Antigua, Guatemala

Photo: El Convento Boutique Hotel
Photo: El Convento Boutique Hotel

It’s been a pretty perfect morning. You woke up—later than usual—feeling more refreshed and relaxed than you have in weeks, if not months. The scent of eucalyptus still lingered from an aromatherapy mixture delivered last night. You pushed open your suite’s sliding glass doors, so you could hear the resident birds and the nearby church bells, and feel the cool breeze from the central courtyard. Sunlight slowly streaked across the wooden floorboards in your suite. The room’s dark coffee and wine hues softened as they brighten up. While the natural skylight and the powerful rain shower in the exposed-stone-wall bathroom erased your last bit of sleepiness.

Outside of your comfortable suite, the rest of the hotel is already set up for the gorgeous day ahead. Fragrant roses fill the lush gardens. Water flows from hidden fountains. The small pool sparkles as a single wave ripples through it. A 100-year-old Tempisque tree towers over the courtyard. Plus the combined smell of coffee and freshly baked bread guides you toward Elù Restaurant, where a buffet is set up on the terrace. It would be impossible to decide which you enjoy more, as the complex local coffee and the view of domed copulas with a volcano in the background are both quite spectacular.

Photo: El Convento Boutique Hotel
Photo: El Convento Boutique Hotel

This blissful sanctuary is El Convento Boutique Hotel in Antigua, Guatemala. The small hotel, completely made up of suites, sits on a cobblestone street across from the Capuchinas Convent. Everything you want to see in the City of Perpetual Roses—from the Baroque churches to the citrus-colored colonial mansions to the handicraft market—is within walking distance of the hotel. The former capital of Guatemala is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for blending European and Mayan cultures. Yet the city’s natural beauty can never be overlooked. Cacao and that mouth-watering coffee are grown in the hills surrounding the city. Plus not one, not two, but three volcanoes loom overhead.

It’s easy to wander back and forth between El Convento and the center of La Antigua, as the locals call it, so you take full advantage. You spend the morning people-watching in Central Park (the town square), exploring ruins from the 1773 earthquake that devastated the city, and visiting the churches: the San José Cathedral, La Merced Church, and the Church of the La Recollection. After a hearty lunch, you return to the hotel for a little nap and a quick dip in the pool. You visit the fascinating Museum of Colonial Art and the ChocoMuseo, to learn about cacao production, in the afternoon. Then you feast on traditional Guatemalan dishes back at Elù as the sun starts to set.

Once again, the food and the view are a match made in heaven. You eat guicoy (squash)-filled ravioli with loroco (flower bud) sauce as Fuego, an active volcano, spews lava in the background. La Antigua just became your new favorite city in Central America.

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