There are many reasons to get on a chicken bus and explore pueblos near Antigua Guatemala. Each has its own distinct personality and place in history. The following are five pueblo trips Yolkobsens highly recommend. The shortest is 15 minutes from the heart of Antigua Guatemala and the longest is a full day (two-way) trip.
Tecpan – Iximche, Guatemala
Tecpan Guatemala (or Tecpang), located about 35 miles (55 kms) northwest of Antigua Guatemala, is best known as the main town right next to Iximche, site of the last capital of the Maya civilization. The Iximche ruins have been dated circa 1493 to 1524. Though relatively junior in the scheme of Maya history, these ruins have their own majesty.
Most tourists seek out Tecpan Guatemala as a mere launch pad to get to nearby Iximche, a pre-Columbian archeological site, somewhat overshadowed in allure and reputation by the mighty, more imposing and highly excavated Tikal. Yokobsens got on a Saturday chicken bus and took on a day trip with two goals: to explore both Tecpan and the ruins.
Santa Maria de Jesus Guatemala
Yolkobsens made a recent successful landing in the high hills where Santa Maria de Jesus Guatemala is located, just about 20 minutes from Antigua Guatemala by brash bus or cheeky van.
This is a high terrain pueblo with a population of about 15,500, mostly Cakchiquel, and an altitude pushing toward 7,000 feet (Actually it’s 6,873 feet for all you wonderful sticklers out there in the travel blog ether). It’s to be found on slopes of the defunct Agua Volcano and the main attraction is the exceptionally beautiful views of the surrounding highlands.
San Juan del Obispo Guatemala
Yolkobsens just got back from a day trip outside of Antigua Guatemala and haven’t even stopped to wipe away the chicken bus dust before sitting down to write about our visit to San Juan del Obispo Guatemala.
It’s about five kms straight up the highlands from Antigua Guatemala to this mountain town, which is most noted for the Palace of the Bishop. Bishop Francisco Marroquin threw off his gilded, rising super star pursuits in Madrid and became the first Bishop of the Americas in 1534 and went on to build the church and cloister that dominates the central square. He also made pretty neat digs for himself. For a donation to the church, you can enter and find out why it’s called a palace.
San Pedro Las Huertas Guatemala
San Pedro Las Huertas Guatemala, a 15-minute chicken bus ride southwest of Antigua Guatemala, is more than worth a stop if you are interested pueblo life. Each pueblo has it’s own character and San Pedro Las Huertas is no exception.
Like all pueblos in the area, it has a main central park presided over by a baroque Spanish colonial church, this one established in 1672. Though thoroughly rooted in baroque colonial style, the church is a painted a deep sienna or burnt orange color, which distinguishes the building from many other houses of worship in the region. It has a delicacy that a lot of the other “pesado” Spanish churches do not celebrate. If you think you don’t need to see another baroque church you are wrong. Go for the color alone, especially beautiful in the golden fading light at sunset.
Cuidad Vieja Guatemala
Yolkobsens recently took a tuc-tuc trip from San Antonio Aguas Calientes Guatemala to Ciudad Vieja Guatemala, respectively a pueblo and a city located just 20 minutes outside Antigua Guatemala. There we discovered a booming industry: chicken bus restoration and face lifting.
This city, founded in the early 16th century as the capital of Spanish holdings in Mexico and Central America, preceded Antigua Guatemala as the Spaniards’ New World Big Apple. That’s why it’s called “the Old City.” Though this city has a storied past, it also has a special feature not categorized in the tourist information found online or in formal pamphlets. While strolling the avenidas and calles Yolkobsens discovered a number of large garages where refurbishing of chicken buses was a specialty.