• Laura Bachmann

3 Epic Days in La Antigua

A visit to Guatemala would not be the same without stopping in at the country’s old capital city and first planned city in the Americas. Founded in 1542, Antigua was structured on a rigid grid pattern, and is easily recognized by its cobblestone streets. In 1979, Antigua Guatemala became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered a cultural gem in Central America because of its vibrant culture, historical significance, and rare beauty.

Panza Verde, or green belly was the name given to those that remained in Antigua after the capital was moved to Guatemala City due to the constant tremors and damaging earthquakes in September and December of 1773. It is said that the people received this name because of their reliance on avocadoes for a food source after the damage to the city from earthquakes. In addition to the city’s amazing avocadoes, unique cobblestone streets, and deep-rooted history, Antigua has so much to offer to visitors. Whether you’re searching for adventure, relaxation, or discovery, you’ve come to the right spot.

Day 1

Less than an hour outside of Guatemala City, Antigua takes you back to another place in time. The nearly 500-year-old city is cradled by three volcanoes and accented with colorful facades of 16th century mansions, churches and convents. La Antigua offers an array of restaurants, boutiques and venues with live music and dancing. The city adorned with several must-see landmarks and historical gems boasts some of Guatemala's best sight-seeing adventures with stops like Santa Catalina Arch; Volcán de Agua; Volcán de Fuego; San Francisco church and ruins; Santo Domingo ruins; La Merced church and ruins; and of course Antigua’s weekly market days.

Start your first day with a walking tour of the city and experience the harmonic combination of past and present. Visit ancient buildings that once were convents, monasteries, and churches. This will be the most beautiful introduction to the Guatemalan lifestyle, tradition and culture.

In fact, in Antigua you have the opportunity to stay in what was once the largest convent in America. After being buried under tons of rubble from the Earthquake of Santa Marta, Casa Santo Domingo rescued the vestiges of the Convent and Temple turning it into a luxury hotel and museum for visitors to enjoy.

Finish the day with a traditional cooking class. Guatemala, and especially Antigua, boasts amazing traditional food offerings. Enjoy the authentic tastes and flavors of Guatemala’s food culture. Depart on a journey of gastronomy and learn how to prepare and cook the country’s local cuisine, while discovering the unique history and influence behind the local creations. With a distinctive harmony of Mayan and Spanish influence, the mixture of ingredients, spices, and foods, create an unusual fusion that only Guatemala can produce. Receive instruction from local culinary experts to recreate these delights from your own home.

Day 2

Immerse yourself in the diversity of local Antigua culture by visiting the city’s local villages. Enjoy hands-on experiences visiting the places where Guatemala's special treasures are cultivated and created. Each of these municipality villages just outside of Antigua possess unique offerings exclusive to their village.

For instance, Pastores is known as “the go–to place in Guatemala for handmade boots” (Cross, Kit, Revuemag.com, 2017). Take a couple hours to experience a leather workshop and shop the amazing inimitable styles you won’t find anywhere else.

Have a sweet tooth? Enjoy a chocolate workshop in San Juan del Obispo. The artisanal workshop teaches each guest the process "from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar". The workshop is approximately 2 hours and you learn the individual steps of the creation of the chocolate bar, from the very beginning of the cacao harvest from the plantation to the end resulting chocolate bar. You will start by roasting and peeling the cacao beans, and then grind the beans into a paste. The cacao paste is then used to prepare the traditional chocolate, (also known as Mayan Chocolate), the first known drink made from cacao. To finish your workshop, you will prepare your own chocolate to take home from the refined chocolate.

Need a quick pick me up? Ciudad Vieja offers a coffee workshop where you will experience a day in the life of a farmer. Atop Volcán Agua you will see the coffee fields, and be invited into the farmer's house to learn about and utilize the machinery used to process coffee. But the best part of all comes at the end when you get to roast coffee in the traditional Guatemalan way, over the fire, and share a fresh cup of coffee with the farmer and their family.

Another traditional opportunity is found at San Antonio Aguas Calientes. Situated at 1,577 meters elevation above sea level, the people in San Antonio Aguas Calientes cultivate corn, beans, vegetables, and coffee. But a vital part of this small community is their famous weaving products. With approximately 8,632 inhabitants, 52% of the population are women, with 80% of them still weaving their customary wear, thanks to the tradition past down from their mothers. Join these women for the unforgettable experience of a weaving workshop. The tour's splendors include the back strap loom, textile creation, and the ancient process of natural cotton threads and natural dye. This process has almost become a dead tradition, but the women in this village allow you to discover this ancient tradition and also give you the opportunity to participate.​

Day 3

Embark on an experience distinctive to Guatemala. Guatemala's vibrant and colorful market days have been celebrated for more than 4,000 years. Markets are the best opportunities to experience Guatemala's rich traditional Mayan culture in one location, each hosting splendid examples of traditional textiles, handicrafts, and an assortment of unique food. However, each market area hosts its own unique specialty. Antigua’s Market fills the streets with an assortment of aromatic spices, herbs, and alternative and natural medicines in addition to the typical market offerings.

Make sure to begin your tour walking through the parking lot full of Chicken Buses as they drop off those that are bringing their goods to sell and trade, it is a truly unique experience.

Alternate Day 3

Not in Antigua during a market day? Not to worry, there’s plenty more to do. Enjoy an off road experience on ATV’s around Antigua’s mountains; visit 17th century farms, coffee plantations, and fields full of corn, vegetables, and flowers. Experience one of the best views of the valley on your excursion off-the-beaten path. Or enjoy a Scenic Bike Tour of Antigua. Experience daily life of Antigua while cycling down the cobblestone streets.

Looking for more adventure? Jump above the trees and enjoy the adrenaline of a Canopy Tour. Experience a series of platforms upon the trees for wild life observation linked by horizontal double zip lines from one tree to another inside the Finca Filidelfia Estate.

Ready to discover more about the Maya? Take part in a Mayan Ceremony. The Mayan Ceremony is one of the best ways build an understanding of the cosmology and life vision of the Mayas. You will discover the process and the meaning of each detail of the ceremony and learn the meanings behind the beliefs. Aj’quij’= the spiritual guide, has the honor of being the intermediary between the cultures. Guests can participate in the process by throwing candles or saying a pray. The main interest of the ceremony is to share Guatemala’s customs and the Aj’quij’ will always make the Ceremony in a way to show their thanks.

Ready to embark on 3 Epic Days in La Antigua?

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