Antigua is an old colonial Spanish town and is home to beautiful Cobel stone streets, endless textile shops, boutique stalls and gorgeous restaurants. There is also a ban on advertising, allowing the streets to retain a certain charm and unquiness that is unlike anywhere else in Central America. There are a number of Volcaneos shadowing Antigua including Pacaya, Acetango and the most active Fruego. With its European charm many people stay for extended periods of time, and it’s not surprising that its one of the most popular places to learn Spanish in Guatamala.
We Arrived in Antigua after a longgg 12 hour bus ride from Lanquinn (Semuc Champey). One thing to note, if the bus driver tells you that it will take 8 hours always add an extra 2… Or 3. We hadn’t has any wifi at our previous hostel in Semuc Champey so we hadn’t yet arranged accomodation in Antigua. We got there around 6pm and wandered the streets for a little while, getting knocked back from a few hostels, before being accepted into Hostal Split. It was basic, but at 60Q a night, and with free coffe and filtered water, we could hardly complain.
Having learnt early on that Spanish was going to be a necessity if we were to get through 5 months in South America, we had decided to spend a week in Antigua learning Spanish. Before we settled in for a week of going back to school we ofcorse had to conquer Volcaneo Acetanago. Just shy of 4000m Acetanago is a popular over night hike that allows you to sleep under the stars while, if visability allows, watch Volcaneo Freugo erupt all night long. You can read about the climb here.
We close to do our lessons with Antigua Spanish Academy purely because they offered a discounted rate for two peers her, whereas all other quotes we had gotten required you to pay the same price to share a teacher. The cost was $150 USD (approx $190 AUD) for 5 days worth of lessons that went from 8-12 daily.
The school was good and the courtyard in which was studied was lovely, however on the third day we were escorted on to an ATM to withdraw money in order to pay. We weren’t told at the start that we needed to pay by the 3rd day so we were very annoyed that an hour of our time was spent walking to an ATM some 20 minutes away.
The lessons whilst basic allowed us to increase our vocabulary, learn the basic sentence structure and in general get a better understanding of Spanish. Most of the time was spent having convo stains, albeit very basic, and as our teacher, Carlos, spoke mostly in Spanish, it forced us to focus and really concentrate on what he was saying.
Besides our lessons we found a gym, visited the local markets almost daily and also indulged a little too much money at a very nice vegetarian restaurant. Spending a week in one place allowed us to get some routine back into our lives, which for the short period of time was nice.
The gym we went to was called “Gimnasio La Fabrica” which is located on street 1a on the outskirts of town. For a weeks membership it cost 100Q or 35Q for one visit. I did daily classes trying out Funcational training, spin classes and just using the gym floor. Classes in Spanish was a different experience, but really sport is a universal language so it wasn’t too much of an issue. I went alone a few times and I felt comfortable being there by myself. This experience was different to a few gyms I’ve been to, especially compared to the gym I visited in Nepal where I was gawked at by everyone for the duration of my workout.
The local farmers and secondhand market is located at the opposite side of town from the gym, and is filled to the brim with stalls selling everything from fruit and vegetables, to odd clothes and accessories and everything in between. Don’t be fooled though, there is the very touristy market at the very front, but as you keep walking through the maze you will eventually reach the market where the locals shop. While your likely to still pay a higher price than a local it is significantly cheaper than the surrounding supermarkets. We were lucky enough to have access to a kitchen at our AirBnb so we brought fresh fruit and vegetables every day and cooked dinner to keep costs down.
Lastly the BEST vegetarian restaurant in town is called Samsara, located on the corner of 7a and 7th street. The. Average cost of a meal was 30-45Q which is standard for restaurant meals in Antigua. Food is quite expensive in Antigua , especially in comparison to accomodation prices. Some nights we were paying 35Q for a room and 40Q for dinner. It was crazy! defiantly worth finding a hostel or Airbnb with a kitchen!