Guatemala City | Travel Blog


Published: February 2nd 2024

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There she blows! Mount Fuego in the distance.There she blows! Mount Fuego in the distance.There she blows! Mount Fuego in the distance.

We decided to return to Central America this year and travelled with Iberia from Alicante (via Madrid) to Guatemala City. We didn’t really know what to expect so we booked a little comfort to start the trip with three nights in the Barceló Hotel. Although it’s only a couple of kilometres from the airport, we arrived at rush hour and even in an Uber (booked thanks to the patchy WiFi at the airport) the journey took half an hour or so. The traffic was quite something and I’m not sure we had really anticipated being in a cab and drinking in the city’s fumes so soon after our arrival. The hotel was nice but a bit off the backpacker scene that would probably provide most of the rest of our accommodation. Breakfast was, as you would hope, amazing! The hotel is located in Zone 9, considered a safe place to stay and right in the heart of the financial district, although we were a bit shocked at how American the area felt with every name of fast food restaurant you could possibly imagine. We avoided them and had a wonderful time in Mister Taco on our first night, watched over by a

Plaza EspañaPlaza EspañaPlaza España

mural of Frida Kahlo and served by a very friendly and enthusiastic team.

Our plans for our first day began with a wander around the surrounding are where we saw the Plaza España, countless statues of famous and not so famous people, and a rather naff obelisko. After that we made our way to a nearby shopping centre to buy SIM cards for our phones. There we met an air traffic controller from the airport. This wasn’t a chance meeting; Russ had made arrangements beforehand. Ariel and his wife Jordana were lovely but after a coffee we had to push on and be tourists. Our plans soon unravelled though. An Uber (much easier with a SIM card!) took us to the entrance of the complex housing the Military Museum. The man on the gate gave us directions but when we got there it was all locked up and securely guarded. Apparently it is closed for maintenance which would have been good information for the man on the gate to have passed on! We had a bit of a nosey around but the combination of armed soldiers and plentiful razor wire meant I wasn’t poking my camera lens anywhere sensitive!

14 Grados Micro-brewery14 Grados Micro-brewery14 Grados Micro-brewery

Next door is the National Theatre which also seems to be closed for maintenance. They can’t stop you walking around the outside though and seeing the statues in the big open plaza next to the theatre which bizarrely resembles a cruise ship. It is apparently supposed to look like some sort of Mayan structure.

From there we walked through some not-too-salubrious areas that had some cool but faded murals. Our destination was Zone 4 which had much fresher murals in the streets. Our destination was 14 Grados, a wonderful microbrewery. There we refreshed ourselves after a tiring half day. We had a good chat with the barman and took home a pile of custom-made beermats for our friendly local microbrewery in Spain! That was enough for day one and the rest of the day was lost in a blur of jetlag, siesta and eventually lovely Chinese just down the road.

The next day we had a bit more energy, and a good job too because we walked quite a lot! Again Uber got us going and dropped us by the Museo Ferrocarril. We went there with low expectations but were blown away by just how good it was. Cameras were

Touristy MarketTouristy MarketTouristy Market

not allowed inside but photos on a mobile phone were fine. Can’t quite work that one out! We wandered around for a couple of hours and it was absolutely fascinating seeing the history of Guatemala’s railways laid out before us. We even got to go inside the presidential carriage, but it shows how standards have changed because it wouldn’t make third class nowadays!!

From there we walked, again through not the best neighbourhood, to the Museo Postal. This museum was free, located on the first floor of the governmental building of the post office. It was really interesting too with displays of poste restante, a mock up of how telegraph operators worked, and a fascinating collection of worldwide stamps. Even more interesting was our wandering around the corridors of the ground floor. We’re not sure we were supposed to do that but nobody stopped us! There were sculptures, busts and plenty of works of art on the walls.

We continued our walk to the Plaza de la Constitution. Guatemala City’s main square is huge, and there were lots of people there, but more pigeons! City Hall is resplendent in its architectural glory and a giant Guatemala flag is

City HallCity HallCity Hall

raised in the centre. On one side is the cathedral but we couldn’t go too far inside as a wedding was in progress. A couple of streets away is the central market but all we could find was touristy stalls. It would appear the fruit and vegetables are a floor below, but we never noticed any steps going down. The Guatemalan crafts are beautiful but this was too soon in our trip to be stocking up. I did manage to get a football shirt though!

From there we picked up an Uber to visit the Iglesia Yurrita which we had seen on a previous Uber journey. Sadly it was closed so we could only admire it from outside. From there we walked all the way back to the hotel and saw the Guatemalan version of the Eiffel Tower along the way. The streets are not overly pedestrian-friendly but they are navigable with care. That night we went out for a cheap Indian meal and some more local beer at another microbrewery but it wasn’t a patch on 14 Grados.

The next morning Russ left Trish at the hotel and went off to visit Air Traffic Control. What a

I bought a Guatemala football shirt!I bought a Guatemala football shirt!I bought a Guatemala football shirt!

great bunch of people they are and they have such incredible views from their office. It was a short visit though, as we had booked an Uber to take us all the way to our next destination, Lake Atitlán. The two alternatives were tourist shuttles and local buses. Both were going to take twice as long and, in the case of the tourist shuttle, wasn’t that much cheaper and involved a change of bus in another town we would be visiting later on the trip. So, uber it was. Flashpacking at its best!


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