Today I'm sharing my sightseeing experience in Antigua Guatemala (commonly referred to as just Antigua). Founded in 1543 by the Spaniards, Antigua was Guatemala's former capital until a major earthquake in 1773 damaged most of the city. Antigua was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. It is the perfect starting point to my Guatemala adventure. Feel free to click on the pictures to enlarge them.
Presently there are no direct flights from Canada to Guatemala so for this trip I took:
- A non-stop flight from Toronto to Mexico City, about five hours.
- A non-stop flight from Mexico City to Guatemala City, about two hours.
- A shuttle van service from Guatemala City to Antigua, about one hour.
- Guatemala is the most populated country in Central America, with an estimated population of 17 million.
- Guatemala's official language is Spanish. However, more than twenty Mayan languages are spoken, especially in rural areas.
- Guatemala's currency is the Quetzal.
- Guatemala's capital is Guatemala City.
- Antigua is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) south west of Guatemala City.
SIGHTSEEING IN ANTIGUA GUATEMALA
The Central Park and main square in Antigua is a good starting point to explore the city. Three main buildings that occupy three sides of the main square include Antigua's City Hall, the Captain General Palace, and the Cathedral.
|Antigua Guatemala's City Hall|
|The Captain General Palace, Antigua Guatemala|
|Antigua Guatemala Cathedral|
The Cathedral has suffered many earthquakes over the centuries. Much of the building was seriously damaged by the 1773 earthquake. Behind the front facade are the ruins.
|Antigua Guatemala Cathedral ruins|
A walk up to the second floor of Antigua's City Hall provides a good view of the main square. A fountain is located in the centre of the square. It's common to see local women selling crafts at the park.
|Antigua's central park and main square|
|Guatemalan women selling crafts|
El Tanque de La Unión is a public laundry washbasin, located three blocks from Antigua's main square. In colonial times, public laundry washbasins served as the places for people to do laundry, and as a community gathering place. These washbasins still work and are in use today in dry season when water is less abundant in local homes.
|Public laundry washbasins in Antigua Guatemala|
Within ten blocks from the main square, visiting Antigua is like stepping into a time-machine that takes you back over three hundred years. There are many religious buildings, churches and convents, between short distances from one another. Each has a different design. Many of the buildings had been damaged by earthquakes or seismic activity since Antigua is located between three volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango.
The Santa Catalina Arch is one of the iconic landmarks in Antigua Guatemala. Built in the 17th century, it connected the Santa Catalina convent to a school allowing the nuns to pass from one building to the other without going out on the street. A clock on top was added in the 1830s.
|The Santa Catalina Arch, Antigua Guatemala|
St. Joseph (San José El Viejo) church ruins: The church was built between 1740 and 1761. It suffered serious damages by the 1773 earthquake. The front entrance shows beautiful architecture. Most of the interior is in ruins and is not open to the public.
|San José El Viejo church, Antigua Guatemala|
La Merced church is Antigua’s most impressive colonial church. Construction began in 1548, and even though it was affected by earthquakes, it stands in great shape.
|La Merced, Antigua Guatemala|
Santa Teresa de Jesús church ruins: This edifice was initially built as a convent for the Carmelite order from Lima, Peru. Much of the interior was shattered by the 1773 earthquake and is not open to the public, but the facade remains standing.
|Santa Teresa de Jesús church, Antigua Guatemala|
St. Peter's (San Pedro) hospital and adjacent church: The hospital was founded in 1663. The adjacent church is dedicated to Peter of St. Joseph de Betancur.
|St. Peter's church and hospital, Antigua|
St. Francis (San Francisco El Grande) church was completed in 1702. It is one of the most visited churches by local people in Antigua because of the shrine of Peter of St. Joseph de Betancur.
|St. Francis church, Antigua Guatemala|
The Santo Domingo church and monastery was destroyed in the 1773 earthquake. Part of the ruins was transformed into the five-star hotel Casa Santo Domingo. It is well worth a visit to see the preserved architecture from the baroque period of ancestral America and a number of treasures from this period on display throughout the hotel.
|Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua|
Antigua is a compact city with a beautiful blend of ruins, restored colonial buildings, and modern colonial-style buildings. The city's main streets are rough cobblestone so sturdy and comfortable walking shoes are essential.
From Antigua, the Agua and Fuego volcanoes are clearly visible. Agua means water and Fuego means fire in Spanish. The most unexpected natural wonder that I witnessed in Antigua was Fuego volcano spewing plume of ashes every ten minutes or so. It is the volcano on the left as shown in my photo below. I later learned that its recent eruption on November 18, 2018 prompted a preventive evacuations of about 4,000 people from communities near the volcano.
|Active Fuego volcano, Antigua Guatemala|
I enjoyed exploring Antigua Guatemala very much. The best way to explore this city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is by walking. During my visit, the weather was beautiful with sun and clouds. The local people were laid back and friendly. I hope the city will be saved from further damages by active volcanoes and earthquakes so that visitors can come and enjoy this amazing and historic city.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.