To be honest, I’d never thought of traveling to Guatemala and I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew one thing-to not let the price of something being too good to be true make me shy away from exploring the flight by myself. I was more than happy that I only paid all of $124.26 for a round trip. The city was such a pleasant surprise and a fun destination for a getaway. By the end of my three days, I had so much fun exploring. I will never forget the amazing beauty of Antigua, Guatemala.
When traveling to Guatemala, visiting Antigua is a must. Vibrant colors, delicious food, cobble streets and volcanoes. Antigua feels like a relatively safe place to explore. This town is beautiful and yet simple and nearly everything is walking distance in the area. To navigate this city, one thing to remember is all the calles run east/west and all the Avenidas (avenues) run north / south.
The Santa Catalina Arch is a must–visit attraction and a world-renowned Guatemalan icon.
Before visiting Guatemala I researched staying in Antigua only, since my stay would be brief. I stayed in an Airbnb and enjoyed socializing with my host who was a former travel addict that settled in Antigua. I was impressed with the raving reviews of different cooking classes as well as the adventurous options of hiking different volcanos, so, I registered for both activities. After considering this would be my first international cooking class and hike, I chose La Tortilla cooking school and Pacaya Volocano-a “moderate” effort level hike.
La Tortilla cooking school
One of my favorite highlights of Antigua was a traditional cooking class. This makes me think of Deborah Carter’s quote “You have to taste a culture to understand it”- and that is true. After taking this class I would recommend La Tortilla to anyone who wants to have a different approach to regular tourism or anyone who loves food as much as I do.
I really enjoyed learning how to cook Pepían – a traditional stew which is the national dish of Guatemala. I also tried two side dishes and a chocolate plantain dessert. Everything was tasty and plentiful. The best touch to this class was that it included unlimited wine. This class lasted about two to three hours and I booked the class to replace going out for dinner. The class was taught in Spanish by a native woman instructor, but I also had an English translator to help with instructions. This class being taught in Spanish was helpful as I dusted off my rusty Spanish from college.
Learning to cook a native cuisine in the country you are traveling to adds a special touch to your takeaway about the culture. By taking a class, you truly get an understanding of their traditional cuisine and the history behind each dish.
Make sure you book your class at least one day in advance or:
Before visiting Guatemala, the closest I’d been to a volcano was watching one on TV. Let’s talk about this being way out of my comfort zone. First off, I was surprisingly excited to hike when one – I am not a huge outdoor person and two- recently discovered I am afraid of heights. But strangely enough, there I was eager to go hike a volcano.
Arranging a visit to Pacaya was easy. I booked a trip with the cheapest shuttle provider I could find in town, which ended up being about $8 USD. I chose the morning pick up time because in April it is humid as soon as the sun rises. The ride to Pacaya Volcano is about an hour long. Once you arrive at the park’s visitor center, you will pay the admission fee to the trail which is about $7 USD. There are also children selling walking sticks for about $1 USD to assist with your hike. Later I learned you are actually renting them because the same children ask for them back when your hike is over. The sticks are helpful so I would recommend that you rent one. There is also an option to ride a horse during your hike but I opted out.
On the trail the tour guide stopped quite a few times along the way to admire the view and explain the history of the volcano. Once we got to the top there was plenty of time for photo-ops. The tour guide provided marshmallows for roasting at a lava heat vent. After eating enough marshmallows and gaining my energy back, we started to descend the other side of the volcano.
Due to the steep path and loose rocks on the way down, this was the most challenging part of the hike. I recommend sneakers with a good grip or hiking shoes. I was afraid of slipping and falling, but this was the only way down-I had to do it. I had no shame in holding my tour guides hand LOL so I wouldn’t break my neck. A bit embarrassed at first, I gladly made my way to the bottom. As I stepped out of my comfort zone I was pushed to tackle a fear and again unleash my inner explorer. I highly recommend a visit to Pacaya Volcano. It’s accessible, inexpensive and worth the trip.
Below is a list of some of my favorite eating places while I was in Antigua. Granted we may not have similar tastes but you can at least consider them….
La Casaca – Great brunch option, fresh smoothies and fruit. Great rooftop area.
Cafe Sky – Calle de Hermano Pedro – this is another nice, reasonably priced restaurant with a great rooftop area.
Ta’cool – New taco restaurant, low cost, delicious but not much space for dinning.
Luna de miel – Serves sweet and savory crepes, low cost and great atmosphere.
Café Condesa – Serves delicious papaya-pineapple marmalade.
Antojitos Salvadoreños – Pupusas – charming café good for lunch dining absolutely delicious pupusas with generous portions and good margaritas.
There are tons of restaurants, coffee shops and bars to meander through on 5a Aveninda Norte and 6a Aveninda Norte. Although I didn’t know what to expect, I really enjoyed my time in Antigua. I really enjoyed my time in Antigua not knowing what to expect. The city has so much to offer for a few days of fun and exploration. This trip was an unbeatable price and pushed me to unleash my inner explorer.
What trips made you step out of your comfort zone?