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Just 30 miles from bustling Guatemala City, Antigua is indeed a step back in time. With three towering volcanoes providing the backdrop, this picturesque city is well preserved. Cobblestone streets, colonial style facades, restored and still vegetation covered ruins of churches, palaces, convents and mansions add a special atmosphere.

Today's Antigua was founded in 1541 after the original city was washed away by pent-up waters released from a volcano crater during an earthquake.

Antigua was one of the three major centers of Spanish power in the Americas, along with Lima and Mexico City. Churches and convents grew in number and opulence. A printing press, only the third in the Americas, was installed in 1660; a newspaper began publication in 1729; the University of San Carlos, sixth in the hemisphere, was founded in 1681.

By 1773, the city had 38 churches as well as monasteries, convents and numerous other ecclesiastical structures. But 1773 was also the year of a devastating earthquake, causing the capital to be moved to today's Guatemala City and Antigua to remain untouched by the march of science through the years.

There is a good selection of hotels, from a growing collection of boutique hotels to small "posada" style to larger properties, and many restaurants. It’s a delightful city to stroll; plan at least an overnight to experience it fully.