Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Volcan Agua towers over a ruined 16th century church in Antigua.

For a truly international scene, you can always take the 3-hour ride east from Xela over to the small city of Antigua Guatemala (commonly known simply as Antigua), which is truly a tourist Mecca. Another popular Spanish language school destination, this city also draws a variety of sightseers and more upscale tourists, due to its treasure trove of 16th century churches, its sophisticated atmosphere, and its proximity to the capital. (It’s only a 40-minute ride from the airport.) Here you can find the Asian restaurants (ie Japanese, Thai) that we’ve been missing in Xela. They even have bagel shops where you can get lox while surfing the Internet on a free wireless connection! In many ways, Antigua hardly feels like a Central American city, especially compared to the rest of Guatemala. Nevertheless, it’s a nice place to escape for a few days.

Antigua (which translates to “ancient” in Spanish) used to be the nation’s capital until the city was almost completely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1773. (Earthquakes are a common theme throughout Guatemala’s history, as massive earthquakes have also devastated other cities from time to time - most recently Xela in 1902 and Guatemala City in 1917.) A number of impressive ancient churches from the original city of Antigua are still standing in various locations around the city, many of them crumbling ruins that function only as photo opportunities.

Surrounding the city are several large volcanoes, 2 of which are still somewhat active – Pacaya and Fuego. A hike to the top of either of these can give you a first-hand look at the raw power of Mother Nature, as molten rock and lava spew out of the cones.

The central plaza in Antigua.

The majestic church on the edge of the Parque Central.

The famous Arch of Santa Catalina.

An ancient crumbling church in Antigua.

Another beautiful Antigua church.

Domino's Pizza, wherever you need it...

For Christmas I want to be saved! (Rob in a gift shop in Antigua)

On to JAMTIGUA, the music festival we attended in Antigua