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Five days in Guatemala

On to country #2!

Plan A: Our original plan had been to fly to Panama City straight from Mexico, in order to spend some time with an old friend who’s been living there for several years. As we started looking into flights though we realized that this continent is huge and we should have planned better.

Plan B: Take a bus, which would take over 50 hours.

Plan C: Visit a couple other countries on the way down in order to break up the voyage.

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Country: Guatemala
City: Antigua
Time Zone: CST
Population: 39,368 (2016)

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Antigua Guatemala is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Antigua Guatemala serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It also serves as the departmental capital of Sacatepéquez Department.

Knowing pretty much nothing about Guatemala, we chose Antigua because TripAdvisor listed it as the #1 most popular travel destination in the country. We both enjoyed our time there, and actually hooked back up with some friends we met in Tulum, but overall, I didn’t feel like I left with a real connection to the country or the people. I guess some places will just resonate more than others.

Also, we broke our camera at the end of our Mexico City trip, and proceeded to kill it at a crappy camera shop in Antigua (lesson learned!), so we functioned off of Liz’s iPhone for Guatemala, Nicaragua and part of Panama.

What we Did

Antigua was the third capital of Guatemala. The first and second capitals were both moved as a result of powerful earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Unfortunately, Antigua would meet the same fate and the capital was moved to Guatemala City in 1775.

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The streets of modern-day Antigua remain Spanish colonial in style, but peppered throughout the city are the remains of buildings and churches, destroyed in the earthquakes that have taken place over the years. It’s a pretty interesting setting to walk around, which is most of what we did. The cobblestone streets are lined with colorful buildings, which make it a prime location for taking photos.

Friend Time!!

I definitely thought this trip was going to include more alone time, but it’s pretty awesome to realize you have friends everywhere – even if we’re making them along the way. When we arrived in Antigua, we found out that a few friends, who we’d met in Tulum were also in town, so we made sure to meet up with them.

Sean and Fiona are our Irish friends, and the only ones we’ve met who make Zak look tan
Our buddy Jacob from Workout the World.
Our buddy Jacob from Workout the World.

Pacaya Volcano

Pacaya is an active volcano, which originally erupted about 23,000 years ago. It rises to an elevation of 8,373 feet. After being dormant for over 100 years, it erupted violently in 1965, and has been active ever since. The last major eruption was in 2014. So let’s go walk on this thing, shall we.

Whatchu looking at dog?
Whatchu looking at dog?

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It was cool, but it was really f’ing hot, the altitude kicked my ass, and I didn’t even get to poke lava with a stick.

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What we Ate

Really delicious chicken burrito from Big Foot Hostel. Came with a margarita and a shot of tequila as part of happy hour. Surprise yum!
Really delicious chicken burrito from Big Foot Hostel. Came with a margarita and a shot of tequila as part of happy hour. Surprise yum!

Alright, I’m gonna be honest here. We didn’t fall in love with the food. I love rice, beans and chicken as much as the next guy – maybe more – but we found it to be under-seasoned and overcooked. There were a handful of spots that we’d read about and that were really good, but in general, we found ourselves cooking most of our meals. Can’t win ’em all.

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Father/daughter team at Cocina de Paula. Only 20 quetzales (about $3 USD) for a full meal of BBQ chicken, rice, beans, avocado, tortilla and juice.
Cocina de Paula
Cocina de Paula
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A great last meal in Antigua, at Rincon Tipico

Overall, I’m really glad we visited Guatemala, but I think the lesson we learned was that we need more time in a country, if we want to get a real sense of it.

From Guatemala, we boarded a bus, and two countries and 20 hours later, pulled into port in Managua, Nicaragua. We decided to start our trip with volcano boarding outside of Leon, followed by more friend time in Playa Gigante. We’ll post about that trip shortly.

Until then…