Whether it was my un-triumphant entrance, the fact that I was high on painkillers, or the open arms of a stranger, Antigua made its way to the center of my heart the moment I set foot in this old town.
After taking care of my bloody wound, the rest of my first night in Antigua was a meet-n-greet with who I consider to be my guardian angel, Doris, the stranger who opened her home and offered me food and help in a time very much needed.
Cozy in a guest bedroom I went to bed early to rest my knee and my over stressed leg.
The following day Antigua was my playground, and I was like a kid in christmas morning…
With a beautiful sunny weather, the least I could do was to head out and walk the town I was so impatiently waiting to experience, yet I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
The quaint look of its low scale buildings and cobblestone streets are the perfect foreground to the surrounding natural background full of green mountains and rock brown volcanoes.
Antigua surpassed all my expectations!
Antigua is very compact and easy to walk around. It’s well-preserved Spanish Mudéjar-influenced Baroque architecture, dotted with the presence of monasteries and colonial churches ruins, is one of the things that make this town so popular with tourists as well as the factor that makes it so unique and so pleasant to the eyes.
Founded in 1543, Antigua Guatemala was the colonial Spanish capital of Central America. It was the old capital of Guatemala, but it was not the first capital city. In fact, Antigua is the third capital city of Guatemala, originally called Santiago de los Caballeros.
Like with its predecessors, Antigua ceased to be the capital city of Guatemala in 1773 after the devastating Santa Marta earthquake struck the city. This area has a high volcanic and earthquake activity. After 1773, the capital of Guatemala became what we know today as Guatemala City (30 km east of Antigua). While Antigua ceased to be a city of importance and its population decreased immensely, it wasn’t abandoned in its entirety, so a slow rebuild process began afterwards. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Guatemala.
As you walk the city, you will see the sharp contrast of one-story buildings, sitting dwarfed by the size of massive ruined walls of ancient buildings that today hold nothing between their edges but air and a history to be told.
This city is perfect to spend your time walking around and experiencing its daily life. Horses with carriages stroll the street, giving a sense of a time that passed while “modern” chicken buses blast their music and showcase their colorful art as a way to stand out. One if it’s most active areas is Parque Central (Central Park), the heart of the city. It is located in the center of the town and it is a city block in size. It is designed with concentric circular walkways threading among trees and a fountain in the center. It has a very positive and friendly vibe that makes people-watching and just sitting there to contemplate the scenery a soothing experience. The park is surrounded by government and church buildings.
Throughout the traditional Spanish grid of the city, you will see some of its most important buildings and notable architectural landmarks like: La Catedral, el Palacio de los Gobernadores, Convento de Capuchinas, Convento de Santa Clara, el Arco de Santa Catarina, Iglesia La Merced, and the Handcrafts Market, among others. They are all well worth a visit.
El Mercado (the Market) is located 3 blocks west of the town center. This market is pretty big and just walking through it is a cultural experience. It is almost like a maze full of sections that sell different goods like souvenirs, handcrafts, commodities, fresh meats, produce, food, and more. By the way, here’s where you’ll find the cheapest food in Antigua. The market is opened every day including Sunday, but the largest crowd is found on Saturday, Monday, and Thursday.
I loved Antigua so much that after leaving it left that feel good feeling in me that made me want to go back before the end of my trip. And so I did. I returned to Antigua to experience a little more of its charm.
And again, it didn’t disappoint.
My last few hours in Antigua were during Lent celebration, a very culturally and religiously immersed experience that showed a different color of this city.
I heart Antigua, and look forward to spend more time with it.