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Antigua is a beautiful colonial city located in the central highlands of Guatemala. Antigua was the third capital city of Guatemala, and was founded by the Spanish on the 10 March 1543. The Spanish conquistadors had tried twice before to settle upon a capital city in Guatemala. They initially chose the Kakchikel-Maya city, now called Iximche, in 1524. This site was, however, soon abandoned after several uprisings, and the Spanish moved to the Valley of Alotenango in 1527. In 1541, the nearby Volcan de Agua erupted and destroyed the city, and the Spanish authorities again moved to a new location and finally settled on Panchoy Valley where Antigua was built.
Antigua lasted for over 200 years as the centre of power throughout much of present day Central America and also parts of southern Mexico. Due to this, little expense was spared, and schools, churches, a university, and monastries were built across the city. At its peak there were as many as 38 churches in Antigua. The location of Antigua was not without its problems, and there were regular tremors felt across the city. In 1717 an estimated 7.4 magnitude earthquake stuck the city causing many of the buildings to be destroyed. The earthquake made the authorites contemplate changing the capital for a third time; however they decided against it. Then, in 1773, another large earthquake struck causing widespread damage to city. This did lead the Spanish authorities to decide to move the location of the capital for a third time, and they chose the present day capital Guatemala City.
The city of Antigua at its peak in the 1770s had a population of around 60,000 people. However, after the the earthquake in 1773, the city was ordered to be evacuated and many of its residents left. Modern day Antigua has a population of about 35,000 people.
Antigua today is famous for being one of the most beautiful colonial cities in all of Latin America, and it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The city of Antigua is surrounded by three volcanoes: Volcán de Agua which dominates the skyline to the south of the city, Volcán Acatenango and Volcán de Fuego. The Volcán de Fuego is the most active of the three, and it is common to see plumes of smoke billowing from its cone, although large eruptions are rare.
- Population: 35,000
- Altitude: 1,500m
- Climate: The climate in Antigua Guatemala has two distinct seasons. There is the wet season which runs from May through to October, and the dry season which lasts from December through to April. In the rainy season, you can expect rain almost every day in the afternoon or evening. The months from January to April are when you can expect clear skies with pleasant temperatures of 20-25ºC in the day.