La Antigua Guatemala is one of the best preserved colonial cities in Spanish America and is located in the center of Guatemala. The city was once the third most important city of the Spanish American colonies. Antigua is a wonderful place to visit for a day or an extended period of time with its cobbled stone streets and beautiful colonial architecture. As you take a stroll through the streets you will discover the rich culture and history that the beautiful city of Antigua has to offer, filled with many ruins and cathedrals each with a unique story. Antigua has more than 30 monasteries, convents, and cathedrals throughout the city and is surrounded by three impressive volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango.
La Antigua Guatemala was founded in 1543 as the third capital of Guatemala. The first capital of Guatemala was founded on July 25, 1524 at the present day location of Iximche. The newly founded capital city was given the name Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros (City of Saint James) because it was founded on July 25th, the day of Saint James. However, due to numerous uprisings, the capital was moved to a more secure location (present day Ciudad Vieja) on November 22, 1527. Despite the change of location, the capital city kept its original name of Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros. Sadly, on September 11, 1541 the city was destroyed by a mudslide from the Agua Volcano, killing many of the capital’s inhabitants.
As a result, the colonial authorities made the decision to move the capital city once again just five miles away to modern day Antigua. On March 10, 1543 the Spanish conquistadors founded present day Antigua under the same name as the original city, Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros. The city became the official home of the Spanish colonial administration for most of Central America and the southern Mexican state of Chiapas for over two hundred until 1773, when a series of earthquakes (known as the Santa Marta earthquake) destroyed many buildings throughout the city. In response, the Spanish crown ordered that the capital city be moved to a safer location in 1776, where it remains today as Guatemala City. The damaged city of Santiago de los Caballeros was ordered to be abandoned and became known as La Antigua, Guatemala (Old Guatemala). Although ordered to, not everyone left the former capital city Santiago de los Caballeros (La Antigua). Throughout the years its inhabitants began to rebuild the colonial city of Antigua.
Antigua has become one of the most important tourist attractions in all of Guatemala and in 1979 it was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is filled with culture, history, beautiful architecture, and adventure. People of all ages throughout the world have fallen in love with this beautiful gem of a town and all that it has to offer. Visitors can shop in the markets filled with colorful textiles and artifacts, hike a volcano, attend a Spanish language school, take a tour of the coffee plantations, and much more. Antigua is the perfect place to start one’s adventures because it is easy to arrange transportation from this enchanting colonial city to most tourist travel destinations throughout beautiful Guatemala.