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The Historic City of Antigua, Guatemala (In Pictures)

Earlier this month, I traveled to Guatemala with my teenage daughter to attend the Giant Kite Festival in Sumpango during Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 1 (you can watch the spectacular video HERE). Just under a three hour flight from Fort Lauderdale and bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the territory of modern Guatemala once formed the core of the Maya civilization, which lasted until the mysterious collapse of the civilization around 900 AD. The first evidence of human habitation in Guatemala actually dates back to 12,000 BC(!).

The land was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century and since then has endured destructive floods and earthquakes, volcanic mudflows (Guatemala has 37 volcanoes, four of which are still active!), a series of dictators, a decade-long revolution, a military coup, a bloody civil war and political scandals as recent as 2015 when President Otto Pérez Molina resigned due to a corruption scandal.

Guatemala, however, is rich in natural, historical and cultural appeal - not to mention its charming Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture. And despite Guatemala's bloody past, the people here will warm your heart. People walked past us on the street with a smile and a "¡Buen día!" wherever we went. And it all started when we arrived in Antigua, once the capital of Guatemala and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (a landmark which has been officially recognized by the United Nations which are are legally protected by international treaties).

We spent the better parts of two afternoons walking around this charming city with my Lumix GH4 in hand and an array of lenses. So enjoy the photographs and put Antigua on your list of places to visit before you kick the bucket...

Antigua

Antigua

Antigua

Antigua

The Parque Central (Central Park) is the heart of the city, just a short walk from our hotel (the charming Los Olivos Boutique Hotel and Restaurant). The Mermaid Fountain, built by Guatemalan architect and builder Diego de Porres in 1737, is the centerpiece of the park.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Images from our time spent at the Parque Central...

Antigua, Guatemala

Across the street from the park, you'll find the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral (Catedral de San José). The original church was built around 1541, but suffered several earthquakes throughout its history, and the first church building was demolished in 1669. The cathedral was rebuilt and consecrated in 1680. By 1743 the cathedral was one of the largest in Central America. However, the devastating 1773 Guatemala earthquake seriously damaged much of the building, though the two towers at the front remained largely intact. These have undergone restoration work, and the cathedral has been partly rebuilt.

Antigua, Guatemala

A peek inside the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral...

Antigua Guatemala

Outside the cathedral, a less than enthusiastic street vendor sells "helados"

Antigua, Guatemala

Motorcycles and scooters were a very popular way of getting around on the rough cobblestone streets of Antigua as evidenced by this photograph. In the distance stands the Museo del Libro Antiguo, the Ancient Book Museum, which was founded on March 16, 1956 in the House where they established the First Printing of the Kingdom of Guatemala in 1660. The museum showcases the greatest publications of the early days of Guatemalan printing, plus a replica of Guatemala's first printing press, which began work here in the 1660s. One of its earliest products is prominently displayed: a first edition of Don Quixote de la Mancha (Part II).

Antigua, Guatemala

The Santa Catalina Arch is one of the distinguishable landmarks in Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala, located on 5th Avenue North. Built in the 17th century, it originally connected the Santa Catalina convent to a school, allowing the cloistered nuns to pass from one building to the other without going out on the street. A clock on top was added in the era of the Central American Federation, in the 1830s. I found the gathering of people in front of the arch as interesting as the arch itself...

Antigua, Guatemala

A street performer entertains the crowds a few blocks before the arch...

Antigua Guatemala

Street vendors abound on the streets before the arch...

Antigua Guatemala

[As we walk back through the arch] Behold! El Volcán de Agua!

Antigua Guatemala

Walking the streets of Antigua...

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

La Merced Church is a baroque church that was opened in 1767. Architect Juan de Dios Estrada was in charge of its construction, which began in 1749. The temple was inaugurated in 1767 and is from ultra baroque Guatemalan style with two bell towers. The cross in stone at the atrium dates back to the 17th century.

Antigua, Guatemala

Decked out "Chicken Bus" or "camioneta" is the main form of local transport between towns, villages and cities throughout not only Guatemala but Central America...

Antigua Guatemala

A fountain adorns the grounds of the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, a noted 5 star hotel and museum in Antigua. It is located in the grounds of the Santo Domingo Monastery, whose history can be traced back to 1538 when the Dominicans arrived in Guatemala.

Antigua Guatemala

Hotel Casa Santo Domingo features an art gallery ("Los Degollados" by Guatemalan artist Ana M. Sobral Segovia on the left) as well as a museum that houses figurines (on right) that date back to the Classic Period (300 - 900 AD)

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

San Francisco Church, built in the 16th century by Guatemalan architect Diego de Porres, is one of the most frequented sanctuaries by the local population because of the shrine of Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur (Santo Hermano Pedro). In 1565 the first building was severely damaged by an earthquake and the tremors continued until 1773. After being abandoned for almost two hundred years, the church was rebuilt between 1961 and 1967 but areas of ruin still remain.

Antigua Guatemala

Outside San Francisco Church, a man missing most of the toes on his left foot sells flowers...

Antigua Guatemala

A woman weaves a colorful tapestry (like those seen hanging on the right) outside the church. She told us it takes 15 days to finish just one...

Antigua Guatemala

The Museum of Colonial Art, founded in 1936, once housed the University of San Carlos of Guatemala from 1768 to 1777. About 133 works are exhibited in its halls, including sculptures, paintings and furniture.

Antigua Guatemala

Hospital de San Pedro is a hospital was founded in 1663 by Dominican friars. It is dedicated to Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur (Pedro de San José de Betancur y Gonzáles), a Spanish saint and missionary in Guatemala who died in 1667. The building today serves as a social center for the needy, shelter for old people, treatment of malnourished children, handicapped and blind or mentally diseased people.

Antigua Guatemala

Dusk on the streets of Antigua...

Antigua

As for me and my daughter? Walking around Antigua was a blast. And we ate good, too. There isn't a type of food that you won't find in Antigua. We kept it simple, delicious Mexican burritos at the Cactus Grill, Italian food at El Calzador Italiano and pizza at the charming AngieAngie CafeArte. Like I said, put Antigua on your bucket list of places to visit - you won't be sorry...

ORANGE STRIPE

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