Antigua, Guatemala is a hidden gem for Black solo travelers, offering a unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty. When I made my first trip to the most populous country in Central America, I had no idea what to expect. I had just left Mexico with plans to visit Costa Rica a few weeks later and Guatemala was the perfect destination in between the two. To sum my trip up, I was pleasantly surprised throughout my trip. My travel experience as solo as a Black woman left me with nothing but good vibes and things to say about the country, culture, and its people.
While there, I had the opportunity to visit several cities but in this article, we'll focus on the country's capital city, Antigua and why you should add it to your solo travel bucket list.
Antigua is a truly enchanting colonial city situated in the heart of Guatemala's central highlands. The city is renowned for its mesmerizing vistas, with three towering volcanoes providing a truly awe-inspiring backdrop to the city's picturesque cobblestone streets, strikingly colorful buildings, and exquisite architecture. Everywhere you look in Antigua, you are treated to a feast for the eyes, with vibrant markets brimming with exotic fruits, local handicrafts, and textiles, and stunning colonial-era churches, monasteries, and ruins dotting the landscape.
The city's rich history and cultural heritage are evident in every corner, with charming plazas and grand plazas showcasing a blend of indigenous and European influences. Whether you're strolling through the city's winding streets, sampling delicious Guatemalan cuisine, or simply taking in the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds you, Antigua is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a truly unique and unforgettable travel experience.
Fuente de Pescados, or Fountain of the Fish located inside Iglesia de La Merced.
Here are a few reasons why Antigua is a great destination to add to your travel bucket list:
Solo Travel Safety
One of the main reasons that Antigua is an ideal destination for solo travelers is its friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The locals, known as Antigueños, are renowned for their warmth and hospitality, which creates a sense of safety and security for solo travelers. The locals also embrace diversity and are warm towards all visitors, regardless of their background so solo travelers can explore freely without fear of judgment or discrimination.
Moreover, Guatemala is a country that values and respects women's rights. The country has made significant progress in addressing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality. The government has implemented several initiatives aimed at protecting women, including laws that criminalize femicide and domestic violence. This means, a solo female traveler, you can have peace of mind in knowing that you're in a country that cares about the safety of other humans.
Additionally, Antigua is well-policed, with a visible presence of police officers and security guards in the tourist areas. The city is also known for its low crime rate, with most incidents being petty theft. As long as travelers take basic precautions such as not leaving their belongings unattended and being aware of their surroundings, they should feel safe and secure in Antigua.
Photo op in front of the Arch of Santa Catalina.
History and Culture
Another reason Antigua is a great destination for solo travelers is its history and culture. The city was founded in 1543 and was once the capital of Guatemala, until it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes in the late 18th century. Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, historic churches, and ruins of old convents and monasteries. It is home to numerous historic landmarks, including the Cathedral of Saint James, the Palace of the Captain Generals, and the ruins of the Church of Santo Domingo. These sites offer a glimpse into the city's rich history, and provide visitors with a better understanding of Guatemala's culture and heritage.
Antigua's rich history and culture make it an ideal destination for solo travelers who are interested in immersing themselves in the local culture and learning about the country's fascinating past. The city's colonial architecture and historic landmarks offer a glimpse into the region's past, and solo travelers can explore these sites at their own pace, without having to worry about the constraints of group tours.
The city is also famous for its colorful markets, traditional handicrafts, and vibrant festivals. The markets are also a great place to try local cuisine and interact with the friendly Antigueños. Antigua is home to numerous cultural events throughout the year, including the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations, which are considered some of the most spectacular in the world. Solo travelers can witness these celebrations and experience the vibrant energy of the city's locals. You can also immerse yourself and gain a deeper understanding of the culture by taking Spanish classes, a popular activity for lots of tourists.
Guatemala offers a diverse and flavorful cuisine, making it an ideal destination for Black solo travelers who are food enthusiasts. Antigua is a city that offers a wide range of culinary options that cater to all tastes, budgets, and preferences. Local Guatemalan cuisine is a unique blend of indigenous Mayan and Spanish influences, resulting in a diverse and delicious culinary experience.
One must-try dish is the pepián, a traditional Guatemalan stew made with chicken, beef or pork, and a rich and flavorful sauce made from roasted pumpkin seeds, spices, and vegetables. The dish is typically served with rice and tortillas and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Solo travelers can also enjoy a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, including traditional dishes like chiles rellenos and plantain fritters.
Guatemala is also famous for its coffee, with Antigua being one of the top coffee-producing regions in the country. The city boasts numerous cafes and shops where solo travelers can enjoy a cup of some of the best coffee in the world while soaking up the city's charming atmosphere.
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Photo of the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral.
In addition to its historic landmarks, Antigua is also known for its vibrant cultural scene. The city is home to a thriving arts community, with numerous galleries and museums showcasing the works of local artists.
Antigua also offers unique opportunities for Black solo travelers to learn about and engage with indigenous communities and their cultures. Guatemala is home to over 20 indigenous Mayan groups, and many of them have a significant presence in Antigua and the surrounding areas. Solo travelers can visit indigenous villages, attend traditional ceremonies and festivals, and learn about Mayan culture and history through guided tours and cultural experiences. These experiences allow solo travelers to deepen their understanding of the diverse cultures and traditions that make up Guatemala's rich heritage.
Additionally, Antigua has a strong Afro-Caribbean influence, which is reflected in its music, dance, and cuisine. Solo travelers can explore this aspect of the city's culture by attending a Garifuna dance performance, trying traditional Afro-Caribbean dishes such as tapado, or visiting the Casa del Ron, a museum dedicated to the history of rum production in the region.
Easy To Navigate
Antigua is a compact city, making it for solo travelers to navigate and explore confidently. The city is laid out in a grid pattern, with many of its streets being named after saints, making it easy to find your way around. You can wander the cobblestone streets alone, taking in the city's stunning architecture, colorful buildings, and historic landmarks, while resting assured that you're never too far from where you started and can easily find your way back to your accommodations. For those who prefer to explore the city by public transportation, Antigua's reliable bus system is a great option. Buses run regularly throughout the city and are a convenient way to travel to the city's surrounding areas. The city's taxi services are also affordable and easy to use, making it easy to explore the city and its nearby attractions.
Views from the top of Volcan Pacaya in Antigua, Guatemala.
With such a diverse range of outdoor activities and adventures make it an ideal destination for solo travelers looking to explore and experience the natural beauty of Guatemala. The city's surrounding volcanoes offer a unique opportunity for hiking and trekking, with trails suitable for all levels of experience. Solo travelers can hike to the summit of any of these volcanoes and enjoy panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside. For those looking for a more challenging adventure, the Acatenango volcano is a popular destination, providing a strenuous hike that takes you to an altitude of over 13,000 feet.
Beyond hiking and trekking, Antigua also offers other outdoor activities, such as kayaking on the nearby rivers or exploring the local flora and fauna on a guided nature walk. Visitors can also take part in adventure tours, such as horseback riding or ATV rides through the surrounding countryside. The nearby Lake Atitlan is a popular destination for water sports, such as kayaking and paddleboarding, and provides stunning views of the surrounding volcanoes. Additionally, the city is home to numerous parks and nature reserves, including the Hobbitenango Ecological Park, where visitors can enjoy ziplining, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
Overall, Antigua, Guatemala is a hidden gem for Black solo travelers, offering a perfect blend of safety, culture, cuisine, and adventure. Whether you're looking to immerse yourself in the local culture or simply relax and enjoy the city's laid-back atmosphere, Antigua has something for everyone.