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Antigua – a colorful jewel, nested at the foot of an active volcano

Antigua – a colorful jewel, nested at the foot of an active volcano

If you are planning to roam in Central America, there is one place that you’ll see marked as a must go in every travel blog, magazine, guide book or whatever your source of inspiration and information is.

This would be the charming, colonial town of Antigua, situated only 45 km away from the current capital of Guatemala.

If you already have you flight tickets for Guatemala booked, consider skipping the busy and not very friendly capital, and hit the road to Antigua, where you’ll find everything a traveler could wish for – open markets, indigenous culture, magnificent colonial architecture, cobbled streets, hip bars and restaurants (also full of places for local, which are less pricey), street musicians and spontaneous dancing fiestas on the square and all that is located in the foot of not one, but three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Volcan de Fuego.

The city was founded in the 16th Century by the conquistadors and served as a capital city – its whole name is actually Antigua Guatemala, which translated from Spanish means the Old Guatemala. The capital had to be transferred 45 km away to Guatemala City for a couple of reasons – several earthquakes through the centuries almost destroyed the whole city, volcano eruptions are constant danger and the valley, where the city is located is limiting its expansion.

Anyhow currently Antigua is flourishing, generously offering its charms and attracting visitors from all over the world. The city is so vibrant and full of life that you can’t be easily bored if you decide to dedicate it even a week of your precious vacation. Here are our suggestions for a time well spent in this colorful, dreamy town:

1. Give yourself enough time to explorer architecture and history – as mentioned, the city was founded by the Spanish conquistadors, and due to that fact and nevertheless the devastating earthquakes you can still admire its original Baroque splendor – there is a risk of over-churching, but we recommend to check Antigua Cathedral (the oldest, partially preserved cathedral), La Merced Church (famous with its procession during the Holy Week, or in Spanish La Semana Santa), San Francisco Church, Santo Domingo Church and the Capuchinas Ruins (the restored ruins of a convent where nuns lived in extremely modest conditions)

2. Climb to Cerro de la Cruz – this is definitely the best viewpoint towards Antigua with the volcanoes in the background (on a sunny day). It’s a 30 minutes pleasant walk from the center to the top and from here it’s visible how the city is planned and constructed. All the roads are prolonging from north to south and from east to west – same way roman towns were build. There is much written about Cerro de la Cruz to be a not so safe spot, but this information is outdated and now it’s only advisable for tourist to visit the place during day time.

3. Explorer the markets – the largest market is called El Mercado, situated in the northern part of the city. Here you can find anything – from local crafts, textiles, hand crafted souvenirs to second hand clothes and all kind of goods known to the European and American taste.

4. Visit the nearby fincas – Guatemala is known for the best quality coffee in the region. There are various options for daytrips outside of the city to some of the farms where coffee is grown which offer a glimpse to the whole process of coffee production.

These are only a couple of recommendations for a time well spent in Antigua, Guatemala. This city has so much more to offer that we suggest you to put it on your “places to visit in 2019” list right away.

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