Sunday, 27 January 2019

Postcard from Antigua, Guatemala

Greetings! Earlier this month I visited Guatemala in Central America. My itinerary took me to four of Guatemala's prime destinations and included Antigua, Chichicastenango market, Lake Atitlán, and Guatemala City. It was a fantastic adventure from beginning to end.

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.

GETTING THERE

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.

QUICK FACTS
  • 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.

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

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

CONCLUSION

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.

44 comments:

  1. Your pictures are stunning! The variety of architecture would have me constantly reaching for the camera. And 17 million people! (Yes, I've used lots of exclamation marks!) Have a great week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jo, for your nice comment about my pictures. Antigua Guatemala is a photographer's dream. Each landmark has so many architectural details for visitors to admire and take photos. Have a wonderful week!

      Delete
  2. Oh this is fabulous, Natalie. I don't know much about this area at all. Don't the women look colourful and the architecture is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing. We haven't thought about Central America but you have opened my eyes. We just booked an Alaskan Cruise and tour of the Canadian Rockies for September. Have a great week and love the photos. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your Alaskan cruise and the tour of the Canadian Rockies are going to be amazing, Sue. The Guatemalan women in Antigua and rural villages dress with vibrant colours. They keep the Mayan culture alive. Have a beautiful week!

      Delete
    2. Hi Natalie, yes we are looking forward to seeing some natural beauty in Alaska and Canada. Thank you for sharing your travels with us at #MLSTL and have a wonderful week. xx

      Delete
    3. Thank you, Sue, for hosting MLSTL.

      Delete
  3. Hi, Natalie - I absolutely love your travel posts, and always learn so much from them. This one was no exception. Your trip to Guatemala sounds terrific. Your photos add perfectly to your story. The sky consistently appears to be a clear, brilliant blue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Donna, for your kind comment. I'm glad you love my travel posts because I love to share them :) I picked a good month to visit Guatemala and had beautiful weather the entire trip. Have a wonderful week!

      Delete
  4. Your beautiful photos brought back fond memories of our RV trip through Guatemala in 2006. Isn’t the architecture of Antigua amazing? This city especially has a place in our heart, because we met three other young couples in campers with dogs there - very rare to come across those days - and because we climbed one of the active volcanoes and had lava running underneath us. So cool! One of the friends (and dogs) we made that day is living here in San Diego and we will meet her again this week. Fond memories, indeed. Her dog is still alive and well, and is 16 now. :-) We took care of him in December.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such a remarkable story that you have with Antigua and Guatemala, Liesbet. To make and stay as friends since 2006 is very special. Antigua's architecture is amazing. I took a lot more photos than posted here. Just so many beautiful details to admire at each landmark. Have a wonderful week!

      Delete
  5. Oh wow...the architecture is amazing! I am a fan of beautiful architecture like that. Do you travel on your own or is it through a group? Curious as I am a solo traveller within Australia mainly but am looking to expand overseas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sanch, for your comment. For this trip, I flew solo, then did a mix of independent exploring and local tours. Antigua's main attractions are in a grid-like 10x10 blocks and is very easy to explore on your own. Guatemala City is more populated with some sketchy areas so I went on a walking tour with a small group.

      Delete
  6. Thank you so much for the very valuable information. The pictures are beautiful. We are visiting Costa Rica next month. Now I think Guatemala is a must-do also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Laurie. Thank you for stopping by. On this trip, I met a couple from New York who was visiting Guatemala then Costa Rica. I love both countries. If you can add Guatemala to your itinerary, then I'd suggest to do it. I'll write a couple more posts on other places that I explored in Guatemala in the next few weeks.

      Delete
  7. What a fabulous place to visit. The history is so rich and how was the food?? (that's always my husband's favorite part)
    XOXO
    Jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The food was very good, Jodie. I did not have a bad meal in Guatemala. Some dishes are similar to Mexican food e.g. quesadillas, tamales, etc. Thanks to the rich volcanic soil, fresh vegetables, grains, and fruit are abundant, tasty, and inexpensive in Guatemala. Guatemalan rum is excellent.

      Delete
  8. There's something about church ruins, isn't there? I love the look of these, and the convent with the connection for the nuns without stepping on the street. And those wash basins are definitely from another era. It looks a fascinating place. Many thanks for taking me there. :) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Jo. I enjoy reading your Monday walks :)

      Delete
  9. What an amazing flight and amazing pics. Thanks for sharing them. #MLSTL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Patrick, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

      Delete
  10. Your adventure in Guatemala sounds fabulous and I love your images. Church ruins are really really evocative for me - just imagining all the thoughts, prayers and souls departed breaking loose. It all looks so colourful too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jo - Evocative is a very good description of the church ruins. Antigua Guatemala packs a few hundred years of history and the churches and convents there are a big part of that history.

      Delete
  11. Always a winner with your travel pics and commentary. I love the aged building and how you have captured them so well.

    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week the optional prompt is the first of the regular photography ones: Share Your Snaps. 4/2/2019. Denyse

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Denyse, for your kind words, and for hosting. Have a beautiful week!

      Delete
  12. You certainly get around! The buildings are amazing and you can certainly see the European influence and the history there. It was quite a hike for you to get there, but worth all the flight hours I'm sure.
    Thanks for linking up to MLSTL and I've shared on my SM :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Leanne - Thank you for hosting with Sue and sharing on your SM. Getting to Guatemala is straightforward for me, just longer without the direct flights. In a way, that keeps the crowd away and makes my visit to Guatemala quite enjoyable.

      Delete
  13. Your photos tell a beautiful story, Natalie. When I see these old structures, I love to think about all the people who have stood right there, what they were experiencing and feeling. Can you just imagine the conversations at the public laundry? Thanks, as always, for sharing your adventures. #MLSTL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Similar thoughts came through my mind when I was in Antigua, Christie. The public laundry is where the locals share their news so it plays a big part in building the community. A few of those public laundry washbasins still exist and are in use in Guatemala. I think they're unique and I was glad to see them.

      Delete
  14. Thank you for sharing your adventure in Guatemala. I am always amazed how so many buildings that are so old are still standing and still functioning. We don't have a lot of that here in the US Midwest, our oldest buildings are from the late 1800's! I love seeing that some of the mayan culture is still alive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Michele, for stopping by. The Guatemalan women keep the Mayan culture alive. Many of them still wear traditional clothing. I was glad to see some of the unique landmarks and Mayan culture in Guatemala.

      Delete
  15. Wow, this looks like an amazing place full of history and gorgeous buildings! Your story is beautiful. Visiting from #seniorsalon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Debbie, for stopping by. Antigua Guatemala is a beautiful and historic city to explore.

      Delete
  16. It certainly looks beautiful from the pictures you posted. I don't really know anything about any of the South American countries so it's nice to learn something new:) #GlobalBlogging

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Michelle, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

      Delete
  17. What fun you're having in your explorations! Thank you for sharing with so, so we can visit vicariously through your blog.
    Sharing for MLSTL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Trisha Faye, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it. I enjoy sharing my travel stories and photos.

      Delete
  18. Fantastic photos again Natalie. That is such a huge population! I love how colourful the women with their crafts are and as always I am fascinated by the architecture and buildings. Also - I'd never heard of the 'Quetzal' currency before. Always learning! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Min, for your kind comment. More vibrant colours to come in my upcoming posts on Guatemala. The quetzal is also the name of Guatemala's national bird. Traveling to foreign lands does teach us many new things, and that's part of what attracts me to travel.

      Delete
  19. What a fascinating post, thank you for sharing your fabulous photos. I didn't know anything about this area before, it sounds a really interesting place to visit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Deb, for your comment. It was my first visit to Guatemala and I enjoyed it very much.

      Delete
  20. What amazing architecture for the 17th and 18th centuries. And to withstand earthquakes and volcanoes! Probably built stronger and better than many of the buildings constructed today. Did you stay at the Casa Santo Domingo? I am sure it would be a marvelous experience.

    The community wash basins are interesting. I don't know that they have those in Panama, don't remember having seen them anyway. But what a great idea! Having your buddies there beside you would take the drudgery from doing laundry by hand. My daughters' family washed in a small creek that ran beside their casitas. They used rocks to clean the clothes. I am so spoiled because I grumble about doing laundry with a machine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The earthquakes caused a lot of structural damage in Antigua. Many buildings, including the main cathedral, became ruins or unsafe to enter. I visited Casa Santo Domingo but didn't stay there. However, the hotel where I stayed was one of the most charming places that I've experienced. The public washbasins are great to build the community. The people who use them chat and exchange news.

      Delete