I Heart Antigua, And You Will Too!

Antigua Guatemala

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…

Antigua Guatemala

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.

Antigua Guatemala

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.

Antigua Guatemala

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.

Antigua Guatemala

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.

Antigua Guatemala

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.


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Comments

  1. says

    I have been hearing so much about Guatemala lately. I’ve always wanted to go and I think it is time I made it happen. It looks really qauint and I love the horse driven carriages

    • says

      Caz, I know you will love Guatemala. If you want to travel to Central America, I’d say Guatemala should be on your list! The town of Antigua has that great quaint look and feeling that makes it feel so peaceful and interesting.

  2. says

    we definitely love antigua. we have both spent at least 6 months each there. i think jess is more like a year!
    there are though a lot of people that dont like it, mainly because it isnt the ‘real’ guatemala. whatevs to that i say!

    • says

      I knew you guys love Antigua! In fact, one of the first times I heard about Antigua was through one of your posts. Actually, it was one of the things that made me want to go there. “Real” Guatemala or not, it IS part of what makes Guatemala such a great and interesting country. And I personally love it! :)

  3. says

    At first I was not a big fan of Antigua, but after a few days there I grew to love it. It is pretty and has its own lil charm that is different from the rest of Guatemala!

    • says

      Ha! Backpackers are pretty common… that’s true. But still, you can see so many locals doing their daily activities and hanging around that even the backpackers blend within the masses. (of course, unless you step inside a hostel!) :)

  4. says

    Antigua is such a beautiful town – definitely one of the prettiest colonial towns in all of Central America! We both love it and can’t wait to go back. No matter if touristy or not, every Central America traveler should go there!

    • says

      I think you will love Antigua. Great place to take lots of photographs. BTW, I LOVE your photographs, especially your reenactment photography! (I’m such a WWII geek!) Can I be your next subject?! lol :P

  5. says

    I heart Antigua as well. For me it was love at first site and it has never left. I have a painting of Fuego Volcano and the streets of Antigua (similar to your first picture) hanging in my living room and even named my cat Fuego after the volcano so a little piece of Antigua with me.

    • says

      Ok, I just have to say that naming your cat Fuego is one of the coolest things I’ve read in a comment here!!! :P How cool is that!! I definitely believe you love Antigua and Volcan Fuego. It’s so easy to love em!

  6. says

    This gets me really excited – I’m going to be there in less than one month! I think it will be a great soft landing into Latin America.

  7. says

    I only know the ‘other’ Antigua in the Carribean, but judging by your words and pictures, this one may catch my heart too. It’s such a short distance from Miami, so when I’m back home in December I plan on visiting Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and… this you will like: San Juan de Puerto Rico. Is your knee wound healed?

    • says

      I too believe you will like Antigua! For you it will be easy to visit it since you will already be going to Guatemala. Wow, nice places you will be visiting in Central America, and yayyy for San Juan!!! It’s good you’re giving it a second shot! :) Let me know if you need any tips on places to visit, things to do, and where to eat.

      The knee has healed pretty good, thanks for asking. I’m just taking it easy since the doctor told me it would take a couple months to fully heal… but thanks God everything is fine!

  8. says

    I heart Antigua too! I spent two weeks there, including Christmas, last year. Even though it is a very touristy place (normally a turn off for me), there is something special about it. I could walk the cobblestone streets for hours looking at the pretty buildings and the surrounding volcanoes.

    • says

      That’s true, it is very touristy, but like you said, there is something special about this place that kinda makes you overlook that fact.

  9. says

    Antigua was very surpriseing to me as well. The vibrant colours, the stunning surrounding volcanoes, the shimmering heat,,, Loved it. Have a fairly large painting of an Antigua street scene on my wall. (As a bonus, the Volcan de fuego erupted on our way up. My 9-year-old thought it was one of the coolest things she has ever seen).

  10. says

    I haven’t been to Guatemala but my wife has. She spent 3 weeks there a few years ago and enjoyed it. The food was delicious and cheap and it was a great surprise to her as well! The first photo in this post looks like a painting we have from Antigua. Hope I get the chance to visit someday!

    • says

      There is a lot of good and delicious food there. I definitely recommend going there, Jeremy. If you have the chance, go! You will love it!

  11. says

    We just finished up 8 weeks in Antigua. Great place to catch up on work and recharge after being on the road for quite some time. We were lucky enough to be there for Semana Santa which was fascinating..We did 4 or 5 posts on Semana Santa alone.

    • says

      I was there a few weeks before Semana Santa, just as they started Lent. I wish I had stayed longer to experience the entire holiday and celebration as they have very particular and interesting ways of celebrating it. Definitely a great place to recharge batteries after a long time on the road.

  12. says

    Guatemala is my favorite Central American country – the whole time I was there I didn’t find a single town or city that I didn’t love and that includes Antigua. And the Semana Santa celebrations that take place there are fantastic!

    • says

      Guatemala is my favorite Central American country too! I loved every single bit of my trip. Every place is so different yet so characteristic of what Guatemala stand out for. :)

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