Antigua Guatemala, Monumental City

Antigua Guatemala is a colonial city in the central mountains of Guatemala, it is famous worldwide because of its beautiful and very well preserved buildings, churches and architecture from the Spanish colony built several centuries ago. Did you know that this city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.?. That's not a surprise for me. There are many colonial cities in Central America you can visit, but you must go someday to Antigua Guatemala, it's a must visit if you like and enjoy colonial cities.

I would like to share with you some facts and history about Antigua Guatemala and give you a quick background, so you can be informed at least with the basics if you ever travel there.

Antigua Guatemala serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It also serves as the departmental capital of Sacatepéquez department.

The city had a peak population of some 60,000 in the 1770s; the bulk of the population moved away in the late 18th century. Despite significant population growth in the late 20th century, the city reached half that number in the 1990s. According to the 2000 census, the city has some 31,800 inhabitants.

Antigua Guatemala means the "old Guatemala". It was founded on March 10, 1543, and served as Spanish colonial capital of Central America. The conquistadores named the city La Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala ("The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago of the Knights of Guatemala"), in honor of their patron saint, Santiago, or St. James.

In 1773, it suffered two severe earthquakes, which destroyed much of the town. The Spanish Crown ordered the city rebuilt at a safer location, where what is now Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala. In 1776 the badly damaged city was ordered abandoned, although not everyone left.

Antigua today
Central Park is the heart of the city the reconstructed fountain is very beautiful. People enjoy this park from early in the morning to late at night. Nowadays, Antigua is noted for its very elaborate religious celebrations for the Holy Week leading up to Easter.

There are also many Spanish language schools located in Antigua. Because of individualized instruction and reasonable fees it has become one of the most popular places in Latin America to study Spanish. Students are usually housed with local host families or in local hotels. They can engage in many other activities apart from immersion language courses. Tourists come to see all that Antigua has to offer, including nightlife, bars, restaurants, markets selling Mayan goods, and excursions via shuttles to surrounding sites.

Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua. The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcán de Agua or "Volcano of Water", some 3766 meters high. It is so named because the crater atop it was formerly filled with water. Shortly after the Spanish conquest of Guatemala, the first capital was on a site part way up this mountain, which was destroyed by a flood and mudslide when an earthquake let loose the water from the crater, and the city of Guatemala was moved down the valley to the current Antigua. The original site is a village now known as "Ciudad Vieja".

To the west of the city are a pair of peaks, Acatenango, long inactive, some 3976 meters high, and the Volcán de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire", some 3763 meters (12345.800524934 feet) high. "Fuego" is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Smoke issues from its top daily, but larger eruptions are rare.

Colonial Hotels
Finally, as for Hotels there are plenty of alternatives. However, I strongly suggest that if you ever travel Antigua Guatemala, take the opportunity to stay in one of the many colonial hotels in downtown area. A few years ago I went to Antigua Guatemala, and stayed in a very beautiful colonial Hotel, it used to be a Monastery in the colonial years many centuries ago. They have adapted the hotel facilities inside that Monastery so tourists can stay there. There is beautiful architecture, monuments, large aisles to walk inside the Monastery, landscape areas inside!. You have the feeling that you are experiencing what life was about many centuries ago, you lose sense of time in here, it's incredible!

Well, I hope you travel Antigua Guatemala someday, it's a must and an icon touristic place in Central America, no doubt about it!

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