Over Antigua: In Search of Beauty in Guatemala

Over Antigua: In Search of Beauty in Guatemala

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It’s true that I didn’t love Guatemala like so many travelers I know—but that doesn’t mean there weren’t parts I didn’t find delightfully charming.

The ancient colonial city of Antigua, for example, was lovely in its cobblestone ways and crumbling facades.

Sadly, throughout the duration of our three weeks in Central America in 2008, we were under attack by the weather gods. The afternoon we spent in Antigua was about the “prettiest” day we were granted.

We heard there was some beautiful volcano treks in the vicinity, but unfortunately the pending rain thwarted any such plans. The paths are slippery enough when not wet, and hiking is downright discouraged during precipitation of any kind.

Instead, we stayed the night, woke up and took a stroll around the town, fully intending to spend a few days in Antigua.

What we found was quaint and photogenic enough—albeit small and, oddly enough, too American (in population, that is; Antigua is popular among those who leave home for language schools)—and, thus, not enough to entice us to stay more than 24 hours.

But hey, that’s OK. Because that’s the nice thing about traveling: No one sets your schedule but you. If you don’t like a place—or, as in our case, it doesn’t hold your attention for longer than a fleeting moment—you move onto the next, until you discover that very captivating spot for which you were searching all along. After all, if the same destinations held widespread appeal, they’d lose their authenticity entirely and turn into, I don’t know, the next Cancun.

That said, we never found such a place on that specific jaunt through Central America. Doesn’t mean we won’t continue searching for it on subsequent trips—it only means we failed the first time around. But at least we got some decent photos during the trial-and-error process.


  • November 26, 2010

    Never been to Guatemala, but I am captivated by those colonnade pics–beautiful!


  • November 26, 2010

    I’ve never been to South America (though my Brazilian friend is hoping that soon changes!) but between yours and Andi’s photos, you’ve got me itching to go!! Gorgeous.

  • November 26, 2010

    Looooooved Guatemala and the rest of Latin America that I’ve seen thus far, such a shame you guys didn’t love it either. But to each their own! Great photos!!!

  • November 26, 2010

    I LOVE Guatemala! Did you get up to Lake Atitlan and around to the Mayan villages surrounding the lake? Did you visit Tikal or other ancient Mayan ruins?

  • November 26, 2010

    I’ve never been to Guatemala. No wait, that is a lie – I was there for about 36 hours, in Livingston and along the Rio Dulce. It was nice enough, but as for my fave in Central America – I loved Placencia, Belize. I spent a week sunbathing, swimming, bike riding, and eating there – not full of crazy adventure, but it was so relaxing.

  • November 26, 2010

    I only spent a short time in Guatemala, but I did love Antigua. Your photos make a bad weather day look great. I wish I could have explored more.

  • November 26, 2010

    mmmMmm, we need to get some lenses that are non-prescription for ya! HoT.

  • November 27, 2010

    Great photos even if you didn’t enjoy your stay too much! You must have been used to the rain after your time in Edinburgh though?! 😉 First of the winter’s snow here today…

  • November 27, 2010

    I suppose I’m biased as I’m a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, but I am constantly hearing about and experiencing hidden gems (Semuc Champey, Pino Dulce EcoPark, Rio Dulce slowboat river cruise, Laguna Lechua). Though I totally get where you are coming from. Our training site was near Antigua and after about the third free afternoon there I had about had my fill of tourist bustle and overpriced everything. If you make it back, I’d totally be willing to help you come up with a redemption itinerary!

  • November 27, 2010

    I loved Guatemala – we were in Antigua and Guatemala City – but that’s also probably because my mom used to live there, so we didn’t have quite the typical tourist experience. I especially love that arch and have a watercolor of it hanging in my bedroom.

  • November 27, 2010

    The weather plays such a huge part in the travel experience and it’s too bad that the weather didn’t work in your favor while you were in SA. On the flipside, bad weather can also force you to do things that you would have missed out in sunny weather, such as lounge around cafes and people watch, which I find is a great past time as well. I haven’t been to Guatemala but your pics make it looks so beautiful! I’m looking to getting there, someday!

  • November 27, 2010

    Can’t comment on Guatemala’ never been. But now I’m ridiculously torn between your words and (gorgeous) photos. hmmm.

  • November 28, 2010

    Nice photos! It’s worth it!

  • December 1, 2010

    We loved Antigua! We wanted to stay there for NYE but they wouldn’t have us (all the decent hotels were booked), so we had to move on 🙁

  • December 5, 2010

    My son and I were there five years ago, and we really enjoyed it. We climbed Pacaya, our first live volcano. The Mayan ruins at Tikal were absolutely stunning, less busy, more jungled and more dramatic than any of the ones I’ve seen in Mexico, with a great view from the top of the temple. Loved the river journey to the Caribbean coast, past the forts.

    We found Antigua very, very pretty — your pictures have brought this back for me so beautifully! Thank you! — loved the drama of Monterrico and found (a minority interest this, I appreciate) a *really* cool waterpark. And Lake Atitlan was stunning: coming out of the mountains onto this huge inland sea, surrounded by volcanoes…

    Think the highlight for him was New Year’s Eve. He was just five. All the children run around with firecrackers and hand-held rockets, plus amazing little fireworks (tanks you light that roll along the ground), and he got to do the same: hanging out with the big kids, making explosions…

    Guatemala City just seemed like a hellhole to me… I’ll look at your other post to see what you hated about it. Cos I’m curious. It’s somewhere I really rate, for the diversity in a single country, a small space, is quite phenomenal.

    Would I like it solo, as a couple, on a higher budget? I don’t know. But I loved the place, and will so definitely be back.

  • November 4, 2012

    I have been wanting to visit Guatemala for years! You just made me want to call my friend and visit her next summer. Nice pics!! The girl in the first one is lovely.

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