We were supposed to climb a couple of volcanoes in Antigua, but things didn't turn out as planned. It might be wrong to say that we wasted 3 days in Antigua, but that's exactly what we did, at least from a mountaineering point of view.
We arrived Antigua in the afternoon, and found a nice small hotel named Dionisio. This place is also listed in Lonely Planet. We got one of the rooms on the roof with a large communal terrace outside. Antigua is a beautiful town to wander around. A well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture and cobblestone streets. We immediately noticed the numerous old churches in Antigua, many of them are heavily damaged because of frequent earthquakes in this part of Guatemala.
We also visited a few tour agencies to get some information about the volcanoes. None of the agencies had any fixed departures for the next day. This came as a big surprise on us. Hiking the volcanoes around Antigua don't seem to be a popular activity like the ones around Xela. This didn't make any sense to us, because the number of tourists in Antigua is a lot higher than in Xela. Maybe the tourists in Xela are a bit more outdoor minded, while the tourists in Antigua rather want to sit and drink coffee.
Unfortunately we were too late in the afternoon to get any of the agencies to arrange a private tour for us the next day. We even considered to do it on our own, but after a brief visit at the tourist police office, we decided against it because of security issues. Volcan de Aqua is notorious for armed robberies. Most agencies simply don't do it because of the high risk. It's also a lot of logistical hassle for them to bring a police escort along. Volcan Acatenango is safer, we were told, but only if you take one of the local guides from the village below Acatenango (La Soledad). The reputable agencies only use guides from this village to prevent robberies. This also means it will take longer time for the agencies to prepare a tour, because they need to get in touch with a local guide well in advance, preferably at lunchtime the day before.
We only had one task during our second day in Antigua. To get a deal with one of the agencies to bring us up Acatenango in one day. We finally decided on Adrenalina Tours, because they offered us the best deal. We also liked the guy in the office. The rest of the day was spent wandering around in Antigua and enjoying the great food, especially at the Indian restaurant Pushkar. We went early to bed because of the upcoming trip to Acatenango.
Adrenalina Tours was supposed to pick us up at 4:00 in the night. We waited a long time for them, but nobody showed up at our hotel. Tommaso went back to bed at 5:00, while I sat on the terrace waiting for the sunrise. I could not go to sleep, I was too upset about the fact that we had wasted another day in Antigua. At least I got to see the sunrise, but because of haze it turned out to be as disappointing as everything else. I decided to go back to sleep.
We woke up at 9:00 when this son-of-a-bitch from Adrenalina Tours showed up at our hotel. He told us about the big mistake they had done. There are two hotels with the name Dionisio in Antigua, and the driver had waited in the wrong hotel!! What a stupid mistake. Nothing to do about it, at least we got our money back.
We have almost spent two weeks in Guatemala and we need to move on. Our next destination is the Copan Ruinas in Honduras.