Learn Spanish—and set up base camp—in Antigua

Oct 18, 2011
Outside Magazine
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala    Photo: Frederic Lagrange


Doubles from $190; El Convento, A week of language instruction, $140; Centro Linguístico Maya, HOW TO GET THERE: Delta and Spirit fly into Guatemala City, about 45 minutes away. WHEN TO GO: November through August. ALSO CHECK OUT: The Maya ruins at Tikal are the most spectacular in all of Central America. At press time, Guatemala’s government had extended a state-of-siege warning in the region due to an uptick in crime, but Gap Adventures is still running trips to Tikal, and guides say it’s business as usual, albeit with an increased security presence; Again, go only with a highly recommended guide. SAFETY...

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.