84 Kms from Jalapa
Less than 50 km away from the hustle and bustle of the capital – Guatemala city is the colonial town of Antigua. First look and it feels you’ve been transported to a different period in time; that is if you can ignore those motor vehicles.The city proudly sits surrounded by three volcanoes; its majestic outlook not doomed by the earthquake that turned the city to rubble in 1773. The earthquake stopped the time there it seems – the brightly coloured facades of colonial houses, majestic cathedrals, still standing walls of churches whose domes have caved in, cobbled streets are so inviting. Its a UNESCO world heritage site now; there is still magic in this centuries-old decayed dilapidated town.I was excited about Antigua ever since I decided to visit Guatemala; since this was going to be my first ever Spanish colony experience. And I was not disappointed at all. The orange and red and yellow mansions are fascinating, the flowering trees lining the streets, the whiff of breeze as you walk in the evenings only added to the charm.
61 Kms from Jalapa
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.
277 Kms from Jalapa
Bird Island – Placencia, Belize – This Central American island is a marvel on a coral reef, placed in the middle of crystal clear, shallow waters. Spend your time on the island romancing your loved one or having the time of your life with your friends. The three-room apartment can accommodate six people and comes with fishing equipment, two kayaks and a paddle boat. Go fishing, snorkeling, swimming or discovering nearby islands. A barbecue, fire pit and sundeck make staying on the island much more fun.
291 Kms from Jalapa
If you're going to Guatemala or Central America a trip to a Mayan ruin is almost obligatory. In Guatemala there are tons of sites with the majority of ruins still buried and eaten by mother nature. However, for the most spectacular of sites Tikal is the most recommended. This can be done over one day but can be extended to longer trips especially if you are into archaeology. During a tour you're likely to see and hear howler monkeys, spot spider monkey and come across coatis (a raccoon like animal). The area is also great for birders as toucans can be seen. Of course the best time to see these animals is early morning before the sun, heat and humidity start. Tours start in the town of Flores and offer sunrise tours. Given the hostility of the jungles that the Mayan civilization put themselves in most sites are still covered up by the trees and the vegetation that grows in the area. Excavations are an on-going process but the maintenance for the main sites is already overwhelming. While experts have different opinions on the numbers it's said that 80-90% of the Mayan structures has yet to be uncovered. If you are adventurous enough to go deeper in the jungle guides can easily organize this for you.
130 Kms from Jalapa
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.