Ciudad Vieja

Ciudad Vieja was Guatemala’s second colonial capital. Its destruction by mudflows from the Agua Volcano in 1541 caused residents to move the capital to Antigua. These days it’s a small and sleepy city.

Ciudad Vieja

Central Highlands

The Spanish founded Ciudad Vieja as Santiago de los Caballeros in 1527. Some 14 years later, an earthquake hit the city and caused a giant mudslide to come crashing down the Agua Volcano. The city was buried and the Guatemalan capital was soon moved to present-day Antigua, some four miles (six km) north. Beatriz de la Cueva, the second wife of Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, died in a nearby chapel while seeking refuge from the storm.

There’s not much left of the original city besides a tree in the corner of the plaza with a plaque commemorating the first mass held in the country. There is also an eighteenth-century colonial church that was recently restored.

Just past Ciudad Vieja, on the road to San Miguel Dueñas, is an experimental macadamia nut-farm. At Estación Experimental Valhalla, visitors can tour the plantation, sample macadamia pancakes, and learn about reforestation practices and sustainability.

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