Casual travel look for the flight to Guatemala City.
The Guatemalan coffee is delicious!
The view from our room at Casa Santo Domingo. This is Agua volcano.
Every day, the Guatemalan people of Antigua would make their beautiful “carpets” for Semana Santa. They are made of saw dust, flowers and vegtables. These pictures don’t even do it justice. They are so beautiful and a work of art!
All streets in Antigua are cobblestone. Pack casual clothes and comfortable shoes! No need for any high heels!
Casa Santo Domingo is a beautiful hotel in Antigua. In its early days, it was a convent. It’s a huge property right in the heart of Antigua.
This shot is taken from Cerro de la Cruz. It’s a beautiful lookout where you can see the entire city of Antigua.
We took a Guatemalan cooking class. This is a typical meal that you would serve family style. It was really good.
We loved visiting Taylor and having her show us around. He Spanish is flawless and she is now fluent. That was a HUGE help!
My casual travel look for the trip home. I am all about comfort, especially on a plane.
We love to travel and exploring new destinations has become habit for us especially now that we are empty nesters. You might remember that our daughter Taylor has been in Guatemala for 4 months. It seemed like the perfect time to visit Antigua, Guatemala. The bonus is that we did it during Holy Week known as Semana Santa. WOW, you don’t want to miss this.
It seems like forever ago that she left for her trip to volunteer at Village of Hope. Thankfully, she will be home next week. I think that’s why I was so sentimental in yesterday’s post about Mother’s Day. She has done an amazing job and detailed her experience on her blog. You can read it here, including her own blog post about Semana Santa. We did briefly visit her at the orphanage and got to witness the sweet children she has been helping. What an amazing organization dedicated to making these young people’s lives better.
Taylor came to stay with us in Antigua for a little vacation. It was great to spend time with her and the added bonus is that she is now fluent in Spanish. This was hugely helpful when ordering food or negotiating cab fares. Antigua is one of the most enchanting colonial cities. In its day this was one of the great cities of the Spanish empire, serving as the administrative centre for all of Central America and Mexican Chiapas. It has become Guatemala’s foremost tourist destination. The beauty lies in the numerous colonial buildings – churches, monasteries and grand family homes, many unnoticed from the cobblestone roads.
The vibe is unhurried and enjoyable, with a superb choice of restaurants. No one is in a rush and time seems to just glide by. I really never knew what time it was. The temperature is very even year-round. Warm during the day and cool at night. You could spend days exploring Antigua’s incredible collection of colonial buildings. Our hotel, Casa Santo Domingo being one of them. It has its own museum, spa, art gallery in addition to beautiful rooms and amenities. I highly recommend staying here.
Antigua’s Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations are perhaps the most extravagant and impressive in all Latin America – a week of vigils, processions and pageants commemorating the most solemn week of the Christian year. The celebrations start with a procession on Palm Sunday, representing Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, and continue through the week, climaxing on Good Friday. On Thursday night the streets are carpeted with meticulously drawn patterns of colored sawdust, and on Friday morning a series of processions re-enacts the progress of Christ to the Cross. We were there to see all of this. If you go, be sure to be there for Thursday and Good Friday. The processions are unbelievable.
Setting out from the churches of La Merced and Escuela de Cristo and the village of San Felipe at around 8 am, groups of penitents, clad in purple or white and wearing peaked hoods, carry images of Christ and the Cross on massive platforms, accompanied by solemn dirges played by local brass bands and clouds of incense. After 3 pm, the hour of the Crucifixion, the penitents change into black.
It is a huge honor to be involved in the procession but no easy task – the great cedar block weighs 3.5 tones and needs 100 men to lift it. The men have to be similar in height and sway back and forth as they carry the heavy piece forward. Some of the images displayed date from the seventeenth century, and the procession itself is thought to have been introduced by Alvarado in the early years of the Conquest. All the stations of the cross are represented and carried throughout the city. You can smell the incense and hear the drums and music from your hotel room (there are no air conditioners; you sleep with the windows open). Some of the processions go into the night and we heard the drums up until 3 am.
We have never seen anything like it. It was magical! You could tell that the people of Guatemala are proud of this incredible celebration. People come from around the world to see it. I’ve heard that it’s the largest Semana Santa celebration in the world. How fortunate we were to witness it!
Antigua, Guatemala travel tips:
Air: You can fly Dallas – Guatemala City non-stop with American Airlines. It’s only a 3 hour flight. Our hotel sent a car to pick us up (extra charge). The drive from Guatemala City to Antigua is about 45 minutes. I recommend pre-arranging your round trip transfers like we did.
Hotel: Casa Santo Domingo. It’s a beautiful property situated in the center of Antigua. We walked to a lot of our destinations and it was the ideal spot to watch Semana Santa. The processions went by on our street!
Eat: Oh my goodness, there are so many great places to eat in Antigua! This is Mayan culture and everything is based on a diet of rice and beans. But we found lots of other influences as well. Be sure to go to Cafe Contessa for breakfast and coffee, El Tenedor for dinner (it’s on a hill and the view is spectacular), Caoba Farms (organic, farm to table), La Tortilla (cooking school and lunch), Sobremesa, and absolutely have dinner at Panza Verde.
Do: Take a cooking class. Take a chocolate making class (it was an entire history of chocolate class). Tour a coffee plantation. Take a day trip to Lake Atitlan. It’s a mile above sea level and surrounded by volcanoes. Hike a volcano. Go to the Mercado in Antigua and get ready to negotiate. Be sure to go up the hill with the cross for the best view. It’s called Cerro de la Cruz. Take a tuk tuk to go up and walk down.
Getting around town: The people of Antigua are very friendly but not everyone speaks English. You will see little scooters that are cabs. They are known as tuk tuks. Because they are driving on cobblestone roads, be ready for a bumpy ride. But they are a fun way to get around. Definitely take one up to Cerro de la Cruz. It’s a steep hike.
Pack: Casual clothes. Even dinner reservations never required anything but casual clothes. Bring your tennis shoes! Light sweater for night as it gets chilly. Guatemala is a Mayan culture and they are modest people. Dress accordingly. This blog post will help.
We are grateful for this trip and experience. And we would definitely do it again. xoxo – Tanya
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Photo: iPhone and Pinterest