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Hola, Antigua

Mira Dayal

EVA PICCOZZI on Guatemala’s walled city’s fuent blend of language and leisure:

Guatemala is not the frst place one thinks of for vacation travel or language study. Long associated with drug cartels and crime, the country still faces difculty in attracting

the average tourist. But the colonial city of Antigua, just 45 minutes from the nation’s capital, has been quietly luring Spanish language enthusiasts for decades and ofers the perfect fusion of vacation and study in a safe environment. 

Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is well preserved, easy to navigate on foot, and a great family destination.

A walled city that uses both metropolitan and tourism police for added security, Antigua charms with Spanish-style architecture, cobblestone streets, colonial churches, ancient Mayan ruins and textiles. Plus, there’s always the breathtaking view of three large volcanoes from anywhere in the city.

The many language schools within a one-mile radius combined with the city’s rarities make Antigua an ideal environment for Spanish study. Students can design custom schedules and work one-on-one with certifed, friendly instructors for about $10 an hour. Some even ofer Skype classes for when you return home. And, since few Guatemalans speak English, the city ofers a genuine (and unavoidable) immersion experience.

For a complete local experience, consider staying with a host family, which the schools will arrange for about $80 per week, including meals. Hotels are equally afordable. A stay at the luxury Hotel Casa Santo Domingo costs about $100 a night. Situated in a 17th-century convent, it boasts a spectacular view of Volcán de Fuego and free admission to the six museums on the premises.

Among the best schools are: Proyecto Linguístico Francisco Marroquín (; Ixchel Spanish (; and Mundo Spanish School (

EVA PICCOZZI teaches Spanish at Amherst Regional High School in Massachusetts and has taken fve instructional trips to Guatemala with her students. She has traveled extensively in South America and spent a college semester in Santiago, Chile.