Around Antigua

Ciudad Vieja
- the former capital - is 5.5 km southwest of Antigua at the foot of Volcán Agua. In 1527, Pedro de Alvarado moved his capital, known then as Santiago de Los Caballeros, from Iximché to San Miguel Escobar, now a suburb of Ciudad Vieja. On 11 September 1541, after days of torrential rain, an immense mudslide came down the mountain and swallowed up the city. Alvarado's widow, Doña Beatriz de la Cueva, newly elected governor after his death, was among those drowned. Today Ciudad Vieja is itself a suburb of Antigua, but with a handsome church, founded in 1534, and one of the oldest in Central America. There's a fiesta on December 8. Between Ciudad Vieja and San Miguel de las Dueñas is the
Valhalla macadamia nut farm
, www.exvalhalla.net
.

About 3 km northwest of Ciudad Vieja is San Antonio Aguas Calientes. The hot springs unfortunately disappeared with recent earthquakes, but the village has many small shops selling locally made textiles.You can watch the weavers in their homes by the roadside. Local fiestas are 16-21 January, Corpus Christi (a moveable feast celebtrated around June) and 1 November.

Beyond San Juan del Obispo, beside Volcán Agua, is the charming village of Santa María de Jesús, with its beautiful view of Antigua. In the early morning there are good views of all three volcanoes from 2 km back down the road towards Antigua. Colourful huípiles are worn, made and sold from a couple of stalls, or ask at the shops on the plaza. The local fiesta is on 10 January.

Just north of Antigua is Jocotenango. The music museum, Casa K'ojom is in the Central Cultural La Azotea with displays of traditional Maya and colonial-era instruments. The village also has public saunas at the Fraternidad Naturista Antigua.

Five kilometres beyond San Lucas Sacatepéquez, at Km 29.5, Carretera Roosevelt (the Pan-American Highway), is Santiago Sacatepéquez, whose fiesta on 1 November, Día de los Muertos (All Souls' Day), is characterized by colourful kite-flying (barriletas). They also celebrate 25 July. Market days are Wednesday and Friday.

Visiting a coffee farm is an interesting short excursion. Tour Finca Los Nietos, www.fincalosnietos.com. A 1½-hour tour including processing, roasting and tasting can be arranged.

North of Guatemala City is Mixco Viejo, the excavated site of a post-Classic Maya fortress, which spans 14 hilltops, including 12 groups of pyramids. Despite earthquake damage it is worth a visit and is recommended. It was the 16th-century capital of the Pokomam Maya.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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