Learn Spanish—and set up base camp—in Antigua

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala    Photo: Frederic Lagrange

In the Spanish colonial city of Antigua, you’ll find Centro Linguístico Maya, one of the country’s best Spanish language schools. In the shadow of three towering volcanoes, the Centro offers one-on-one instruction up to seven hours a day with a private tutor; then practice what you’ve learned at outings to local markets and ruins. For total immersion, stay with one of the school’s hand-vetted local families or check in to the lush digs at El Convento, across from the partially intact ruins of the 18th-century Capuchin convent. Antigua is a perfect jumping-off point to stunning, more than thousand-foot-deep Lake Atitlán—30 miles away in the western highlands—with sheer-cliff trails and vibrant Maya villages. But don’t go it alone: petty theft and violent crime are on the rise throughout the country. Always travel in a group with an experienced guide.

From Outside Magazine, Nov 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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