There is so much I loved about Antigua that it is really hard to put it all into one post. I only spent a week there, and I am pretty sure I only saw a 10th (if that!) of what Antigua has to offer.
As some of you are aware Antigua is considered a UNESCO heritage site, and is protected by this status. What does this mean exactly? That Antigua has outstanding universal value and meets one of the criteria set forth by the organization. Because of this status, I learned that locals have to have permits approved to do anything and I do mean anything to their home or business. For example something as basic as getting their home painted requires a permit. The permit is costly and difficult to obtain. I like to think of it as a governmental HOA. 😉
Personally, I found the city gorgeous. The ancient Spanish architecture was breath taking, and every morning as I walked to the bus stop I found myself wondering what the city looked like in the 1500s.
As you walk the cobblestone streets, it is not hard to believe how ancient the city is & especially not hard to believe why so many people visit and stay for extended periods of time. (I wish I could have stayed much much longer.)
Language schools are prevalent in Antigua, so if you are looking for a fantastic place to study language. Not only will you learn Spanish you can get an taste of culture and history. I didn’t study language there obviously, but I met a lot of students and every single one of them appeared happy with their decision to study there.
Safety: I must confess. I was BEYOND paranoid about traveling to Antigua. I knew I was going to get raped, mugged harassed… murdered. Part of me really thought the minute I got on that plane it was going to be goodbye to friends and family. No I am not kidding or exaggerating.
This irrational fear was due to me googling safety in Guatemala, and reading just about every single bad thing about the country to the point true paranoia kicked in.
I was NOT raped, mugged or murdered. I did get whistled at a few times, but that happens in the US. So in truth that didn’t bother me. I just kept my head down and kept walking. Every time it stopped, and I was never followed.
My biggest regret about this paranoia is that I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I would have liked. The city is beautiful and all I have are memories of some of the ruins.
I do however recommend you google safety and scams. There was a group of kids that did get mugged in Antigua, but they were out late, drunk AND they were flashing money & valuables. I mean hell if you do that in the wrong part of Dallas Texas the same thing will happen. So what am I saying? Be smart. Don’t be a statistic.
What I loved about Antigua?
The People: Hands down this was by far the best thing about Guatemala. Their people were warm, inviting and some of the friendliest I have ever met.
We walked everywhere. Ok I griped about this a lot. In fact I think I griped about it every day, and have since my return. In truth? It was refreshing to walk every where and just take the city in as a whole.
The food. I love beans, rice, fruit & veggies. So needless to say, this was a dream location for food. Everything was so fresh and thanks to the volcano rich soil very very tasty.
The architecture. Seriously where else can you go and see ancient ruins with a volcano back drop? This city is a photographers dream.
What I learned?
This city has altitude. It is about equal to Denver, and because of the physical exercise (I am not use to walking everywhere, I live in TX for crying out loud) I had a slightly tough time with the altitude.
There is an annual Holy Week Festival, that is supposed to be a sight to see. Someday, I will have to go back during this week to experience it. I gather it is a colorful, amazing event.
Fireworks. OK again I confess my first night in Antigua, I thought someone was getting murdered down the street. In fact, this is common in Latin America, as they like to use fireworks for birthday celebrations. I need to thank Jack for telling me this.
So yeah everyone I am telling you to take a chance, forget Mexico. Give Guatemala a chance, I promise you will NOT be disappointed.