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A Few Hours in Antigua, Guatemala


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We were on the Norwegian Star and came into Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala on February 23, 2019. We bought the cruise excursion called ‘Antigua On Your Own’, which is basically just a 1.5-hour bus ride from the port to Antigua (and back). I will say we had an amazing guide on the bus, Edgar, who gave us some great information on Guatemala as we rode in. The name Guatemala comes from a native language and roughly means ‘Land of Trees’. 

 

When we got closer to Antigua, we switched from a large tour bus to smaller vans. This allowed them to take us into the central area, where the streets are much narrower. We got dropped off at ‘Jade Maya’, which is a jade factory, but thankfully no sales pitch! We were just given a map and a time to return to the same spot. So off we went to explore on our own! If you plan on going here on your own and are only visiting for a few hours, do a little research to find some sights you want to visit.

 

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The one and two story buildings here have huge wooden doors and ornate iron grills over the windows, many with plants set out. Most of the buildings have interior courtyards that aren’t visible from the street. We did glimpse the inside of ‘Hotel Eterna Primavera Antigua’ and asked to go in. It was a lush little paradise, full of plants and so pretty!

 

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If you have any reservations about walking around on your own or are concerned for your safety in Antigua… don’t be! We never once felt unsafe here and the street grid is fairly easy to navigate. Just use standard common sense, keep your belongings on you, and be aware. There are street vendors around and they can be a little persistent if you show interest but nothing too off-putting. Also something to note, the elevation here is much higher than sea level (5,000 feet). One person in our group (there were four of us on this trip) was on oxygen and she had to go a little slower because of it.

 

We walked the cobbled streets and uneven sidewalks to the Central Park (Plaza Mayor) and then turned up 5a Avenida Norte toward the Santa Catalina Arch. The street is full of people at times (part of it is a pedestrian street), just pop into any of the souvenir shops along here and the crowd will thin again. Normally there is a fantastic view of Volcán de Agua to the south, but the day we were there it was covered in clouds. Bummer! Also, look for the ‘mistake’ on the clock above the arch.  

 

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At the end of the street, Iglesia de la Merced (a church) is right there. We admired the façade (stunning) and went inside to look around. It’s worth a short visit. From here, we went across the little park in front of the church to a bar called ‘Tarritos’. The service was friendly, the food was good with large portions, and the beer was cold. Prices were not bad either. 

 

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With a little buzz, we slowly made our way back through the street grid to Central Park (Plaza Mayor). We rested here for a little bit. Vendors will try to sell you stuff. Be sure to check out the fountain! The buildings around here are beautiful as well.

 

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Then we returned to ‘Jade Maya’ by a slightly different route, just to see the streets. There are a few crumbling church facades that denote the fact that this was a colonial city and, at one point, the capital of Guatemala. 

 

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Overall, a beautiful city worth a visit!

 

 

Edited by Freyward_Cruiser
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  • 8 months later...
  • 3 months later...

Thank you Freyward cruiser,

really helpful. Can you tell me, please, what currency did you use in Guatemala? Also, what were the vendors selling? Any nice souvenirs, or just general tat? 
We are hoping to be there in 2022. Let’s hope cruising is back to normal then!

Thanks again, Libby

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  • 2 weeks later...

@Kristal Blade From my memory, we used US dollars but then we were given change in Guatemalan quetzals. I think US dollars are accepted here, because they do have cruise ships and tourism that comes in. We also used our credit cards when we could (in the restaurant). The vendors had everything you've seen in touristy locales. It all kind of depends what what you are searching for. My aunt and mother-in-law bought little toys, handheld fans, jewelry, and bags... We bought a nice tapestry/runner to put on top of our dresser at home. 

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9 hours ago, Freyward_Cruiser said:

@Kristal Blade From my memory, we used US dollars but then we were given change in Guatemalan quetzals. I think US dollars are accepted here, because they do have cruise ships and tourism that comes in. We also used our credit cards when we could (in the restaurant). The vendors had everything you've seen in touristy locales. It all kind of depends what what you are searching for. My aunt and mother-in-law bought little toys, handheld fans, jewelry, and bags... We bought a nice tapestry/runner to put on top of our dresser at home. 

Thank you very much.

We will take US dollars and hope for the best. We have a credit card with no additional charges for foreign currency transactions.

 

Always fun to take home a few foreign notes and coins as a holiday reminder! 
Thanks again

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