The magnificent façade facing the eastern side of the Parque Central is known as the Catedral de Santiago, although it is technically the Parroquia de San José - a parish church. Most of the original construction is now in ruins, due to the earthquakes that have periodically struck Antigua throughout its history. The contemporary Catedral sits within the entrance hall of the 17th century original, while the rest remains as enormous, crumbling arches and columns. It is essential to walk through the Parque Central at night during a visit to Antigua, when you can glimpse the dramatic beauty of the lighted facade.
One of the best-known sights in Antigua is the attractive yellow span of the Arco de Santa Catalina, bridging the appropriately-named Calle del Arco to the north of the Parque Central. It was originally built so that nuns could cross the street invisibly, and today it provides a picturesque frame for La Merced from the south. A clock tower was added during the 19th century reconstruction of the 1694 arch. Bars and shops now line the sidewalks immediately beneath the arch, and the road is closed to motorists on weekends to provide a relaxing pedestrian atmosphere.
As viewers gaze south from the many rooftops and terraces boasting panoramas of Antigua, the spectacular dome crowning the Iglesia de San Francisco stands proudly silhouetted against Volcán Agua. The baroque-style colonial edifice has weathered many earthquakes and visitors today can wander through the ruins and historical museum and imagine the history embedded into these engraved walls. The living culture of this place can be gleaned by attending mass, held three times each day and six times on Sunday, in the vast chapel which was reconstructed in the 1960s. The interior of the church is a blend of elegance and religion, with revered paintings adorning the walls. This is also the site of the Santuario del Santo Hermano Pedro, a Franciscan friar from the late 17th century who continues to represent love for the poor and charity as he did during his life. He was officially sainted in 2002, and as one of the most beloved religious figures in Guatemala, his tomb remains a common destination for pilgrimages.
A hidden treasure in the northwest corner of town, Santo Pecado offers great live music, drink specials, salsa dancing, and tasty meals all under one roof. The talented musicians and gracious dueño are fast to befriend you, and after the impassioned, percussive show, these people are sure to know the best late-night parties in town. Monday brings an hour of free salsa dance lessons, followed by a 6-9 p.m. happy hour with two for one drinks (happy hour runs Monday through Saturday). Live music performances overlap nicely with happy hour, running from 8-10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The Santo Pecado is closed Wednesday, but otherwise, it would be all too easy to wander this way every evening of the week!
Located just north of Antigua, Cerro de la Cruz is a scenic hill offering a pleasant trek which carries innumerable feet up to a splendid view soaring straight over the city to the cloud-wreathed Agua volcano to the south. The hill is named for the enormous cross towering over the viewing area which itself is visible from throughout Antigua. This is not, unfortunately, the place to take solitary strolls; excessive robberies here inspired the creation of Antigua's tourist police, and visitors are counseled to make the climb only with their protection. Happily, this approach has proven extremely successful in reducing crime, and groups walk up to the summit each day, departing from the police station at the western end of the 6a Calle at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The summit offers a panoramic view of the surrounding vistas.
A small bookshop in the entrance of this well-known Antigua establishment stocks a good number of titles, and a gamut of seating arrangements provide the ideal spot to curl up with your new read or discuss it with new friends. To keep you fueled, the menu offers a variety of cuisines (including plenty of vegetarian food), such hummus and falafel, traditional breakfasts, and plentiful drink selections. Happy hour runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. every evening, with live music most nights and lectures about local history and environmental initiatives every Tuesday.
This modern Catholic Church was founded in 1981. The basement is a crypt or oratory where conferences, monthly retreats, talks prior to weddings, baptisms and confirmations take place. The altar contains an ancient golden altarpiece set in wood which previously belonged to the church of Antigua Guatemala. In the center of the altarpiece there is a sculpture of Virgen de Dolores, another one on the left of San Jose and the Child, and one of San Pio X on the right. The church has a very warm atmosphere and has a capacity of approximately 300 people. There is a small shop in the vestibule selling posters, rosaries, books, Bibles, images and souvenirs.
This temple mixes Baroque and neo-classical architectural styles. The high altar contains the wooden images of Jesús Crucificado and La Pasión. The church also shows the image of Inmaculada Concepción, a sculpture which was donated by Carlos V. This Franciscan temple was designed by architects of the religious congregation. Its construction started in 1800 and finished 29 years later. Iglesia de San Francisco is definitely a must-visit.
This mosque opened approximately 4 years ago. Its leader, Mr. Mohamed, offers introductory chats on Islam by appointment. Special celebrations take place on Muslim sacred feast days. The mosque also has a library and holds religious services five times a day every day of the week.
Red-hot currents of lava encompass the craters at the very top of the Volcán de Pacaya, its summit an intimidating sight from the base of the majestic volcano. It is considered to be one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes and the most frequently climbed around and near Antigua. Hikers flock to the spot in large numbers, enticed by both the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding vistas and the sheer challenge it is to ascend the volcano. Violent winds gust over the fields and plains, and the trek itself is a test of endurance. Despite this, the view that meets one at the top makes the trial of following the treacherous trails worth it. The highlight of the evenings is nightfall at the summit, as the streams and pockets of lava gain brilliance in contrast to the darkness.
This is the main temple in the Central American region. Known as the "Mormons' church" it opened over 50 years ago and expanded so rapidly that now it is easy to find a chapel in every city and town of this region. All chapels offer meetings on Sundays, in the morning, from 8a to 1p, and in the afternoon from 2p.The main temple is used for ordainment at very high levels, for which it is frequented by foreign Mormons who normally come from the United States in missionary groups and stay in Guatemala for two years. A distribution center for books and publications about this church can be found in one of the city's shopping centers: Montufar, Zone 9.
Building was carried out in two phases: the first phase was from 1784 to 1799, and the second one was from 1861 to 1867. In 1976 it was restored after having been damaged in an earthquake. Its interior keeps a magnificent image of Jesus Nazareno de la Candelaria, which was brought here from the Panchoy valley. It is located in the chapel on the right hand side of the church, next to the high altar.