The Land of Eternal Spring: Antigua, Guatemala
Guatemala was my first experience in Central America. It was 1997, the year after the decades-long civil war finally came to an end. My girlfriend at the time and I rented a 4wd jeep and took off to see the numerous Mayan ruins sites, Lake Panajachel, and a little colonial city called Antigua.
This was once the capital of all Central America, the Spanish state of Guatemala, back in the 16th century. An earthquake in 1575 tumbled a lot of the town, and the shells of churches still remain. These walls bare the scars of the earth’s motion as well as the adornment of saints and angels. Sometimes, a ruin can be more beautiful than something gleaming new. Enduring time’s erosions and bruises gives character that no artist can truly reproduce.
Situated in the highlands at about 5,000 feet gives Antigua a sublime clime, earning the area the catchphrase, “Land of Eternal Spring.” We were there in the dry season, flowers in bloom, and it smelled like spring. And the temperatures were very mild, always in the low 70s.
Traveling across Guatemala was more difficult then. The roads were often hardly more than the idea of roads, with some stretches having a max speed of ten km/hr. My friends in El Salvador say there’s been much progress in the years since the war, with a lot more pavement and improved city-to-city bus service.
Should you go? Absolutely. It’s cheap, the people are friendly, the scenery is spectacular, the pace is leisurely.