Firstly a lot of tourists “skip” Guatemala City from their itinerary and visit to Guatemala. Some even ridiculously fly into GC airport and get a minibus straight out to Antigua!! Big mistake as far as I’m concerned as they miss the beating heart, the pulsating throb and the vivacious beast of the nation’s lively capital. Guatemala City has so many different faces to see that is deserves a few days at least!
I decided on GC as my last stop in Guatemala before heading to El Salvador. I had spent almost 4weeks in the country by this stage and set aside two days in GC. Then I met top local lad Marcos who offers the first and only local bicycle tours of the city. Marcos twisted my arm and asked me to stay one more day, so…I did and I’m pretty glad I did.
What I got on my final day in Guatemala was an in depth, fast moving and enjoyable bike ride through Guatemala City. One of my coolest experiences in my Central American adventure.
How to Organise the Bike Tour of GC
It’s simple and there is only one way to do it – contact Marcos who runs Quetzalroo Hostel in Zona 10. You can stay there too of course and most backpackers do, but I preferred to stay in the Historic Center in Zona 1.
Marcos runs the cycling tours 5 days a week (or depending on demand, more or less) so just check in with him when they are running. The tours start from Quetzalroo Hostel sometime between 9.30 and 10am. I got there for 9.20 and we were off out cycling before 10am. The tour costs a flat rate of 120 Quetzals for the day (around $15 US). Marcos was the first person (and only) to offer this kind of tour of GC and it was his brainchild, his initiative and his aim is to change people’s perceptions of Guatemala City, a city which was elected Cultural Capital of IberoAmerica for 2015!!
There were just four of us – Marcos the local, Ross from Scotland, Stina from Sweden and me. Helmets on, check our bikes worked and off we went!
An Overview of the Tour
Marcos has five different routes and he likes to mix things so no two tours will be exactly the same! Weather, size of group, day of the week, festival On etc. will all impact on the tour you get. At the time of our tour there was a special series of art exhibitions on and so that was incorporated into our day out.
On the day here are the rough times and stops we made, with a few photos:
– 10.20 am El Injerto Coffee Shop – I chose a Chemex coffee which was 30 Quetzals. The coffee here is one of the finest in the world and Guatemalans are proud of it.
– 10.50 am Obelisk – We had a quick stop by the Obelisk which commemorates the independence of Guatemala.
– 11am Zacapa Rum Tasting. We headed to a store and tasting house for the world famous Zacapa Ron (Rum).
– 11.20 am Art and Cultural District (including visits to 5/6 art exhibitions). This part of the tour was on because we were lucky to be there when there was a massive Central American art festival on with loads of galleries. We visited a ton of these, so here are a selection of photos from them.
12 noon – Lunch. For lunch, we go raw, tasty, local and cheap on a street corner somewhere on the way to Centro Civico. Mine was a local spicy torta, meat and salad meal and cost a mere 10 Quetzals.
1 pm – We head to Centro Civico. Here sits the City Hall, the Palace of Justice and the coin Museum.
1.20 – 1.30 pm – A manic bit of cycling through the busy streets of Zona 1 on route to what Marcos describes as the best restaurant in Guatemala, where you will try the best food in all of Central America – Senora Pu. On a whirlwind trip, there was no time for 2 meals, but for sure this is the place to eat when you’re in the city. They have a ton of meals all invented right here and only available at Senora Pus!
Then we head to a cool local bookshop and cafe on the other side of the Parque Central.
1.30 pm – Bookshop stop which also has a fairtrade shop and a quirky cafe/restaurant. You can grab a quick drink here if you like. I stuck to water.
1.50 pm – Parque Central. This is the central square in the whole city, and country. Admire the Palace, the square and fountain and the massive Cathedral. I went inside the Cathedral.
2 pm – Mercado Central – We toured the main market in the city and Marcos is so popular he knows half the vendors!! Opportunity to buy some cheap fruit and veg here plus some souvenirs.
2.30 pm – Marcos tells us about a tip off he heard about a music gig in a funky bar on the back end of Zona 1.
We rock up and there’s a charge of 25 Quetzals to get in, and being all budgeters we have to think about it, but the idea of sharing litre bottles of beer with music and in the sun is too tempting, so we go on in!
It’s an invite only type of gig for local journalists but we’re welcome and we enjoy it. Plus the bar has a great view of the city from the roof.
Marcos tells us more about his cool city and as time is running out, we finish our drinks and head back towards Zona 10 for the end of the bike ride.
On the way down I stopped by the Eiffel Tower replica for a quick snap and we had to say our goodbyes in the Quetzalroo Hostel as I headed back to Zona 10 and off to El Salvador the next day!
It was a superb cycling tour and Marcos is an expert, he knows how to show you his city in a way you maybe didn’t think was possible. If you find yourself in Guatemala, head to the capital and give Marcos a message!
Don’t forget Guatemala was recently elected Cultural Capital of Ibero America for 2015 so it’s got a lot going for it, and it DESERVES to be seen.
Here are my videos from the Cycling Tour: