Guatemala Travel
March 4, 2005 6:38 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are planning a vacation to Antigua, Guatemala in April. Any tips on things to do or see, places to stay, etc?

We are hoping to attend a Spanish language school in the mornings, and maybe take day trips in the afternoon. I would like to go to Lake Atitlan, but we are a little bit worried about safety on some of the less traveled back roads.
posted by alball to Travel & Transportation around Antigua, Guatemala (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I spent a day or so in Antigua a few years ago, and a few more days in Panajachel, on Atitlan. Lemme get in touch with my travel partner (an ex-girlfriend who was raised in those areas), and I'll get back to you with some details.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:01 AM on March 4, 2005

I was coming in here to recommend Panajachel as well. You can take a shuttle bus there from Antigua, and, while nowhere is completely safe, this is a well-travelled tourist route and should be no problem.

Also, I highly recommend the Mayan ruins atTikal. It's an incredibly beautiful place and the history behind it is fascinating. You'll want to fly there and back because it's a long drive, and is in the middle of the jungle.
posted by hazyjane at 7:35 AM on March 4, 2005

My experiences there were 20 years ago, but my God what a gorgeous part of the world. Climb one of the volcanoes near the town for sure. Lake Atitlan is nice if touristy, you used to be able to take a boat across to some less-visited villages. I loved Chichicastenango, but I hit it for the big celebration of All Saints and All Souls days in the fall.

Do you have time to hit Tikal? It is a long way over rough roads, but you used to be able to fly there out of Guatemala City pretty cheap. For more info go to the discussion boards (labeled "The Thorn Tree" for some Aussie reason) and ask there.
posted by LarryC at 7:39 AM on March 4, 2005

I third Tikal, and splurge for the plane. The bus is a brutal trip, guaranteed to atomize your kidneys.

As soon as you get to Antigua, you must go to Doña Luisa's, first of all they have great breakfasts and possibly the world's best coffee (it helps if you're a morning person- one of the greatest gustatory memories I have is having a cup of coffee and huevos rancheros on a chilly morning. Sigh.)- anyway there is a bulletin board for travelers there. where you can hook up with people to travel, get info, ask questions, etc.
posted by jeremias at 9:51 AM on March 4, 2005

My wife and I spent two weeks in guate a while ago and tripped all over the place. I would definitley recommend lago atitlan, but blow through pana and get straight on a boat. Santiago de Atitlan is amazing and 100x better than Pana. Pana reminds me of a dusty border town. Too expensive, too commercial, too much hawking, not enough real town. Santiago also has a really inspiring history.

E-mail me (prettyboyfloyd at gmail dot com) if you want pics, we took about a million.

Will you be there during holy week? if you can hit both a parade in antigua and santiago you will have beautiful memories forever. The holy week celebration in santiago is really unique, and the good friday(right day?) battle between maximon/san judas and jesus IS NOT to be missed.

I wish I were going.
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2005

My parents have done Spanish school in Antigua a few times and love it. Here's what my Mom had to say:

"The school is La Union. Highly recommended by us! I read the site and I agree with a lot of the recommendations. Tell him that if they go to the lake they need to stay at Casa del Mundo for sure. Watch your bags like a hawk, don't have a wallet in pocket, and carry no purse. If he gets the Lonely Planet book on Guat he's set."
posted by jacobsee at 2:04 PM on March 4, 2005

Buy lots and lots of textiles. And buy from the weavers if you can, so they get every penny of it.
posted by luriete at 2:18 PM on March 4, 2005

Best answer: OK, here's what I got:
Unfortunately I don't have much to tell your friend about where to stay, given that of course I always stay with my family! I think the things to see in Antigua are pretty straightforward -- the ruins, the plaza, I'd certainly suggest he spend some time exploring the big market there, etc. And Panajachel is pretty touristy, so if he is the type to be turned off by that than he may want to see what he can find in some of the smaller towns around the lake to visit or stay in. I'd check out the Lonely Planet guidebooks -- I found them great on other trips I have been on, though I haven't seen the one for Guate. I think that they would provide good guidance overall on issues of safety and interesting opportunities.

Re travelling.. again, little personal experience there. But I think I would recommend that he hire a driver to take him from Antigua to Guatemala, or a tourist van. He should be able to find a decent driver at any upscale hotel -- it wouldn't probably cost that much, my memory was that hiring a driver to take me from Antigua into Guate City (45 minutes) was about $40... so maybe $100 to go to the lake? I could be wrong, but still a lot less than renting a car. But if he is needing to spend less, than I'd again find a reputable tourist transportation company through a guidebook... they know which roads to avoid and times to best travel. Guide books would also have ways to find good/safe drivers too I assume.

two other things...
TIKAL... a once in a lifetime experience that he shouldn't miss...
also see yesterday's USA today.
It's all pretty much in line with what others have said, but there's some good advice in there you can pick out.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:07 AM on March 14, 2005

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