Finally getting a chance to explore the town, I spent much of the Easter weekend in Antigua.
Antigua is a beautiful colonial city founded in 1541. The place is far more popular a visit for travellers than the sprawling Guatemala City and although it is perhaps a little touristy, the place does have a lovely atmosphere.
The city is laid out on a grid system – as are most cities in Central America, and as there are actually road and avenue numbers here, which have been somewhat vacant in a lot of the towns I have previously visited, I found it pretty easy to navigate.
The centre of the city is the lovely Parque Central. Once again more a square than a park, I found the area a very relaxing and peaceful place to sit and write. Vendors dressed in colonial clothes often come up to sell, and indeed the city itself is very well equipped with beautiful markets and stores where you can purchase a wealth of stunning colonial materials.
The busy street of 5 Avenue Norte is well worth a saunter, leading under the arch of Santa Catalina to the church of La Merced. The Choco museo is about halfway up this street and is great if you love free samples like me!
Visiting in Semana Santa, the place was inevitably packed. The celebrations here are extraordinary – a full weekend of processions where floats depicting different parts of the Easter story are carried on shoulders throughout the town’s cobbled streets. A brass band and drums accompany the wealth of people marching and the smoky incense burners carried by some of the people in the procession add unquestionably to the atmosphere.
Furthermore, a live singer was present outside the cathedral as the Crucifixion procession passed. All in all, the celebrations were spectacular to see.
A very popular activity when coming to Antigua is to climb volcanoes, and a number of tours exist – some offering overnight stays on active volcanoes so that you can awake to watch the sun rise over clouds.
Alas, my funds do not stretch that far.
I did however find myself out drinking with Australians at one of the main night spots in the city Lucky Rabbit and also La Sala where the owner offered me a job as bar maid. Furthermore, I somehow managed to end up at La Piscina, which was advertised as a pool party, but was very different to what I imagined. About 15-20mins out of the city (we got a lift in the pick up truck of an American) we reached an abandoned pool which was empty of water. The DJ and the dance floor was literally in the empty pool basin. It was the most surreal experience as towering around you are the peaks of about 3 volcanoes – one of them even started spewing lava in the dark. It was six in the morning before everyone found their way back to the hostel, and by that time the sun had risen clearly over the volcano peaks. I would have never have imagined a night out like that…
Now it is on to Lake Atitlan!