Please welcome guest blogger and staff member Amanda Wirthlin to this corner of the internet. After living in Antigua, Guatemala for a few years she uncovered a few favorite haunts which Lonely Planet might not mention. Why not extend your Snapshot Tour a day or two and visit a few?
Having lived in Antigua for a couple of years, I was giddy with excitement to travel back to Guatemala, my second home, over the summer. This time was different though—I had joined the CoEd staff a few months earlier and this was my first chance to really get to know some of my co-workers and a whole bunch of marvelous CoEd supporters.
No better way to get to know the people you work with, right? I’m sure they grew tired of me saying things like “Can we stop in here really quick? This guy always sells the best mangos,” or “Hey, that’s the guy I was telling you about!” as a man on a motorcycle rides by with his dog balancing on the back seat like a pro. (True story. I’ve seen him on more than one occasion and it never becomes less amusing.) Such a strange and wonderful living experience—like any place, not without a few bumps in the road, but the streets are made of cobblestone, so what do you expect?
As I was thinking of all of the “can’t miss” places in Antigua, I tried to steer clear of dinner spots. Not to downplay the importance of food research—trust me, there are some amazing meals to be had in Antigua, but also some not-so-amazing, so look those up after you are finished here—but this is just no such list. I want to share with you a few things to do and see between meals…
1. Earth Lodge
Just a back-of-a-pickup ride away from town (or you can catch a taxi) is this serene location with breathtaking views of Antigua, nestled in between the volcanoes. This place is good if you are looking for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Antigua. Beautiful views and hammocks all around. Whether you are going to spend the afternoon, or decide to stay the night in one of their cabins—they also have a TREEHOUSE—Earth Lodge is one of my favorite places, hands down.
2. Tanque la Union
Everyone visits and knows Parque Central (Central Park), but just a couple of blocks away is this beaut. Though the park itself may not be all that impressive, it is bookended by two beautiful historic landmarks—the Santa Clara ruins and the public hospital, “Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro.” On one end of the park, you will also find the “pilas” (public wash bins used for laundry). This place is both beautiful and slightly off the beaten tourist track.
3. Porque No
Okay, I know I said no restaurants, but…I lied. I’m also a bit biased because I lived less than a block from here. When I ordered food to go, they would give it to me on an actual plate, and just say, “Just bring the plate back tomorrow.” If you go, you must do these three things:
- Make sure to order a michelada. It tastes kind of like a Bloody Mary, but with beer—which is strange, because I don’t actually like Bloody Marys.
- Make sure to ask for a marker to write something on the wall, table, or anywhere there is an open spot.
- Tell Carlos and Carolina I say hello!
4. La Parada
This little café has a half-price coffee happy hour on Monday mornings between 10 and 11am! More places should have coffee happy hours, in my opinion. Did you catch that? Coffee + Happy Hour Prices = Heaven. Even if you can’t stop in during happy hour, their coffee is still worth the detour. They are located right across from one of Antigua’s most well-known churches, La Merced, so if you are up on the north side of town, make sure to stop in.
5. Las Palmas
Now, there are definitely a number of places to go if you are looking to salsa dance, but this was one of my favorites. On most Friday nights, this is where you can find live music and a lot of the regular “salseros.” Whether or not you know how to salsa dance or just want to go and watch, this is one of the salsa hot spots around town—so be sure to check it out. Fair warning though, the dancing crowd doesn’t roll in until around 10 or 11pm, so make sure to get a nap in that day!
Chances are, if you have spent any time at all in Antigua, you have your own tips and hotspots. If you do, pass them along! Aaand now that I am overcome with a fresh wave of nostalgia, who’s ready to go to Antigua? We have plenty of space for you and your friends or family on the next Snapshot Tour. First round of micheladas at Porque No is on me!