sitio and opposite La Bodegona supermarket), Antigua Guatemala.
  • Restaurante Doña Luisa Xicotencatl, 4a Calle Ote 12, has the feel of a well-run corporate restaurant set in a gorgeous leafy courtyard of a historic building. Menu includes well-executed breakfast, hamburgers, and Guatemalan interpretations of Tex-Mex food. They use purified water on their vegetables and for drinking and ice, which means their menu is in-bounds for tender First World stomachs. There is a bakery in the building, which means that when you get close you can follow the delicious smells the rest of the way in. Highly recommended, especially for the cookies and daily selection of delightful breakfast breads.
  • Estudio35 5a avenida norte. Nice place, fine atmosphere, excellent pizza and tasty crepes and large variety of drinks and cocktails, Free WI-FI.
  • La Fonda de la Calle Real[21] Three locations: 3a Calle Pte 7, 5a Ave Nte 5, 5a Ave Nte 5 (the last two just north of the northwest corner of the Parque Central), tel +502 7832-0507. La Fonda has generous helpings of Guatemalan specialties, with reasonable prices and a touch of corporate efficiency in their operations. The "De Todo Un Poco" ("a bit of everything") platter combines steak, chicken, and sausage for Q91. The vegetarian "Pepian Vegetariano" offers green beans and other vegetables in a unusual smoky-flavored sauce. The green salad is fresh and overflows the large plate. The 5a Ave Nte 5 location features a rustic three-story wood-frame building just off the Parque Central with pleasant second-story open balconies. Uses purified water for all drinks, ice, and preparation.
  • Y tu Piña, también. 6a Calle Oriente and Primera Avenida Sur. Breakfast. Lunch. Licuados. Benito's flavored rums. Luisa's famosa hangover soups. Proper espressos - usually. Manu Chao daily. Gratis Wi-Fi. Detox at Y tu Piña. Retox across the street at Café No Sé.
  • Travel Menu6a Calle Pte #14, one block south and partial block west of the southwest corner of Parque Central, on the north side of the street. Promises "small place, big portions", and delivers. It seats perhaps 20 people at about eight tables, in small, dim room painted to look like a underground European keller, lit only by candles on stands overflowing with waterfalls of wax drippings. They offer dinner entrees for low prices, with vegetarian options for everything. The portions are indeed generous. Beer and wine are also available, but not desserts. Topping it all off is the friendly proprietor, Jesper Nilsen of Denmark. Attracts a traveller crowd.
  • Rainbow Restaurant and Bookshop[22] 7a. Ave Sur #6 at 6a Calle, one block south and two full blocks west of the southwest corner of Parque Central. tel +502-7832-1919. offers tourist-friendly and wholesome breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. An early-bird breakfast special of tomatoes, beans, eggs, rice, and tea or coffee is easy on the wallet. Sandwiches and dinner entrees are inexpensive too, and salads and big desserts are also on offer. Use purified water for all drinks, ice and preparation. They have a rich schedule of live music, poetry readings, and interesting lectures about Guatemala.
  • The Sabor Cubano 4a Calle Oriente 3A, a half-block east of the north side of the Parque Central. This restaurant has a slightly up-market feel. It has live Cuban music on Thursday through Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
  • Cinema Café Bistro 5a Ave Sur #14, two blocks south of the southwest corner of Parque Central on the west side. Offers food and a full schedule of movies from mid-afternoon to late evening. Stop by for the current week's schedule.
  • Sangre 5 Av Norte #33, Fancy place, great food, fine atmosphere. Moderate prices. Large selection of wine per glass.
  • Helados Sarita ("despues 1948"), 5a Ave Nte, just up from the northwest corner of Parque Central on the east side. This seems sort of like the Baskin-Robbins of Guatemala. Several dozen flavours of ice cream in three different choices of cones, sundaes and other more elaborate concoctions.
  • Helados Marco Polo 5a Ave Nte, just up from the northwest corner of Parque Central on the west side, opposite Helados Sarita. Offers ice cream dishes in a more polished atmosphere.
  • Street ice cream carts are common through the city and popular with the locals, but of are unknown safety for sensitive stomachs.
  • El Pelícano Dorado At the South end of Calzada Santa Lucia, where it leaves for Ciudad Vieja, Nos. 7&7A. tel: +502 7832 7242. Authentic Food from Livingston: fresh fish and seafood, tapado, caldo de mariscos, ceviches, rice and beans, giffity, etc. Also traditional Garífuna punta music played live on the weekends.
  • El Mix, 4 avenida sur local 4a (half block from central park), +502 78328934 (). Music, patio, vegetarian dishes, happy hour, Israeli food.  edit
  • Dabbawala Tandoori[23], Phone +502 7832-9976. a new curry delivery service in Antigua. Samosas, Onion Bhajis, Chicken madras, Vindaloo, Naan Bread, the works. One of the English owners, Felix or Mick, will bring your order round on a motorbike. Most small hotels are happy for you to have food delivered if you ask. Remember to ask the guys for plastic plates and forks if you need them!
  • Mono Loco, located just off Parque Central on 5a ave. sur, is a funky tourist friendly joint with cheap international calling and a few computers for internet use. The food is very "gringo-esque" but tasty nonetheless. There's a large bar on the ground level, as well as a covered open air second floor eating area. Very nice place - lots of tourists frequent it, but it's a good place to meet and greet, or enjoy a burger.
  • Antigua Cooking School[24] for the best Guatemalteca cuisine. Subanik, Tamales Colorados Chiles Rellanos, Tamalitos, Pepian, Enchaladas, Chuchitos and more. In the heart of Antigua, beneath the arch, 5a Avenida Norte, #25B. +502 59448568 or +502 59903366.
  • Cafe Mediterraneo, 6 Calle Poniente 6A, +502 7832-7180. Dinners starting at 6PM or so on. Open Weds-Mon.. Pasta, pasta, pasta, delicious.  edit
  • Nokiate, 1a avenida sur #7, [25]. Antigua's only real sushi bar where you can watch the sushi chef prepare the fresh rolls, sashimi and sushi, also has a great selection of latin-japanese cooking. The ambience is very warm and inviting. Great bar scene also.  edit
  • Bistrot Cinq, 4a calle oriente #7, [26]. A French bistro featuring great french food, very authentic cuisine found no where else in Antigua. American owned and operated. Features an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs work, and a great bar. Offers many specials and unique local foods hard to find elsewhere.  edit
  • Pan Colonial, 7th Av, Norte, Number 13d. daily. Tradition Guatemalian bakery, good selection of breakfast breads, one of the best in Antigua. Low Cost  edit
  • The Bagel Barn, 5a Calle Poniente #2, centrally located (10 meters off central park), travelers come here to get their fix of bagels, excellent coffee and wifi internet for those traveling with their own laptops. Bagel sandwiches include different breakfast and lunch selections using quality ingredients such as fresh mozzarella cheese, real cheddar, etc. Its a home away from home, a very cozy environment, movies showing in the afternoon and evenings. A great meeting place and starting point for your day in Antigua Guatemala.
The windows at the Sky Bar
The windows at the Sky Bar
  • Café No Sé. Primera Avenida Sur. A bohemian beacon frequented by raconteurs. Live Music, bad attitudes, bad art, and colorful personalities. Serving cubano fajitas and a huge selection of tequilas. Perros: Pulque, Anoche, Alfombra and Feo.
  • Cafe Sky 1a Av Sur 15. One of the best places in Antigua to take in the view of Volcan de Agua and the sunset.
  • Estudio 35 Arch Street #35 large variety of drinks and cocktails, they serve jagermeister, jack daniels among others. Live music almost every evening. Buena Vista every Wednesday. Fine place with reasonable prices.
  • Fernando's Kaffee, [27] 7 Avenida Nte 43D Some of the best coffee in Antigua, plus great breakfasts, next door to the Posada La Merced Hotel. Fernando, the owner, is very friendly and may show you his operation: the coffee roaster, grinder, etc. Pleasant couryard seating is found when walking through the first two room and around the kitchen. The breakfasts are awesome: pancakes and crepes and fresh fruit. It is a great place to wile away the time drinking wonderful coffee and relaxing. Pounds of coffee are for sale at a good price.
  • Mono Loco (Funky Monkey). 1/2 block down on 5 Ave from the Central Park. Local and International Beers. Nachos, Buffalo Wings. Pop/rock music. Big screen TV to watch sporting events.
  • Nokiate1st Avenida #7. Primera Avenida Sur. Just up from Cafe No Se - Super Fresh Sushi, Great Gin Tonics (ask for the TALL Glass) and Proper Martinis.
  • Reilly's Irish Tavern, 5a ave. nte. #31, [28]. Antigua's only Irish pub. Serves Guinness, amongst other things.
  • Y tu Piña, también. 6a Calle Oriente and Primera Avenida Sur. Breakfast. Lunch. Licuados. Benito's flavored rums. Luisa's famosa hangover soups. Proper espressos - usually. Manu Chao daily. Gratis Wi-Fi. Detox at Y tu Piña. Retox across the street at Café No Sé.
  • El Muro Pub, 3 street oriente 19 D (Antigua Guatemala), 502-7832-8849. Classic Rock- Real Drinks -Interesting Staff - Darts - Personal trivia- Music requests - Asian food- Vegetarian food - Chillis - Reasonable prices - comfortable seats/couches - Specials for volunteers - Credit cards- Monday to Saturday 5:30PM to 1PM  edit
  • Wiener. An Austrian restaurant that serves the best Schnitzel this side of Vienna. One amazing treat for those of you from Austria! They also serve great local food and have friendly capable staff.  edit

Sleep

Antigua offers a wide variety of hotels at all price levels. Additionally, many local families open their homes to students of Spanish and travellers. Contact any Antigua language school for help acquiring a local homestay, a few dollars offered for their service, or signing up for spanish lessons might encourage a more helpful match making.

  • Hotel Boutique Euskadi [29] 3ra Calle Oriente #30 La Antigua G.
  • Hotel Casa del Parque, 4th Ave Norte # 5 (200 ft north of central park), +502 7832-0961 (, fax: +502-7832-3709), [30]. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 1pm. 4-star hotel only a 30 second walk to central park. 16 rooms & 9 suites, all with bath, breakfast, swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, (massages available), 3 gardens with fountains and a 2nd level terrace. All rooms are decorated with beautiful Guatemalan typical furniture. Free WI-FI & internet terminals, free purified water, free breakfast & coffee, laundry service, bag storage, travel services, airport pickups, cable TV & hot water 24 hours. USD$69-$115.  edit
  • Hotel Casa Antigua, 3rd Calle Poniete #5 (1 block northwest of central park), +502 7832-9090 (, fax: +502-7832-9191), [31]. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 1pm. Historical hotel only a 2 minute walk to central park. 22 rooms all with baths, 3 gardens with fountains and a rooftop terrace. All rooms are decorated with one of a kind antiques. Discounts for large groups or weekly stays. Free WI-FI & internet terminals, free purified water, breakfast is available, coffee, use of kitchen, laundry service, bag storage, travel services, airport pickups, cable TV & hot water 24 hours. USD$45-$85.  edit
  • Hostel 5, 4th Avenida Norte #33 (about 3 blocks from the centro). 50Q pp (for a dorm ($7US) with full breakfast included. Wonderful owner who will take very good care of you and is a great cook. Comfortable beds, extremely clean facilities, lockers, very hot showers, awesome rooftop terrace with picnic table, hammock, and a great view of the volcano. The bar/restaurant downstairs has very cheap cold beers and serves great food.
  • Antigua UmmaGumma Hostel, 7a Avenida Norte, #34, +502-7832-4413 (), [32]. Two shared equipped kitchens, communal lounge area with direct TV, Wi-Fi, laundry service, international calls service, luggage store and travel agency. Dorms US$5 per person per night.  edit
  • Dos Loros Inn, Calle de San Luquitas #20, Callejon de Burrito, +800 234 2705 (), [33]. Spacious and modern rooms, complete with a comfortable Queen bed, along with a single bed, a huge bathroom complete with giant tub! Just what you need after a long day walking the cobblestones of Antigua. Free wifi. Queen bed USD$56.  edit
  • El Gato Negro (Black Cat Hostel), 6a Avenida Norte, 1a, +502 7832 1229 (), [34]. Largest, and arguably most fun and funky, Hostel in Antigua. Price includes Breakfast (anything on the Desayuno menu). Full bar and restaurant. Free Internet, including wireless. There is a movie room of over 350 movies/DVD's for free. Double rooms can only be booked onsite. (Tip, it might pay to book ahead as it is popular) Dorm bed Q60 / Doubles Q130 (as of 05/22/07).  edit
  • Hostel Los Amigos, 2a Avenida between 7a and 8a calle. Dorm 35 Q (4USD) per person.  edit
  • Hotel Casa Rustica, 6th Ave Norte #8 (1 block west of central park), +502 7832-3709 (), [35]. Only 1 block from central park. Gardens, terraces & hammocks. All rooms are private, have comfortable anti-stress beds and lots of natural light. Single with shared bath (USD$25), or with private bath & cable TV (USD$35) and garden view(USD$39). Double with shared bath (USD$35), or with private bath & cable TV (USD$45) and garden view(USD$47); triple & quad rooms also available. Free Wi/fi, free purified water, use of large shared kitchen, laundry service, bag storage, internet terminals, small cafe, internet cafe, travel services, airport pickups, cable TV & hot water 24 hours. USD$19-$47.  edit
  • Posada Don Valentino, 5th Calle poniente #28 (2 blocks west of central park), +502 7832-0384 (), [36]. 2 blocks from central park. Spacious, light-filled rooms and common areas with Guatemalan furniture and textiles. All rooms have private bath, cable TV, 24-hour hot water, and views. 18 standard rooms and 3 suites. 2 large terraces with city and volcano views. An internet cafe, international phone service, travel agency, use of a shared kitchen, laundry service, bag storage, free bottled water. Bi-lingual staff. Single (USD$37), Double (USD$48), Triple (USD$57), Quad (USD$65), Deluxe suites available. Discounts for large groups and longer stays. USD$37-65/night.  edit
  • Hotel Casa Cristina, [37]. This small and charming 10 room hotel is located only four blocks from Central Park in the center of Antigua. All rooms have private bath and hot water. Free coffee, tea and purified water. Wireless accessible from all rooms. Standard single room (USD$18) with cable TV (USD$22), Standard double room (USD$22) with cable TV (USD$26), Deluxe room with Volcan de Agua view and cable TV (USD$35). Callejon Camposeco 3A (between 6th and 7th Avenue North, one block from La Merced church). Discounts for weekly and monthly stays.
  • Hostel Calle 6, 6ª Calle Poniente Nº 19 (located 1 block from the Central Park), +(502) 5532-3274. A large hostel. Price includes Internet, laundry service, bag storage, & hot water 24 hours. There is a travel agency on the premises. Dorm bed Q35.  edit
  • Hotel Quinta de las Flores, [38]. A ten minute walk from the central plaza, this hotel offers several quiet, almost free-standing rooms spaced around a central fountain. A special treat is the working fireplace, with firewood at the ready. $58US per night for a double.
  • El Palacio de Dona Beatriz, [39]. Luxury bed and breakfast inside a coffee plantation, near Santo Domingo convent and museum, 40 min from the Guatemala city airport.
  • Casa Santo Domingo [40] is a luxury international-class hotel built in the remodeled ruins of an old convent. Access to three great museums in the Paseo De Los Museos is included in your room rate. Gorgeous landscaping and all the services. 10 minutes walk to Parque Central. Regular rooms USD $170-190, Suites USD $215-360 as of December 2005. E-mail: domingoreservas@intelnet.net.gt. tel +502-7820-1222. fax +502-7832-4155. 3a Calle Oriente No. 28 "A".
  • Hotel Convento Santa Catalina, 5 Ave Norte #28, (502) 7832-3080 (, fax: (502) 7832-3610), [41]. The Convent of Santa Catalina Martir was the second monastery founded by the Augustine Order in the year 1613. The church was inaugurated on September 15th, 1647. Within 10 years, the Convent contained 110 nuns and 6 novices, who were prohibited from going out into the streets and were not allowed to see or be seen by the general public. On the 23rd of August, 1693, a bridge was built to connect the monastery to the property which had been acquired by the convent on the other side of the street, so the nuns could cross the street unseen. This bridge is now the famous landmark of Antigua, The Arch of Santa Catalina Martir. The Hotel Convento Santa Catalina Martir offers Singles, Doubles, Triples and Junior Suites. 16 Furnished rooms, seven of which have kitchenettes. 2 Beautiful gardens and a wonderful view of the volcanoes. US$70-100.  edit
  • La Casa de los Abuelos, (), [42]. A family house, turned in a beautiful hotel, 5 minutes from downtown of La Antigua, a great view of the volcanoes, special packages for Spanish students and adoption parents.  edit
  • Porta Antigua, 8a calle poniente No.1, (502) 7832-2801 (, fax: (502) 7832-0807), [43]. A beautiful hotel, its just a few blocks away from the park on a quiet street. The hotel has a great pool, parrots that live outside your window and great meals in the dining area. Tip: try their amazing hot chocolate. US$150-225.  edit
  • Posada Dona Luisa, [44]. Located a few blocks from the park. There is nothing fancy about this place, but the people there are warm and friendly and it is clean and quiet. Single, double, and triple rooms available. US$30-45.  edit
  • Casa Bellona, Calle Coyolar # 11 (At the end of the 2nd Av. Sur), 7832-0124, [45]. checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. A nice quiet guesthouse in Antigua. You can use the kitchen to make your own meals but breakfast is included. Nice clean rooms and shared bathrooms are also very clean. Garden with hammocks and a livingroom with cable TV/DVD, nice way to meet other travellers. A little bit further from the center (10/15 min walk), but then you have also something good for a very good price. $20 for a double.  edit
  • Casa Madeleine Bed & Breakfast and Spa, Calle del Espiritu Santo # 69, (502) 7832 9348 (, fax: (502) 7832 9358), [46]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 13:00. A beautiful bed and breakfast located about 6-7 blocks from the central park. Comfortable rooms, hot water, Wi-Fi Internet, complimentary water, shampoo etc. Whirlpool and Jacuzzi, spa services and packages. Great view of their court yard and the volcano. Discount for groups, students, volunteers, adopting parents. USA telephone number +1-877 325 9137. US$95-$205.  edit
  • Posada Juma Ocag, Calzada de Santa Lucía # 13. Rooms with private bathrooms and cast-iron beds. Rooms set around a small pretty courtyard. Small sun terrace upstairs. Across from market. Friendly and helpful staff. From Q110.  edit
  • Posada Lazos Fuertes, [47]. A 15-room hotel, for which the profits are said to aid poor Guatemalan children whose parents live in the Guatemala City Garbage Dump, through Safe Passage (www.safepassage.org). Q395 for a double.  edit
  • Hostal Las Marias, Calle a San Bartolo, Lotif. Las Jacarandas (5 blocks from the Central Park), (502) 55169147, [48]. checkin: 3:00PM; checkout: 1:00PM. A beautiful bed and breakfast located in a very quiet and safe area, about 5 blocks from the central park. Comfortable rooms, hot water, Wi-Fi Internet, complimentary water, shampoo etc. Discount for groups, students, volunteers, adopting parents.  edit

Home stays

Home stays with Antigua families can be arranged through language schools or directly with the family in question. As the families are prepaid, you can switch your school at anytime and try a different school. Your shuttle from the airport is also prepaid if arranged through a school, so if your driver ask for $5 or $10 in tips, just smile, and give him 2 or 3 bucks at most (a 20% tip) or 5Q to 10Q (about 1 buck!), unless he lugged your luggage up a steep hill and dozens of steps. The homes are often on hill tops, so be prepared to encounter large black scorpions on the lit walls at night, when you are walking home late. They are harmless if you don't disturb them, but you might consider wearing shoes if they are too abundant. Choose a home in the town to avoid climbing hills, and you will also get less mosquito problems. Currently, families charge about $70 USD for 7 days of bed, shared toilet, and 2 meals. Expect to pay about $10 or $20 more if you want to add lunch (the main meal), or if you expect a private bathroom (well worth it if you don't want to share with up to a dozen other boarders). An advantage of a home stay for the Spanish language student is a chance for language immersion, as well as the cultural experience. The less student's the family board, the better your experience. Too many students prefer to speak in English to each other, and destroy your "immersive" experience. Ask first how many people are in the home, and how many boarders there are. You might find out, up to 14 people might share only one sink and 2 toilets. Water pressure is low at night, and you might not get a warm shower if the flow is too low to activate the heated shower head. Ask the house mom to explain how to get the switch to activate on the shower, otherwise you might have to deal with a cold shower. Buy your own soap and shampoo, as the home might use the same soap for washing dishes and clothing as for bathing. The housing may be more basic than in a hotel: simple concrete block or adobe construction, shared bathroom, and small rooms. Ask if there is a secure lock for your room, as the home is often shared with local boarders, and you do not always want to lug your camera and laptop everywhere you go. It is important to realize that mosquitos are common, and the owners often leave your door open while cleaning. A compact mosquito net or tent is necessary if you do not enjoy having mosquito buzzing around your face at night. Some area of Antigua is mosquito free, other area they are found in abundance. It is important to verify the number of students and guests in the house, as one can encounter situations where up to 14 people are sharing two toilets and one sink! If you value cleanliness and convenience, book a room with private toilet and sink. You must provide your own hand towels and bathing towels. If you leave it in a common bathroom, don't be surprise if everyone will use it. Eating hours are often different, with dinner often served at 7:30 or 8:00PM, so you might want to procure your own meals if you intend to go to bed early. Remember that dinner is simple - a few pieces of cold bread, and perhaps very light soup. For American style dinner, go out and buy your own food at the restaurants. Fresh fruits and vegetable is often not served, so eat plenty of beans or bring along your own source of fiber.

  • Ana & Dany are a friendly, welcoming young couple who offer a home stay. They have four rooms (only two with private bath) in their small house on Calle De Los Pasos near San Francisco church. Their two young children also live there, and a mother and several siblings are in and out. Both Ana & Dany speak some English, but are very clear and helpful to travellers trying out Spanish. They also teach Spanish privately and through schools. Rooms are small and basic, with concrete block construction, but clean and brightly painted. Food is Guatemalteca family cooking, with meat omitted for vegetarians. E-mail: anaguate at hotmail dot com.

Stay safe

Due to the presence of the "Tourist Police" Antigua is much safer than any other city in Guatemala. However, the tourist police are only present within the city. During the daytime your risk of getting robbed in Antigua is very small. However, if you leave the tourist-areas or if you walk the streets at night, there is a considerable risk. This is especially true during the time when the night and the morning shifts of the police change guard. It is probably best to leave your passport in your hotel safe or local home, and carry a US passport ID instead. If you are robbed, you will not need to go the consulate for paperwork. An ATM is available, so an ATM card should be carried instead for instant cash. If you have to travel much, a money belt can be strapped to your waist, and a simple wallet with few dollars can be handed to a robber if one is encountered. There are many places on your body and clothing to hide a few extra bucks, or a credit card. Crime committed against women is often not publicized. While Guatemala might be a safe place for some, a woman might best get around safely on a crowded public bus, than hailing a Tuk Tuk or Taxi from an unknown driver.

Almost all bars and restaurants will be happy to call you a taxi. Asking the bar staff to call the taxi for you, instead of looking for one yourself, can be a good idea since they tend to know the drivers they are calling. Ask them what the price should be beforehand, and also ask them to confirm the price with the taxi or tuk-tuk when they call you one. Within Antigua, many locals consider the buses safer than a tuk-tuk. Due to the crowd, it is unlikely that you will be robbed. However, tuk-tuk's have been blamed on taking tourists to obscure area to rob them, perhaps due to their lower investment cost, they might attract less than desirable drivers. If your bar or house lord arranges your tuk-tuk, it likely will be safer.

During peak tourist times, like Semana Santa or any major festival in Antigua, pickpockets abound and it´s wise to keep a hand on your wallet. A money belt can be kept around your waist for important ID and passport. A few bucks in the wallet can be stolen or robbed without causing much headaches. Avoid carrying large quantities of money and flashing it around. Also, when walking through the crowded market, keep your bags in front of you, since there are certain thieves who use razors to cut the fabric without you feeling a thing, to gain access to the contents.

If you plan to visit sights like "La Cruz" outside town, make sure you go with an officer of the tourist police who accompany tourists there at least once a day. (See the See section).

The municipal water supply in Antigua is treated with chlorine (citation needed). However, don't regard it as completely safe. It's still wise to drink agua del garrafon or agua embotellada (purified bottled water), and not agua del chorro (tap water). Some homes and restaurants have purified water in five gallon bottles and serve it in glasses. It's sensible to ask if the ice is made from purified water, but they will really never admit the truth about the source of water.

Antigua is in an undeveloped country. As such, irrigation water is often contaminated with human feces. This put all travelers at risk for fecal borne infection such as hepatitis A, salmonella, and E.coli. The Center of Disease control has a list of recommendation for Guatemala. One should consider hepatitis A vaccination at least 3 months before the trip. Malaria pills should be taken if you are planning to hike or climb the nearby hills or volcanoes. A typhoid vaccine is available, and should be considered if you are planning to eat in the community frequently.

If you are lucky, you will not have any illnesses in Antigua. However, most long term visitors will encounter a case of food poisoning or bacterial or viral enteritis. The best way to treat without a physician's intervention is to buy packages (sobre) of re hydration solution (solucion rehidracion oral). It is a simple mix of potassium, sodium and glucose. One mix a liter of water with the powder, and simply take multiple small sips through the day to consume 2 liter or more. This will rest your intestines, and prevent nausea. Start nibbling small pieces of bread the next day, before you challenge your system. Antibiotics will not help food poisoning, which toxins from bacterias are already form; so it is not the most appropriate treatment unless you are medically trained or advised before you take such products.

Most cases of food poisoning or intestinal infections can be blamed on street vendors with unrefrigerated slaws, sauces, or paste; but home cooked meals can also be the blame due to lack of education and sanitation by some home families. Street vendor food is cheap, but you should avoid it unless you have been eating it daily. A virgin stomach often can not handle the common bacterial toxins found in unrefrigerated sauces, slaws, and cold marinades. Piping hot wrapped boiled food is likely safe, but might not be freed completely of all toxins. If you observed unsanitary practice by your home mom, you might consider just eating bread or cereal for breakfast, and pass on lunch and dinner. Bringing antibacterial handwipes can help sanitize if there is no soap in the bathroom.

It is best to avoid ceviche (cold limejuice marinated raw fish and shrimp) due to potential risk of bacteria like cholera. Fresh salads should not be consumed for concern of contaminated irrigation water. Strawberries has been known to pass hepatitis A due to contaminated irrigation water. If you prepared your own salad or strawberries, soaking in bleach water or iodine is advised. All fruits should be washed or peeled before eating. Undercooked beef should be avoided due to risk encysted parasites, unless imported high grade beef is assured at a well known restaurant. Fresh cream is often served at the table, but unless you are sure it is pasteurized or precooked by the family, it is best to avoid putting it on your food. Going barefoot or with sandals is the norm, however hiking with them or going barefoot might lead to "cutanous larva migrans", where hookworms larvae penetrate and cause itchy red curves and lines a few days later. Penetrating "botfly" larvae with their wiggly head through a red swollen knot around the ankle is a rare souvenir gift that would entertain your family at home. So, wear shoes and socks, if you desired to walk off of the pavement.

Homestay is likely safe, however, inexpensive hostels can lead to infection with body lice, and whole body itchy scabies. Body lice can be rid by simple clothing change. Scabies must be rid with 2 treatment of high concentration permethrin cream 5% applied head to toe, left on for 8 hours, and repeated two weeks later. Pubic louse is likely encountered at brothels in the nearby towns, and is treated with 1% permethrin shampoo or cream. Bedbugs are hard to get rid of, and is common in both the US and Guatemala. You are likely to encounter them in both inexpensive and expensive hotels after a few hours of sound sleep on an infected mattress. It is best to keep your luggage far away from hotel beds, unless you would like to bring the pests home to the US or spread them to other hotels. Itchy red bumps along an arm or leg is a common symptom of bedbugs. Checking your mattress cover and the crevices of the bed to assure they don't sneak a meal from your arm or legs at night. If you find bedbugs, ask for another room, or ask for a refund. If your plan is to travel through Central America on pennies a day, be aware of the symptoms of these common parasites.

Contact

There are many internet cafes and long-distance phone shops in Antigua. Internet time costs from Q5-10 per hour. Internet shops often have video phones for Skype calls. Many phone shops uses voice over internet protocol, and not all area codes will work. The phone shop at the town center will not reach certain cell phones and certain newer area codes. But just around the northwest corner is another phone shop that reached most USA area codes. Just ask, they will reluctantly point you to their competitor. Cell phones from the US will work, but will charge $2 a minute for use, for receiving voice mails, or for reaching customer service. Some people ask their carrier to turn off the voice mail function to avoid charges for voice mail.

  • The Bagel Barn 5a Calle Poniente #2, offers free wifi internet for those travelling with laptop computers. Enjoy a nice cup of coffee or a freshly toasted bagel while you browse the net. You are 2 steps away from Central Park.
  • Enlaces is a large, well-run outlet that is perhaps the best value for price. They have Internet access on dozens of consistent, fast, reliable machines on two stories for Q6/hour, domestic phone calls at Q2, international calls (price unknown). They offer packages like an "Internet Value Card" at 10.5 hours for Q54 or 25 hours for Q100. They also have a travel agent and bar on the premises. 6a Avenida Norte, between 5a and 4a Calle poniente, one block due west from Parque Central.
  • Escuela Español International Calls has about a dozen machines with internet access for Q5/hour (as of Dec 2005). The price is great, but the machines aren't quite as fast and reliable as those at Enlaces. 6a Calle Pte #8, one block south and 1 block west of Parque Central.
  • Rainbow Restaurant and Bookshop includes internet access in its cornucopia of tourist-friendly offerings (price unknown) (as of Dec 2005). If you spend more than Q20 in the bookstore, you get 25 minutes of Internet time as a bonus. 7a Ave Sur #8 at 6a Calle. tel +502-7832-1919.
  • Funky Monkey Net - Now Known as BambooNet 5a Ave Sur L-2, Paseo de los Corregedores #6. tel +502-7832-4195. email peter@bamboogroupsa.com. A tourist-oriented cafe just south of Parque Central, offering good machines and a fairly low Q6/hour (as of Jul 2007). Upstairs is Bamboo Group, S.A. a real estate and business consulting office. Around the same atrium (Paseo de los Corregedores) there are several other tourist-oriented services including the Kinky Afro hair Salon. Their website [49], offers useful information like a tourist map.
  • Hotel Casa Rustica has a small bar & internet cafe inside its doors. Located just 1 block west of the central park @ 6th Ave norte #8. The Wi/fi signal is fast and strong. For hotel guest, this service is free. For walk-in customers, it is Q5/hr, Q20/day or Q70/wk. Check your emails sitting in the garden, terrace or a hammock, while sipping on a cool one or eating a snack. Also, if you are a dog lover, pet one of the 3 hotel mascots.
  • Laundry can be done by various lavanderias around town. You drop off your laundry, they weigh it and charge you a price per pound (not per kilogram, interestingly). The laundry is dried and available for pickup in two to four hours. Locals advise that you inventory your laundry, to be sure that none is lost or exchanged with another load. Two full backpacks of clothes weighed about 16 pounds.
    • Rapi Lavado, 6a Calle Pte No. 14, between 5a and 6a Ave Sur. As of December 2005, charged Q5,00 per pound.
    • Colonial Laundry, 4th Ave North #42, all the way to the end.
    • Spring Laundry, Primera Avenida Sur near Iglesia de San Francisco.

Get out

Antigua is a very good base for anyone who wants to explore Guatemala. The city is bustling with language students and you will have no problems finding a bus to anywhere in the country.

Almost all travel agencies in Antigua offer scheduled tourist shuttles to La Aurora airport in Guatemala City. Fares range from USD $5-10. The earliest buses and shuttles depart at 4AM, in time to arrive at the airport by 5AM and catch a 7AM flight out. The lines at the airport is very long, so don't expect to push an international flight; unless you intend to miss it. Arrive at least 1 hour or more before your flight. Shuttles often arrive late, as they are on Guatemalan time. If lucks run out, you can catch a taxi for about $30, or hop the numerous "GUATE, GUATE" chicken busses. Along the main route of the bus through town, the driver stops at every corner, and attempt to fill the bus. Loud horn honking, and the attendant yelling "Guate, Guate", indicating destination. Chicken buses are usually gaudily painted, and have their destinations indicated above the front windshield. Whereas the local buses are often regular yellow school buses, and occasionally also gaudily painted. Once you get to guatemala, catch a "TUK TUK" or a taxi to get to the airport. If you take a connecting local bus, expect to pay about 15 cents, but they often leave you about a 10 minute walk to the terminal. Currently, the buses are not allowed to enter the airport proper. There is a bus station next to the airport parking lot, but do not expect the bus to drop you off or pickup there.

Chicken bus drivers can not always be trusted to take you to outlying towns. Their goal is often to fill the bus, and not often for your best interest. It is best to talk to several bus drivers before you board. You can be left stranded waiting for a connecting bus that might not arrive until the following day or hours later. A direct bus is best, but might not be encountered frequently. Be prepared to ride small uncovered pickup trucks if you can not find a taxi to your final destination. Heavy rain can occur, and you can get soaked if the cover is ripped or not functioning.

Shuttle buses from Antigua to Copán leave at 4AM and 9AM and take about six hours and cost $10-15.

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