Puerto Quetzal is Guatemala's largest Pacific Ocean port and it is important for both, cargo traffic and as a stop-off point for cruise liners. And to those passing by Guatemala on board a cruise, let me tell that sometimes our eyes limit what we see. In the case of Puerto Quetzal this might be the situation.
Standing on the railing of a cruise ship looking out over the landscape beyond the port, leaves someone with the feeling that it's time to save our money for an excursion in another port. And for the most part that's what everyone does. That is a shame because you will be missing out on "what's over the next hill". And over the next hill is an erupting volcano, a 400 year old city, beautiful architecture, scenery, gardens and ancient ruins of civilizations long gone.
All that is required to see all of this is a sense of adventure and losing that expectation that you have from your own home town. Taking that step on the gangway to move forward, to venture out, to lose oneself in another country and culture. To experience someplace other than where you live. So open the box and be surprised. You may like it.
There are several options to choose from, but to give you an idea I selected a day tour to one of my favorite places in the country, Antigua Guatemala, the colonial capital, so let me describe how it could be.
By tour bus it's an hour and a half scenic drive by coffee plantations, sugar cane fields and rising volcanoes. This charming town, located 4,500 feet above sea level, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for both its colorful Spanish Mudejar-influenced Baroque architecture and its many ruins of colonial churches. While relaxing around Antigua's popular Parque Central, visitors are afforded a view of many notable architectural landmarks as well as the spectacular natural beauty of the three major volcanoes that tower over the city's low skyline.
Just up the street from the park, a short 10 minute walk is the next place you don't want to miss, Casa Santo Domingo. Once a convent devoted to the followers of the Grand Order of Santo Domingo de Guzman, its now a beautiful hotel set among the ruins. Beautiful arches covered in flowering vines, gardens that surround fountains of cool water greet you as you move around the property. Make sure you have plenty of space on your digital camera. It's absolutely beautiful. You may even want to come back for an extended stay.
Until now, you've been walking for a bit and it's probably time for a break. Head down to the Jade factory, which is located just a few minutes walk from Casa Santo Domingo. The factory is kind of your welcome and departure center for Antigua when visiting the city from a cruise. A great staff is ready to greet you as you get off the bus and the factory is always in full swing to watch the fine craftsmanship of all the pieces. Buses will let you off and pick you up here.
By now you've finished your tour of Antigua Guatemala and have headed back to the ship. I hope you enjoyed yourself and experienced the beauty and culture of this part of Guatemala.