Colonial Monuments, Poetic Decay
Gorgeously set in a green mountain- and volcano-rimmed valley, Antigua is one of the oldest and loveliest cities in the Americas. The remnants of its colonial past are a charming and poignant legacy of a time when the city reigned as Spain’s capital for all of the middle Americas, until the epic earthquake of 1773. Today’s strict preservation ordinances protect what remains of its 16th- to 18th-century Spanish Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, and homes. Some have been reconstructed, while others have collapsed, probably forever.
With its leisurely small-town pace, Antigua has become the darling of artistically inclined ex-pats, wealthy weekend homeowners from Guatemala City, and more than thirty programs that teach Spanish as a second language. Amid the fashionable cafés and shops and poetically decaying weed-choked ruins stands the most beautiful rescued building of all, the Casa de Santo Domingo, Antigua’s showpiece hotel. It is set among the romantic remains of what was Antigua’s richest and most powerful monastery, built in 1642, 100 years after the city’s founding.