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Antigua, Guatemala – Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

Tell someone that you are on your way to Antigua and they immediately have visions of sandy beaches and palm trees. Well this Antigua is a vision of dormant volcanoes and forests that have allowed Antigua to preserve its colonial flavour and lets you enjoy a cosmopolitan welcome to the land of the Maya

The history of this area goes back to its founding in 1543 as Santiago de los Caballeros, Antigua Guatemala was once the capital of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, a huge colony stretching from Costa Rica to Chiapas in Mexico. It was then that two devastating earthquakes the first in 1717 and the second in 1773 struck the area. This persuaded the colonial authorities that the Panchoy Valley in the central Highlands, where Antigua is located, was less than ideal. Guatemala City, the country’s present day capital, was founded in 1775 and is 36km to the west of the old town.

There are three volcanoes that loom over Antigua the first is the inactive Volcán de Agua which is to the south of the town. Then there is the twin summits of the active Volcán de Fuego-Acatenango massif which is to the west. Finally, you have the Volcán Pacaya, which is also active, and a popular climb, which is 35km south-east of the town. The man-made city is almost as wonderful as its natural setting. After losing capital status, it evolved slowly and no major earthquakes tore it apart. Today, Antigua is a medium sized well-kept city of ochre, terracotta, blue and lilac painted single storey houses laid out on a classic Spanish grid.

If you do see a building of two storeys or more tends to be a church, convent or monastery. The main thing that put this place on the map was UNESCO. That was when it listed the city as a World Heritage site in 1979. It highlighted ‘the physical integrity of most of Antigua’s built heritage. The abandonment of the area by most of its population permitted the preservation of many of its monumental Baroque style buildings as ruins’.

Getting here is not hard but can take longer than you would think. There are no direct flights from the UK to La Aurora International Airport which is 30km east of Antigua but there are connections via US hubs or Madrid. Guatemala to Madrid flights take around 11.5 hours. British citizens do not require visas to visit Guatemala. On arrival, passports are stamped, permitting a maximum stay of three months in Central America, if you cross to neighbouring countries and then re-cross you won’t get another three months. Customs and immigration tends to be quick at this quiet airport.

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