My favorite city in Guatemala is a charming colonial town known as Antigua. People go there to see its cobblestoned streets, brightly-painted houses, elaborate churches and ruins, colorful festivities leading up to Easter, and beautiful parks. You can see a panoramic view of its central park, Parque Central, in the video below.
One of my favorite things to do in Antigua is to stroll through this central park. It’s a great environment for bringing a picnic lunch, getting an ice cream from a local vendor’s cart (they’re easy to spot in the video), listening to musicians play traditional Guatemalan music, observing the colorful flowers and buildings, relaxing on a bench, or–my favorite–going on a carriage ride. Tony and I went on a delightful ride around the park and throughout town in the carriage below. There were plenty of bumps as we rode over the cobblestones, but those bumps made me feel like I had gone back in time. For a few moments, I imagined that I was visiting this town before the streets were filled with cars, tuc-tucs (mini taxis), motorcycles, and tourists.
I also love to observe the vibrant religious traditions that take place throughout the city. Most of the festivities are related to Catholicism, which is the predominant religious group in Guatemala. Around the beginning of Lent, I walked into the large white church in Parque Central (the one in the video), and I noticed several decorations, including the lovely hand-made carpet below. It was beautifully laid out, using grass, leaves, fruits, vegetables, and flower petals. This carpet was created to commemorate the beginning of Lent, and it was the first of many Easter-related decorations that this church–and the whole city–would witness. During Holy Week (Semana Santa), the week leading up to Easter, the streets are covered in vibrant handmade carpets, such as this one. The carpets are called alfombras, and they are often made with colored sand and sawdust. During Semana Santa, there are many religious processions that move through the cobblestoned streets, walking across these alfombras. The people in the processions often wear Biblical costumes–dressing up as “Jesus” or “a Roman soldier”–while carrying crosses or large floats on their shoulders.
While I was in Antigua, I really enjoyed visiting the beautiful ruins of old churches and monasteries. Antigua has many cultural experiences to offer its visitors, including a variety of interesting (and delicious) museums–from the chocolate museum to the museum of colonial art. (See them both below.)
The friendly people, relaxed atmosphere, low cost of living, top notch Spanish schools, fascinating culture, and temperate climate attract many expats who are looking for a place to call home. We’ve even considered moving to Antigua–several times!