“Guatemala’s tourism showpiece, Antigua, remains far more than a tourist attraction. A place of rare beauty, major historical significance and vibrant culture, it’s the country’s one must-visit destination.”
A former capital (the seat of government was relocated to Guatemala City following several major earthquakes during the colonial period) Antigua boasts an astonishing catalogue of colonial relics in a magnificent setting. Its streetscapes of pastel facades under terracotta roofs unfold amid three volcanoes: Agua (3766m), Fuego (3763m) and Acatenango (3976m). Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site and with an ideal climate, it’s a great place for walking (though it gets quite chilly after sunset). While many old ecclesiastical and civic structures are beautifully renovated, others retain a tumbledown charm, with fragments strewn about the place and sprays of bougainvillea sprouting from the crumbling ruins.
Thanks to the dozens of Spanish language schools that operate here, Antigua has become a global hot spot; boasting fine dining, plenty of colonial-chic accommodations and an extremely cosmopolitan nightlife. But the foreign presence by no means dominates the atmosphere. Antigua remains a vibrant Guatemalan town, its churches, plazas and markets throbbing with activity.
I spent New Year in Antigua and managed to bag an excellent B&B called Chez Daniel. Owned by an American guy and his Guatemalan wife, it’s a top notch place with great views to boot.
Next stage: The Chez Daniel Loop.