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February 22, 2012

Antigua has the reputation of being a fantastic old colonial town. This has the impact of bringing lots of tourists which in turn has meant that the town has lost some of its character as coffee shops and trendy bars and restaurants move in. We have found lots more tourists in Guatemala than in Mexico – must be a result of the bad press that Mexico gets.

Our first challenge in Antigua was getting to a secure parking lot that we knew we could stay in overnight. The centre of Antigua is restricted for big vehicles and there is a heavy vehicles route around the outside of the centre. We took the best option which was to follow a chicken bus as we knew there was a parking place next to the bus terminal. As it turned out the secure parking was quite nice with a big lawn in the middle and we parked there for a couple of nights (for Q125 per night).

Throughout Antigua there are many ruined buildings, a result of numerous earthquakes over the years.  When we reached the main square in the town there was a  big band mostly composed of Xylophone players and a number of old women dancing round the square with each other.

We did take advantage of the nice restaurants and went out for a good dinner at a place called Cafe Bourbon. However our parking lot was locked at 8pm so we had to be back early which did limit our ability to enjoy the nightlife somewhat.

One interesting thing about Antigua was that it is home to perhaps the nicest McDonalds I have ever seen with a big flower filled courtyard and some outside sofa seating.

While in Antigua we booked a trip to climb the Pacaya volcano. This is a volcano that is intermittently active. We were pretty disappointed by the trek though. After walking uphill for just over an hour we reached the lava zone at the top which was devoid of all life. There were no views on the way up as everything was covered in cloud.

At the top the destination was a small crack in the rock which was hot inside and the party trick of the guide was toasting marshmallows. Pretty underwhelming ! Sat next to the crack was a guy who had set up a little shop selling jewellery that was made out of lava – he claimed to be the highest shop in central america ! On the way back down there was a break in the cloud and we had a view of some neighbouring volcanos.

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