The old capital
Antigua, a city in the central highlands of Guatemala, has a long history. Originally called Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, it was the country’s first-ever capital in 1524. While an indigenous uprising led to its abandonment, it was rebuilt again in 1527 only to get demolished by the lahar from Volcán de Agua in 1541. The city was rebuilt a year later and endured two centuries until disaster struck once again. The Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed the city in 1773. After that, the capital became Guatemala City definitively, but the inhabitants who survived rebuilt the city and began to refer to it as Antigua, Guatemala. In 1979 it became a World Heritage Listed by UNESCO. Join us on a digital city tour of Antigua in Guatemala.
Over the years, Antigua retains its colonial charm and perfect climate. It is a living museum of colonial architecture popular amongst tourists.
Antigua sits in the valley of three surrounding volcanoes, Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego. Acatenango is very close to the city and so is Fuego. Agua Volcano is next to the famous Santa Catalina Arch and is in Southern Guatemala. Although no known eruptions happen as of lately, these volcanoes are all still active. The Fuego volcano last erupted in 2018, when almost 153 people died and nearly 300 went missing. Antigua is very agricultural and rural. The active volcanoes bring a lot of rich nutrients to the soil, being very good for farming. Guatemala is one of the biggest producers of fruits and vegetables in Central America.
The buildings use a grid system throughout the entire city. The grid allows better structure and organization of structural spaces. The grid system makes it easy for tourists and visitors to find their locations in the cities even on foot.
The Ruins of architecture
When touring Antigua, you will notice that walking is natural in the city. There are many colonial landmarks in Antigua that are nearby each other. You will also notice that there are cobblestones all over the city. Baroque-influenced Colonial architectural is often the reason why there are so many cobblestones across Antigua. Because of volcanoes and harsh weather, cobblestones create protection for the roads and pavements.
Antigua is also very popular for all the beautiful ruins of old buildings. Cathedrals such as the Cathedral of Saint James San Jose Parish and the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral have been demolished because of major earthquakes. Their ruins are still up to this day. Many of the ruins of the buildings are hiding behind active buildings, so dont be afraid to explore.
Just like many countries throughout South America and Asia, Tuk Tuks are a popular, mode of transportation. You will notice small cars that look kind of like motorcycles with roofs. They are like taxis in the city and are a great way to avoid walking too much throughout Antigua. They can be bumpy but are very useful especially in rainy weather or during the night. Some areas like the city center of Antigua do not allow tuk-tuks in the area. They are easily found in popular tourist areas.
Colonial Architecture mixed with Guatemalan colors
Mayan and Spanish culture heavily influence the architecture of the city. Many of the colors seen are hues of yellow, red, orange, and blue throughout the buildings. The structures stand out because of the vibrant, warm colors. Many buildings often use two-color tones for walls side by side. Some buildings have mural paintings of symbols, usually of animals, flowers, religious gods, or fruits and animals.
Many murals have been destroyed by the earthquakes and have been worn over the years. However, two famous archeological sites San Bartolo and Río Azul have paintings that remain surprisingly vibrant. The tradition continues with large modern Maya murals such as that in Chichicastengo, using the Maya Popul in the painting.