Exploring the Spanish Influence on Guatemala

The remains of a historic church in Antigua
The remains of a historic church in Antigua

Guatemala might not seem like the ideal place to go for a family vacation, but as Tim Leffel writes in his new article on GoNomad, entitled “Pyramids to Panajachel: A Family Vacation in Guatemala,” it has just as many treats, if not more unknown adventures, than a typical vacation spot. Here, Leffel describes a traditional city, Antigua, which has clear Spanish influence.

After a day on Lake Peten, near the city of Flores, it’s time to head south to Antigua for some Spanish immersion classes. By bus it would take an entire day of travel to get there, so I’ve splurged for flights to get us to Guatemala City ($110 one way), where we can take a quick shuttle over.

Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of those picture-postcard Spanish Colonial cities that seems too perfect to be real. All the clichés are in place, but nothing seems forced.

The cobblestone streets, the horse-drawn carriages, the 15th-century churches, and the grand central square — it all belongs. I get the strong feeling that civic pride — not just a grab for tourist dollars — is what drives the smart preservation practices. There are more than a few warts showing though in the form of crumbling churches that are open to the blue skies.

Antigua has seen more than its share of earthquakes and in a city that seems to have a church every two blocks, some of them just weren’t worth saving. It gives us visitors some dramatic photo ops anyway.