Our travel specialist, Alex is currently traveling through Central America reviewing our hotels and experiences while developing our travel services further. Back here in our offices in the United States and across Latin America, Alex has been keeping us nicely up to date with her trip which you can also follow here and on our Social Media channels. Starting her journey in Guatemala’s colonial city of Antigua, here are some of Alex’s highlights from this magical city and its surrounding coffee plantations.
♦ The Beauty of Colonial Antigua
Located in the Central Highlands of Guatemala is the colonial city of Antigua, renowned for its stunning architecture and pastel colored facades draped in beautiful bougainvillea plants. This colonial gem was until 1773, the capital city of Guatemala and is today, one of the most picturesque cities in Central America.
Surrounded by the Agua, Acatenango and Fuego volcanoes, Antigua’s cobblestone streets thread past colorful colonial buildings, topped with terracotta tiles.
Often drawing comparisons to Cusco, the city’s many attractive squares make for the perfect setting to soak up Antigua’s atmosphere and its surroundings. Protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Antigua is a place of rare beauty and remains one of the must-visit destinations in all of Latin America. Using Antigua as a base destination, you can explore a number of surrounding Mayan villages, colorful local markets and some of Latin America’s best and oldest coffee estates.
♦ Antigua’s Spectacular City Highlights
With a rich history, Antigua’s well-preserved Spanish Baroque architecture and colonial churches create a stunning setting to stroll around and explore. The city like many of its highlights is steeped in history and fascinating stories. Take for example Antigua’s Cathedral of San Francisco with its stunning façade which surprisingly is not the main attraction. Within this exquisite Cathedral is the shrine of Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur who founded a hospital for the poor in Antigua and became one of the Guatemala’s most honored Christian leaders. A significant part of Antigua’s history was affected by the number of earthquakes that hit the city and was one of the main reasons that the capital was moved to Guatemala City. The most notable earthquake occurred in 1773 and it devastated a number of Antigua’s most prized architecture.
Part of Antigua’s charm and splendor is its resilience throughout its history and in restoring the devastated buildings to its former glory with, prime examples being the San Jose Cathedral and La Merced Church.
As well as having picture-perfect and restored architecture, Antigua’s Parque Central is a broad and beautiful plaza that is easily one of the best in the country. Here you can sit back and relax while watching Antigüeños and visitors alike strolling around and admiring Antigua’s delights. The Central Park is captivating during the day and night with handicraft vendors giving way to the evening’s live entertainment provided by local mariachi and marimba bands.
♦ Antigua’s Sustainable Coffee Experience
Although in Central America, Costa Rica’s coffee may receive a large proportion of coffee lover’s attention; Guatemala is arguably the hidden treasure of the region. Roughly the size of Ohio, Guatemala is fast becoming recognized for its high-quality coffees and Fair Trade production. By working alongside local coops, NGO’s and charities you’ll not only gain an insight into the day of a local Guatemalan farmer but you’ll be also helping the sustainable growth and development of the local community and business. Traveling to the outskirts Antigua we’ll accompany you to one of the many independent coffee producers in the area that also promote environmentally responsible agriculture. Hiking up through the coffee plantations surrounding Antigua you’ll be welcomed into a local farmer’s family home to learn about and utilize the machinery used to make Guatemala’s famed coffee.
Whether roasting coffee in the traditional way over a fire or sharing a cup of coffee with the local farmer and their family, there is so much to be gained from this sustainable experience.
Having learned about the coffee process from seed to cup you will leave with a new-found appreciation of the coffee that helps to power your working day back home. We recommend purchasing a bag of Full City or Dark blend coffee so that you can continue to enjoy the rich aromas of Guatemala’s coffee when back at home with your friends or family.