Antigua, Guatemala: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Under its formal name of Santiago de Los Caballeros de Guatemala, Antigua was the original “Guatemala City”. A major earthquake in 1773 left most of the old capital in ruins. In 1776, the Spanish ruler, King Charles III, ordered the capital to be moved to another location and the people to abandon the place. Some people stayed, but the old capital went from being a prosperous capital with much potential, to a simple provincial town with ruins as remnants of its former glory. In recent decades, there has been increasing appreciation for the huge amount of Spanish colonial architecture that’s been left preserved. The series of earthquakes that led to the change of capital are the San Miguel earthquake in 1717, San Casimiro earthquake in 1751, and Santa Marta earthquake in 1773.
There are three volcanoes looming over the horizon of the city. The most imposing one is Volcán de Agua (Volcano of Water), to the south of the city, which is 3,766 m (12,356 ft) high. The Kakchikel Mayans who inhabited the area when the Spaniards came, called it Hunapú, and their descendants still use that name today. To the west of Antigua are Volcán de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) at 3,763 m (12,346 ft) and Acatenango at 3,976 m (13,045 ft). Volcán de Fuego is considered the most active, but at a low level. The latest eruption that occurred was in 2012.
The population in Antigua was estimated to be at 34,685 as of 2007. Today, Antigua is popular among tourists for its elaborate religious celebrations especially during Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday, its well developed infrastructure, colonial-era churches and ruins, small town charm, and mild climate. It is also used as a jump-off point to other tourist destinations in Guatemala. The city streets are laid out in a rectangular grid and aligned with the points of a compass, with Parque Central (Central Park) as the origin point. Parque Central is the heart of Antigua and is a popular gathering place.
Tourism is the main industry of Antigua, but it is also a coffee-producing region. Antigua is also known for its chocolate makers.