It is accessed by road from Ciudad de Guatemala. The road has curves, but it is in good condition. The journey takes less than an hour.
I had a special desire with Guatemala. My mother and my grandparents had always spoken to me very well. They are my references in travel issues. We have similar tastes and they recommended me this country with such emphasis, I was aroused by an important curiosity.
I had the fortune to visit it with a Guatemalan family who welcomed and took care of me. I lived in their house for two weeks. I made daily life with them in Ciudad de Guatemala and they also took me to Antigua, Tikal, Yatxa, Flores, Atitlan and Chichicastenango. It was a wonderful trip and I am delighted to start the publications of this country with Antigua.
The first thing we did just to get to Antigua was to go to the "Casa Santo Domingo" hotel to check in and leave our bags. It is not economical; but it is so special! It is an old convent restored. In the seventeenth century the Convent of Santo Domingo was one of the largest in America; but in 1773 the Santa Marta earthquake destroyed practically everything. I was amazed when they explained to me that the recovery of the Convent and the Temple was not carried out until 1989... relatively recently! I loved the hotel in general, but if I have to choose something, I choose the exteriors. The gardens are lush. The wooden and stone arcades have a captivating charm. Wherever you look, everything is very clean and tidy. The most impressive part is the Temple; half restored, half shattered. Great!
Antigua is small. I recommend walk it. The city is alive. Something happens in every corner and the cool thing is not to miss anything. Walking there is the only way to live and see. The houses are on one floor and most of them are painted in colors. Everyone tries to sell something. There are those who do it in small shops and there are those who improvise the stop in the middle of the street. The main point is sell.
Walking was how we discovered the "Bistrot Cinq". It is a cozy and quiet restaurant. They are very friendly and I ate quite well: burrata with assorted tomatoes and a sole with spinach and delicious lemon sauce. It was a good place to recover strength to keep walking.
Very close is the confectionery "Doña María Gordillo". It has more than 100 years of history and the most typical is to buy in it "canillitas". Just to see the store, it is already worth the visit. It seems time has stopped there.
A must is the Parque Central (Plaza Mayor). It is the real center of the city. This is where everything happends and where are the Town Hall, the old Cathedral, the Palace of the General Captains and a few coffee shops full of people. Except for a couple of tourists who were resting on a bench in the middle of the square, the rest are local people transporting products.
From the same square, you have to take 5th Avenue North to reach the well-known Santa Catalina Arch. Date of 1600 and it is one of the most photographed places in Guatemala. The truth is that the cobblestone street with the small colored houses and the impeccably painted yellow arch, gives it a character that likes everybody. One of the things that surprised me the most is that everyone moves (nobody is still), but I didn't breathe stress. The movements are slow.
From Guatemala I have a memory that I will never forget. Here I saw my first (and so far, only) active volcano. The Volcán de Fuego gave me a day of fantastic images (the rest of the days it went back to sleep). It was the fourth eruption of the year (previously left hundreds dead) and only caused a huge ash column. Luckily I was in the distance, because it impresses quite a lot. I'm happy because I could see it; but at the same time they canceled a trekking that I had planned for the same volcano... I will have to go back! ;-)
The Convento de las Capuchinas, originally called "Convento e Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza" date of the eighteenth century and has a special charm. It is small and it is placed in a corner. It is worth entering and making the complete visit. It is beautiful. It has a rustic character that gives it a special charm. The best is the cloister, which must be visited from lower and upper level.
The next stop is one I liked the most: El Carmen. It is a catholic church that was destroyed during the earthquake of Santa Marta; but the facade was in good condition and since then it has always been admired. Beside it, on Sundays they open the Mercado de Artesanías El Carmen. I loved it. I bought a sweater, some slippers and a manger. All handmade.
No one can miss the cakes and milkshakes of the "Café Condesa" in the Plaza Mayor. I drank a giant fresh strawberry milkshake that was so good.
I didn't have it located on the map and I didn't even know it existed; but thanks to my friends I met the church of La Merced. Imposes. It is large and impeccably maintained. The main facade is beautiful. It is painted yellow and white; which gives it a very authentic colonial soul. I could not enter because (it happens to me often) I found it closed. Date of 1767, it is of ultrabaroque Guatemalan style and has two bell towers.
I could not leave Antigua without visiting the "Posada del Angel". It was the hotel where my grandparents and my mother stayed in 1998. It is a 7 room boutique hotel. Small and cute at the same time. Very rustic and impeccable. I went to slap and they were excited when I explained the story.
The last visit was to the "Convento de Santa Clara". It started with 5 nuns and a novice; but, step by step, they were increasing. It was here that the Clarisas were installed for years. The San Miguel earthquake of 1717 shattered the roof of the convent. The nuns had to go out during the 26 years that the repairs lasted. In 1734 the new convent was inaugurated; but with the later earthquakes (1773 and 1874) the convent was completely ruined and so it continues today. The story struck me.
In 1979 UNESCO declared the colonial city of Antigua, Cultural Heritage of Humanity and it does not surprise me. It is beautiful and has a special charm.
A good guide: Guatemala 7 (Guías de País Lonely Planet)
A weekend is enough to see the city.
If you want trekking on a volcano, I recommend taking another day.