No stranger to rising from ruins, Antigua, Guatemala has become adept at weathering storms. This vibrant and charming old colonial city was founded in the early 16th century as Santiago de Guatemala and has persevered through multiple earthquakes, tremors and volcanic eruptions.
Less than an hour away from Guatemala City, Antigua is surrounded by three volcanoes and has been built on a grid pattern inspired by the Italian Renaissance. Dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the city offers a wide variety restaurants, bars, boutiques, craft markets, and nearby hiking trails.
With the bustle of local Guatemalan life and centuries old homes and buildings, Antigua is a living museum of its Spanish colonial legacy. In the centre of the city, cobble stone streets are lined with local artisans selling jewellery, clothing, bags and a wide variety of other handmade crafts. The Santa Catalina Arch, the city’s most photographed structure, was originally used in the 17th century to help nuns to pass from one building to the other without going out on the street. Today, it serves as an ideal spot to meet and begin exploring the city.
One of the most visited sites in Antigua is Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross), which takes about an hour to reach by foot. The hike starts by weaving up roads on the city’s north end, then transitions into lush forests with centuries old paths and stairs. The hike peeks at a scenic lookout spot where visitors can take in views of the three volcanoes that surround the city, Agua, Fuego and Acatenango, a cross devoted to the city’s patron saint, St. James, and Antigua.
Hikers be warned; Cerro de la Cruz is known for muggings and the municipal police patrol the hill from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. To avoid unwanted attention, enjoy Cerro de la Cruz in groups and hike during daylight hours.
Eat & Drink
Rich volcanic soil, low humidity, lots of sun, and cool nights help Antiguan farmers grow some of the world’s best coffee. Known for its lingering aroma, a hint of chocolate flavouring, and a fine and discernible body, more than 18,000 acres of land is used for the growth of coffee beans in and around Antigua.
Many local restaurants and bars also offer great live music and entertainment. During our visit, we ate an incredible meal at Los Moros Restaurant. While being serenaded with pan flute music, we enjoyed a few glasses of Guatemalan wine and traditional cuisine.
Wondering where to travel next? Take a look at Tikal, Guatemala.