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Two Days in Guatemala

Two Days in Guatemala

Old Mar 9, 19, 12:43 pm
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Two Days in Guatemala

A short trip down to Guatemala hiking volcanoes and walking the cobbled stone streets of Antigua.

Previous reports:
A Weekend in Austin, Texas

Exploring Ukraine - Kiev, Chernobyl Nuclear Powerplant and Pripyat

A Short Trip to Panama City, Panama

A Week in the Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan
and
Armenia

A Landscape Photography Trip to Oregon

A Trip to Nigeria

A Trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona

A Trip to the Azores.

One Week in India: Mumbai, Amritsar, Agra/Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Delhi CX and EY J

A Snowstorm in Tokyo and Volcanoes in the Philippines

New Year’s in Seoul, South Korea Delta A350 Suite

Keeping it Domestic: Grand Teton National Park

9 Days in Asia: Taipei, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Shanghai

Two Weeks in South Africa and Namibia: Joburg, Cape Town, Sossusvlei and Kruger

¡Bienvenido a Cuba!
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Old Mar 9, 19, 12:43 pm
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Guatemala had long been on my list of places to visit, and being so close to Florida, you would think it wouldn't have taken me so many years to cross off. The issue was that Guatemala required at least two full days. With the Delta flights timed the way they are, it would require a 3 day weekend for me to visit. Every time one of those weekends arose, I would end up in Europe or deep South America. Well, Europe and South America were all full so it was time for Guatemala over MLK weekend.



Day 1



Like every trip it seems, the trip started with an early release from work and straight to the airport to head up to Atlanta.



The Boeing 757-200 taking us down to Guatemala City this evening.



After an uneventful 4 hour flight in Comfort +, welcome to Guatemala City! At this point, it was roughly 10PM, so we requested the Uber to take us out to Antigua.



We ended up making the drive in just under an hour considering the lack of traffic at that time of the night. ***Remember this*** <foreshadowing>



We checked into the Hotel Casa Cristina just before 11:00PM local time. Not bad for ~$25 USD/night. No AC needed as temperatures were rather comfortable overnight due to Antigua's elevation.




Day 2



Hotel Casa Cristina the next morning. The property was located very centrally and down a very quiet side street.



I had planned on waking up for sunrise, but when my alarm went off I checked out the weather and saw completely overcast clouds. Back to bed... Luckily the clouds had all cleared out by about 9:00AM. Stunning view from our hotel's roof.



The plan for today was to walk around and just explore some of the sights of Antigua before our 1PM pickup for our sunset volcano hike. We started off with a short five-minute walk to the Santa Catalina Arch. If you've ever seen a picture of Antigua, it was probably of this arch. Unfortunately, our schedule didn't afford me any good picture opportunities of the arch, so I'll just have to live with this midday backlit photo.



Some of the buildings in Antigua reminded me a bit of Havana with their level of decay and historic appearance.



A coffee to keep me awake.



Before it got too hot, we decided to hike to the top of Cerro de la Cruz, which took a short 10-minutes.



Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) offers a great view of Antigua. The landscape is dominated by Volcán de Agua, towering 12,340 feet above sea level. It hasn't erupted for tens of thousands of years, but that's not the case for other nearby volcanoes.



Where 'Cerro de la Cruz' gets its name. Antigua, the entire city, has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Chicken Busses are popular throughout Latin America, including Guatemala. Having started life off as a school bus in the US, many have made their way down here to be decorated and operated throughout the region.



Chicken bus.



Rincón Típico became a quick favorite for us in Antigua for cheap and delicious Guatemalan food.



A plate of wood fire grilled chicken, a salad, potatoes and a Coke running ~$3 USD.



Motorbikes.



At least this place has a sense of humor.



The next stop was Antigua's largest market. Outside there are mostly souvenir stores, but inside seems to cater completely to locals.



Inside the market.



Dried chilis.



A busy market.



Vegetables.



Meat.



Fish.



Vegetables.



After an hour or so in this van, we arrived at the trailhead for our sunset volcano hike. The weather was looking pretty abysmal at this point, but the guide assured us it would clear up at the top.



We were a group of 15. Roughly 3-4 sprung for the horses to walk them up the mountain initially.



The hike up wouldn't have been too strenuous at sea level, but at ~9K feet ASL, it gets to you. The hike took about 90 minutes to complete. About half the participants were on a horse half way up.



Still cloudy but at least the sun is visible.



Finally! I'm proud I made it and oh, what a view.



Volcanoes were visible in all directions.



After a few minutes at the summit, we headed down into the lava rock field.



A little gimmicky but still cool to be able to roast marshmallows in the ground.



They were more cooked than they look.



Not paying attention, I ended up having to sprint back to the top to get the sunset pictures I wanted of the volcanoes. This was the sun just prior to me reaching the top.



Volcán de Pacaya is the dominating volcano in view from here and has been constantly erupting since the 1960s.



We were told that active lava flow is only visible about 50% of the time. It was quite mesmerizing, especially considering we were close enough to hear it.



Looking back the other way, (right) Volcán de Agua is the one most visible from Antigua. Volcán de Fuego (left - smoking) recently erupted in June 2018, killing at least 190 people, making it Guatemala's deadliest eruption since 1929. Ashfall caused the Guatemala City La Aurora International Airport to be closed for 2 days. A reminder of just how powerful these things are.



After a tiring hike and a one hour ride back into town, it was time for dinner. We started off with some chorizo queso.



Not as cheap as lunch, but still, an excellent burrito.




Day 3



Another cloudy sunrise meant we finally got out of the room around 10AM. On the way to brunch, this small shop caught my eye.



Brunch



Cobbled stone streets of Antigua. The plan for the day was to walk around and hit the main attractions and explore.



New and old.



We took a 20-minute Uber ride to San Juan del Obispo, south of Antigua, to get some in-house made chocolate.



The establishment was small, but they were informative and the chocolate was excellent.


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Old Mar 9, 19, 12:44 pm
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Great quality and affordable chocolate.



Streets of San Juan del Obispo.



Color.



Quick pork sausage sandwich lunch back in Antigua.



Iglesia de La Merced, a baroque church built in 1767.



Iglesia de La Merced.



Inglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas. Ruins of an 18th-century nunnery.



Inside the nunnery.



Walking around the top floors of the nunnery.



A colorful wall.



The volcano covered in clouds the entire day.



Stop.



The Church of San Francisco, destroyed numerous times by earthquakes. The church in its current form was reconstructed in 1961.



Nice gardens on the church grounds.



Gardens.



Catedral de San Jose.



An oddly shaped plant.



San Jose el Viejo, built in 1680.



The Captain General Palace, the seat of the government during the Kingdom of Guatemala days when Guatemala was an administrative division of the Spanish empire.



The Antigua Guatemala Cathedral, first built in 1541.



Antigua.



After a long day, the hotel recommended this place for some cheap tacos.



Not bad for a couple of dollars.





Day 4



Yes, I know the title says two days. It was two full days IN Antigua, more like 3.5 including travel time/shorter days, etc. Anyway, our flight back to Atlanta departed at 9AM. In order to make it there in time to relax in the lounge, we decided to leave at 5:30AM. That should've put our arrival time around 7:00AM (remember this short drive from earlier?) Well, something had occurred (we still don't know what, but possibly a public bus bombing) and traffic was an absolute nightmare. Instead of arriving at 7:00AM, we rolled up to the airport at 9:15AM. Luckily being standby, we were able to just go on the later flight to ATL but that meant sitting around for ~6 more hours. We could've gone into town for lunch or something, but being frustrated, we just hung out in the lounge instead.





I didn't take any more pictures at this point, but the flights were uneventful, Instead of arriving in Tampa at 3PM, I got in closer to midnight. Sometimes that just happens. Either way, this was a fantastic couple of days in Guatemala and visiting here really makes me want to visit the other surrounding countries in Latin America.

Next: Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia (with a splash of Bangkok)
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Old Mar 9, 19, 4:43 pm
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Great pictures and clear weather! I went in April 2010 and did the volcano hike but we were in rain/mist at the summit and couldn't see anything! I rode the horse up and there was a lightning strike a few hundred yards off the trail and spooked my horse.
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Old Mar 10, 19, 1:18 am
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The volcano trek looks pretty cool, some amazing views of the lava. Can't go wrong with roasted marshmallows too

We were driving to Copán after Antigua and even though it was a Saturday we had to leave at 5am sharp to beat the city traffic!
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Old Mar 10, 19, 3:19 am
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Sweet TR, Really enjoyed it and has made me think of adding Guatemala on my list.

How was communication there? I speak Spanish...but need practice.
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Old Mar 10, 19, 10:14 am
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awesome TR - makes me want to add it to my bucket list - Cambodia and BKK i have done - SR is amazing - allow plenty of time for all the temples - including the outlying ones -
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Old Mar 11, 19, 10:29 am
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Again, a great read from you with some amazing photos!!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

Luckily being standby, we were able to just go on the later flight to ATL but that meant sitting around for ~6 more hours. We could've gone into town for lunch or something, but being frustrated, we just hung out in the lounge instead.
At least a positive result of flying standby, I have a friend who had to try get out of JNB for four days, before she could leave!!!!!
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Old Mar 11, 19, 11:12 am
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Doubt there was a bus bombing in GUA, although it's violent it's not that violent.

I was there when Volcan del Fuego erupted in 2018. I had flown in our 182. We were allowed to depart a day later while the jets were grounded. Pretty memorable.
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Old Mar 11, 19, 11:50 am
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Originally Posted by hauteboy View Post
Great pictures and clear weather! I went in April 2010 and did the volcano hike but we were in rain/mist at the summit and couldn't see anything! I rode the horse up and there was a lightning strike a few hundred yards off the trail and spooked my horse.
Thanks! I kept putting off this trip this summer hoping that if I went in the fall, it wouldn't be raining. I can't imagine hiking that in the rain like that, must've been terribly muddy. Hopefully you weren't hurt when the horse spooked, I was behind one that slipped or stepped on something wrong and fell over, but no one was on it.

Originally Posted by DanielW View Post
The volcano trek looks pretty cool, some amazing views of the lava. Can't go wrong with roasted marshmallows too

We were driving to Copán after Antigua and even though it was a Saturday we had to leave at 5am sharp to beat the city traffic!
The trek was indeed fantastic! How did you like Copan? I've heard great things from a co-worker from Guatemala and my limited research online. Just didn't fit into the schedule this time.

Originally Posted by CRNA View Post
Sweet TR, Really enjoyed it and has made me think of adding Guatemala on my list.

How was communication there? I speak Spanish...but need practice.
Communication was easy. I took 5 years of Spanish in high school (roughly 6 years ago, no practice since) and I got by just fine. Antigua is heavily trafficked by tourists, so you'll be fine. Never let language hold you back, sometimes that's part of the adventure!
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Old Mar 11, 19, 11:56 am
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Originally Posted by adampenrith View Post
awesome TR - makes me want to add it to my bucket list - Cambodia and BKK i have done - SR is amazing - allow plenty of time for all the temples - including the outlying ones -
Thanks! I actually had mixed feelings with SR, mainly due to how busy and commercialized it was. It probably didn't help that I was coming off of a week in Myanmar and Laos where things are far less developed. Still very cool to see though.

Originally Posted by roadwarrier View Post
Again, a great read from you with some amazing photos!!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

At least a positive result of flying standby, I have a friend who had to try get out of JNB for four days, before she could leave!!!!!
Thanks again! Indeed, flying standby does have its perks sometimes. GUA is one of the few Central American (not counting Mexico) stations that have more than one daily DL flight, so we lucked out in that regard. Also, I NEVER fly out of JNB on DL lol. Just too stressful and the chances of not getting on for payload optimization are just too high. Last time in JNB, I tried DL, didn't get on and ended up on VS to LHR. For my trip coming up in May I have a flight booked on SQ to SIN, so no stress.

Originally Posted by Redwood839 View Post
Doubt there was a bus bombing in GUA, although it's violent it's not that violent.

I was there when Volcan del Fuego erupted in 2018. I had flown in our 182. We were allowed to depart a day later while the jets were grounded. Pretty memorable.
6 killed in Guatemalan Bus Bombing
Not saying it was the direct cause, but it was the only news article we could find online that day. The driver said it wasn't normal, so figured something had to have happened. I definitely am not trying to paint GUA as dangerous, mainly due to me never having spent any actual time in the city (other than in traffic), but I generally find danger greatly overblown when traveling.

I can imagine that's a memory you'll carry on for a very long time. Very sad what happened, but at least they were able to get the airport opened quickly to get aid in.
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Old Mar 11, 19, 8:34 pm
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Great report and photos. My best friend lived in Antigua for several years and I unfortunately never made it down to visit him there. Looks like you had a great time! Sorry about to hear about your trip home, but as you said, those things can happen sometimes.
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Old Mar 12, 19, 12:14 am
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Originally Posted by ChiefNWA View Post
The trek was indeed fantastic! How did you like Copan? I've heard great things from a co-worker from Guatemala and my limited research online. Just didn't fit into the schedule this time.
I really liked Copan. We were there for only 24 hours but was probably enough. If you have seen plenty of Mayan temples before it may not be too spectacular but I really enjoyed it, especially with all the beautiful macaws flying around.







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Old Mar 12, 19, 12:44 am
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This may have been the bombing, luckily no one killed, some missing fingers for the bomber though .

https://www.efe.com/efe/english/life...000263-3874090
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Old Mar 16, 19, 5:58 am
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what a wonderful trip..... its looks wonderful
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