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Antigua (Guatemala)

Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in antigua (guatemala)

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La Antigua Guatemala (commonly referred to as just Antigua or La Antigua) is a city in Guatemala. It was the colonial Spanish capital of Central America, it is a World Heritage site, and is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Guatemala.

antigua (guatemala) Travel Guide :

Antigua (Guatemala)

Understand

Antigua'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 potente (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 potente 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.

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"; then "Ave" (for Avenida) or "Cle" (for Calle), then "Ote" (Oriente, east), "Pte" (Potente, west), "Sur" (south), or "Nte" (Norte, north); then the street address number. For instance:

  • "5a Ave 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.

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

The book Antigua Guatemala: The city and its heritage, by Elizabeth Bell, is a great handbook for the visitor. It provides concise and well-informed descriptions of 43 monuments, houses, and museums, listed in order of importance so that you can use it for a self-guided tour for as much time as you have. It also has a concise overview of the city's history. Laced with colour photos. Other chapters provide intriguing extras such as a record of Volcán Fuego's eruptions, earthquakes, annual festivals, and thumbnail sketches of surrounding towns. 200 pages, paperback. ions in English and Spanish. Q120 at Antigua Tours. ISBN: 99922-706-9-1. amazon.com listing for this book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/9992270691/).

Antigua (Guatemala)

Get in

Located just 30 miles (45km) West of Guatemala City, you can get here in 45min from La Aurora Airport.

A charter tourist van costs about USD $30. 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.

Almost all travel agencies in Antigua offer scheduled tourist shuttles from the airport to Antigua. Fares range from USD $5-10.

Transportation by bus is cheap compared to taxis or shuttles, but would be less convenient and take a longer time.

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

Antigua (Guatemala)

Get around

Antigua is very compact and easy to walk around. Most tourist destinations are in an 8-by-8 block area less than 1km 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 surroudings.

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. Flag down a crusing tuk-tuk, or pick up a taxi from the queue at Parque Central.

Antigua (Guatemala)

See

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. You'll find worthy 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.

The Parque Central is, strangely enough, 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 day and night.

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 walks up to the park several times a day, and it's safer to walk with them. Check with the Tourist Police office just north of Parque Central for details.

The Experimental Station Valhalla is a nursery of macadamia trees with an interesting environmental and economic agenda. 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 a street paving, sequestering carbon dioxide. 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.

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 was Q2.75 one way as of December 2005. 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 http://www.exvalhalla.net, email mailto:exvalhalla@yahoo.com. Open 8am - 5pm, Monday through Sunday.

Antigua (Guatemala)

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, 09:30am - 12:30pm, with Elizabeth Bell
  • Mondays and Thursdays, 2:00 - 5:00 pm, with Roberto Spillari
  • Reservations requested from Antigua Tours, 3a Calle Ote #28, web antiguatours.net (http://www.antiguatours.net), tel +502-7832-5821 and +502-7832-2046.

For those who like hiking, two trips near Antigua are highly recommended: Hiking up the active volcano Volcán Pacaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacaya) and/or the dormant Volcán Acatenango (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acatenango).

  • 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.
    • 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 (http://www.guatemalaturistica.com/antigua-tours-volcanes-agua-pacaya.html) (Spanish) with reassurances about security
  • 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 feet) in one day. I.e.: You need to be fit, carry gear and have to take precautions against Altitude Sickness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness). Most people who do this trip spend the night on the mountain though some go up an 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. As of December 2005, some tourists report climbing without problems as part of a tour with police escort. There are other reports of unaccomponied 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.
    • Guatemala Ventures is reported to have competent tours with security to Agua.
Antigua (Guatemala)

Learn

Antigua is the most popular - though not the cheapest - place to learn Spanish in Guatamela. There are more than 100 Spanish schools to choose from. You can choose from group or one-on-one instruction. As of December 2005, one teacher charged Q25.00 per hour for one-on-one instruction. A typical schedule is to take classes Monday-Friday, 8am-noon, leaving the afternoon for sightseeing.

  • guatemala365.com (http://www.guatemala365.com/): "Looking for a Spanish School in Guatemala? This is your site!"
  • 123teachme.com (http://www.123teachme.com/) has listings and reviews of schools teaching Spanish and other languages, in Antigua and in other locations. They information to keep the schools from skewing their ratings. You can compare the tuition cost, quality of instruction, and overall value. Click here for 123teachme.com's list of Spanish language schools in Antigua (http://www.123teachme.com/search.php?lang=en&relCountryID=2&qstr=&browse_mode=&browse_level=&relCityID=2).
  • Escuela Tecun Uman Run by Mario Castellanos, one of the most experience teachers in the City. Its reputation is world wide known, and his rates are moderated. If you want to learn spanish, don't miss this Spanish School.
Antigua (Guatemala)

Work

Antigua (Guatemala)

Buy

  • 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). As of 2005, one lavanderia charged Q5.00 per pound, and it is expected that others charge about the same. The laundry is dried and available for pickup in two-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.
Antigua (Guatemala)

Eat

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 is even a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Dominos Pizza and a Dunkin Donuts! So, no, you will not starve while in Antigua.

  • Restaurante Doña Luisa Xiocotencatl, 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.
  • La Fonde de la Calle Real 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-flavoured sauce for Q44. The green salad is fresh and overflows the large plate at Q28. 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 prepartion. web http://www.lafondacallereal.com/ . tel 7832-0507. 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).
  • Travel Menu 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 Q25-30 (as of Dec 2005), 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 proprieter, Jesper Nilsen of Denmark. Attracts a traveller crowd. 6a Calle Pte #14, one block south and partial block west of the southwest corner of Parque Central, on the north side of the street.
  • Rainbow Restaurant and Bookshop offers tourist-friendly and wholesome breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. An early-bird breakfast special of tomatoes, beans, eggs, rice, and tea or coffee is Q22 (as of Dec 2005). Sandwiches are Q32 or so, dinner entrees run from Q40-50, 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. tel +502-7832-1919. 7a. Ave Sur #6 at 6a Calle, one block south and two full blocks west of the southwest corner of Parque Central.
  • The Sabor Cubano restaurant has a slightly up-market feel. It has live Cuban music on Thursday through Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. 4a Calle Oriente 3A, a half-block east of the north side of the Parque Central.
  • Cinema Café Bistro offers food and a full schedule of movies from mid-afternoon to late evening. Stop by for the current week's schedule. 5a Ave Sur #14, two blocks south of the southwest corner of Parque Central on the west side.
  • Helados Sarita ("depues 1948"), which 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. Simple cones are Q4-9. 5a Ave Nte, just up from the northwest corner of Parque Central on the east side.
  • Helados Marco Polo offers ice cream dishes in a more polished atmosphere. 5a Ave Nte, just up from the northwest corner of Parque Central on the west side, opposite Helados Sarita.
  • Street ice cream carts are common through the city and popular with the locals, but of unknown safety for tender first-world stomachs. Price unknown.
Antigua (Guatemala)

Drink

  • La Peña de Sol Latino is a bar and restaurant featuring live music by Guatemalteco and Central American bands. It is located on a second-floor terrace above a hotel. 6a Avenida Norte No 9, Antigua Guatemala.
Antigua (Guatemala)

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.

Antigua (Guatemala)

Hotels

  • Hostel Los Amigos, 2a Avenida entre 7a y 8a calle. Dorm 35 Q (4USD) per person.
  • Jungle Party hostel, From 40 to 55 Q per person, breakfast included. Jungle Party is without doubt the best place for backpackers to stay. Great staff, great fun, great chance to meet other backpackers. USD $9-10 for 4-6 person bunk rooms, as of December 2005. 6a Avenida Norte #20, between 3a y 2a Calle Pte.
  • Hotel Quinta de las Flores, 1 (http://www.quintadelasflores.com/). 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, 2 (http://www.palaciodebeatrizantigua.com). Luxury bed and breakfast inside a coffee plantation, near Santo Domingo convent and museum, 40 min from the Guatemala city airport.
  • Casa Santo Domingo is a luxury international-class hotel built in the remodelled 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. web www.casasantodomingo.com.gt. email domingoreservas@intelnet.net.gt (mailto:domingoreservas@intelnet.net.gt). tel +502-7820-1222. fax +502-7832-4155. 3a Calle Oriente No. 28 "A".
  • Hotel Convento las Catalinas. One of the unique and original convents made into a hotel in Antigua. You will be part of history just by staying in such a monument. This is the landmark of Antigua.
Antigua (Guatemala)

Home stays

Home stays with Antigua families can be arranged through language schools or directly with the family in question. As an example, in December 2005 one family charged Q470.00 per person for a room and three meals a day, six days a week. An advantage of a home stay for the Spanish language student is a chance for language immersion, as well as the cultural experience. On the other hand, the housing may be more basic than in a hotel: simple concrete block construction, shared bathroom, and small rooms.

  • Ana & Dany are a friendly, welcoming young couple who offer a home stay. They have four guest 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. Travellers in 2003-2005 report warm and memorable memories. Rooms are small and basic, with concrete block construction, but clean and brightly painted. Food is Guatemalteca family cooking, with meat omitted for vegetarians. As of December 2005, Q470 per person for a room and three meals a day, six days a week. tel +502-5619-4110 (cell, call anytime), +502-7832-1940 (home, don't call at night Guatemala time). email anaguate at hotmail dot com.
Antigua (Guatemala)

Contact

There are many internet cafes and long-distance phone shops in Antigua. Internet time costs from Q5-10 per hour.

  • Enlaces is a large, well-run outlet that is perhaps the best value for price (as of December 2005). They have Internet access on dozens of consistent, fast, reliable machines on two storeys 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 potente, 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 is a tourist-oriented cafe just south of Parque Central, offering good machines and a fairly low Q6/hour (as of Dec 2005). Around the same atrium (Paseo de los Corregedores) there are several other tourist-oriented services. Their website, funkymonkeynet.com (http://www.funkymonkeynet.com), offers useful information like a tourist map, but trapped behind an excessively cute design. 5a Ave Sur L-2, Paseo de los Corregedores #6. tel +502-832-4195. email contact@funkymonkeynet.com (mailto:contact@funkymonkeynet.com).
  • Netplace Internet & Cafe offers Internet access at a low Q5/hour (as of Dec 2005), but with only four machines that are slow and flaky. 6a Ave sur #13, which it shares with Rainbow Laundry.
Antigua (Guatemala)

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.

Almost all bars and restaurants will be happy to call you a taxi that will not cost more than 10 Q to drive you home. Asking the barstaff 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.

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. However, don't regard it as completely safe. It's still wise to drink agua pura (purified bottled water). Some homes and restaurants get agua pura in five gallon bottles and serve it in glasses. It's sensible to ask if the ice is made from purified water.

Antigua (Guatemala)

Cope

Antigua (Guatemala)

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 depart at 4:00am, in time to arrive at the airport by 5:00am and catch a 7:00am flight out.


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