Monday, September 5, 2011

First stop: ANTIGUA!

I'm planning to return to Guatemala in July, 2012. The weeks of July 8th and 15th I'll be leading a group of educators and others for 2 weeks of Spanish immersion study.

Here's what this 1st post is about:

Beginning the weekend of July 21st I'm planning to meet interested Beca sponsors for a week of culture and adventure in Guatemala. Try to purchase flights that arrive in Guatemala City (GUA airport) on Saturday the 21st, though early in the day the 22nd would work. The plan is to stay in Antigua for a few nights, then head to Lake Atitlán the morning of Tuesday the 24th for 5 nights before returning to Antigua on Sunday, July 29th; flights home any time the 30th would be best, or later if you want some time to travel on your own.

In the months before we travel, I'll ask about your interests and make arrangements for activities and transportation accordingly; these will vary since we'll have different budgets and different ideas about what sounds like fun. I'll make hotel reservations also if you're interested in staying at a common hotel with other group members.

Most of the names of hotels and tour operators below are links you can click on to check out the websites. You can click on a photo to enlarge it; click on the black to return to the blog (this doesn't work with some of them, not sure why).

If your flight arrives late or your flight home leaves early, you might consider a night near the airport in Guatemala City. Here are 2 places I can recommend, 1 budget and 1 midrange; both are just a few minutes from the airport and prices include airport shuttles and breakfast.

Dos Lunas, $15/night per person.
Villa Toscana, $38-66/night, depending on the room.
If you're not staying near the airport in Guatemala, I'll arrange transportation from the airport to your hotel in Antigua, about 45 miles away. The driver will wait for you as you exit the airport with a sign bearing your name (or a recognizable group name), even if your flight is delayed; depending on when people are flying in and the number flying in at once, I might be waiting with the driver.

My favorite Antigua hotel is Casa Cristina - secure, great location, cute (though smallish) rooms, free purified water and internet, and friendly, helpful owners, $25-40/double, depending on the room. Here's the Moon Handbook write-up about this hotel:
The excellent value Casa Cristina (Callejón Camposeco #3A, between 6a and 7a Avenida, tel. 7832-0623,, $22–37 d) has beautifully decorated, colorful rooms with wrought-iron accents, Guatemalan bedspreads, tile floors, and private hot-water bathroom. Pricier “standard plus” rooms have cable TV, while deluxe rooms also have gorgeous volcano views and minifridge. Room rates include unlimited use of wireless Internet, purified drinking water, coffee, and tea.
This is the view of lovely La Merced church from the rooftop terrace:
and here's a closer view of La Merced.
Another hotel I've enjoyed is just around the corner, Posada La Merced, similar general description but with more rooms and courtyard areas at a slightly higher cost. This might be a better choice for some as it has more variety in terms of room configuration. Here's what the Moon Handbook has to say about Posada La Merced:

Posada La Merced
(7a Avenida Norte #43, tel. 7832-3197, $20–25 d) is another good choice offering nicely decorated, furnished rooms with private or shared hot-water bathroom. It features a courtyard where you can help yourself to purified drinking water, baggage storage, and a communal kitchen. Candles add a nice touch in the evening.
Fernando's Kaffee is a terrific coffee and breakfast place on the corner between those 2 hotels.
There are lots of great eating and lodging options at all price points in Antigua in case you want a more upscale experience or something cheaper; there are links for searching below and in the links list on the right.

Antigua is a United Nations World Heritage Site. The streets are lined with interesting architecture and lots of cultural color.
There are lots of ruins to explore,
fascinating markets and stores,
and some excellent museums.
If we have enough time we could choose from a range of tours and adventures including coffee fincas,
 and bike tours of Antigua and the surrounding villages and countryside,
volcano hikes,
and cooking classes.
Here is a new option - chocolate making at the ChocoMuseo. Chocolate has a huge significance in Maya history - there was a time when its trade value was higher than gold.
Antigua's altitude is about 5000 feet and weather is springlike year round. Daytime temperatures are usually in the 70's with night temps in the 60's. A July visit is during the rainy season (they call it winter) so expect mornings to be gorgeous and for it to rain sometimes in the afternoons/evenings. That close to the equator the days are a similar length year round; in July the sun rises around 5:30am and sets around 6:20pm.

Here are some links to adventure providers in Antigua:
Filadelfia Coffee Finca and Adventure Tours (includes a zipline and paintball)

You can search for other hotels by looking in a guidebook (Moon Handbook and Rough Guide are both excellent) and by using Guatemala Story and Trip Advisor. You can also search for lodging, restaurant, and tour reviews and forum threads using the latter.

There are additional links to the upper right including travel forums (always search 1st before asking a question) and my photo collections on Flickr; check out the blog, travelogue, and review links on the main page of each collection if you're interested. If you click on a set (most collections have 3 to 6 sets) and you're looking at the group of thumbnail photos, there's a slideshow link above on the right. The sets specific to our 2011 travels are here.


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