We hopped on a shuttle from Lanquin heading for Antigua the following morning. Despite everyones warnings about Guatemala City being a bit rough I had been feeling a bit bad that we were going to give it a miss and not make our own informed decision. Driving through it though on our way to Antigua I realised we had definitely made the right decision not to stop. The sprawling smoggy chaos had absolutely no appeal whatsoever!

The trip was supposed to take us about 6 hours but thanks to lots of traffic and an extremely worn tire which needed changing we arrived to Antigua a couple of hours late. We had intended to stay at the Yellow House Hostel after reading about it on a few other peoples blogs but our shuttle pulled up outside Zoola. Eyeing the stormy looking clouds over head, and after checking it out quickly we decided to just crash there, along with most of the rest of the shuttle! The bunk beds were huge and we managed to save a little bit on our accommodation costs by sharing the bed. yay! 

Antigua is a beautiful colonial style town, with cobbled streets and a lovely town square.Its famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as a number of spectacular church ruins. In addition to it being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site its also become a pretty popular place for people to come and learn Spanish so the tourist infrastructure is pretty well established. 

Formerly the capital of Guatemala, several large earthquakes throughout history meant the destruction of a lot of buildings and the eventual removal of the capital to safer ground. 
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Making pupusas
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Colonial Antigua
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Colourful traditional Guatemalan outfits
After a bit of a downpour we headed out for a walk around town and to pick up a few drinks with the others from the shuttle. Back at the hostel we commandeered the tv room and settled in for a movie night. Although we were all pretty tired and most of us were asleep for the end. Waking up the next morning Ty was really pissed off to find that someone had stolen his hat. It was a xmas present from me last year so was in good condition when we started our journey but by now it was sweaty and covered in salt stains from swimming in the ocean so god knows why anyone would want to take it but I hope they have bad travel karma for it! Wandering around town we sampled some 'pupusa''s - apparently traditional El Salvadorian street food (will get it up on best bites eventually!). Basically a maize mixture filled with cheese or meat and then bbq'd - so cheap and so delicious!!

Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua. There are a plethora of tour agencies offering walking tours to the craters but we decided that seeing as we have seen a lot in Guatemala already we would save our volcanoe trips for when we get to Nicaragua. 

Antigua is a central hub for transportation around western/southern Guatemala and we tapped into our Kim/Barry information to get a chicken bus from the city out to Lake Atitlan the following day. Recognized to be the deepest lake in Central America and surrounded by 3 volcanoes it is often described as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. I have to say I'm not so sure that I agree. Possibly in summer when the volcanoes would be unveiled from the thick mist that was present when we were there it would be pretty picturesque, but the lake town of Panajachel didnt live up to my expectations and although initially planning 3 or 4 days there we left after just two.
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Colourful belts and fabrics
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Ladies in traditional dress at the market
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A very full mini van!
One of the main reasons for visiting Lake Atitlan was to take a visit to the nearby town of Chichicastenango for its famous market days. Described by Lonely Planet as Guatemala's largest and most vibrant indigeous market I was really excited by the prospect of seeing all of the local indigeous groups wearing their traditional outfits, but to be perfectly honest one of the best things about Guatemala is the prominence of peoples wearing the traditional clothing on a daily basis. We didnt need to visit the market to see it, we just needed to catch a chicken bus! Finding the actual market a bit disapointing we jumped back on the public transport and headed back to Panajachel. Im glad to we did too as we arrived back at the hotel just before a huge thunderstorm started! Fortunately we picked up lunch on the way back as the storm showed no sign of letting up and there was no way we were venturing back outside. It was pretty cool watching the lightening light up the volcanoes from behind, making them look like Mordor from Lord of the Rings

Next stop: El Tunco (El Salvador)
 





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