Guatemala: Walking Pretty in Antigua

 

Ivisited Antigua Guatemala on a day trip while vacationing in El Salvador. I had (regrettably) taken a tour offered by the hotel I was staying at – like most tours you’re quickly walked through some of the major sites with barely enough time to snap a few pictures. However, despite my very condensed visit, I still got the chance to see how pretty and charming Antigua really was – so much so, in fact, that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Antigua (meaning old in Spanish) Guatemala is a small town made up of colorful Spanish colonial buildings cradled by three imposing volcanoes – Agua, Pacaya and Acatenango. It was the capital of Guatemala up until 1773 when yet another earthquake dethroned it of its title. Every year travelers flock to Antigua to see its many cathedrals and well-preserved ruins. Everything is within walking distance of each other which makes visiting that much more pleasant.

I realize there are many more things to see and do in Antigua but here’s what I managed to visit during my whirlwind tour.
 
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Church of San Francisco

Built in the 18th century, the ornate facade of this church is adorned with several niches containing statues of saints and friars along with twisted columns evoking a Spanish baroque style. After the earthquake in 1773, most of the church was left in ruins – some of which have been partially restored. Make sure to take note of some of the beautifully detailed frescoes still visible on the crumbling walls inside the church. The finely manicured gardens and pretty courtyards make this site eerily romantic and perfectly photogenic.

 

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Catedral de Santiago

Built in the mid-16th century, this cathedral was also severely damaged during the 1773 earthquake but, miraculously, the white-washed facade remained relatively intact. However, it did have some restoration work done over the years. Judging by its exterior, you would expect the interior to be in the same flawless state but, although equally beautiful, the interior was left in its post-earthquake condition. The many brick-covered arches, intricately chiseled columns and open-sky domes make this site incredibly inspiring. Get ready to click away on your camera!

 

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Parque Central

From giddy teenagers wearing their school uniforms to elderly men caught up in an engaging conversation, Parque Central is the ideal gathering place for both Antiguenos and visitors alike. As the name suggests, it’s in the center of town typical of the way old plazas were built. Join in the favorite local pastime by doing some people-watching or by simply treating yourself to a refreshing gelado while relaxing in the shade. The white-washed column-clad colonial style government building faces this pretty park.

 

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DID I MENTION HOW PRETTY ANTIGUA IS?

If you’re not already convinced then here are a few more pictures captivating the charm of the cobble stone streets and colourfully painted houses of Antigua.

Indigenous Mayan men and women dressed in their intricately-embroidered traditional clothing can still be seen roaming the streets of Antigua. Their presence definitely adds to the beauty and authenticity of this precious old town.

My two sense: Be courteous when taking pictures of people especially of their children. Before hastily snapping a pic, make sure to first ask for their permission (some might refuse based on their beliefs and customs).

 

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AND FINALLY….FUNNY THINGS I NOTICED IN ANTIGUA

These tiles embedded in the sidewalk indicate reserved parking for motorcycles and wheelchair-bound drivers. How creative and unusual is that?

I was told by the guide that these windows were called “jealous father” – their purpose was to keep potential lovers away from their daughters. I think the thorn vines and wrought-iron bars are self-explanatory.
 

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Enjoyed this article? Please pin it!

 
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Have you been to Antigua? Do you have suggestions on what to see or do?

 

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  • That’s exactly what I was saying to my friend the other week when we went on a walking tour of Munich: I wish we had more time to actually stop and take some pictures! Seems like you still managed to see quite a lot though, I love your photos! That church looks amazing!

  • Promise Chika Maxwell

    These photos can tell a lot about Antigua, not to find yourself there to enjoy the beauty of it all. I also find it creative with the embedded tiles, never seen it before.

  • Neha Verma

    I never imagined Guatemala is so surreal. If that church was ruined in 1773 earthquake, I am just wondering how much older it must be. Loved the architecture of the buildings. Definitely going to put this place on my bucket list

  • Lynne Sarao

    Wow, Antigua looks stunning! The only Antigua I knew anything about before was the one in the Caribbean! I guess I need to brush up on my Central American geography!

  • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

    haha….I was always the one straggling behind taking a bunch of pics! 🙂

  • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

    Hi Chanelle! I was on a one-day tour and I only went to Antigua so I can’t comment on solo female traveling in Guatemala. All I can say is that Antigua itself is very traveler-friendly and very safe.

  • Marissa Abao

    Antigua, Guatemala looks lovely! It looks like Honduras because of the brightly-painted houses and architectural designs of the buildings. I think I have seen tiles, which indicate signs, here in the Philippines too. It does not cost much to put up those tiles so maybe that was the reason.

  • Abby Castro

    The South American countries like Guatemala has so much beauty in them. That’s why I have a few on my travel bucket list, and that includes Guatemala. The city of Antigua is amazingly beautiful. Loving all the old churches and ruins.

    Abigail of GlobalGirlTravels.com

  • Antigua looks so beautiful! I hope I get to visit one day. Eating gelato and people watching in Parque Central sounds like a dream.

  • Wow, Antigua is so pretty- that architecture is just stunning. The facade of the Cathedral was definitely pretty interesting to look at!

  • Helene

    Hi! Never been to south america but it’s on my bucket list !! This town seems so pretty !! Good point with pics of kids! Some people don’t and I think it’s pretty disrespectful! Pinning this ! 😉

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Thanks for pinning! 🙂

  • Clare Colley

    I loved Antigua, it’s such a beautiful city and so much to do there. Glad you got to visit even if it was just for the day. I did some hiking in the area too and its so beautiful 🙂

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      I can imagine hiking must be beautiful with that surrounding landscape!

  • 2travellingsisters

    Oh, the beauty of these ancient structures, even though in ruins still ooze so much charm! And hahah the “Jealous fathers” bit is indeed funny, I bet every dad in the world will relate to this :). It’s good to see that you got an oppurtunity to enjoy this beautiful place even for a short time, loved all your pictures, especially of the cute little kids 🙂

  • Those babies are the cutest! Great point about asking permission before taking photos of local people. It’s a practice more travel writers should emphasize.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      They are especially in their colorful clothes! I cringe when I see travelers taking pictures of locals without asking. I mean the ones pointing cameras straight in their faces – it’s so rude!

  • The Full-Time Tourist

    I love visiting UNESCO Heritage Sites! So much culture and history, it’s hard not to get lost in the beauty of these cities. Antigua is no exception, by the look of your photos! I loved the crumbled interior of Catedral de Santiago. It’s amazing that the facade didn’t fall during the earthquake. I will definitely have to see it in person!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      For some reason I find crumbling architecture very enchanting and charming. Antigua really surprised me – hope you get to visit one day!

  • Stunning architecture in Antigua, such a shame to have damage from earthquakes! I’m glad you were able to enjoy the time and see all the wonderful things. I tend to shy away from tours myself for that very same reason, I like to linger or take pictures and If I like a place I don’t like to move on fast. Just take things at my own pace. Great story!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      I hear ya! I didn’t enjoy the tour but I’m glad I got to see such a pretty town!

  • elaisha

    The restoration work on Catedral de Santiago is gorgeous! I wouldn’t have been able to tell that work had to be done on it. I’ve totally added it to my list of spots to visit. http://www.elaishajade.com/

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      It really is!! So much history and such beautiful architecture – I wanted to stay there all day! Glad you found a new place to add to your list. 🙂

  • Stacey Gilkes

    Catedral de Santiago looks stunning! that park looks like the perfect people watching place! Clearly I need to visit Antigua too!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Yes I could’ve spent hours just people-watching in that park. Hope you get to visit Antigua one day – most people love it!