GUATEMALA

Special thanks to Brandt Davis  for the pictures and recommendations!

The US government has famed Guatemala as a dangerous country in Central America. With the world’s most beautiful lake, a colonial city dating back to the 1500’s, hiking surrounded by active volcanoes, cheap prices and the friendliest locals, the real danger is not adding Guatemala to your bucket list.

ANTIGUA

Things to Do

Stroll the Town: Antigua is a perfectly planned Spanish Colonial City with bright colored houses, cafes and churches on every street. You can’t help but want to get lost in all the streets. The city is relatively small so you can walk every street in a day easily. BEWARE: Cars have the right of way in the Old Town.

 

Palacio del Ayuntamiento: Climb the stairs to the second level for a free view of the main square, cathedral and Aqua Volcano overlooking the city.

 

Cerro de la Cruz: Hike the uphill stairs to the overlook of the city. Aqua Volcano dominates the view behind the picturesque cross. Save this one for a clear day! Locals say never hike here after dark and the hike was very easy.

 

Arco de Santa Catalina: The symbol of the city is a spot you cannot and won’t want to miss. The Arch is on 5a Norte and the beautiful Iglesia de la Merced dominates one sides background while Aqua Volcano can be seen under the arch.  

 

Churches: Antigua is well known for its famed Baroque churches. Some perfectly restored and some left in ruins after earthquakes. Walk around the city trying to find as many as possible. It’s not wonder Antigua is a top-10 wedding destination!

 

Hiking

**VERY IMPORTANT: The best activity in Antigua is hiking Acatenango. The hike overlooks one of the world’s most active volcanoes and is only offered as a 1 ½ day trip. Therefore: plan accordingly to be in Antigua for at least 2 ½ full days in a row. 

There are two main hikes to do from Antigua:

 

Acatenango: This is almost always offered as a 1 ½ day hike. The hike is strenuous and high. The hike also overlooks the incredibly active Fuego Volcano and you camp and watch the volcano erupt all night! Tour companies offer it throughout the city but my suggestion is book through Tropicana Hostel. They have daily trips and you go with younger people and you’ll have a chance to meet fellow travelers.

 

Pacaya: This is an easy day trip which gets you back around 2/3 pm. The hike is relatively easy and you can even pay to ride a horse to the top. The area is absolutely beautiful and ends on the fields of old volcanic lava. The hike also has beautiful views of Fuego. The bonus of this trek is that you can roast marshmallows over the still hot lava!

Places to Eat

Antigua isn’t going to win any Michelin stars anytime soon, but the food is delicious, authentic and cheap! Splurging on a meal cost no more than 20-30$.

Café Sky: With the tallest building in Antigua Café Sky offers a third story balcony with actually really good authentic food for a good price. Even if the food wasn’t the most amazing, we would recommend it just for the view.

Café No Se: This touristy restaurant is catered to Expats. There are multiple restaurants within the Café and they are all great. The Illegal Mezcal bar is a great choice for a great drink and casual bar food.

Las Antorchas: Best atmosphere, this steakhouse is set in the courtyard of an old mansion in the heart of town. The food is great and for the price you can eat like a king. This is the place to treat yourself to an authentic Guatemalan steak or local dish.

 

Rincon Tipico: This place was delicious. For around $4-$5 you get a whole chicken and two sides at this Guatemala’s BBQ restaurant. Food is smoking in the courtyard while you eat, and the atmosphere is casual. Highly

 

Street Food: Unlike most Central America cities there weren’t too many options. But keep your eyes open because festivals appear in almost every square in this city year round.recommended.

Places to Drink

Make no mistake, Antigua is a party town! You will have no issues finding places to drink. Worth noting: Most places close at 12 or 1, sometimes even earlier.

 

Also, every Saturday in Antigua there is a rave in huge house 10-minutes from town in the emptied shell of a pool. The tarp is pulled over the top of the pool and the festivities go on until 6 am. There are beer trucks and food trucks and is relatively well known. However, be careful about how you get there and back and who you go with!

 

Café Estudio: While good coffee isn’t hard to find, this could have easily been the best coffee we've ever tasted. The place is so cool and authentic and is great for taking time off from walking the city’s cobblestone streets.

Las Vibras de la Casbah: This nightclub/bar is right under the famous arch. The bar gets hot but there is a nice patio and courtyard to cool off at. Get there early!

Lava: This mainly outdoor bar has plenty of room, air and drinks. It’s a great option if you don’t want to go to a club.

 

Reilly’s Irish Pub: The classic Irish pub with Spanish workers. This place is centrally located and gets busy.

 

Tabacos y Vinos: This wine bar is a more chill spot for a night out. Don’t be scared to splurge prices are still great!

 

Whickey Den and Coffee Bar: Need we say more? This is an easy spot to start your night off. They also had TV’s in case you needed to watch the big game back home.

There are tons of casual bars, clubs and cafes on every corner. The list is only a very rough start.

Places to Stay

Hostel Tropicana: This hostel complete with a pool, rooftop bar, inside bar and daily hikes is the place to go. Its very much a party hostel so if that’s not your vibe you can still visit for a drink or the hike.

 

Hotel Santo Domingo: This is the fancy hotel. The grounds are complete with a ruined church, old foundations, and underground museums. Even if you don’t stay here consider going in.

 

There are tons of hostels, hotels and boutique apartments for every travelers needs!

Transportation

Antigua is about an hour (sometimes more) away from Guatemala City airport. While fetching a cab from the airport is not hard I suggest using the service GuateGo. This service provides rides throughout the country in comfortable vans. Bonus, the staff texts you on what’s app when the driver is there and when you land so you are in constant communication. Extra Bonus, it was 12-15$, so its worth it for the comfort and safety.

 

Chicken Buses: Some Americans want to ride these packed, colorful and fast buses from town to town. It's an experience. You should be confident with your Spanish and comfortable with your possessions being strapped (loosely) to the top of a crowded school bus. 

 

Cabs: Generally safe, just be careful and know where you are going.

 

Vans and busses are offered throughout every city. You can’t miss all the tour companies.

While Antigua and the majority of Guatemala is very safe, you should still be careful walking around at night. The majority of the crime is in the city. 

General Tips

LAKE ATITLAN

 
 

The following cities are all around Lake Atitlan. This lake is easily one of the most beautiful places in the world. The north shore of the lake is defined by high cliffs with villages connected by a high hiking trail. The south end has two volcanoes that define the scenery of the lake. The west end is home to the famous Indian nose hike. Located around 2 and a half hours from Antigua the lake is truly the highlight of any trip to Guatemala.

PANAJECHEL

Things to Do

This is where most travelers will be dropped off from buses entering the lake area. The city is one of the largest on the lake and the commerce hub. You can get a boat shuttle anywhere else around the lake from here so it’s a great place to begin your trip.

 

 

Walk around/Craft Shops: Pana is home to lots of local crafts and vendors. This is anm excellent place for souvenirs.

 

There are guided tours of villages by buses, boats and kayaks offered here. Shop around and make sure you are getting a good deal.

 

Pana is not the most beautiful view of the lake but an excellent place to start or find a tour.

SANTA CRUZ LA LAGUNA

Things to Do

Santa Cruz is on of our  favorite cities ty in Atitlan. The lake front city is full of hotels and some restaurants while the upper town (20-minute hike) is home to the locals.

 

Hike the lakeside trail: From Santa Cruz you can hike around 20 minutes to the east and to the west there is a hiking trail that takes you all the way to the Western end of the lake at San Juan. The trail is very well maintained and felt safe. Once you go past the hotels and houses it is recommended to hike at least with one more person. The hike from Santa Cruz to San Marcos takes between 2 and 3 hours and offers beautiful views of the lake throughout. The hike crosses between local towns where you can get a glimpse of local life at the lake. Added bonus, kayak or take a boat ferry back!

Scuba Dive: La Iguana offers daily scuba trips to underwater hotels and the beautiful lake scenery underwater. Bring your PADI certification and explore.

 

Hike to the Upper city of Santa Cruz: The upper town or local area is a steep 20 minute walk uphill. The town has a great restaurant and great views of the lake.

 

Kayak: Kayak Guatemala Los Elementos Adventure Center offers great guided tours, hiking tours, kayak tours and hourly/daily kayak rentals. They made my trip SO EASY. I would highly suggest taking kayaks to San Marcos, stopping for cliff jumping on the lake and then the company will pick the kayaks up while you hike back to Santa Cruz. They make it so easy to enjoy your day.

 Café Sabor Cruceno: Don’t miss this place. Located in the upper town of Santa Cruz the restaurant employees locals and teaches younger kids how to cook in a Guatemalan style. The food is delicious but the balcony views make you never want to leave. Try a scenic lemonade. 

If you're staying at La Iguana, make sure you eat a dinner here!

Places to Eat

Places to Stay

La Iguana Perdida: This hotel/hostel offers beautiful sunset views, hammocks and a homey environment. They have a set dinner every night in a family style setting. Just sign up before lunch and you’ll be treated to a local dinner. The rooms are comfortable and you have all options from private rooms to large cabins.

 

Free Cerveza: This hotel with camping tents is the party location on the lake. The hostel has nightly drinking events and offers water activities. 

Lake Atitlan

Antigua

SAN MARCOS

Things to Do

This is the other city worth staying at. This city is known as the hippie and artsy center. You’ll find colorful graffiti, delicious restaurants and more places to stay. There are hostels and restaurants throughout the city.

 

The main attraction of San Marcos is the early morning sunrise hike to the Indian Nose view point.

 

Hike San Pedro Volcano or Atitlan Volcano: Of the two the San Pedro volcano is the better hike. The hike is high and steep. It is HIGHLY recommended to get a guide to hike either volcano as there are some reports of petty crime. If not make sure you get a group to hike together. The views from the Volcanoes are amazing so its definitely worth considering. The best places to get a guide are Pana, San Marcos and San Pedro La Laguna.    

  • White Instagram Icon
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Pinterest Icon
  • White YouTube Icon

©2018 by The Travelogue.