Guatemala – another place we didn’t know much about… The shuttle was taking us to Antigua Guatemala, a small town located 1500 metres above sea level and surrounded by mountains and 3 volcanoes. It was just getting dark as we arrived and from the car we saw Volcano Fuego erupt and the glow from a bit of lava flow. The town is brochure-pretty with cobblestoned streets and cute little colourful houses and it was love at first sight.
We had booked a B&B a few blocks from the main square and Michael, another guest who lives part-time in Antigua took us to Porque No, a tiny cozy bar with 5 tables upstairs for a super tasty meal. Because of the elevation it’s warm and sunny during the day but we had been warmed that the temperature drops to about 10 degrees at night and that first night we definitely felt it.
The next day we ventured off to the market to buy a couple of warm sweatshirts. Finding two tops in the right size (most people here are a lot smaller) and then haggling to agree the price was a relaxed and friendly experience. It’s one of the nicest markets we’ve ever been to – all the food looked fresh and delicious and the displays of fruits in particular were amazing.
We spent 2 days strolling around town, it has lots of great restaurants and street food on many of the squares.
Antigua is firmly on the backpacker trail and it has a sizeable expat community however the local population is mainly Mayan. Their traditional clothes are beautiful and colourful with layered skirts and frilly aprons for the girls. And everywhere vendors selling everything from candy-floss and toys to souvenirs.
On the Sunday evening a large religious procession came through the streets, supposedly there is at least one a week here in the lead up to Easter, and thousands of people lined the streets to watch. First came a few Roman centurions, then the huge float which was carried by around 100 guys, a band played loud soul-full tunes followed and the whole display was surrounded by an army of purple-clad young men ready to take their turn under the float.
From Antigua it’s easy to visit other destinations. We went off to El Paredon, a surf beach 2 hours away and then came back for a few more days before going off to Lake Atitlan.