Guatemala City is a thriving hub in Central America, just 3 hours from US hubs like Atlanta and Houston.
Immediately outside the airport door, you can pick a cab driver out of the pack, and he'll get you through the mountains and jungles to Antigua Guatemala in about 30-45 minutes and charge about $30 US dollars. If you'd prefer, there are also shuttles for as little as $6 - I learned this once I got to Antigua and used the service on the way back.
Antigua is a gorgeous little town on a small plateau, flanked by 3 volcanoes. Fuego is active, and smoke can be seen pouring out on clear days. Pacaya is also active, and though there's a 3.5 hour drive to get there, you can hire any tour company in town to take you up the side of the volcano to watch the lava flows. Cost is about $40 for the entire experience - but beware - just a week before my arrival, 2 tourists and a guide were killed when a volcanic fizzure opened up. This is not for novices, bring proper gear, and if you're not sure just ask the tour company what you need to be prepared.
The city is also full of history. With cobblestone streets and hundreds of ancient churches, you could convince yourself you're really in old Spain. I was able to tour and visit the historic church sites of La Merced, Capuchinas, La Recolecion, and San Francisco. All cost between $1-$5 bucks to tour, and are open most days. Self-guided tours are easy, grab a brochure and lead yourself through the ancient passageways and fountains in these 17th century buildings.
Other great scenes to visit are Central Park, which lies between an old cathedral and some old presidential palace, as well as the Cross on the Hill, which is a 20 minute walk from town and provides an amazing view of the city from above. And dont' miss spending some time at El Mercado to get some great deals on merchandise.
I stayed my first 2 nights at Casa Capuchinas - it was a great looking little bed & breakfast, very quiet. It was a bit too far off the main drag for my taste, and was way to expensive. If you're touring off season, and you arrive in the daytime, just take a walk around the Central Park area and you'll find several reasonably priced hotels. I found a wonderful option at Casa Antigua, where I got a double-occupancy room for just $35 per night. The hotel is clean, quiet, and near all the town attractions. Plus, it's got a secret rooftop patio that's great for reading - can you find it?
There are literally a thousand restaurants in the little town. Most were nearly empty in the offseason - the town has oversaturated itself with fine eateries. Try some of the smaller restaurants, the food is exactly the same as the big fancy ones, and much cheaper! My fave place for a quick snack was the sports bar called Cafe 2000 - they had great tacos and free wi-fi so you can keep in touch with your friends back home. Finally, don't forget to grab a cocktail at the Mono Loco, or of course, Reilly's Irish Pub!
I hope you enjoy your trip! :)
Written and contributed by sjohnson301