Antigua, once a colonial capital is rich in history, cultural and natural disasters. After a large earthquaked hit the capital the King of Spain moved the capital to Guatemala City. The town is surrounded by three active volcanoes. The last larger eruption came out of Volcano Fuego in September 2012. Most days you can see smoke coming out of this volcano. For those brave enough to go in for a closer look, tourist offices can arrange day hikes up the volcanoes. A walk through the city displays historical colonial monuments, vibrant markets and street vendors, a diverse mix of Catholic churches (both modern and from the Spanish colonial era), and a an array of restaurants catering to locals and foreigners. Of course with this boom in tourism here, prices are more expensive in Antigua than the rest of Guatemala. For those wanting to stay longer there are many options including volunteering, working at chocolate or coffee farms, dance classes, Spanish language centers, and cooking courses.
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74 Kms from Guatemala
The weekend markets here may be derided as touristy, but they're also a fun and accessible spot full of local colour. Hone your bargaining skills while you wander the lanes checking out carved wooden masks, colourful textiles, and everything else under the sun.
San Marcos La Laguna
83 Kms from Guatemala
The pre-eminent hippie village around Lake Atitlan, San Marcos is the place to go for a spot of meditation or yoga, or any of a number of other crystal-based new-age activities (these latter at the spiritual retreat Las Pyramides). The lake near the shore here is cleaner and clearer than average, and there's none of the party crowds or boozing that afflicts Panajachel and other spots around the lake.