In the Guatemalan Highlands lies a city known for its preserved Spanish architecture and colonial churches. It is none other than Antigua Guatemala, more commonly known as la Antigua or just Antigua.
Antigua served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. In recent years, Antigua has emerged as a culinary destination because of the wealth of seafood in its oceans. But what makes Antigua unique is its rich history and culture.
Antigua is rich in volcanoes and beaches with over 30 volcanoes (3 volcanoes still active) and 365 beaches. These two natural wonders make this place even more beautiful. Do plan a trip to Antigua Guatemala if you are a beach and volcano lover.
Let’s know about this place more deeply before planning a trip. History is most important part of any place if you want to know about it.
History of Antigua Guatemala:
The emergence of Antigua as an independent nation (known as Antigua and Barbuda) was a result of anti-colonial struggles. The turning point for Antigua’s independence was the revolt in the Caribbean between 1935 and 1939. This revolt led to the formation of a union with the name of the Antigua Trades Labour Union (ATLU). This union later developed to become a political arm and after many struggles, the result was an independent nation in 1981.
It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Culture of Antigua Guatemala:
Antigua’s rich cultural heritage is a combination of African Heritage and Colonialism. This fusion makes Antigua’s culture vibrant and quite spirited. It’s a classic example of creole culture. Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493, Antigua was known by the name of Wadadli. Due to the creole nature of culture, two languages are spoken in Antigua. The official language is English and the common language is a mix of English and African languages. The language here is referred to as Antiguan creole.
Best things to do in Antigua Guatemala
Here are the best places that you can explore in Antigua Guatemala:
1. Visit Volcano Pacaya
Volcano Pacaya is the most accessible volcano and thus, the most visited volcano of Antigua. With an elevation of 1500 feet, it takes around 2 hours to hike it. If you are unable to hike yourself, you can hire a horse. The volcano is inactive and thus you can stay on the top as long as you want and admire its beautiful landscape.
2. Go for Handicraft shopping
Among other things, Antigua is famous for its beautiful handicrafts. There are 3 main handicrafts markets in Antigua: Nim’ Pot, Mercado de Artesanias, and El Carmen Ruins. Nim’ Pot is a retail store from where you can buy products prepared by the locals. They are well laid out and contain most of the handicrafts from all over the country, Mercado de Artesanias is a similar market, but here, you buy from many vendors.
3. Parque Central
Parque Central or Plaza Central Park is the heart of Antigua. Filled with buzz and hubbub all day, Parque Central is the best place for getting the original vibe of the country. The park is surrounded by parks, fountains, and a lot of greenery. You can enjoy people watching and admire the beauty of the park. Also, there are food vendors and eateries if you want to get a quick bite.
4. Caoba Farms
Situated at a distance of just 15 minutes from Antigua is Caoba Farms. It is an organic cafe where you can enjoy local Guatemalan delicacies with live music performances. The specialty of Caoba Farms is their organic preparations. You can explore the 45 acres of land and find something interesting for yourself. They have a good variety of organic soaps and other products.
5. Museo Casa del Tejido
Textile is yet another of Antigua’s forte. You can learn more about the country’s relation with textiles at Museo Casa del Tejido. Apart from being a museum, this place is a combination of three things: A museum, marketplace, and workshop. In the workshop, you can learn about weaving techniques and a lot more.
6. Arco de Santa Catalina
This is the most iconic landmark of Antigua. It is a must-see. Arco de Santa Catalina is one of the most associated icons with Antigua. It’s stunning and thus, a perfect place for any photo lover. This historic arch was built in the 1960s. The purpose of this arch was to provide a passageway for nuns to cross the street unnoticedSee the artwork of Guatemalan Picasso: Head over to Santa Domingo del Cerro, a free, open-air gallery that showcases the works of Guatemalan artists. The central point of attraction is the works of Efrain Recinos, who is commonly known as Guatemalan Picasso. The gallery is open all days except Monday.
7. Live away from clutter
If you are bored with living in hotels, you must try Earth Lodge. It is located 8 kms outside of Antigua and is a pleasant escape from the worldly bustle of cars, pollution, and traffic. Earth Lodge offers volcanic views from the windows, home cooking, and a lot more than we can describe. The lodge offers a treehouse structured room.
8. Visit Choco Museum
Guatemala is considered the birthplace of chocolate. At Choco Museum, you can learn about the process of chocolate making in a great amount of detail. There’s a chocolate shop outside the museum from where you can buy chocolate and related products like cacao body butter, chocolate liquor from.
Best food to try in Antigua Guatemala
Popular as Guatemala’s national dish, Pepian should be on your bucket list if you are thinking of visiting Antigua for a short period. Pepian is basically a meaty vegetable stew. You can enjoy this dish almost anywhere in Antigua. It’s also quite inexpensive. Some recommended restaurants for trying out the dish are Rincon Tipico, Los Tres Tiempos, and Saberico.
Read more, Active Volcanoes You Can Actually Visit
How to reach Antigua Guatemala
V.C Bird International Airport is the only airport where everyone will arrive and exit. You can take direct flights from London Gatwick with Virgin, and multiple flights to Miami, Atlanta. You can also reach via cruise. From the airport, you can rent a car or hire a cab.
The Antigua Guatemala has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Whether you are a history lover, beach lover or Geologists this place is for you. Explore this place and enjoy vacations in Antigua Guatemala.