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Antigua for kids!
Antigua is a small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala. It is also hot, busy and bustling with tourists which makes it look unappealing to most hardcore travellers however there are still a few things that are less popular.
I Heart Guatemala
When people ask me what my favourite country is, I always ask if I’m allowed a favourite one per continent. Why? Just because there are SO many countries that have captured our hearts and that we’ve become passionate about. Guatemala was one of those countries.
We really fell in love with the culture and the hospitality of the Guatemalans, not to forget the ravishing beauty of its nature and those phenomenal volcanoes that have a habit of exploding. The food is heavenly fresh and perfect for vegans, not to forget it’s also well priced.
The majority of Guatemala that we visited was not overrun with tourists and I will mention that I solo travelled it with three kids for over three weeks, before Rich joined us for the final ten days, with absolutely no problems.
Antigua for kids
When I first saw the crowded streets and the amount of western restaurants, I wondered what we were doing in Antigua. Good job I discovered that it wasn’t impossible to find things to do that were slightly more off the beaten track. Especially as we were staying in a small village slightly outside Antigua, called Santa Ana.
If you have the opportunity to stay on the outskirts, especially in one of the more traditional villages, I would definitely recommend it. You will see a much more authentic side of Antigua.
Why is Antigua plagued with ruins?
Antigua was once the colonial capital of Guatemala, this was back in 1543, however its reign came to an end two hundred years later due to near constant problems with colonial representatives of Spain and a bombardment of earthquakes. It also wasn’t called Antigua which actually just means ‘old’. Antigua was called Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemalan (City of Saint James of the Knights of Guatemala). That’s a mouthful!
When an enormous earthquake hit in 1773 many people were already moving out and many of the church officials had left, leaving the buildings abandoned and empty. After a huge run of seismic activity officials had realised that Antigua wasn’t the best location and in 1776 the Spanish King ordered the city to be moved to what is now Guatemala City and the city was ordered abandoned, although not everybody left.
Guatemala is surrounded by four volcanoes and due to this there are a lot of ruins around the city. After a while most start to look very similar, at least if you’re eight years of age, so here’s three that we found were good for kids to visit.Antigua, Guatemala with kids: The 3 best ruins we could find for kids to explore Click To Tweet
Where are they all located
The ruins are located pretty centrally to Antigua so there isn’t a huge amount of walking to do.
You can download this map offline and use it on your phones if you wish.
Antigua for kids: 3 Great Ruins
What I love the most about these three ruins is that kids can really explore them. Whether its on their hands and knees through tunnels or climbing up onto the ruins, there seems to be no real out of bounds areas and that’s fun! Well, at least it was for our kids.
Santuario de San Francisco
From the outside this looks like a really boring, fusty, old catholic church but if you take a look at the gardens that lay behind it, they provide a surprisingly tranquil haven for children to explore.
Whether it’s running down the grassy banks, hiding in the brick tunnels or smelling the array of blooming flowers, the Sanctuary of Saint Frances is a sensory delight and provides some cool shade in the central tropical heat.
Ruinas de la cathedral de Antigua Guatemala
This church is but a shell of its once former glory which was built in 1545. During the day it provides a coolness with its still intact, arched roof supports which were once full domes. Extraordinary to think it is some five hundred years old.
The cathedral was once one of the most important on the continent and when it was finally constructed, the town celebrated for eight consecutive days.
The Cathedral was ruined by the 1773 earthquake and by the 1800s the local government decided to establish a parish inside the ruins, removing two large bell towers. Sadly they lacked the money for any further renovations and just the central nave was repaired.
Ruinas de Convento Santa Clara
These ruins feature mermaids but blink and you’ll miss them! Let me know if you managed to find them.
In 1699, six nuns from Mexico arrived in Santiago de los Caballeros (the shortened, old name for Antigua) to found the Convent of Santa Clara.
The first construction started in 1715 and it was actually the fourth convent in the city. No surprises that it was seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1717. It was finally repaired only to be partially destroyed again in 1773 by the big earthquake.
Still, the facades remain almost intact and provide some beautifully set gardens with a large fountain.
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