Antigua Guatemala, or just Antigua as everybody calls it, used to be the colonial capital. But it’s not the oldest capital in Guatemala, at the beginning of the 16th century Ciudad Vieja (Old City, as it is called today) used to be the capital. But inactive volcano Agua’s crater was filled to the top with rain water and when erruptions of Volcano Fuego triggered an earthquake masses of water rushed down Agua’s slope creating an avalanche of mud and burying Cidudad Vieja beneath it. So I was told…
It is a fascinating colonial town and some local associations do their best to keep it’s appearance quite old looking. If someone wants to paint their house they need to get approval from the association. Also it’s famous cobblestone, or rather rubblestone, streets are kept they way they used to be. Which is also one of the reasons why Antigua could be called dangerous. You certainly have to watch where you placing your next step or you might soon end up with some medical ankle supports. It’s not just the uneven stones but also the amount of potholes and even the cemented sidewalks are full of traps.
Of course this is the reason why the town has such a magnificent charme and it pulls local and foreign tourists like a magnet. Many foreigners come to visit Antigua and end up living there for several years.There is a plenthora of old churches or what’s left of them (45 I was told in total, now compare that to about 30.000 inhabitants nowadays).
For me it was not the first time in Antigua, in 2003 i came to study spanish here for a month and the city has certainly changed quite a bit. Back then it was already quite touristy and many foreigners came to study in one of the over 60 spanish schools. But back then there was not as many restaurants, cafes and bars like there are today. Walking through town, carefully paying attention to placing my steps, it seems like every second door is a business for food and drinks, and I am not just talking around the main square but quite as far as 5-7 blocks in each direction.
I certainly did not plan to stay almost two months there, actually I didn’t want to go at all, but for several reasons I got stuck for a while. Illness and waiting to climb Acatenango was one reason while others being to wait for orders from the USA and meeting a great bunch of local people. After all it was still worthwhile (for instance watch the video of Fuego’s erruptions or the first airtime with my Mavic drone) but I am glad to finally have broken the magic spell that the city casts on some of their visitors.