la antigua, guatemala, a beautiful adventure

Posted by susan on September 9th, 2010. Filed under: getaways.

This guest post is by the lovely Andi of My Beautiful Adventures. Andi has an outlook on travel and life that is truly inspirational. She is genuine and kind in a way that makes you happy and hopeful that there really are people like her out there in the world. Her blog is insightful, her photos are stunning and her outlook is open, honest and appreciative. If you don’t already, please do check out her beautiful adventures.

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While our lovely Susan if off on her honeymoon, she honored me by asking me to write a guest post.  She wanted me to write about a destination that she had previously been to, as it would give her dear readers another perspective. One of the places that we had both traveled to was a city that had enchanted me to no end and one that I had been eager to write about, and that city is La Antigua, Guatemala.

I had the strong desire to travel to Guatemala for some time, as I have an incredible passion for Latin America. However, I wanted to specifically go during Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Over the years people have entertained me with countless stories about the processions and parties that take place to honor the Easter holiday. I researched for quite some time which city would be the best to attend Semana Santa in and after careful consideration I decided on La Antigua.

On the morning of, I awoke to thousands of people chanting Catholic hymns in the streets and the smell of incense wafting through the air. Although I was jet lagged and would have liked to have slept a couple of more hours, I was excited to see what was taking place. How I love parades; the smiling people, the infectious joy, the feeling of connecting with a large group of people.

semana santa

As I exited my hotel, my breath was completely taken away from me!  I had heard how beautiful the city of La Antigua Guatemala or “the Old Guatemala” is, but it is one of those things that you will never truly appreciate until experienced firsthand. I had arrived late in the night and had not yet seen it in daylight. La Antigua is a historically significant, well-preserved, colonial city dating from the 17th century. It was at one time the capitol of Guatemala (now it is Guatemala City) and is set in a valley surrounded by volcanoes providing the most stunning views.

It is simple to comprehend why it has been given the honor of being named an UNESCO World Heritage Site. You already feel like you are stepping foot into the past while being in La Antigua, however the feeling is only deepened if you are there during Semana Santa.

The Holy Week is considered the week before Easter. The processions start on Holy Thursday, but the largest ones are on Good Friday, and they end on Easter Sunday. They are to commemorate the final days of Jesus’ life culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

semana santa procession

Procession, which in Latin means “to go forth” or “to advance,” is a religious parade. In the La Antigua scenes from the Bible are acted out, specifically the 12 stages of the cross. People from all over Guatemala participate and anyone, even gringos and gringas, are allowed to join in the celebrations. As I wandered around the city I could not stop smiling as everyone passed me by.

la semana santa

One of the most important parts of the processions are the extraordinary “carpets” constructed out of various colored grass that are made by the devotees. As people walk over them they are instantly destroyed and new ones must be created. What a true act of devotion!

parade during la semana santa

Even though I am not a religious person, this experience was completely unforgettable and I highly recommend not only visiting La Antigua, but visiting during Semana Santa. When else will you have the opportunity to step back in time?

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