Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua Travel Blog

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Antigua, old capital

The next day we left Panajachel for Antigua, by far the most beautiful city and the old capital of Guatemala. La Antigua Guatemala means the "Old Guatemala" and was the third capital of Guatemala. The first capital of Guatemala was founded on the site of a Kakchikel-Maya city, now called Tecpan (which we also visited, it is now a village of a few houses), in 1524 and named Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros. St. James became the patron saint of the city. After several earthquakes, the capital was moved to a more suitable site in the Valley of Almolonga in 1527, and kept its original name. When this city, now named Ciudad Viejo, was destroyed in 1541 by a devastating mudflow, the colonial authorities decided to move once more, this time to the Valley of Panchoy.

Antigua, old capital
So, on March 10, 1543 the Spanish conquistadors founded present-day Antigua, and again, it was named Santiago de los Caballeros. For more than 200 years it served as the seat of the military governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala, a large region that included almost all of present-day Central America and the southernmost State of Mexico Chaipas.

In 1773, a series of earthquakes destroyed much of the town, which led to the third change in location for the city. The Spanish ordered (1776) the removal of the capital to a safer location, the Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala, now stands. This new city did not retain its old name and was christened Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (New Guatemala of the Ascension) and its patron saint is Our Lady of Ascension.

Antigua, old capital
The badly damaged city of Santiago de los Caballeros was ordered abandoned, although not everyone left, and was referred to as la Antigua Guatemala, or Old Guatemala. The city had a peak population of some 60,000 in the 1770s. Now the city has some 35,000 inhabitants.

We visited a city tour the next day. The results of the earth quake of 200 years ago are still visable. Some old, destroyed buildings, where the big walls are still standing, are showing how great this city must have been when it was Guatemalas capital. But perhaps, it is good that the remains are still there. The current capital, Guatemala city, is ugly and dangerous, not worth while visiting. Antigua still has the breathing of a Spanish colonial city, not overcrowded, and beautiful.

Antigua, old capital
Most important tourist attractions are the Church and Convent of Capuchins, the Cathedral of San José, the Ruins of old San José, the Old weapons Museum, the Church School of Christ, the Church of San Francisco, the Museum of Santo Domingo, Museum of the Old Book, the Museum of Colonial Art, in the former San Carlos University Building and the San Hermano Pedro Church.

Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua. The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcán de (Volcano of Water). When the Spanish arrived, the inhabitants of the zone, Kakchikel Mayas, called it Hunapú. However, it became known as Volcán de Agua after a mudslide from the volcano buried the second site of the capital a village now known as Ciudad Viejo (the Old City). This prompted the Spanish authorities to move the capital to present-day Antigua. To the west of the city are a pair of peaks of Acatenango, last erupted in 1972, and the Vulcán de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire". The Vulcán of Fire is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level.

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Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Antigua, old capital
Técpan, the original capital of G…
Técpan, the original capital of …
Antigua
photo by: monky