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