Antigua is a seriously beautiful city with the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation to prove it. The longtime capital of the Spanish colony of Guatemala – which consisted of all of Central America and part of southern Mexico – was largely abandoned in the 18th century after massive earthquakes all but destroyed the city. Finally, after the Santa Marta earthquake of 1773, Spanish authorities began building a new capital in a safer location, today’s Guatemala City.Today there are about 35,000 residents in Antigua living under the shadow of huge mountains and amid the ruins of grand old churches that add immeasurably to the city’s beauty. Everywhere you turn there are more 17th and 18th century ruins. Our hotel, for instance, was built on the ruins of some old church with some of the old walls still standing. Over the last few decades the city has become a mecca for tourists drawn to the pleasant temperatures, great hiking and biking opportunities, and general beauty. As a result, the town is also awash in great bars and restaurants. We spent three days there and didn’t begin to eat in all the places that looked good.
Amusingly, Antigua is also an important place in our history, as in Mark & Jim’s history. We came here on a vacation at the end of 2011 and Mark kept wondering what it would be like to come to Antigua for several weeks, instead of a few days, to study Spanish. On the flight home, then, he decided it was time to quit working so he could do things like that.
For us, then, this was a quick return to a beautiful town that has great memories. It was also the first stop of a two-week road trip we’re doing with Mark’s parents. Mark & I walked around a lot, climbed a big hill for great views of the city, and enjoyed drinking in the ambience. Mark’s parents learned to love the city’s central square where they could sit for hours and watch Guatemalan life move by.
In retrospect, starting a Guatemalan adventure in Antigua might not have been such a great move: everything else here is going to seem pale in comparison!