Few countries are as culturally intact as Guatemala, and its famous city, Antigua, is imbued with a gay sensibility that is appreciated by even the most critical of travelers.
I’m a pretty tough customer, and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some pretty incredible places, so I can be a bit hard to impress. However, Antigua blew me away, and it continues to offer something new and interesting every time I visit. While no city in Guatemala offers a huge gay community, evidence suggests that gay hands have been at work here over the centuries, shaping Antigua into a traveler’s paradise.
Antigua was once the center of life in the Americas. Over the centuries, the city has been destroyed by several earthquakes, fires and wars, leaving colossal ruins thattell its history and colonial heritage. Lucky for current travelers, these ruins were not bulldozed to pave way for modern pre-fabricated structures. Rather, someone early on studied the regal marble and stone edifices, the intricate carvings and painstaking masonry, now home to colorful birds and wisps of plant life, and saw it for what is was and still is: beautiful and romantic. Thus these buildings, along with Antigua’s history, were preserved. Now you just know gay people had their hand in that.
And apparently they still do. Antigua boasts fabulous restaurants featuring cuisine that is at once inventive and traditional, housed in buildings that retain their original identities. If you’re a big foodie like me, Antigua will not disappoint! You’ll dine in centuries-old stone buildings, next to fountains illuminated by candles and rose petals, with occasional wisps of jasmine in the air. That’s pretty gay!
After dinner, since everything is so close in Antigua, you’ll walk back to your stunning hotel. Antigua’s many stylish hotels are former convents, colonial homes and governmental buildings, which fit in perfectly with their surroundings. I always sleep well in Antigua, as the peacefulness of the city creeps into my dreams.
Antigua has a small gay community of its own, and while it doesn’t have an exclusively gay bar or restaurant, its best clubs have a very mixed clientele where all are welcome. We have been bringing our Zoom Vacations gay travel groups here for years, and we always run into loads of gay locals and tourists alike. There is just something about good food, great shopping, chic hotels, stunning architecture, and a temperate climate that really attracts the gays. We know a good thing when we see it!
After exploring Antigua, you may wish to end your stay with what just may be Guatemala’s most famous attraction, the ruins of Tikal. If you ever dreamed of being Indiana Jones discovering lost worlds and rare, priceless artifacts, then this is your chance to live out your dreams. Sometimes when I’m there, I literally expect to turn a corner only to find a mammoth stone marble rolling down at me like in the movies. It hasn’t happened yet.
Tikal is an ancient Mayan citadel comprised of numerous pyramids and stone buildings, nested within lush tropical rainforest. Mayan inhabitants departed this magnificent city hundreds of years ago in 899 AD, and currently its most famous residents are howler monkeys. One visit to Tikal and you will instantly see where they get their name.
From ancient Mayan ruins to a preserved colonial town offering exquisite cuisine, fabulous hotels and a vibrant nightlife, Guatemala’s treasures are sure to surprise, delight, and impress. Antigua will embrace you with culture, history, luxury and style, and you won’t have to take out a loan to have a high-end vacation.
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Bryan Herb is co-founder of Zoom Vacations, a award-winning gay tour company specializing in over-the-top gay group vacations all over the world. Bryan is also the chairman of the board of the IGLTA, was a travel expert for the Travel Channel’s hit show, "Vacation Challenge" and was the South America travel expert for Logo’s gay travel show, "Bump."
Tagged: LGBT travel