Antigua is among the most visited cities in Guatemala and rightly so – its Spanish Baroque architecture, its colorful buildings, its colonial churches and the volcanos around it make it a must for every traveller in South America. The city used to serve as the capital of the country before it was changed to Guatemala City and it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural richness and beauty.
The world Antigua means “antique” in Spanish and the city lives up to its name – being here makes any visitor feels as though they’ve travelled back through time. Its Parque Central (Central Park), the Arco de Santa Catalina, its Baroque churches and many other landmarks remain well-preserved – giving the city its undeniable colonial charm.
Founded on the 16th century at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level, the city and the whole are around it is prone to constant earthquakes and it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since its foundation.
But the city isn’t everything. Antigua is surrounded by three large volcanoes which create a beautiful backdrop for its buildings. Volcán de Agua (Water Volcano), which rises up to an altitude of 3,770 meters (12,356 feet), Acatenango, which is 3,976 meters (13,045 feet) tall and the most impressive, Volcán de Fuego (Fire Volcano), which is known for being constantly active and having regular mayor eruptions. If you enjoy hiking and some adrenaline, make sure to book a tour through your hotel or any travel agency (you won’t have a problem finding one or even several to compare prices as they are everywhere).
Among the most impressive sights here is Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church – the ruins of the once thriving Baroque-style church still remain in the center of Antigua for visitors to see even after it was mostly destroyed in 1773 by an earthquake. Artisans gather in front of it and sell colorful, typical handcrafts and items.
Other favorites among visitors include La Merced Church, The Church and Covent of Capuchins, The Cathedral of Saint James and the Santo Domingo Monastery; all which are worth visiting even if your beliefs differ simply for its history and its beautiful, intricate architecture.
Any city in Guatemala will have bus connections to Antigua due to its popularity.
From Guatemala City, you can take a bus from the main station or hire a taxi. For budget travellers, many local buses travel here for the price of only 1 Quetzal.