Although Antigua has a reputation for being touristy, we found that it wasn't too difficult to get lost and find a slice of authentic Guatemalan life. One of our favorite places to do this: Antigua's central market.
Have you ever returned to a country and felt you were visiting for the first time, the experiences and locations so utterly different than before?
That was our recent visit to Nicaragua.
Stand in the middle of the Grand Plaza between Temple I and Temple II at Tikal, Guatemala and imagine what life must have been like in this Mayan city over 1,200 years ago when Tikal was at its peak. The size of the temples and surrounding acropolis indicate that this must have been a rich and sophisticated city-state. Yet the ruins are only partially exposed and understood, as thick rain forest still covers most of the park.
And the grand mystery remains: Why was Tikal abandoned in 900 AD?
“For safety reasons, we'll need to go in groups of at least four to the cemetery,” our Spanish language teacher informed us.
“Why,” we wondered. “Are the dead coming back to life?”
What is Central American food? Which dishes and street food should you seek out and what sort of flavors and spices might you find when you visit Central America? Our Central American Food guide shares of the best dishes and … Continue Reading
As we close out our reflections on Central America (don't worry, food comes next), we are reminded of the places and moments — the good, the bad, the idiosyncratic, the illustrative — from our zigzag chicken bus journey across Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Let's dig in.
As we travel, it's common for locals the world over to ask us where we are from. In Asia, the response “The United States” was usually sufficient. In Europe, they didn't ask; they assumed.
Not so in Central America. People were curious to know the states and often the towns and cities where we grew up, where we have lived. After sharing our details, it wasn't uncommon to hear: “I had a cousin who lived there“, “Oh, I lived [nearby] for 15 years” or “My brother lives there.”
We usually share photos to better relate our experiences and provide a more personal look at a country and its culture. Here we do the same, but we add a cautionary tale.
El Salvador is one of those places I recall from my childhood, but for all the “wrong” reasons. Newscasts in the 1980s equated the country with menacing jungles, death squads and guerrillas. Our recent conversations suggest that for many, El Salvador's image as dangerous and gun-prone persists today.
Our timing was again impeccable.
Honduras, a country we had just visited, experiences a military coup and begins to melt down just days after we leave its borders.