Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 4)

A Colonial Heritage A nti g ua Narrow cobblestone streets, imposing religious monuments, and Baroque art and architecture are visible aspects of the Guatemalan patrimony that remind visitors of the influence of the Spanish conquistadors. From Antigua, the graceful former capital- where many of the historic mansions are now beautiful colonial inns-to picture-perfect highland towns- framed by towering volcanoes and centered around gaily painted churches-echoes of the Spanish conquest are heard. La Antigua Guatemala, an hour's drive from Guatemala City, is a romantic place, a dream-town of incredible colonial architecture. Surrounded by volcanoes, it seems airlifted from 16th century Spain into a misty, tropical highland setting at 5,000 ft. above sea level. No highrises mar its skyline, no modern buildings disturb its historic pastelcolored mansions, restored under the watchful eye of the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua. Founded in 1453 and rebuilt after several earthquakes, Antigua is the superstar of the nation's colonial treasury; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Visitors to Antigua will find some of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance art and architecture in 4 the Americas: cathedrals, convents, plazas and residences from the 16th to 18th centuries. From its glory days-1542 to 1773-many former government buildings remain around the main square, Plaza Central; those still in use include the 16th century Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales, which occupies the entire south side of the square and was restored in 1764. Also on the historic square is the Church of San Jose, popularly called La Catedral; within are 17th century ornaments and a magnificent carved figure of Christ by the celebrated artist Quirio CataƱo. Unchanged since 1773, the city's prettiest church, still in use, is the bright-yellow La Merced with an ornate Churrigueresque facade of lacy plasterwork, while the vast San Francisco Church, destroyed in 1773 and reconstructed in 1960, contains elaborate frescoes, paintings and woodcarved saints. Capuchinas Convent, dating from 1736 and once a study and meditation center for 30 nuns, is perhaps the most beautiful of all, with its fountains, courtyards and massive pillars; do visit the museum showcasing some terrific religious art and ecclesiastical artefacts. Other religious buildings, often buried in bougainvillea, are simply spectacular ruins: the Convent of Santa Clara is a roofless beauty, while the La Recoleccion monastery is arguably the grandest of architectural shells. Q uetz altenang o Guatemala's second city (a.k.a. Xela) is a university town, as well as an excellent base for exploring the Western Highlands. Quetzaltenango's central colonial treasure is the 16th century Cathedral del Espiritu Santo, with a beautifully carved facade. It is in front of the modern cathedral where the silvergowned statue of the Virgen del Rosario, brought from Spain in the 17th century, is on display. From the city it is easy to visit the town of Salcaja, whose famous, small white Chapel of San Jacinto is the oldest (1524) in Central America, as well as Zunil, with its wedding cakelike Baroque church. Serpentine columns adorn the exterior, while a large decorative retablo glows within the candlelit interior. Just beyond Quetzaltenango, one finds the most extraordinary example of Guatemala's unique blend of Spanish Baroque and the Maya artisans' spiritual and creative ingenuity in the village of San Andres Xecul. Here, the 16th century church is painted mustard yellow, and the facade is covered with angels with blue wings and pink skirts, and apostles sporting blue crowns.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Guatemala Travel Planner

A Colonial Heritage
The Living Maya of the Highlands
El Mundo Maya
Call of the Wild
An Appetite for the Arts
Land of Active Adventures
Tasting Guatemala
Festivals Galore
Marvelous Markets
Marvelous Markets

Guatemala Travel Planner