Sometimes, Central America doesn’t get the credit it deserves. With the likes of Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Chile offering vacation destinations you often dream of further south, it can be tricky to realize that the same charm exists further north, nestled within the rainforests and quiet coastlines of countries that don’t have the same name-brand recognition.
Case in point: Guatemala. Guatemala lies between Mexico and Honduras and is home to as many volcanoes, rainforests and historic sites as any major tourist attraction—just without the crowded throngs of tourists. No place encapsulates this better than Antigua, Guatemala. The former capital of the country, the city is composed of colonial Spanish architecture surrounded by rainforest and volcanoes. For a getaway off the beaten path, here are some highlights you’ll want to witness yourself on a Guatemala vacation.
Nothing showcases life in Antigua quite like the Mercado. The market is where much of the city purchases their necessities, as the maze of vendor-filled aisles offers a bit of everything—fresh produce, meat and fish, shoes and clothing, maybe even the odd DVD. In addition to the local produce stalls, cafés abound serving delicious Guatemalan staples, making the market the definitive go-to for the freshest meal on your Guatemala vacation.
For those who are a fan of a good cup of Joe, the Filadelfia Coffee Plantation is possibly as close to heaven as there is on Earth—making a tour through the grounds an absolute must-visit. From nursery to plantation to the processing, roasting and packing of the beans, expect to visit and learn about each step of the journey from the single seed to the savory drink. Capping off the tour with a fresh cup of (arguably) the world’s best coffee just happens to be the proverbial cherry on top.
With such lush forests and picturesque hills every which way you look, it’s likely you’ll crave an outdoor excursion while in Antigua on your Guatemala vacation. And with 37 volcanoes in the country, volcano-hiking is Guatemala’s twist on the great outdoor pastime. Of the options around Antigua, the most casual hike runs up Pacaya Volcano. Just an hour outside of Antigua, Pacaya is by no means a Sunday stroll—the elevation change of roughly 1,500 feet is certainly noticeable. But, the multitude of rest stops along the way give you plenty of chances to catch your breath and enjoy the view. The opportunity to roast marshmallows over volcanic rocks near the top makes for an unforgettable reward.
Wondering how to get to this quaint town cradled in volcanoes? Antigua is only an hour drive from the port town of Puerto Quetzal, making arrival by cruise ship the optimal option. If you do decide to sail through the many exciting Central and South American ports onboard a cruise, talk with one of our cruise agents. Their close relationships with leading cruise companies like Holland America Line makes discovering new worlds easy.