Ixchel's Hometown

Antigua Guatemala

Many visitors who come to Antigua Guatemala for the first time feel like they were entering a different world. Cobblestone streets, colonial-style houses with no more than two stories, monuments from days gone by, no neon signs, not even traffic lights.

History is present everywhere and visitors get an unforgettable impression of what life must have been like when Antigua was the capital of Central America more than two centuries ago.

After an earthquake in 1773 damaged many buildings in town and the capital of Guatemala was moved to present-day Guatemala City, Antigua was largely abandoned and time seemed to stand still until it was rediscovered in the early 20th century. Many buildings were restored in the old colonial style and great efforts have been made to preserve Antigua's charming colonial ambiance.

Due to its location in the Central Highlands of Guatemala, only about 40 km (25 miles) from Guatemala City, Antigua also makes for an ideal base to explore the rest of the country. Regular bus service to all places of interest make traveling to and from Antigua Guatemala easy and convenient.

Antigua Guatemala is more than just another place in Latin America where you can study Spanish! Antigua is a charming and tranquil colonial town full of friendly and helpful people, where you can relax from the stress and obligations of your professional life, escape from the cold or heat of less temperate climes, and recharge your batteries for another year, or another few months, in your home town.

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala at the foot of the Agua volcano in Guatemala's Central Highlands

Antigua Guatemala at the foot of the Agua volcano in Guatemala's Central Highlands

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History

Founded in 1543, Antigua quickly became one of the most important Spanish settlement on the American continent, surpassed only by Mexico City and Lima, Peru. Magnificent palaces, churches, monasteries and private homes gave testimony to Antigua's role as the political, economic and religious center of Central America.

Antigua's glory came to an abrupt end when the city was struck by a disastrous earthquake on July 29, 1773. So many buildings were destroyed or severely damaged that the colonial government – with permission from the Spanish Crown – decided to move the capital to the nearby Ermita Valley, where present-day Guatemala City was founded in 1776 and became the new capital.

Subsequently, Antigua was mostly but not completely abandoned. Those who stayed behind, however, lacked the resources to rebuild and simply occupied whatever houses or parts thereof where still habitable. Time seemed to stand still until Antigua was rediscovered in the early 20th century.

Some buildings still lie in ruins, many others have been painstakingly restored according to original construction plans, giving Antigua a unique historic ambience that makes the town one of the most attractive and charming in Latin America.

Antigua was declared a National Monument by the Guatemalan government in 1944. In the 1960's, the Council for the Protection of Antigua Guatemala was established, which has wide powers to restrict construction and other activities in town in order to protect Antigua's unique colonial heritage. Finally, in 1979, UNESCO recognized Antigua as a World Heritage Site.

Climate

Despite its location at 14 degrees northern latitude, the climate of Antigua Guatemala is very temperate and not nearly as hot and humid as one might expect of a town in the tropics. The key to Antigua's climate is its altitude of 1,500 meters (5,000 ft) above sea level, which leads to moderate temperatures year round.

Extreme temperatures are almost unheard of in Antigua. Average daytime temperatures are around 20° C (71° F) in January and 25° C (80° F) in April. The rest of the year temperatures are somewhere in between.

Unlike locations further north, Antigua knows only two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The rainy season runs roughly from mid-May to October or early November.

"Rainy season" does not mean that it rains all day long, however. On a typical day, the morning is sunny, maybe a bit cloudy, until more clouds come up in the afternoon and it rains for an hour or two. Late afternoon is often sunny again, and the next rain shower or thunderstorm isn't due until later that night.

After the end of the rainy season temperatures usually drop steadily until they reach their lowest in late December and January. During this time arctic air masses can penetrate very far south and may bring Antigua an occasional cold wave. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 15° C (60° F), however, and rain is quite unlikely.

The last two months of the dry season, roughly from mid-March to mid-May, see the highest temperatures and the least amount of rain.

Because of this year round temperate and pleasant climate, Antigua Guatemala is often called the "City of Eternal Spring" – and Antigua lives up to its reputation!