Antigua Travel Guide
Introduction to Antigua
Serving as the original capital of the nation of Guatemala, Antigua (not to be confused with the Caribbean country) was stripped of its official title in the 19th century, after repeated earthquakes had convinced local authorities to move the capital somewhere less seismically active.
Despite a loss of prestige that seemingly spelled the end for this beautiful city, Antigua has defied the odds by becoming a city that has appealed to international visitors and Guatemalans seeking a place of peace and serenity on their time off from work. When you visit for yourself, we think that you will find the same feelings.
Cultural Attractions in Antigua
By far, the most significant landmark in Antigua Guatemala is the Arco de Santa Catalina. Located on 5th Avenue North, Arco de Santa Catalina act as a frame for the monstrous Pacaya Volcano that looms on the horizon.
Originally designed to help nuns in the convent from venturing out on the street, today it serves as a photo opportunity for photographers from all over the world. For best results, head out to the arch at dawn, as the streets fill with tourists as the morning progresses.
There are many churches and cathedrals in Antigua Guatemala that are worth a visit, whether they are in a state of ruin, or fully operational. However, if you only have time for one of these sites, make your visit to the Church and Convent of Capuchins.
While it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1736, this archaeologically significant site is still beautiful despite its imperfections. Walking through its courtyard will have you surrounded by a variety of flowers that thrive in the Guatemalan Highlands, making it a place that you will find yourself lingering for longer than you planned.
For the cultural tourist, one of the most rewarding things you can do in Antigua Guatemala is to go on a self-guided walking tour. Grab a map of the city, and wander through the streets, slowly noting the architecture that has been restored, and buildings that have been left to waste despite the amazing grandeur they once had.
Many of these Spanish colonial buildings have been made into boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants, and exclusive boutiques; even the McDonald’s here is noteworthy for its beauty, so if you’re craving a Big Mac in Guatemala, this is the place to satisfy your craving.
Other Attractions in Antigua
As far as natural attractions go in the Antigua Guatemala area, the Pacaya Volcano is easily the most prominent of them all. When you visit the Arco de Santa Catalina, the massive volcano that you’ll see when shooting your postcard photo is of that massive beast.
By inquiring at tour agencies in town, you can organize a day trip that will allow you to scale the sides of this massive mountain, dependent on volcanic conditions. Before beginning your climb, your guide may take you to a coffee farm, as this crop is one of Guatemala’s biggest exports.
If you aren’t in as good shape as you once were, you can still make it up the mountain by going up in on horseback, making this attraction accessible to those of different fitness levels.
There are a few places in Central America more conducive to people watching than Antigua Guatemala, and the best place in this entire city to do that is at Parque Central.
With a lovely fountain being the centerpiece of this park, buy a lunch from a nearby canteen on one of the local streets, and admire the goings-on of daily life in this beautifully sculpted city that has survived the forces of nature, as well as the removal of its former political prestige.
If getting a photo from Arco de Santa Catalina isn’t enough for you, heading up Cerro de la Cruz will get you an iconic photo of this city that you will be proud to show your friends and family when you get home.
While some locals will warn you set this place is known to them as Robber’s Hill, in recent years, police patrols have been instituted during the day from 9 to 5. Head up there during these times and you should be perfectly fine.