"A colonial gem" Top 5 Page for this destination Antigua Guatemala by toonsarah
Antigua Guatemala Travel Guide: 655 reviews and 1,895 photos
When the sun goes down the air cools (we are quite high up in the Guatemalan Highlands here), and there are bars, cafés and restaurants to suit every budget – although this not a place to come for boisterous nightlife.
Antigua, or Antigua Guatemala to give it its full name, was the country’s third capital, founded in 1543. Despite the ravages of several earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the city was for over 200 years the capital and economic centre of the whole Kingdom of Guatemala (today’s southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.). But in 1773 came the most destructive of all the earthquakes, the Santa Marta, and much of the city’s political and religious infrastructure was destroyed. A proposal was drawn up to move the capital for a third time, and despite some opposition, in 1775, a royal letter was written to order the foundation of a new capital.
Left largely in ruins the city might perhaps have crumbled away completely, but enough fabric and people remained to keep it alive. Today’s Santiago de Guatemala, Antigua, is a National Monument and it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. At its heart is an almost perfect grid of streets and avenues, each of them a gem, lined with picturesque houses (many single storey because of the constant threat from the forces of nature) and dotted with the skeletons of those ruined colonial churches.
Antigua might strike you at first, as it did me, as something of a museum piece: a colonial city preserved in aspic, its ruined churches frozen at the moment of destruction, its once grand houses turned into posadas and restaurants to cater to the whims of tourists.
But you only have to walk a few blocks from the centre to discover that “real” life happens here too. Visit the locals’ market; sit for a while in the Parque de Union; pause for a while in one of those same churches to watch local women take a moment from their day to light a candle. This too is Antigua.
- Pros:Compact, full of charm and a photographer's dream!
- Cons:None - unless you have difficulties in walking on cobbles
- In a nutshell:Not the museum piece it at first appears
From San Pedro we drove through the old (that is the second) capital of Guatemala, Ciudad Vieja to this, the final... more travel advice
Our tour with Victor of Antigua Tours (see Things to Do tip) took us to three very different villages in the area, of... more travel advice
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