A day in Antigua

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A day in Antigua

If you’re anything like me, when you first land at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala, (regardless if you speak Spanish or not) it will definitely be a little overwhelming. Once you grab your bags and head outside to get a taxi or shuttle, the chaos begins. It seems as though there are about a million people outside those sliding glass doors, waiting just for you. After you find your ride, and feel extremely guilty about not having any cash to tip the man that semi- forced you into taking your bags to the car, the chaos subsides and you are finally on your way to Antigua! Almost any time of the day, there will be tons of traffic. You’ll probably doze off for a bit, but you’ll know you have arrived when you feel your bottom and top row of teeth clanking together, due to the wonderful cobblestone streets of Antigua. You will arrive to your hostel, and guaranteed the car that delivers you will block the entire street. But, you will not hear a single honk. That’s one thing about the people of Antigua you’ll soon realize. They are a different breed, and they move at a different pace.

Once you have settled into your hostel, it’s time to hit the streets. And boy, does Antigua have a lot to offer! I love walking down the streets here. The sidewalks are tiny, and there are SO many cars. It really makes you wonder why more people don’t walk. It probably takes double, maybe even triple the time to drive in this city than simply walking. While exploring the streets here in Antigua you will see a great mix of things. You will find yourself noticing fast food joints, and transients, as well as the most beautiful tiny women carrying huge baskets on their heads walking along with their very young daughters. Oh, and plenty of very cute street dogs. You’ll be ready to call your airline to figure out how to take them ALL home!

Even though as stated beforehand, that Antigua moves at a slower pace than most places, there is still so much to do, eat and see here! I encourage at least one day where you simply walk up and down each and every street. It won’t take you but a couple of hours! There are so many cute family owned shops selling little nick nacks, and small bakeries enticing you to buy fresh bread and delicious pastries. Why not? They are so inexpensive, at just a couple of bucks each, and delicious.

One place you cannot miss is the local mercado (market). Here, you will find anything your heart desires. Stalls are filled with Guatemalans chowing down on traditional food like noodle tostadas and soups that smell so amazing you won’t be able to resist. Among the thousands of people, you will come across dozens of stands selling the freshest fruit, and the most amazing smelling flowers. But my most favorite part about the mercado is the Paca. The Paca is like the biggest, best thrift store you’ve ever seen. The stalls have tables piled high with gently used clothing and shoes galore. Don’t get me wrong, it IS definitely hard work to find a gem, but so, so worth it. You will feel accomplished once you finally find the second Betsy Johnson shoe and then pay only a couple of dollars for the pair. You’ll find yourself leaving the mercado with a full belly, a big bag of fruit, veggies, clothes, as well as a new-found disdain for your local flea market because it has nothing on the size or treasures within this market in Antigua.

Though the traditional food is to die for, my personal favorite restaurant in Antigua doesn’t serve Guatemalan food. The name is Toko Baru and they serve the most amazing, delicious Indian food. The place is tiny with only 4 or 5 tables, so you may have to wait a bit, but I assure you it is worth every moment. Once seated, with a great view of the small open kitchen, you will find on the menu homemade falafel, curries, and shawarma at an extremely low price. You can’t go wrong with anything you order, and a big bonus is most items can come in a half portion. Within seconds there will be three sauces on your table, and before you know it, you’ll be pouring drops on your fingers to taste them. When you taste them, you’ll know you did yourself a huge favor by waiting to dine here. Service is great, and you will not be disappointed with your choice.

After dinner, the party is only a doors down to your right. Cafe No Se is definitely a hot spot every evening. This cafe serves up a wide variety of mezcal, and you can’t beat the vibe here. The lights are (very) low, it’s a bit snug and there is usually some great music in spanish playing. You are sure to have a great, boozy evening. If you don’t have plans to hike Volcano Acatenago the next day, (an experience you don’t want to miss!) you may even end up at Las Vibras de la Casbah, which holds a candle to some of the most popular clubs around the world.

You’ll most likely regret your decision to drink all night when you wake up with a pounding headache and a hangover from hell. But not to worry, there is a cure. All you have to do is head to Acai by Juanjo y Elena and they will get you right. Delicious acai bowls, smoothies, and vegan waffles await. The young couple will be there managing the little restaurant, spreading positive vibes, and always wanting to get to know their customers.

If you’re smart, you’ll hitch a very inexpensive ride to Lake Atitlan where you can relax and drink beer while all of your worries drift away!

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“A day in Antigua” was written by Jillian Salazar

Jillian Salazar is an avid traveler from Colorado, USA. She studied abroad in Madrid, Spain and discovered that being on the road long term was definitely for her. In early 2017, she dropped everything, left Denver, and has now been traveling consistently for about a year and a half. Her goal is to show at risk youth, that traveling is an option regardless of where you come from. In October, she will be embarking on her biggest adventure to date- The 500 mile Camino de Santiago. You are welcomed to follow her travels on her personal blog @ ajillianmiles.com.

Isaiah McGregory