Guatemala Day 1
Decided to take a few days off; Guatemala is one place we have not been to yet, and is a short direct 4hr flight from DFW. So why not Guatemala?
Arrived in the evening at the Guatemala City airport; got our visa at the airport after a short wait, and after getting some quetzales from the ATM (Info: The quetzal is the currency of Guatemala. It is named after the national bird of Guatemala, the Resplendent Quetzal. In ancient Mayan culture, the quetzal bird’s tail feathers were used as currency).
Went outside to flag down a cab to take us to the Holiday Inn, and saw a shuttle bus for the Crowne Plaza hotel. So asked the driver if there was a shuttle for the Holiday Inn, and he nodded and indicated a location at one end of the arrivals area where several minibuses were parked. Waited for 5 mins and sure enough, the Holiday inn shuttle arrived. Hopped on and were soon on the way to the hotel after picking up a few more passengers. Saved me some cab fare 🙂
The Holiday Inn is only a few minutes away from the airport, and it was raining and a bit chilly (though Guatemala is south of Mexico, and therefore supposedly warm; but it is at a high altitude on volcanic mountains, and hence cooler). Got checked into the hotel, and asked for a decent restaurant nearby. The receptionist pointed us to a nearby restaurant, but since it was raining (& dark by now), we decided to get into the first, closest restaurant; which was right next to the hotel. Ordered some Mexican quesadilla’s to be safe and a Gallo (local Guatemalan beer). The beer was good, but the quesadilla left something to be desired. Mexico definitely has far better Mexican Food 🙂
Not a great start; went back to the hotel to sleep. No pics today as it was dark and rainy. Hope for a better day 2.
2nd day in Guatemala.
Got up and looked outside; sun was shining :); though I saw people walking about with jackets on 🙁.
Asked the concierge about a good place for breakfast; he recommended the Café San Martin; walked over to this place taking a long route to see the area (Zona) we were in. Nice prosperous area; well-dressed people going about their business. Still a little cool. Café San Martin was packed with locals having breakfast. Got a table and a waitress who spoke some English; ordered a local omelet dish with plenty of vegetables and coffee. Great breakfast, and the coffee was simply excellent; made with milk and not bitter at all. Must remember to take some back with us.
Went back to the hotel and asked the reception to call the car rental company where I had made reservations. He did, and the car rental guy came over. I had expected him to bring our car and all papers so we could simply drive off from the hotel to Antigua; no such luck. He drove us to near the airport where their office was, and as expected in all 3rd world countries, it took some time to get the rental paperwork all done and we started driving to Antigua. Of course, I had to miss my turn off and ended up in a traffic jam, heading into Guatemala City. Decided to do an illegal U-turn and aside from some honking, I made it without getting stopped by any cops.
Antigua is a well preserved colonial Spanish city,about 40 miles from Guatemala City; and has plenty of tourists visiting, as well as a number of foreigners who call this place home. The city was nice and clean, spotless, and was much warmer than in Guatemala city 🙂. The obligatory central square was busy, and had the Cathedral and the City hall on 2 sides of the square with a nice park in the middle. Took a leisurely walk along a guided path recommended by Lonely Planet; passing quaint streets, houses, churches and various ruins in different state of repair and restoration. See pics.
Original plan was to stay overnight in Antigua, but since it did not take long to see the sights, and since it did not look too exciting for the night, we decided to continue to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan; which is a volcanic crater lake, surrounded by multiple volcanos. We passed various towns and cities with interesting names (Jocotenango, Pastores, Chimaltenango, El Sitan, Xacaxa and Solola). Roads were all tramac’d and in decent shape. People generally drive properly in Guatemala so no issues driving. In Solola, we ran into a crowded place off the main street so of course, we had to go and investigate . Turned out that it was Market day; when once a week, the local Mayan Indians come down from all surrounding areas to sell their wares. The majority (approximately 90%) of the area’s inhabitants are Cakchiquel Indians who proudly retain their heritage, wearing traditional outfits (esp the women); see pics. Now we understood the rather non-Spanish names of towns we had driven through; they were actually mostly Mayan names. Apparently, there are a ton of Mayan languages/dialects spoken in Guatemala
After this short stop, we drove onto Panajachel.