Despite being rocked and devastated by numerous earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions over the last few centuries, Antigua Guatemala, more commonly known as Antigua, still stands as a prime example of colonial Spanish city-planning and architecture.
Antigua was once the capital of Guatemala. But in 1773, the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of the town. The capital was moved to a more secure location, which became Guatemala City, the nation’s modern capital. Many residents left Antigua, but enough remained to keep it and its many ruins from crumbling completely to the ground.
Today, the small city is one of Guatemala’s tourist hotspots and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Easy to explore on foot, the city is home to stunning monuments, churches and monasteries, many in the Baroque style and its regional adaptation, barroco antigueño.
But it’s not only ruins and classic architecture that make Antigua special. Walk along the cobbled streets and you’ll pass colorful homes in pastel hues, an array of modern shops, sophisticated restaurants, and a growing number of boutique hotels. And at the heart of the city — all of which is laid out in the classic colonial Spanish grid design — lies the Parque Central. The pretty park is a gathering point for residents and tourists alike, and a fine place for people watching.
Just outside of town you can visit coffee farms and cacao plantations, learning firsthand how coffee is grown and harvested and how cacao is turned into chocolate. If you’re feeling energetic, you can hike up Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) for views across the city. Or, if you want a greater physical challenge, hike up one of the spectacular volcanoes that dot the landscape and experience breathtaking panoramic vistas of the entire region.
Learn more about this destination at Inguat.