When travelling in the Central American country of Guatemala it’s hard to avoid Antigua (not that one should, of course). I didn’t avoid it for long spending most of yesterday, my third day in the country, on buses getting here from Flores in the north.
— davidMbyrne.com (@ByrneDavidM) May 19, 2013
Antigua is traveller centre in Guatemala, and for good reason; it provides all the traveller comforts – the hospedajes (guest houses), the Wi-Fi enabled cafes/bars & a glut of travel-related agencies – all of which means this is one of the most popular places in the region to come learn Spanish. People come here for days but end up staying weeks. It’s that kind of place.
Antigua || Then & Now
Antigua is the cultural capital of the country and is by all accounts one of the finest colonial cities in Central America – I’ve seen little, as of yet, to compare it to. It is pretty. The city is famous for its well-preserved Spanish influenced Baroque architecture & a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches that date back to the 16th century, all of which attained UNESCO World Heritage site status as far back as 1979.
Founded in March 1543, the city was once the capital of Spanish Colonial Central America, an area that encompassed present-day Chiapas (in southern Mexico), Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica & Nicaragua. Guatemala, as well as the other aforementioned Central American countries, gained their independence from Spain in 1821 and became independent nations in 1840 following the dissolution of the United Provinces of Central America. Antigua served as the cultural, economic, religious, political and educational centre for the entire region & flourished as a result. However, the Spanish grew tired of it being flattened by earthquakes so after the massive earthquake of 1773 they relocated the capital to present-day Guatemala City, a short distance to the east.
The cobblestone streets, parks and plazas, convents & ornate churches, all set against a backdrop of three towering dormant volcanoes (& all hidden behind rain clouds thus far), give the place an enchanting and romantic colonial charm, at least during daylight hours.
– Lonely Planet, Introduction to Guatemala
I arrived last night so today was my first real look at Antigua. It was overcast and rained for most of the day so I seemed to concentrate mostly on the people of the city. I’m leaving for the Guatemalan highlands tomorrow but I’ll be back in the city before too long, and certainly before I leave Guatemala for good. I’ll be hoping then for better weather – after all, there’s a (very) photogenic town out there still waiting to be captured (Update || May 26, 2013 || My return to Antigua can be found here. And yes, the weather did improve & the city was more photogenic).