HAL 2019 Repositioning – Day 8 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

May 26, 2019 Paul Groves

As with Corinto, we arrived around 7:00 am.  We had been here in 2017 and visited the Mayan city of Tikal.   As with most port towns there’s usually not a lot to do or see.  So we took an excursion to the city of Antigua.

Antigua is an old city in the central highlands of Guatemala.  It sits between three volcanoes:  Volcán de Agua or “Volcano of Water”,  Acatenango, and, Volcán de Fuego or “Volcano of Fire”.   

Volcán de Fuego is almost always in a state of eruption.  While most eruptions are small, such as the one we saw on the trip (volcano on the left), it has produced several large eruptions over its history with the last ones in June & November 2018.  These eruptions produced large pyroclastic flows and lahars. We passed by several areas of destruction caused by these events.

In spite of its location it is still a popular tourist spot due to its preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as its ruins.  One of it’s most popular sites is the Santa Catalina Arch.  It was an overcast day but you can see a bit of Volcán de Agua through it.

Upon our arrival we were met by a group of local guides offering their services.  So for $30 we got our own private guided tour around the city for a little over 3 hours!

One of the stops we visited was the “Convent of the Capuchins”.  There were many convents built here but our guide told us this was the best example.  Construction started in 1731 and it opened in 1736.  However due to damage caused by several large earthquakes, it was abandoned in 1773.  The nuns lived in cells around a circular hall that had previously been covered by a dome.

The convent’s central courtyard with its working fountain was surrounded by various workrooms, dining room, and kitchen. Even today it looks very inviting.

On the second floor and up a flight of stairs, we entered the church loft.  It must have been beautiful at one time.  A trapdoor in the church floor below takes you to the crypt.  Sadly it isn’t open to the public.  That’s our guide (locals know him by the nickname of “Coyote”) talking to Paul.

Another stop was a visit to the laundry. 

We also visited the orchards, storage rooms, and another burial crypt.  Yet, despite all of the destruction, it’s great to see that some of the rooms are currently used as offices and conference rooms by the local government.

We continued our tour around town visiting other ruin sites, markets, and finally ended up at the city square where we had lunch in one of the nearby restaurants.

Our last stop was at the current Antigua Guatemala Cathedral.  As with many of the other buildings, it’s been severely damaged by earthquakes but rebuilt.